InSight lands on Mars

After months in space and a truly harrowing entry to Mars’ atmosphere, NASA’s InSight probe gently touched down on Mars.

The Insight probe — the full name of which is actually Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport — touched down safely on Mars’ Elysium Planitia at 7:52pm on the evening of Monday November 26, making it the eighth successful unmanned mission to Mars in the history of mankind.

WATCH: The moment InSight touched down:

At at a post-landing briefing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California Insight’s Project Manager Tom Hoffman remarked “I’m very, very happy that it looks like we have an incredibly safe and boring looking landing location”.

Elysium Planitia, located in the northern hemisphere and near the equator of the red planet, is a soft sandy plain on the Martian surface — a perfect spot for InSight to carry out its life purpose: to study the geology of Mars’ core.

Essentially an interplanetary geologist, the InSight probe is distinct from the famous Mars Rovers, in that the probe will remain in place for the duration of its mission. It will dig deep into the Martian crust, searching for so called marsquakes and drawing a picture of what lies beneath the surface from the data it collects.

“In the coming months and years the history books will be rewritten about the interior of Mars” Michael Watkins, JPL’S Director predicted in the press briefing.

Before the mission can officially start, more definitive checks will be carried out to assure the spacecraft’s on-board equipment and mechanics have survived the tough entry into Mars’ hostile atmosphere.

InSight entered the planet’s atmosphere at 12,300 miles per hour and slowed itself down to a walking pace in around seven minutes. A combination of rockets and parachutes allowed the craft to land safely on the plain, which has been described as being as horizontal as a car park in the famously flat Kansas.

credit to Nasa - Scott

NASA’s probe InSight. (Photo Credit: NASA)

The landing concluded a journey which began in May 2018 and 300 million miles away on planet Earth. The Insight probe was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on the May 5, 2018, from an Atlas V-401 Rocket, making it the first Mars’ mission launched from the west coast of the United States as opposed to Florida on the east coast.


InSight was closely followed by two NASA CubeSats — miniaturised satellites about the size of a briefcase — called Mars Cube One or MarCO. These types of satellites are easily and relatively cheaply sent up to orbit earth but this mission marks their first use deep in our solar system, offering the possibility of improved communications and data collection infrastructure in deep space.

Probes over People

The landing is great news but looking at the bigger picture of deep space exploration you might be moved to ask — where are all the people?

It’s a good question and it is one that is getting asked more and more of late. Since the discontinuation of the shuttle program in 2011, NASA’s operations have become a lot more geared toward unmanned scientific exploration.

Think of deep space milestones of late; the curiosity rover on Mars, the New Horizons probe responsible for beautiful close ups of the dwarf planet Pluto, and now Mars’ InSight.

Since the last mission to the Moon in the 1970’s there have been no humans beyond low-Earth orbit. As we approach the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic first landing on the Moon and see private companies like SpaceX inch ever closer to perfecting their own space launch systems, the question regarding when humans will next explore deep space in person will become central to U.S space policy.

Under the current administration NASA has received a slight increase in funding to just under US$20 billion — a rather modest amount as federal agencies go — and outlined goals for a permanent presence on the moon as the main deep space goal acting as a way station for an eventual trip to Mars.

Credit to NASA

The hope is to station humans on Mars in the future (Photo Credit: NASA)

The fundamentals of these plans pre-dated the Trump administration as the space agency developed a new Space launch system and deep space craft called Orion.

Some outlandish proposals have been put forward by the Trump administration, such as the so called “Space Force”— an American military presence in space. The idea has been met with derision, with Former U.S. Navy Captain and retired Astronaut Mark Kelly tweeting that it was ‘a dumb idea”.

However, NASA’s official line remains true to the goal of putting humans on the red planet.

Only exploring low earth orbit might seem like having stayed in the shallow end of the pool but it has been responsible for falling costs more reusable space technology and so more access to space.

NASA’s Administrator Jim Bridenstine reckoned optimistically in InSight’s post landing press conference when asked will humans will get there; “I’m going with the mid 2030’s”.

China bridges the 26 mile gap

After nine years of construction, Chinese President Xi JinPing has unveiled the world’s longest crossing bridge, linking Hong Kong to China’s mainland. 

The bridge, which cost an estimated US$20 billion to build, is set to be a life-changing invention for Chinese citizens who want to access Hong Kong and Macau from the mainland city of Zhuhai.

Spanning over 54km (26 miles) and covering 21,500 square miles of China, the bridge assists with a larger plan to expand 11 cities in the region, with the cities of Hong Kong and Macau home to 68 million people in total.

“I declare the Hong Kong – Macau – Zhuhai bridge officially open.” – President Xi JinPing, October 23, 2018

So far, the making of the now famous bridge hasn’t been easy, with 18 workers reported to have lost their lives during the construction process.

With 400,000 tonnes of steel to assemble, the new bridge has enough steel to build 60 Eiffel Towers, which in itself, weighs an impressive 10,000 tonnes. The design is also said to withstand an earthquake magnitude of eight and is also typhoon-proof, which are known natural disasters in the region.

The Hong Kong – Macau – Zhuhai bridge is expected to drastically decrease commuting time from four hours to just 30 minutes, meaning people can easily travel to and from Hong Kong’s international airport.

Originally set to be unveiled in 2016, the longest bridge in the world is now open for business, setting the tone for China’s futuristic vision.

International Insight

Joanna Hampson brings you the latest EN4 international news brief for Tuesday October 23.

Here are today’s top stories.

  • The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was allegedly planned days in advance. The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed he has strong evidence to suggest Khashoggi was killed in a premeditated murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on the 2nd of October. In his address this Tuesday, to the MP’s of his ruling party, President Erdogan confirmed that 18 people had been arrested in Saudi Arabia over the case, but is yet to release further information regarding the details of the evidence. For live updates from the investment conference in Saudi Arabia head to the Guardian.


  • The world’s longest sea-crossing bridge has finally been opened in Zhuhai, China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has officially opened the bridge, which connects Hong Kong to Macau and the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai, spanning 55km (34 miles) of water. The $20 billion bridge took nine years to build while incurring major delays and cost overruns. To watch the video ‘flying over the world’s longest sea bridge’ head to the BBC.


  • Poland’s first openly gay politician has said progressive policies can win in the countries local elections. After the ruling Law and Justice party suffered setbacks in local elections at the weekend, Robert Biedroń who stepped down as mayor of Słupsk to launch his own pro-European, “pro-democratic” movement, has now said that progressives can win. Biedroń’s own political trajectory, as a young, former LGBT activist who was elected to the Sejm in 2011, strides towards a modern Poland, advancing on the common view of the Catholic country. The Guardian report on the advancements of the upcoming elections in more detail on their website.


  • Donald Trump has warned that the US will bolster its nuclear arsenal to put pressure on Russia and China. Speaking to reporters, the President repeated his belief that Russia has violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which he has threatened to leave. Russia continues to deny these allegations.

In Business


  • UK based vacuum cleaner manufacturer, Dyson, is set to build its new electric car in Singapore. The factory will break ground in Singapore later this year with the first car scheduled to roll off the production line in 2021. Dyson has said Singapore was chosen for the project based on the availability of engineering talent, regional supply chains and proximity to some key target markets. With a vast budget of £2 billion committed to the plant, Dyson will be focussing largely on research and development and test track facilities.


  • Co-founder of the Benetton clothing firm, Gilberto Benetton, has died at the age of 77. Benetton founded United Colors of Benetton in Italy, with brothers Luciano and Carlo and sister Giuliana, in the 1960s. Considered as one of the most powerful families in Italy, Benetton himself is credited with diversifying the clothing company into a multi-billion euro giant. United Colors of Benetton is known for its provocative advertising campaigns which have previously featured images of prisoners sentenced to death in America and, more recently, displayed images of migrants being rescued from the Mediterranean.

Podcast: Advances in cinema


Picture of Edinburgh Filmhouse. Photo credit to Edinburgh Filmhouse.

Recently, the mobile network EE launched a competition for a community to win a “Cinema in the Sky” experience.

With popcorn delivered by drones, and the screen 100 feet in the air, is this an experience cinema-goers would like?

For EN4News Podcast, Joanna Hampson, Michaella Wheatley, and Calum Wilson discuss the advances cinema has made in past years and will make in the future.

Edinburgh Airport announce a new app for disabled passengers

The welcome app, created by Neatebox, is designed to allow passengers to personalise the assistance they require and request assistance from the airport in advance.

The Edinburgh Airport passengers with Reduced Mobility team will then receive a notification letting them know that guests are on their way and will be sent extra tips on how best to aid the individual.

Edinburgh Airport said the app is yet another provision they offer to ensure the airport is open and accessible to all, regardless of their needs. They recently became the first airport in Scotland to be recognised as autism friendly. Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airports Chief Executive, told Insider: 

“It’s also good to work with local businesses and implement innovative approaches to passenger needs – we pride ourselves on being innovative and we are confident our accessibility will continue to improve with the introduction of Neatebox.”

Research carried out by Euan’s Guide showed 92% of disabled people do not feel confident visiting new places due to concerns about accessibility. Neatebox want to help improve lives through the use of smart technology. They hope that the ‘Welcome’ app will help promote Scotland as the ‘epicenter of innovation’.

Welcome app | Credit: Neatebox

EN4News spoke to Gavin Neate, Co-Founder of Neatebox, about the inspiration behind the innovative app and why it is so important in a customer service environment.  

“ When it comes to disability, we need to have so much more information now. Everyone likes to be interacted with differently. If you go up and you were instantly happy and friendly towards someone with autism, that might not actually be what they need. Therefore if we knew what somebody’s needs were before we met them, then that would be brilliant.

70% of people who are disabled have hidden disabilities. We generally think about providing service for people who have obvious disabilities – a blind person, a wheelchair user, someone with a walking cane. Things like autism, epilepsy and dyslexia – these are all disabilities a person has to self disclose. If you’re standing at a bank or if you’re in a hotel or a Starbucks queue, the last thing you want to do is talk to the person behind the counter and explain.”

Neate added: 

“ I think this Welcome can potentially be massive. We’re also installed with Royal Bank of Scotland, DoubleTree Hilton, the Scottish Government. Ultimately, this could go everywhere. It could help everyone. We don’t just want to help a disabled person get better service, we want to help the customer service person give better service.”

The announcement comes on the same day, East Lothian council announced controversial changes to disabled services in Edinburgh.

Humans & Robophobia

In the news recently, there has been a lot of coverage towards more ‘human’ looking robots that are becoming ever more advanced and capable.

What this brings is a hope amongst the scientific community that we draw closer to a positive coexistence, that will potentially enable the quicker integration of such robots into our society.

However, there are aspects of human nature that are causing that process to consider a theory that was coined by a Japanese professor in the 1970s. Robotics professor Masahiro Mori led pioneering work on the emotional response of humans to non-human entities. His theory, known as ‘the uncanny valley’, is the idea that when robots resemble humans but not quite, it can create eeriness and revulsion in people. This leads to some robots being seen as cute and endearing, such as Honda’s ASMIO, but others as being too disturbingly close to humans.


Honda’s ASIMO, created in 2000 | Image Credit: Youtube

The work by a team of scientists at the University of Edinburgh, strives to overcome ‘the uncanny valley’. Working in collaboration with NASA’s Valkyrie programme, they are working to create biped robots that can move like humans in the hope that they can be used to help human astronauts exploring Mars.

A single Valkyrie unit costs a cool £1.8 million pounds, weighs in a 125kg and stands at five foot 11 inches tall.Valkyrie’s on-board vision systems and bipedal locomotion, responds to simulated cramped and difficult-to-navigate surfaces to mimic the capsule and space walks a future generation robot might encounter one day.

Researchers from Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and Valkyrie | Image Credit: University of Edinburgh

Whilst there is an ongoing debate over creating robots in the image of humans, there are scientific advantages to doing this. Professor Sethu Vijayakumar who is part of the team at Edinburgh University, states the practical benefits of a more human looking robot:

“Bipeds are very good at moving in the same space that is designed for humans.
“We are very good at squeezing through narrow spaces, climbing steps and tackling variable footholds.
If you have a robot with wheels or is a quadruped then you have to redesign the entire space for the robot.”

On the other hand, in terms of further integration wih humans, an argument can be made that it is not how the robots looks that matters but more about how it behavies.

Dr Mary Ellen Foster of Glasgow University, works closely with robots and studies human-robot interaction as well as social robotics. Her current work involves the integration of robots into our every day lives. Since March 2016, she has been coordinating the MuMMER project which aims to develop a socially intelligent humanoid robot that is able to operate in a public shopping centre.

Dr Foster feels that’s making robots look like us ‘is not the way to go’ moving forwards.

“They need to be able engage in social interactions, their understanding of cues and gestures is more important towards human-robot interaction and building sustainable personable relationships with us.”

Bill Gates’ firm to invest $80m towards new Smart City



Bill Gates. Source: Google

Bill Gates’ investment company, Cascade Investment, is to put $80 million behind a new ‘Smart City’, within Arizona, USA.


The city, named Belmont, will be located just west of the capital, Phoenix, and will be made up of 25,000 acres of land – with 3,800 acres of the city being used for commercial and office space. Another 470 acres will go to public schooling.


Belmont Partners’ press release reveals the city’s land and population will equal that of Tempe – famous for the home of the best innovative college in the Americas: Arizona State University.


The press release also stated:

“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centres, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,”.


Belmont will be situated along the I-11– a soon-to-be-built highway, which runs between Las Vegas and Mexico. According to AZ central, the plot of land has been considered for development since the early 90’s.


As a smart city, Belmont’s communication infrastructure will be ultra-high-speed; while cars and date centres will run autonomously within the town. It is hoped that the city will be an appealing base for new and equally high-tech companies.

Sheffield Hallam University develop intelligent fingerprint system like no other

New fingerprint technology has been developed by scientists at Sheffield Hallam University which can, not only detect blood and various cosmetics, but also remind you exactly what you had for your lunch.


Fingerprint technology has been around for 100 years, but this new technology allows for all sorts of data to be collected.

From a small sample, experts can find out your gender, what kind of cosmetics you’ve been using and what you’ve been eating.

This is big news for crime cases – the process, called mass spectrometry, can detect whether you’ve come into contact with blood or even touched a condom.

The technology is thought to be just months away from being approved as admissible evidence in court cases – meaning it can be used to solve difficult forensic cases that are often slung out due to lack of evidence.

Researchers have been developing and testing this technology with police since 2012, and the Home Office has invested over £80,000 into the project.

Stephen Bleay, from the Home Office says the technology is “fairly close to bottoming out all the questions that could be raised in court.”

The team of scientists involved claim ‘the technology has been used with a 30 year old sample, meaning big things for cold case reviews.’

Written and Filmed by Katie McKenzie
Presented by Lee Dalgetty

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