Environment Forum

A solar-powered all-terrain vehicle, on extremely unfamiliar terrain

September 2, 2011

On Earth, we consider design, fuel efficiency, and enduring power when thinking of “green” vehicles. But there’s one solar-powered all-terrain vehicle that has by some lights out-performed anything rolling around on Earth. It is the doughty little robotic rover Opportunity, doggedly using its seven-year-old solar array to chug over the rocky surface of Mars.
Opportunity, like its twin rover Spirit, was designed to drive about .6 mile (1 kilometer) along the martian surface; by last month, Opportunity had driven more than 30 times that distance. It completed its primary mission in 2004 and since then has made important discoveries about parts of ancient Mars that might have been hospitable to microscopic life.
Like many earthly vehicles that are a bit past their prime, Opportunity has a few quirks, according to NASA’s Dave Lavery, who spoke at a briefing on the rover’s latest findings.
“We’re no longer driving a hot sports car,” he said. “We’re now driving a 1965 Mustang that hasn’t been restored.”
Even though Opportunity’s “drivers” are on Earth, controlling the golf-cart-sized robot remotely, they plainly feel a fair amount of affection for the little craft. NASA’s John Callas described the rover’s status almost as if it were a spunky grandparent.

Amazon’s drought, seen from space

March 29, 2011

AMAZON/DROUGHTHow green is the Amazon?

Not as green as it used to be, as shown in an analysis of satellite images made during last year’s record-breaking drought.

Appropriately enough, it’s National Tsunami Awareness Week

March 24, 2011

The U.S. government has announced this as National Tsunami Awareness Week, starting just days after a disastrous tsunami powered over Japan’s northeast coast. Not that anyone necessarily needed reminding.

What’s up with all the earthquakes?

April 15, 2010

QUAKE-CHINA/

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This article by Julia Kumari Drapkin originally appeared in Global Post. The views expressed are her own.

A rocket man’s view of solar energy

July 31, 2009

After nearly 25 years in the computer science and aerospace industries, including a stint at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Doug Caldwell decided to pursue a career-long dream of putting his engineering skills to use for the environment. So the Southern California native left his own start-up, a company that builds cameras for spacecraft launch systems, to explore his options.

Antarctic ice expands — global warming at work?

September 12, 2008

Adelie penguins in Antarctica are photographed in this January 18, 2005 file photo. The pesticide DDT, banned decades ago in much of the world, still shows up in penguins in Antarctica, probably due to the chemical’s accumulation in melting glaciers, a sea bird expert said on May 9, 2008. REUTERS/Heidi Geisz/Virginia Institute of Marine Science/Handout (ANTARCTICA).Ice getting bigger hardly sounds like a sign of global warming but that’s apparently what is happening in the seas around Antarctica.

A green energy solution that’s out of this world

July 10, 2008

windoffshore.jpgThe quest for more renewable energy sources recently got a boost that’s out of this world.