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Flying Cars get Uber Boost From Research Pact with NASA

Uber signs new pact with NASA on 'flying car'

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NASA, Microsoft
After lettuce, astronauts could grow beans in space in 2021. Pixabay

In a bid to show its seriousness about taking its “flying car” concept off the ground, ride hailing company Uber has signed a second space act agreement with NASA.

The pact aims to further explore concepts and technologies related to urban air mobility (UAM) to ensure a safe and efficient system for future air transportation in populated areas.

Under this agreement, Uber will share its plans for implementing an urban aviation rideshare network, NASA said in a statement on Tuesday.

NASA will use the latest in airspace management computer modeling and simulation to assess the impacts of small aircraft – from delivery drones to passenger aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capability – in crowded environments.

This is NASA’s first such agreement specifically focused on modeling and simulation for the UAM operations.

Uber
Uber (Wikimedia Commons)

NASA’s definition of “urban air mobility” is a safe and efficient system for vehicles, piloted or not, to move passengers and cargo within a city.

Uber’s first Space Act Agreement with NASA, which was signed in November 2017, was a general statement of an intent to collaborate, The Verge reported.

“NASA is excited to be partnering with Uber and others in the community to identify the key challenges facing the UAM market, and explore necessary research, development and testing requirements to address those challenges,” Jaiwon Shin, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said in a statement.

“Urban air mobility could revolutionise the way people and cargo move in our cities and fundamentally change our lifestyle much like smart phones have,” Shin said.

At its research facility at the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport, NASA will use the data supplied by Uber to simulate a small passenger-carrying aircraft as it flies through DFW airspace during peak scheduled air traffic.

Also Read: NASA Blasts off Mars Lander, InSight

Analysis of these simulations will identify safety issues as these new aircraft take to the air in an already crowded air traffic control system.

“The new space act agreement broadening Uber’s partnership with NASA is exciting, because it allows us to combine Uber’s massive-scale engineering expertise with NASA’s decades of subject matter experience across multiple domains that are key to enabling urban air mobility, starting with airspace systems,” said Jeff Holden, Uber’s Chief Product Officer.

Uber believes that urban air transportation has the potential to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground and a network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically (called VTOL aircraft for Vertical Take-off and Landing, and pronounced vee-tol), could enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities. (IANS)

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NASA Probe Makes New Discoveries on Asteroid Bennu

As a result, Bennu's rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained

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Asteroid
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

NASA’s first asteroid-sampling mission OSIRIS-REx has observed particle plumes erupting from the surface of Bennu, an asteroid the size of the pyramid at Giza.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft, which began orbiting Bennu on December 31, first discovered the particle plumes on January 6, followed by additional particle plumes over the last two months.

While some of the particles were slow-moving, the others were found orbiting Bennu, like small satellites.

Bennu’s entire surface was also found to be rough and dense with boulders, contrary to the Earth-based observations, which showed a smooth surface with a few large boulders.

This means that the sample collection part of the mission will have to be adjusted to make sure that OSIRIS-REx can touch down and collect a sample, said NASA while presenting the discoveries at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Conference in Houston.

“The discovery of plumes is one of the biggest surprises of my scientific career,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

NASA
This artist’s rendering made available by NASA in July 2016 shows the mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. VOA

“And the rugged terrain went against all of our predictions. Bennu is already surprising us, and our exciting journey there is just getting started,” Lauretta added.

Further, the team observed a change in the spin rate of Bennu as a result of what is known as the Yarkovsky-O’Keefe-Radzievskii-Paddack (YORP) effect.

The uneven heating and cooling of Bennu as it rotates in sunlight is causing the asteroid to increase its rotation speed.

Also Read- Huawei to Launch Foldable 5G Smartphone ‘Mate X’ in India

As a result, Bennu’s rotation period is decreasing by about a second every 100 years, the scientists explained.

OSIRIS-REx launched in 2016 to explore Bennu, the smallest body ever orbited by spacecraft, is expected to return a sample of the asteroid to Earth in 2023.

The findings will allow researchers to learn more about the origins of our solar system, the sources of water and organic molecules on Earth, the resources in near-Earth space, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth. (IANS)