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Aug. 2, 2010 at 6:16 PM
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Mars rover may have gone silent for good

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- One of NASA's two Mars rovers has not responded to controllers and may not have survived the planet's winter, U.S. scientists say.

The Spirit rover, stuck in the Martian sand since last year and unable to orient itself to collect sufficient sunlight with its solar panels to run its heaters and radio system, has not responded to signals from Earth, ABC News reported Friday.

Without the heaters, the temperature of the electronics inside the rover likely dropped to 65 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, NASA said.

Spirit and its companion rover Opportunity, still alive and working on the other side of the planet, have been exploring the Martian surface since January of 2004.

With the Martian winter over at Spirit's location, engineers sent a signal to the rover, hoping for at least a beep in response.

The answer has been nothing but silence.

"It will be the miracle from Mars if our beloved rover phones home," Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, said. "It's never faced this type of severe condition before -- this is unknown territory."

Device can locate hidden, buried bodies

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Researches say new technology could help law enforcement find the grave site of a body buried by someone who wanted it to stay undiscovered.

Cadaver-sniffing dogs or ground penetrating radar are traditionally used to detect clandestine grave sites, but can be useless in some scenarios, such as when a body is buried beneath concrete, a National Institute of Standards and Technology release said Friday.

A new method uses technology to sense minute levels of difficult-to-detect chemical compounds from biochemical changes in a decomposing cadaver, the NIST says.

The device uses a simple probe to detect the chemicals collecting in air pockets above and close to grave soil, signaling the presence of decaying flesh.

The device can detect a body buried under a concrete slab by merely by drilling a small hole and inserting the probe, eliminating the need for unnecessary digging, the NIST says.

The device can sense the presence of minute traces of chemicals up to 20 weeks after a body is buried, researchers say.

U.S. demonstrates translation devices

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they're working on smartphone-based translation programs that could aid American soldiers dealing with civilians in Afghanistan.

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have demonstrated speech translation devices that could translate between English and Pashto, an official language of Afghanistan, an institute release said Saturday.

Traditionally, the military has used human translators for communicating with non-English speakers in foreign countries, but the job is dangerous and skilled translators often are in short supply, the institute said.

In the new devices, an English speaker talks into the phone, and speech recognition software generates a text file that another program translates to the target language.

Text-to-speech technology then converts that text file into an oral response in the foreign language.

This process is reversed for the foreign language speaker.

Pashto, a native Afghan tongue, is the current focus of research but NIST says it has also assessed machine translation systems for Dari—also spoken in Afghanistan—and Iraqi Arabic.

U.S., Canada cooperate in sea floor survey

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Canadian and U.S. icebreakers will be mapping the arctic sea floor to help settle how much of it each country can claim as its own, officials say.

The U.S. icebreaker Healy sailed Monday to join the Canadian Coast Guard ship Louis S. St-Laurent at sea, where the ships will take turns breaking through the arctic sea ice for each other, LiveScience.com reported.

The Healy will map the shape of the sea floor while the Canadian ship will measure sediment thickness.

International law gives coastal nations rights to natural resources within 200 nautical miles from their coast.

This includes the seabed and subsoil -- and all the minerals, petroleum and animals in and on their slice of the continental shelf.

The new map generated by the U.S.-Canadian mission will let both countries know if and how far they can extend their reach, Brian Edwards, chief scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey aboard the Healy, said.

This is the third year of U.S. and Canadian collaboration, a USGS spokeswoman said.

"The Arctic Ocean is an area of great interest for science, resource conservation, and possible economic development," Deborah Hutchinson said.

"Because there is an area with considerable overlap between the U.S. and Canadian extended continental shelves, it makes sense to share data sets and work together in the remote and challenging environments of the Arctic Ocean," she said.

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