How Consumer Electronics Will Drive Space Exploration

Space satellite engineers are taking advantage of the power, size and cost of modern consumer electronics to build a new generation of space exploration technology. 

What's the Latest Development?

Several space engineering companies are taking advantage of the power, size and price of modern consumer electronics to create a new generation of satellites. The British satellite manufacturer SSTL wants to use Microsoft's Kinect system--motion-sensing hardware developed for the XBox platform--to make an "in-orbit proximity sensor and docking system." Because the Kinect can create 3D maps of its surrounding area, the system could be used to create a new fleet of microsatellites that can connect and disconnect from each other when engineers order them to. 

What's the Big Idea?

Technology developed by space agencies has a tendency to trickle down into the civilian world, but now consumer goods are enabling a new generation of affordable space missions. The team working to build the Kinect satellite interface says the project could be the start of intelligent 'space building blocks', whereby smaller units can reconfigure themselves to create modular spacecraft. In the more immediate future, the technology could help create 'snap-on' auxiliary satellites that supply "backup power, propulsion or even additional on-board computing to another spacecraft."

Photo credit:

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

Physicists puzzled by strange numbers that could explain reality

Eight-dimensional octonions may hold the clues to solve fundamental mysteries.

Surprising Science
  • Physicists discover complex numbers called octonions that work in 8 dimensions.
  • The numbers have been found linked to fundamental forces of reality.
  • Understanding octonions can lead to a new model of physics.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less