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UPI NewsTrack Science and Technology News

Feb. 1, 2013 at 7:02 PM   |   Comments

NASA pays tribute to lost astronauts

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- NASA is paying tribute to astronauts lost in its three fatal accidents involving space shuttles Columbia and Challenger and the Apollo 1 launch pad fire.

On its annual Remembrance Day, NASA is marking the anniversary of the loss of Columbia's crew as the shuttle broke up over Texas during re-entry in 2003, officials said Friday.

The anniversaries of all three disasters fall within a week -- the 1967 Apollo fire on Jan. 27, the 1986 explosion of the Challenger on Jan. 28 and Columbia on Feb. 1.

At the White House, President Obama remembered the Columbia's crew.

"Ten years ago, seven brave astronauts gave their lives in the name of exploration when America's first flight-ready space shuttle, Columbia, failed to return safely to Earth," he said.

"Each year, on NASA's Day of Remembrance, we honor the crew of that Columbia flight, as well as those of Challenger and Apollo 1, and all the members of the NASA family who gave their lives in the pursuit of expanding our Nation's horizons in space -- a cause worthy of their sacrifice and one we must never forget."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden echoed those sentiments.

"These explorers, and their families, have our deepest respect," he said. "We work every day to honor and build on their legacy and create the best space program in the world -- to infuse it with the life and vitality that they worked so hard to achieve."


Facebook makes foray into gift-card arena

MENLO PARK, Calif., Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Facebook has announced will sell gift cards redeemable in the real world at retailers like Jamba Juice, Olive Garden, Sephora and Target.

The social media site is targeting a multibillion-dollar business with the preloaded cards, an expansion of its Gifts program.

During a conference call with analysts to review fourth-quarter financial results, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said the company is still figuring out its gifts and retail business.

Investors hope Facebook can get a foot in the door in commerce, but Wedbush Securities analyst Gil Luria said told the Los Angeles Times the company faces a tough road.

"There are many products in these categories [gift card and reloadable prepaid cards] issued by Visa, MasterCard and American Express that have more flexibility in where you can use them and where you can reload them, so Facebook is getting into a very saturated space with a limited offering at this point," Luria said in an email.

The cards can be sent to Facebook friends through the site's Gifts program. Once a card is purchased, the friend is alerted and will receive the card in the mail.

Users can keep track of the balance online or through Facebook mobile apps.

The program is being rolled out gradually, and currently is only available in the United States.


3-D printing could create lunar base

PARIS, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Setting up a lunar base could be made simpler by using 3-D printing technology to build it from local materials in the lunar soil, European researchers say.

The European Space Agency reports it has joined with industrial partners to test the feasibility of using 3-D printing to create a structure with material from the lunar surface.

"Terrestrial 3-D printing technology has produced entire structures," Laurent Pambaguian, heading the project for ESA, said.

"Our industrial team investigated if it could similarly be employed to build a lunar habitat."

For the test, British company Monolite supplied its D-Shape printer with a mobile printing array of nozzles on a 20-foot frame to spray a binding solution onto a sand-like building material.

"First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into 'paper' we can print with," Monolite founder Enrico Dini said.

"Then for our structural 'ink' we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid."

In the test the printer was able to create a 1.5-ton structural block from the simulated lunar soil.


Sabotage may have felled U.K. wind turbine

BRADWORTHY, England, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- A 115-foot wind turbine that collapsed in Britain last week may have been sabotaged, and a second has been found toppled 18 miles away, officials said.

An investigation into the collapse of the turbine in Bradworthy, Devon, during a 50-mph wind last weekend discovered bolts were missing from its base, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

A 60-foot turbine was spotted Friday, "lying crumpled on the ground" 18 miles away in North Petherwin, Cornwall, authorities said.

The larger turbine was thought to have been collapsed by wind, even though it was designed to withstand gales as strong as 116 mph. The missing bolts suggested possible sabotage, investigators said.

The $400,000 Endurance Wind Power E-3120 50kW turbine was installed in July 2010 in the face of fierce opposition from local Devon residents who protested it would spoil the landscape.

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