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Landing on Mars, Part 8

This week saw NASA’s InSight probe touch down safely on the flat plains of Mars known as Elysium Planitia, making it the 8th probe to successfully land. (The loss of the Polar Lander/Deep Space 2 lander in 1999 remains the only mission failure.)

InSight’s perfect 3-point landing was engineering precision at its finest. After launching from Earth on May 5 and traveling over 300 million miles, InSight broke into the Martian atmosphere on November 26 at the breakneck speed of 12,300 miles per hour. A mere six and a half minutes later, a combination of a parachute and retro-rockets decelerated the craft and set it down on the red planet flawlessly. Soon thereafter, InSight got to work doing what any human astronaut would do in the same situation: take a selfie and share it.

And because this is just too cool to not include: NASA’s Explore Mars Trek site is like Google Earth but for Mars, with bookmarks full of info on the other landers on Martian soil.

23D Printing the Keys to Mars

Imagine it is 2028, and a SpaceX BFR has begun ferrying colonists to Mars. Transporting the materials needed to build habitats and the like are an expensive necessity where weight at launch is concerned: more cargo weight requires more fuel needed to carry that weight and more fuel adds even more weight, etc.

Want to take a big bite out of that engineering puzzle? Figure out how to use 3D printing technology to turn the raw materials available on Mars into building materials and equipment parts. The European Space Agency is on it.

Next: figure out how to maintain a well-ventilated workspace in a sealed environment on a planet without breathable air, because it appears 3D printing throws toxic nanoparticles into the air. That’s no bueno for the lungs of future Martians…

3Chinese AI Taking Newsreading to a New Level

Is it more creepy or less that this AI-built digital news anchor is modeled after a real, human news anchor? Because I can’t decide.

4Minority Report in Real Life

The 2002 film starring Tom Cruise and based off the short story by Philip K. Dick was not supposed to be a playbook to follow. Nevertheless, a metro police department in central England is testing a program to do just that: use AI-powered analysis and statistical data to identify individuals who are deemed a high-risk to either commit a violent crime or be the victim of one and intervene before those crimes can occur. The intervention consists of “pre-emptive counselling” and visits from local social workers.

As the bloggers used to say: what could possibly go wrong?


5$92M Worth of Chop Suey

It is hard to wrap my brain around the idea that a single painting could fetch such an astronomical sum at auction. Yes, Chop Suey (below, left) is a gorgeous piece of American art and was the last of Edward Hopper’s paintings still in private hands, but still.
If you don’t recognize the name Edward Hopper (I certainly didn’t!), you probably recognize his most famous work, Nighthawks (below, right), which is one of the most recognizably iconic images of 20th Century art.


By way of perspective, the operating budget for the entire Beavercreek City School District out here in SW Ohio — an excellent performing district comprised of 10 schools, nearly 8,000 students, serving many military families from nearby Wright-Patt AFB, and employer of my wife — is only $94M.