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You can listen right here to the whir of a robot helicopter flying on an alien world • The Register

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Video One of the microphones on Perseverance, NASA’s latest and greatest Mars rover, has recorded the sounds of its autonomous helicopter Ingenuity flying on the Red Planet, providing scientists with the first ever audio samples of an aircraft operating on another planet.

You can hear the recording in the video below. Make sure to listen out for a low buzzing sound, which comes from its rotors spinning at 2,537 rpm, as the drone flits in and out of view.

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On Friday, David Mimoun – science lead for the SuperCam Mars microphone on Perseverance, and a planetary science professor at the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace (ISAE-SUPAERO) in France – called the recording “a very good surprise.” The rover is quite far away from Ingenuity, about 80 metres, and the winds billowing through the atmosphere made recording difficult.

“We had carried out tests and simulations that told us the microphone would barely pick up the sounds of the helicopter, as the Mars atmosphere damps the sound propagation strongly. We have been lucky to register the helicopter at such a distance. This recording will be a gold mine for our understanding of the Martian atmosphere,” he added.

In fact, NASA has massaged the audio sample above to help listeners hear Ingenuity. Sounds below 80Hz and above 90Hz have been turned down in volume so that the 84Hz hum of the tiny computer-controlled craft’s rotors can be heard.

A small team at mission control has been experimenting with Ingenuity’s limits for about a month. Over that time, the small autonomous aircraft has performed a series of flights at increasing heights and speeds. The flight data is uploaded to Perseverance and sent back to Earth for the team to study, and the video above is taken from Ingenuity’s fourth flight when it traveled 133 metres south and stayed in the air 117 seconds.

“This is an example of how the different payload instrument suites complement each other, resulting in information synergy,” said Soren Madsen, the Perseverance payload development manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “In this particular case, the microphone and video let us observe the helicopter as if we are there, and additional information, such as the Doppler shift, confirms details of the flight path.”

The Solar System remains mostly eerily silent to us Earthlings. Although we have a good idea of what other planets look like and what they may be made up of, what they sound like is still a mystery. NASA has kitted out previous Martian spacecraft with microphones; they were installed in its Mars Polar Lander in 1999 and in its Phoenix Lander in 2007, but never had the chance to listen to Mars until now.

The Mars Polar Lander crashed during its landing stage, and NASA had to disable the microphone on its Phoenix Lander because of instrumentation issues. Fortunately, scientists have had much better luck with Perseverance this time round.

Not only has the six-wheeled, 1,025-kilogram trundlebot captured the low-pitch hum of its Ingenuity drone flying in the Martian atmosphere, it has also recorded the sound of wind, lasers zapping rocks, and its own machinery cranking away as it drives around the Jezero crater. ®

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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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Charles River to create 90 new jobs at Ballina biologics site

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Charles River is expanding its testing capabilities in Ballina as part of its partnership with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories is planning an €8m site expansion in Ballina to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca.

The expansion at the Mayo site will create an additional 1,500 sq m of lab space and 90 highly skilled jobs in the area over the next three years.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The company provides longstanding partners AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of Vaxzevria for Covid-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.

The latest investment follows earlier expansions at the Ballina site and Charles River recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.

“We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” said Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina.

“Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients.”

Charles River acquired the Ballina facility, which focuses on biologics testing, in 2002. The company employs 230 people at its two facilities in Ireland, including the Mayo site and a site in Dublin, established in 2017, which serves as the EMEA and APAC headquarters for the company’s microbial solutions division.

IDA Ireland is supporting the expansion. Mary Buckley, executive director of the agency, said Charles River is an “employer of long standing” in Co Mayo.

“The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome,” she added. “Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations.”

Dan Wygal, country president for AstraZeneca Ireland, added: “Our Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”

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