The Daily Flash -Eco, Space, Tech (7/16)

RachmaninoffGlobe.jpg Mercury Flyby Maps New Territory

The results from the Messenger spacecraft’s third and final flyby of Mercury are finally in and cover ground never before mapped. But they leave scientists wanting more. NASA’s orbiter swung around Mercury on Sept. 29, 2009 to get a gravitational boost before settling into orbit in March 2011. The snapshots it took as it flew past provide tantalizing glimpses of young volcanic vents, violent magnetic storms and mysterious concentrations of calcium in the atmosphere. But the view was cut short by the spacecraft going into safe mode just before its closest approach.

Oil-leak-july-15jpg-f9fca88eff8d0d33 BP Oil Gusher Finally Plugged…Maybe

After 87 days of unsuccessful attempts to plug the Gulf oil gusher, BP may have finally found a solution. A cap mounted on the Deepwater Horizon site's leaky well earlier this week has stopped all oil from spewing out–for now.The trickiest part is yet to come, however. BP still has to perform a number of integrity tests to make sure the cap works. From BP's website:

The well integrity test will last at least 6 hours and could last up to 48 hours. During the test, the three ram capping stack is closed, effectively shutting in the well and all sub-sea containment systems (namely, the Q4000 and Helix Producer systems) have been temporarily stopped. Although it cannot be assured, it is expected that no oil will be released to the ocean during the test. Even if no oil is released during the test, this will not be an indication that oil and gas flow from the wellbore has been permanently stopped. If the test fails, pressure from the cap could spring a new leak in the well. Even if it succeeds, the cap is only a temporary fix until BP finishes drilling a relief well to permanently halt the oil flow. But it's a welcome start, as well as a much-needed reminder that we should still have faith in human ingenuity.

500x_smithso_spacesuits1 Smithsonian's Spacesuits: Number One On The Runway

The iconic NASA spacesuit didn't show up in astronauts' closets fully formed. Here, a small sampling of the many precursors held with reverence at the Smithsonian Museum.Suits, left to right:Mark IV, B.F. Goodrich; Mark II – Model "O", B.F. Goodrich, 1956; Mark V – Modified, B.F. Goodrich, 1968; Mark II – Model "R", B.F. Goodrich, 1956 The spacesuits worn by the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts are among the most asked for, and asked about artifacts in the Smithsonian national collection. It is true that explorers of remote, inaccessible, and environmentally inhospitable regions of Earth (notably of the Arctic and Antarctic regions), and test pilots since the 1930s, have required specially designed clothing of various sorts. It is a testament to the extraordinary cultural significance of spaceflight, however, that spacesuits attract far more attention than the parkas, snow shoes, flight jackets, and even pressure-suits and "crash helmets" of Earth-and-air-bound explorers.

OK-660x749 Human Trials Next for Darpa’s Mind-Controlled Artificial Arm

Pentagon-backed scientists are getting ready to test thought-controlled prosthetic arms on human subjects, by rewiring their brains to fully integrate the artificial limbs. Already in recent years, we’ve seen very lifelike artificial arms, monkeys nibbling bananas with mind-controlled robotic limbs and even humans whose muscle fibers have been wired to prosthetic devices. But this is the first time human brains will be opened up, implanted with a neural interface and then used to operate an artificial limb.


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