Geeking Science: Surround Sound’s Future

Photo by Sandy Kawadkar on Unsplash

Sound is about to change and I am here to Geek about it. Engineers at MIT have developed paper-thin speakers … like the speakers can be used as wallpaper. And they use a tenth of the power of a normal home speaker.

Now why would you want wallpaper speakers? Talk about surround sound for a movie theatre or immersion for a video game! How about lining an area with noise cancelling speakers; suddenly living on a busy street no longer has the hassle.

And it gets better. For medical instruments which use sound to look inside a human body, the ultra thin speakers would be smaller, cheaper, and use less energy! Ultrasound is used for looking at babies and for cancer diagnosis. It can be used to view eyes, gallbladders, kidneys, liver, ovaries, pancreas, spleen, thyroids, testicles, uterus, and blood vessels. Imagine having ultrasounds being readily available at community care locations! And for healthcare during emergencies like wars and hurricanes, having less energy usage and more portability will save lives.

The same way that light, thin monitors and TVs have opened up the visual world, paper-thin speakers can open up the audio world.

No more thick speakers vying for place on my computer desk – I could just attach one to either side on the outside of my bookshelves.

Oh, and you know how zoom calls have the active following a person around a room … the tech works for music. You could crank your tunes at home, while a spouse or baby sleeps in another room, because the music is aimed ONLY at you.

I’m ready for this tech to be mature now. Sign me up for this Geekery.


Zewe, Adam. “Researchers develop a paper-thin loudspeaker.” MIT News on campus and around the world. 26 April 2022. – last viewed 11/9/2023.

Geeking Science: Drone Ingenuity

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars helicopter, photographed by the agency’s Perseverance rover on April 16, 2023. The rover captured this enhanced-color image using its Mastcam-Z instrument.

The drone is still at it, through dust and desire, Ingenuity – the Mars Helicopter – keeps going. Over fifty flights on another world, greatly adding to the scope of the rover missions with ariel reconnaissance. The first five missions were planned, the other forty plus (and still growing) flights are bonus. Over 90 minutes of airtime. Two years.

The machine was specially made for Mars thin atmosphere with blades that spin 10 times faster than what we need on Earth. (Mathewson)

What does this mean? Get ready to Geek OUT!!! Drones FLEETS flying Mars (not just satellites). Instead of the inch by precious inch of our rovers, we will have meters of flight, and maybe, one day, kilometers. Also RETRIEVAL of samples. The next group going to Mars will be picking up the rover soil samples, take them to a rocket to return the samples to earth. (Second video below)

And now that we have had proof of concept, other planets are being looked at too. If it got atmosphere, we will figure out how to fly it.

Except for Venus. That place is stoopid crazy hot.



Mathewson, Samantha. “Perseverance Mars rover snaps amazing shot of dusty Ingenuity helicopter (photo).” yahoo!news. 21 April 2023. – last viewed 5/7/2023.

Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Celebrates 50 Flights.” (youtube has stopped giving dates). See embed above – last viewed 5/7/2023.

Nasa Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Ingenuity Helicopter Inspires Future Flights on Mars (Mars Report – April 2023)”. (youtube has stopped giving dates). See embed above – last viewed 5/7/2023. “Nasa Science – Mars Helicopter Tech Demo.” (undated) – – last viewed 5/7/2023.

Wall, Mike. “Mars helicopter Ingenuity aces 40th Red Planet flight.” 20 January 2023. – last viewed 5/7/2023.


Geeking Science: R is for Reef and Real Estate Race

Artist’s illustration of Orbital Reef, a private space station project involving Blue Origin, Sierra Space, and a number of other partners. (Image credit: Sierra Space/Blue Origin)

The International Space Station (ISS) first launched component settled in orbit in 1998 with residents moving in November 2000. “The station has been continuously occupied for 22 years … having surpassed the previous record of 9 years and 357 days held by the Mir space station.” (Wikipedia, International Space Station). The International part of the title has proven well-used with the support of five space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe) and CSA (Canada).

The original plan for decommission was a mere 15 years (2015), but it has been extended several times. Even so, the extensions can’t continue forever. The wear and tear of long-term use, the leaks and holes, are adding up. (Inverse) Also in the mix in the Russia’s shenanigans in Ukraine, and the world hitting them with sanctions. The aggressor might pull out their funding early, previously planned to continue to 2024, in protest of getting called on the carpet for their actions.

2031 is becoming the hard-fast de-orbit date, with 2030 being when the shop will close up for the safety of all involved and the lights will be turned off.

The ISS will join all the Salyut stations (seven from 1971-1991 USSR), Skylab (1973-1979 USA), Mir (1986-2001 Russia), and the two Tiangong (2011-2019 China) in retirement. Once the station lands in Point Nemo, only Tiangong 3 will remain in orbit (2021-present, China).

Unless something changes. And boy-o-boy, are changes in the plans.

Several countries are thinking of creating their own stations.

But the first in line to deliver might be Amazon.

Well, Blue Origin (wholly owned by Jeff Brazos) (Cuofano 2022).

Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada Corporation plan to create a space station for commercial space activities and space tourism. The news brief for the plans released in October 2021, and the plans have been continuing apace, including approval by NASA.

The title for the planned station is Orbital Reef.

Some of the conversations on building Orbital Reef include using the ISS as a jumping point. Basically a port to work from.

Russia has been lifting new modules up for a Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS) – official launch date of 2025. America and the international community of the ISS (without Russia), likewise, are working on Axiom Station and Lunar Gateway for science activities and as part of the Artemis program for lunar landings and human missions to Mars. All these government space stations, as well as several commercial ventures, are hoped to be online before 2030. The Orbital Reef is the most ambitious with a crew size of 10; most of the others are aiming for 4.

NASA’s Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development (CLDP) program aims at getting AT LEAST one commercial outpost up and running before the ISS lights go out. Orbital Reef, Starlab (by NanoRacks) and an unnamed concept (by Northrop Grumman) all have received grants after the initial plans have been reviewed and approved by NASA. (Wall)

I’m highly entertained by Orbital Reef being referred to a “turn-key” location, where a (space) business park can be scaled to serve markets. Like one can just go to a relator and state your needs, and they hand you the key to a building.

The large crew of ten for Orbital Reef is aimed at supporting the renters, including a possible space hotel. “We sell only the utilities and services you need to sustain your business: power, cooling, high-bandwidth communication, information and physical security, robotic services, technician attention, stowage, and logistics.” More can be found on this sci-fi, soon to be science fact, location at

Planning on filming a commercial that needs microgravity? They got you covered. Need microgravity to create the next microchip? Think Orbital Reef.

Key to the dream of the Orbital Reef is Dream Chaser, a pint-sized reusable space plane. Sierra Space hopes to demonstrate viability in a February 2023 launch aboard the ULA Vulcan Centaur booster rocket.

Tons of prep-work and moving parts are in play for 2023 with 2024 being the year of heavy lifting into orbit as things get off the production line. Be interesting to see who wins the low-Earth orbit real estate race.


Clark, Stephen. “Blue Origin and Sierra Space team up for commercial space station.” Spaceflight Now. October 25, 2021. – last viewed 12/21/2022.

Foust, Jeff. “Orbital Reef passes NASA review.” SpaceNews. August 22, 2022. – last viewed 12/21/2022.

Cuofano, Gennaro. “Who owns Blue Origin?” FourWeekMBA. September 30, 2022. – last viewed 12/21/2022.

Inverse. “NASA Plans to Obliterate the International Space Station – Here’s How.” (undated). – last viewed 12/21/2022.

Kirk, Benny. “Space Shuttle vs Dream Chaser: Can This Pint Sized Space Plane Really Replace an Icon?” autoevolution. October 21, 2022. – last viewed 12/21/2022.

Orbital Reef. (website, undated). – last viewed 12/21/2022.

The Planetary Society. “Missing Briefings: Blue Origin wants to build its own space station.” The Downlink. October 29, 2021. (email newsletter)

Shields, Ken (of Sierra Space Corp). “Orbital Reef: A Space Station for a New Economy of Space.” IEEE-CNSV Consultants’ Network of Silicon Valley. March 8, 2022. – last viewed 12/21/2022.

Wall, Mike. “Blue Origin’s private Orbital Reef space station passes key design review.” August 24, 2022. – last viewed 12/21/2022.

Wikipedia. “International Space Station.” (undated) – last viewed 12/21/2022.

Wikipedia. “List of space stations.” (undated). – last viewed 12/21/2022.

Wikipedia. “Orbital Reef.” (undated) – last viewed 12/21/2022.

Geeking Science: Percussive Defense

This imagery from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope from Oct. 8, 2022, shows the debris blasted from the surface of Dimorphos 285 hours after the asteroid was intentionally impacted by NASA’s DART spacecraft on Sept. 26. The shape of that tail has changed over time. Scientists are continuing to study this material and how it moves in space, in order to better understand the asteroid. Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI/Hubble

You can take humans off world, but you can’t take the world out of the humans. Or should this just be “humans will be humans”?
I’ve previous mentioned NASA solution of fixing the Martian Lander by having it hit itself with a shovel. (Percussive Maintenance; January 21, 2021)
Now they, our biggest scientific brains, are exploring asteroid defense of planet Earth so we don’t go by the way of the dinosaur, by …. hitting an asteroid with a solid object, in this case a DART.
Double Asteroid Redirection Test exceeded the minimum goal of changing the orbit an asteroid by 73 second by a bit … like 33 minutes … with a planned collision. (NASA. October 2022; Paoletta, 2022)
When in doubt, bang it, see what happens.
Of course they use words like “kinetic”, “impact”, “intentional”, “defense technology”. But really, we figuring out how to swing a stick in space so the bad space rocks won’t hurt us.
Ain’t science grand?
Of course scientists being scientists, they are still sorting the data what happened beyond the Percussive Defense incident. Further study indicates that the change in orbit around the second asteroid was a combination of initial impact and the ejecta tossed out from the impact. (NASA, December 2022)
DART’S LAST COMPLETE LOOK AT DIMORPHOS In a thrilling moment, DART captured this view of Dimorphos just as it was about to crash into the asteroid moon. Seconds later, the transmission ended. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL
NASA. “Early Results from NASA’s DART Mission.” December 14, 2022. – last viewed 12/16/2022.
NASA. “NASA Confirms DART Mission Impact Changed Asteroid’s Motion in Space.” October 11, 20222. – last viewed 12/16/2022.
Paoletta, Rae. “NASA says DART’s asteroid impact was a huge success”. The Planetary Society. October 11, 2022. – last viewed 12/16/2022.

Geeking Science: Solar Sailing Technology Continues to Mature

After over three years, the one-year mission of the LightSail is complete. November 17 ends the experiment to prove Solar Sailing is a viable technology for space exploration. It’s not sexy-fast, but the ability to explore is now within the pocket book of communities and not just governments trying to one-up each other.

I and 50,000 people like me made this happen. We crowdfunded both the original LightSail (which didn’t make it to space) and the second LightSail.

Even better, another Solar Sail project launched into space before our lovely lightsail deorbited. The Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) Scout is now piggybacking the Artemis I launch for a moon deployment. Now that the concept of Solar Sailing is a PROVEN technology, NASA is using it to test affordability. Space exploration has been limited by the pocketbook; Solar Sailing is providing a blue-light special.

NEA Scout will demonstrate the ability to hitch a ride to one destination and then use a solar sail to fly somewhere else. The small spacecraft will initially ride to the Moon before using a solar sail to leave for a near-Earth asteroid. (NEA Scout, 2022)


Sadly, the NEA Scout did not respond to initial communications. (Bartels, 2022) Blue-light specials mean a cut-back on the redundancy, and a higher chance of failure. It’s a tradeoff – the “do-it-cheaper” concept is cut the price by to a twentieth, knowing the failures will triple – with the hope of still a savings at nearly by having seven times the missions being successful.

In the case of Artemis I, seven of the ten CubeStats deployed without issue. The NEA Scout is one of three with a problem status. (Messier, 2022)
Seven out of ten isn’t bad. I wish the solar sail made the random statistical cut. Another time.

This is now, This is our future. We can reach the stars.


Betts, Bruce. “LightSail 2 is about to burn up”. The Planetary Society. November 14, 2022. – Last viewed 12/5/2022.

Bartels, Meghan. “NASA’s Artemis 1 launched a solar sail cubesat to an asteroid. It may be in trouble.” November 2022. – Last viewed 12/5/2022.

Davis, Jason. “LightSail 2 completes mission with atmospheric reentry.” The Planetary Society. November 17, 2022. – Last viewed 12/5/2022.

Messier, Doug. “Status Report on Artemis I Secondary CubeStat Payloads.” Parabolic Arc. November 17, 2022. – Last viewed 12/5/2022 (link no longer works 4/26/2024).

“NEA Scout”. NASA. – Last viewed – 12/5/2022. (link no longer works 10/16/2023)

“NEA Scout, NASA’s solar sail mission to an asteroid”. The Planetary Society. – Last viewed 12/5/2022.

The Planetary Society. “#ThankYouLightSail”. YouTube. – Last viewed 12/5/2022. (see above video)