Magazine 138/139 - page 12-13

Robots enrich life in isolation
DLR solar researchers support Morocco’s Solar Plan
Robot head Flobi plays a memory game with a test subject in the
Parabolic trough facility at the Plataforma Solar de Almería,
in southern Spain.
Collaborating with the DLR Space Administration, Bielefeld Univer-
sity has been running the SoziRob project on human-machine
interaction. In two campaigns, eight test subjects spent three
weeks in the isolation room at the DLR Institute of Aerospace
Medicine in Cologne, shut off from the outside world. Under
these circumstances humans and robots were put to the test.
During the first campaign, the human participants had to
motivate themselves in games and sport. In the second campaign,
they had the support of two robots. The first was the talking robot
head Flobi, which played a few memory games with the isolated
subjects every day. Flobi could respond minimally to the partici-
pants and move its eyes, eyebrows, eyelids and lips. The other
robot was the 60-centimetre-tall Nao, which ran a daily hour-long
spinning session for the participants to perform on their stationary
bicycles. It gave them exercise instructions and provided feedback
on speed.
As it turns out, both Flobi and Nao did a good job. With
Flobi the participants played the memory game for much longer
than with only other subjects. Nao was also accepted by the
participants and even provided a slight increase in performance on
the bicycle. Despite the mental strain, humans and machines
tolerated each other well. Performance levels improved slightly
and the test subjects’ mood fluctuated slightly less than without
the robots. Flobi and Nao have shown that interaction between
robots and humans in space can be beneficial.
Construction work for the first solar power plant in Ouarzazate,
Morocco began this year. The project is a collaboration between
DLR and the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, Masen. This will
be a parabolic trough power plant with a capacity of 160 mega-
watts. By 2015 this capacity will be increased to 500 megawatts
and the complex will then include a solar tower and a photovoltaic
power plant.
The DLR Institute of Solar Research is currently developing a
concept for a test centre that might also be built in Ouarzazate.
This centre would research efficient, cost-effective solar power
generators for energy and desalination plants. The long-term goal
is to develop a competitive solar industry in Morocco. By 2020
power stations with an output of 2000 megawatts are expected
to be in operation.
The heat energy produced by solar power plants has the ad-
vantage of being much easier to store than energy from other re-
newable energy sources. Thanks to special storage technology, so-
lar power plants can work around the clock; they can continue to
supply energy when the Sun has set and demand is particularly
Alphasat I-XL is orbiting Earth
ESA’s largest telecommunications satellite to date, Alphasat I-XL,
has been orbiting Earth since 25 July 2013. It is being operated
as a public-private partnership (PPP) between ESA and Inmarsat, a
global operating company for mobile satellite communications
services. This partnership gives the satellite the ‘I’ (Inmarsat) in its
name. The Alphasat development project was carried out in the
framework of ESA’s telecommunications satellite programme
(ARTES 8), and Germany is pursuing several objectives through
the DLR Space Administration.
In addition to the commercial payload, Alphasat I-XL offers
accommodation for technologies that are being tested for the
first time in geostationary orbit. Of the four payloads that are
flying for demonstration purposes, two are from Germany. A star
tracker from Jena Optronik delivers highly accurate orbit and atti-
tude information, and this supports the precise alignment of the
optical Laser Communication Terminal (LCT), which was also
developed in Germany.
Falcon tracks down desert dust
The effect of desert dust on cloud cover and the weather is
one of the biggest uncertainties in climate forecasting. Therefore,
DLR scientists have been carrying out measurements with the Fal-
con research aircraft on Cape Verde and in the Caribbean. The
questions they are looking to answer are many. For example: how
does the distribution of dust particles of different sizes change dur-
ing transportation across the Atlantic into the Caribbean? What in-
fluence does desert dust have on Earth’s radiation balance? How
many large dust particles are lost during transportation across the
Atlantic? How does the desert dust interact with clouds? Is there a
connection between the presence of Saharan dust above the At-
lantic and the formation of hurricanes? How well can Saharan dust
be measured using existing satellites? Hopefully, the answers to
these questions will be found in the data acquired during the Fal-
con research mission, which will be studied in detail at the DLR In-
stitute of Atmospheric Physics, as part of the Saharan Aerosol
Long-range Transport and Aerosol-Cloud-Interaction Experiment,
Designed by a mechanical engi-
neer who worked on the actual
Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory can now
be recreated in Lego, including its mechanical
arm, deployable mast and the suspension sys-
tem that allows Curiosity to tread through the
rocky Martian terrain. So dig out your Lego
bricks and start exploring!
This exciting new scientific tool
offers data from NASA’s Solar
Dynamics Observatory in an
easy-to-use web interface. Explore the Sun
and inner heliosphere for solar flares or coro-
nal mass ejections from as far back as 1993,
and share images and videos of them with
your friends.
Have you ever wanted to know
whether we can build an eleva-
tor into space or whether time travel is possi-
ble? Check out the Headsqueeze YouTube
channel, where James May and his team
answer a range of quirky and interesting sci-
ence questions from the audience.
On the occasion of the tenth
anniversary of the Mars Express
misison, join us on a trip to our planetary neigh-
bour. See breathtakingly beautiful pictures of its
surface. Find out more about its geology, cli-
matic history and moons, and learn about the
history of its exploration.
Every year, DLR opens its doors
for German Aerospace Day, to
present the latest in high-tech
research in aeronautics, energy, transportation,
security and space technology to the public. To
find out more about this exciting event, visit the
special website.
What will happen when MASCOT
lands on asteroid 1999 JU3 in
2018? How can scientists ensure
that everything will go as smoothly as possible?
Take a look at the research conducted at DLR to
make sure all systems work properly at the right
place, at the right time.
From DLR’s Falcon research aircraft, dust and forest fire aerosol layers
at Cape Verde are not only detected, but also measured using special
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