Using a new type of AI design process, engineers at software company Autodesk and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory came up with a new interplanetary lander concept that could explore distant moons like Europa and Enceladus. Its slim design weighs less than most of the landers that NASA has already sent to other planets and moons.


Autodesk announced its new innovative lander design today at the company’s conference in Las Vegas — revealing a spacecraft that looks like a spider woven from metal. The company says the idea to create the vehicle was sparked when Autodesk approached NASA to validate a lander prototype it had been working on. After looking at Autodesk’s work, JPL and the company decided to form a design team — comprised of five engineers from Autodesk and five from JPL — to come up with a new way to design landers.


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Chinese news readers may have some new competition – artificially intelligent robot anchors that can mimic human facial expressions and mannerisms while reading out reports. The AI anchor, developed by state news agency Xinhua and tech firm Sogou Inc, was on display at the World Internet Conference in the eastern Chinese town of Wuzhen, drawing in curious passers-by.

The anchor, modelled on real-life Chinese news reader Qiu Hao and sporting a black suit and red tie, is part of a major push by China to advance its prowess in AI technology, from surveillance equipment to self-driving cars.



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Reseachers from Wageningen University & Research are inspired by the ovipositor of the parasitic wasp for the development of a steerable surgical needle.


Flexible, ultra-thin and steerable needles would help surgeons perform operations even better. Researchers at Wageningen University & Research are therefore studying the ovipositor with which the parasitic wasp lays its eggs. Based on their findings, colleagues at Delft University of Technology have developed the first prototype of this needle which is the thinnest needle in the world. Solutions found in nature are often the source of human inventions such as self-cleaning paint and underwater robots.


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On Monday, Oct. 1st 2018, NASA turned 60. Over the last six decades, it’s had a remarkable run of rocketeering and exploratory achievements, from the moon landings to the space shuttles, from the surface of Mars to destinations far beyond our solar system. And as space becomes just another place to do business, NASA looks to keep its edge as it is facing an identity crisis. Blame people like SpaceX‘s Elon Musk and Amazon‘s Jeff Bezos in part for that. They’re in the vanguard of a new wave of commercial activity that’s launching into what had for so long been the exclusive domain of government agencies, both in the US and abroad.


NASA’s 60th anniversary was an occasion to look both back to a settled past and ahead to an uncertain future. The agency long-associated with America’s scientific prowess and can-do spirit got its start in one space race. Its next challenges lie in a new race to return humans to the moon and to push onward to Mars. There’s a lot to keep track of. Here’s a handy cheat sheet to get you started, with more to come.




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The electric car, which was launched on the Falcon Heavy rocket in February, is reportedly 179 million miles away from Earth.


Elon Musk’s red Tesla Roadster has made its way past Mars’ orbit, according to a tweet from SpaceX on November 2, 2018. The Roadster, along with a dummy driver named "Starman" in the driver’s seat, was launched into space on the Falcon Heavy rocket in February. The website calculated that the electric car is now about 179 million miles away from Earth and is moving at a speed of roughly 35,000 mph. It’s set to swing back into its planned 557-day orbit around the sun.



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Blue asteroids are rare, and blue comets are almost unheard of. An international team led by Teddy Kareta, a doctoral student at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, investigated Phaethon, a bizarre asteroid that sometimes behaves like a comet, and found it even more enigmatic than previously thought.



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Solar power accounts for less than 2 percent of U.S. electricity but could make up more than that if the cost of electricity generation and energy storage for use on cloudy days and at nighttime were cheaper.


A Purdue University-led team developed a new material and manufacturing process that would make one way to use solar power – as heat energy – more efficient in generating electricity.

The innovation is an important step for putting solar heat-to-electricity generation in direct cost competition with fossil fuels, which generate more than 60 percent of electricity in the U.S.


“Storing solar energy as heat can already be cheaper than storing energy via batteries, so the next step is reducing the cost of generating electricity from the sun’s heat with the added benefit of zero greenhouse gas emissions,” said Kenneth Sandhage, Purdue’s Reilly Professor of Materials Engineering.


The research, which was done at Purdue in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, published in the journal Nature.


A YouTube video is available at

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Astronomers are building instruments that can characterize the many alien worlds the Kepler spacecraft revealed—and look for signs of life.


One of Earth’s most venerable planet-hunters, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, has gone quiet. On October 30th 2018, the space agency announced that after nearly a decade of staring at the stars, Kepler is out of fuel. Now, the spacecraft will stay in its Earth-trailing orbit, looping around the sun and never coming closer than a million miles from home.



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