Astronauts Will Wear These Spacesuits on the Moon—And Maybe Mars, Too

An artist’s illustration of two suited crew members working on the lunar surface. The one in the foreground lifts a rock to examine it while the other photographs the collection site in the background. Credit: NASA

By Jonathan O’Callaghan 

The suits, supplied by Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace, will be used in NASA’s upcoming Artemis lunar missions and will protect space travellers from micrometeoroids, moon dust and even vomit.

Sooner or later, humans will set foot on the moon again—perhaps by the middle of this decade if NASA’s Artemis program proceeds as planned. And beyond that, public or private crewed missions to Mars in the 2030s or 2040s no longer seem solely confined to science fiction. But what will astronauts be wearing when they take those steps on other worlds? Procuring giant rockets and futuristic spacecraft for Artemis has been the most well-publicized hurdle for NASA to overcome, but its efforts to design new spacesuits for the moon have proved equally challenging. Since 2007 the space agency has spent an estimated $420 million on new suit designs without actually fielding any. Finally, after all those unsuccessful attempts, last month NASA announced it has opted to outsource the work and has selected two companies to craft the next generation of haute couture for the high frontier.

Those companies—Axiom Space in Texas and Collins Aerospace in North Carolina—will each independently develop new spacesuits as part of NASA’s Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS) contract. NASA has budgeted a total of $3.5 billion through 2034 for that combined work and plans to purchase its suits from the two companies as a service, which will free both to make and market additional suits for non-NASA commercial missions as well. Following demonstrations of the suits in Earth orbit, they will be used for the first Artemis landing, which is currently scheduled for 2025. That mission, dubbed Artemis III, will feature two astronauts, one man and one woman, who will don suits from one of the two companies to venture out onto the lunar surface. Whichever company isn’t chosen for that first landing will instead supply suits for later Artemis missions.

“This is a historic day for us,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in a press conference announcing the award on June 1. “History will be made with these suits when we get to the moon.”

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Breakthrough in Silicon Qubits, Photonics Accelerates Quantum Internet

Reusing existing fiber optic infrastructure is (almost) as big a deal as it gets.

By Francisco Pires

A render for a single T centre qubit in the silicon lattice, which supports the first single spin to ever be optically observed in silicon. The constituents of the T centre (two carbon atoms and a hydrogen atom) are shown as orange, and the optically-addressable electron spin is in shining pale blue. (Image credit: Photonics)

Researchers from Simon Fraser University may have just released the photonic springs that accelerate the quantum internet. In a paper published in Nature, the researchers demonstrated an emergent capacity in silicon qubits to produce a “photonic link” between each other. Furthermore, this same photonic capability may be easily integrated with the existing fiber optic infrastructure that already carries data across a reasonable (yet still insufficient) portion of society. That is bound to provide immense savings on deploying a quantum internet – and as we all know, the cost is (mostly) king.

The authors’ paper describes observations carried on particular types of qubits: “T-center” photon-spin qubits, a kind of qubit that takes advantage of a specific luminescent defect in silicon – more specifically, InGaAs (Indium gallium arsenide), also explored in CPU manufacturing technologies. Silicon qubits have already shown remarkable coherence times – which relate to how resistant qubits are to outside interferences that would cause them to collapse and lose their information in the process, becoming unusable for the workload at hand.

And with more fantastic coherence times – and the comparative ease with which these “T center” qubits can be linked – comes the capability to perform more and more significant calculations. In their experiment, the researchers observed the effect in over 1,500 T Center qubits, ensuring they can replicate it – a healthy indicator for the potential scalability of their solution.

“This work is the first measurement of single T centers in isolation, and actually, the first measurement of any single spin in silicon to be performed with only optical measurements,” said Stephanie Simmons, Canada Research Chair in Silicon Quantum Technologies.  

“An emitter like the T center that combines high-performance spin qubits and optical photon generation is ideal to make scalable, distributed, quantum computers,” she continued, “because they can handle the processing and the communications together, rather than needing to interface two different quantum technologies, one for processing and one for communications.”

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[Futurati podcast] Ep. 96: How will bitcoin change the world? | Jack Ronaldi

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Since the release of bitcoin many people have written about how it could change the world. One such person is Jack Ronaldi, our guest this week on the Futurati Podcast.  

Trent Fowler met Jack through a bitcoin book club they’re both a part of, and Trent was impressed with his knowledge.  Like many others, Jack originally dismissed bitcoin because his background in economics and finance led him to believe it simply had no value. 

But gradually he became a true believer! And today he writes and thinks about bitcoin’s transformative potential, as well as the ways in which its vulnerabilities can be fixed.

For more crypto content check out our playlist

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First Look: Waymo’s New Self‑Driving Trucking Hub Opens in Lancaster

BY DAVID SEELEY 

Waymo’s new hub—built from the ground up—is a $10 million investment in Lancaster that will bring “hundreds of jobs” to the community, a Waymo exec announced at its opening last week. 

“This operation and Waymo’s investment in the region further cements Dallas-Fort Worth as the home to autonomous vehicles in the U.S.,” added Duane Dankesreiter, SVP for research and innovation at the Dallas Regional Chamber.

There’s way more autonomous trucking going on in Dallas-Fort Worth than most places in the U.S.—and Waymo is one reason why. Last week the company opened a new nine-acre autonomous trucking hub in Lancaster, just south of Dallas. 

It’s a $10 million investment that’s expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the community—and advance the industry’s novel technology.

“This facility has been built from the ground up to support Waymo Via, which is our Class 8 trucking solution,” Rocky Garff, head of trucking operations for Waymo, said at a ribbon-cutting event at the hub last Wednesday. “We’re growing our operations and our investment here in Texas, and across the southwestern U.S. region. We’re super excited for what’s to come.”

“The vision is that we can launch trucks autonomously and then receive them autonomously here,” Garff added as he offered a tour of the facility and its 10 truck maintenance bays, six EV charging stations, and diesel fueling operations.

Waymo currently operates 20 autonomous trucks out of the hub, with plans to grow that “quite a bit” by end of year, Garff said. 

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EP. 94 WITH STEVEN KOTLER


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Flow is a well-known and valuable psychological state in which time seems to drop away and you become completely immersed in the present moment. Though its usefulness in achieving individual excellence has been studied extensively, much less attention has been paid to how it can aid in cooperation. Well tonight we’re joined by a guest who has tried to fill that gap by writing “The Devil’s Dictionary”, a fascinating novel which also explores topics around climate change, mass extinction, and the future of humanity. Steven Kotler is one of the world’s foremost experts on human peak performance and the New York Times bestselling author of “The Art of Impossible” and “The Rise of Superman”.

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DRIVERLESS CARS NEED SMARTER ROADS: A TALE FROM SAN FRANCISCO

As Jonathan Bartlett notes, the recent Frisco foul-up shows the need for roads adapted to include self-driving cars     

The future was here, briefly at least. The driverless cars of GM’s autonomous driving unit, Cruise, started charging fares early last month in a limited area in San Francisco. Google’s Waymo also operates driverless cars in Frisco but hasn’t yet started charging fares. With the regulators and the tech media, it certainly seemed like all systems were go:

The era of commercial autonomous robotaxi service is here — Cruise officially became the first company to offer fared rides to the general public in a major city as of late Wednesday. The milestone comes after Cruise received official approval from the California Public Utilities Commission in early June to operate driverless in a commercial capacity.

Initially, Cruise’s driverless autonomous offering will operate only between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and only on designated streets in the city. 

DARRELL ETHERINGTON, “CRUISE’S DRIVERLESS AUTONOMOUS CARS START GIVING RIDES TO PAYING PASSENGERS” AT TECHCRUNCH (JUNE 24, 2022)

But then, less than a week later,

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Japan Proposes a Wild Concept for Making Artificial Gravity on the Moon

By Jason Dorrier

The list of challenges space explorers will face is formidable. They’ll have to produce breathable air, clean water, and food in extremely hostile environments lacking all of the above. They’ll also have to peacefully coexist with small groups of fellow explorers in tight quarters for long periods of time, all while minimizing exposure to the searing radiation that’s ubiquitous virtually anywhere they go.

Assuming explorers overcome these challenges, there’s another that doesn’t get the love it deserves, according to researchers at Japan’s Kyoto University.

Long-term settlement of Earth orbit, the moon, Mars, and beyond requires explorers forsake Earth’s gravity—the steady downward force every Earthly animal has evolved to navigate over billions of years. Studies of astronauts spending weeks or months in microgravity have shown atrophied muscles, bone loss, vision loss, and changes to immune systems. There have, of course, been no studies of humans living on planetary bodies with low-gravity, but it’s likely adult explorers would contend with health issues—and how all this might affect childbirth and normal development in kids is unknown.

Assuming some kind of artificial gravity would lessen these risks considerably, Kyoto University partnered with construction company, Kajima Corp, to explore futuristic concepts that might one day offer tourists and settlers a healthy dose of good ol’ Earth gravity.

Their far-future vision? A towering sci-fi space cone, called the Glass, that would stand 1,312 feet (400 meters) tall and 656 feet (200 meters) across. This habitat would spin around its axis once every 20 seconds so that people living on its inner walls would enjoy Earth gravity—alongside trees, grass, and a lake that would do MC Escher proud. The plans call for spinning habitats on the moon and Mars, where gravity is notably less than on Earth.

In addition to the habitat itself, the three-part proposal, outlined in a press release and video last week, also sketched out a system for transportation between Earth, Mars, and the moon called Hexatrack, which would include standardized vehicles for travel between habitats on the surface of the planet or moon and base stations in orbit.

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This Dissolvable Implant Could Revolutionize Pain Management

Researchers at Northwestern University created an implantable device that attaches to a nerve to deliver pain relief.

By Margaret Osborne

After some success on rats, researchers are hopeful this device could provide humans a more targeted and less addictive alternative to opioids.

Millions of Americans live with pain. While pain can be an important indicator of health, it can also be debilitating, causing fatigue, depression and a decreased quality of life. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University estimated that pain cost the United States $560 billion to $635 billion in 2011.

In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies claimed they had the answer: opioids. After being assured these drugs were not addictive, doctors prescribed opioids liberally, hoping to relieve their patients’ suffering.

But opioids are highly addictive, and as doctors prescribed more and more, drug abuse escalated. Some patients turned to heroin and synthetic opioids when they couldn’t get ahold of prescription drugs, and between 1999 and 2019, opioid overdoses killed nearly 500,000 people in the U.S. In 2017, the United States Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.

Since discovering the addictive properties of opioids, scientists have been searching for safer alternatives to relieve pain. Biomedical engineer John A. Rogers, of Northwestern University, thinks he may have created one—an implantable, dissolvable device that cools nerves in the body.

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