Robots inspired by nature: the “DelFly” bionic robot (photo)


Engineering school students look at the DelFly bionic robot during a demonstration at the International Workshop on Bio-Inspired Robots in Nantes April 7, 2011. Some 200 bio-robot technicians from 17 countries participate in the three-day event to show the latest developments in robots inspired from the animal world. (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)

The DelFly micro is only 10 centimeters from wing to wing, and weighs just a little over 3 grams. Its developers call it “the smallest flying ornithopter carrying a camera in the world.” Below, more photos of the little guy in action, including the 0.4 gram camera it carries.


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International Space Station Expedition 27: Soyuz launch (big photo gallery)

The Russian Soyuz TMA-21 spacecraft, named after the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of U.S. astronaut Ronald Garan, Russian cosmonauts Alexandr Samokutyaev and Andrey Borisenko, blasts off at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on April 5, 2011. Three others are already in orbit on the ISS. More photos from the launch follow. (REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov)

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NASA Mars Science Laboratory + Curiosity Rover: first look (photo gallery)


[photo, above: MSL's descent stage, which files the rover down to Mars' surface using eight rockets, and lowers it on a tether for landing. The orange spheres are propellant tanks.]

This week, Boing Boing was invited to visit NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the first and only opportunity for media to enter the Pasadena, CA clean room where NASA’s next Mars rover, Curiosity, and other components of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft have been built for launch in late 2011 from Florida.

Shipment from the clean room to Florida will begin next month. Curiosity rover recently completed tests under simulated space and Mars-surface environmental conditions in another building and is back in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for other tests. Spacecraft assembly and testing specialists showed Boing Boing the rover and the other spacecraft components, including the descent stage “sky crane.”

Photographer Joseph Linaschke visited on behalf of Boing Boing (he donned a bunny suit for the occasion) and shot this series of photos. More below.

Captions for Boing Boing by Ashwin Vasavada, a scientist with the NASA JPL MSL program.

[photo, above: MSL's 4.5-meter aeroshell that encapsulates the rover and descent stage during cruise to Mars and its entry into Mars' upper atmosphere. The upper cage will hold the parachute.]

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Video of hot elf women in sinister forest heralds arrival of Elfquest fan feature

Elfquestteaser1.jpg Fans of classic indie comic Elfquest, tired of waiting on Warner Brothers to get cracking on the official movie, recently finished work on a “fan trailer” featuring some of the series’ female characters. Shown off at Wondercon by creators Stephanie Thorpe and Paula Rhodes — with the blessing of original authors Wendy and Richard Pini — the live-action scene-setter captures the saga’s weird combination of European and Native American folklore. elfquestteaser2.jpgElfquest, now available free online, was among the first indie comics to be sold in bookstores or to attract a significant female audience. It’s also credited with hitting some transgressive notes back in the 70s: mixed-race relationships, genre-spanning stories, matter-of-fact violence, and a free-love lifestyle made apparent in events such as war orgies and bisexual goings-on in the night. See if you can guess, before watching it, which of these attributes the trailer somehow seems to suggest without really trying. ElfQuest: A Fan Imagining: Teaser Trailer [YouTube] [Official website via i09]

Vintage NASA mission patches: LIFE photo gallery


Space shuttle ‘Endeavour’ is scheduled to make its final flight on April 29; with this end of an era in mind, has published an image gallery that looks back at a “small but central element shared for decades by NASA missions: the patches worn on astronauts’ flight suits.”

Often designed by crew members themselves; ranging from sleek and futuristic to florid, whimsical, beautiful, and downright homey; occasionally quite moving, the patches serve as emblems of each unique NASA adventure — personalized tokens of the human drive to confront and understand the unknown.

View the full gallery here. Deputy Editor Ben Cosgrove says, “I admit, the little apple beside teacher Christa McAuliffe’s name on the ‘Challenger’ patch kind of got to me.

Space image of the day: swirling palette of star-forming clouds

Here’s a beautiful new image just released today from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Explorer, or WISE: the busy star-forming complex called Rho Ophiuch, which is one of the closest star-forming complexes to Earth. More about the image:

The amazing variety of different colors seen in this image represent different wavelengths of infrared light. The bright white nebula in the center of the image is glowing due to heating from nearby stars, resulting in what is called an emission nebula. The same is true for most of the multi-hued gas prevalent throughout the entire image, including the bluish bow-shaped feature near the bottom right. The bright red area in the bottom right is light from the star in the center – Sigma Scorpii – that is reflected off of the dust surrounding it, creating what is called a reflection nebula. And the much darker areas scattered throughout the image are pockets of cool dense gas that block out the background light, resulting in absorption (or ‘dark’) nebulae. WISE’s longer wavelength detectors can typically see through dark nebulae, but these are exceptionally opaque.

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