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USA vs. Vietnam: Occupy Mars Chess Program

The Barboza Space Center is training Jr. astronauts, scientists and engineering in the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures Program to play chess.  This will help to keep our minds sharp on the long eight month journey to Mars.    www.BarbozaSpaceCemter.Com

How to Play Chess

Five Parts:Understanding the Board and PiecesKnowing How to WinPlaying the GameUtilizing StrategyKnowing the Special MovesCommunity Q&A

Chess is a very popular game, thought to have originated in eastern Asia many centuries ago. Although it has a set of easily comprehended rules, it requires a lot of practice in order to defeat a skilled opponent. To win, a player must use his or her pieces to create a situation where the opponent’s king is unable to avoid capture. This article offers a beginner the information he or she needs to get started playing this complex but fascinating game.

Chess Help

Chess Rule Sheet
Chessboard Diagram

Part 1

Understanding the Board and Pieces

A chessboard consists of 64 square spaces in an 8×8 grid. Each space is uniquely identified by a letter-number combination denoting first the file (vertical column “a” through “h”) of the square and then its rank (horizontal row 1 through 8). Each piece has a specific name, an abbreviation (in chess notation), and specific move capabilities. Here, we’ll explore the board, then each piece one by one. If you already know the basics, skip to the next section.

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    Position the board correctly. The orientation of the board is important for proper play. When positioned properly, each player will have a dark square (typically black) in the lower left corner.
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    Place the rooks on the corners of the board. The rook is also known as the castle. It is abbreviated as “R” in notation and starts on a1, h1, a8, and h8. Those are the corners as denoted in the rank and file system.

    • How do they move? Rooks may move any number of vacant squares vertically or horizontally. If an opponent’s piece blocks the path, that piece may be captured by moving the rook to (but not beyond) the occupied square and removing the opponent’s piece.
    • Rooks cannot jump over pieces of either color. If one of your other pieces blocks your rook’s path, your rook must stop before reaching that square.
    • Castling is a special move involving rooks detailed below.
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    Place your knights next to your rooks. This is the “horse” piece. In notation, it’s referred to as “N” (or “Kt” in older texts). The knights start on b1, g1, b8, and g8.

    • How do they move? Knights are the only pieces that can jump over other pieces and thus are the only pieces that cannot be blocked. They move in an L-shaped pattern — that is, two squares horizontally or vertically and then one square perpendicular to that (in other words, two spaces horizontally and one space vertically or one space horizontally and two spaces vertically).
    • A knight captures a piece only when it lands on that piece’s square. In other words, the knight can “jump” over other pieces (of either color) and capture a piece where it lands.
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    Place the bishops next to the knights. In notation bishops are referred to as “B.” They start on c1, f1, c8, and f8.

    • How do they move? Bishops may move any number of vacant squares in any diagonal direction. Like rooks, they may capture an opponent’s piece within its path by stopping on that piece’s square.
    • The bishop proceeds, lands, and captures diagonally and remains throughout the game on the same color squares on which it begins the game. Thus, each player has a white-square bishop and a dark-square bishop.
    • As with rooks, if another of your pieces blocks your bishop’s path, the bishop must stop before reaching the occupied square. If the blocking piece belongs to your opponent, you may stop on (but not jump over) that square and capture the occupying piece.
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    Place the queen near the center of the first rank on her color. The positions for black and white are mirrored. If you’re playing white, your queen will be on the fourth file (counting from the left). If you’re playing black, she’ll be on the fifth file from your left. In notation this is d1 (a white square for the white queen) and d8 (a dark square for the black queen). (Note that the two queens start on the same file, as do the two kings.)

    • How do they move? The queen is the most powerful piece on the board. She can be thought of as the rook and bishop combined. The queen can move any number of vacant squares horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
    • Attacking with a queen is the same as with rooks and bishops. That is, she captures an opponent’s piece that lies within her path by moving to that piece’s square.
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    Place the kings in the last empty squares in the first and eighth ranks. The king is notated as “K” and starts on e1 and e8.

    • How do they move? The king can move one space at a time vertically, horizontally or diagonally. The king is not used as an attacking piece (except perhaps at the very end of the game) because, since he’s so valuable, you want to keep him protected and out of harm’s way. Nonetheless, he is capable of attacking any of the opposing pieces except the king and queen, to which he cannot get close enough to capture.
    • Kings are not offensive pieces. Your king is the piece you most want to protect, because if you lose him, you lose the game.
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    Place your pawns in the rank in front of your other pieces. Pawns are not notated with a letter. They begin the game forming a shield for your other pieces.

    • How do they move? Usually pawns move forward (never backward) one square. However, the first time it moves, a pawn may move forward either one or two squares. In all subsequent moves, a pawn is limited to moving one square at a time.
    • If an opponent’s piece is directly in front of it, a pawn may not move forward and may not capture that piece.
    • A pawn may attack an opponent’s piece only if the piece is one square diagonallyforward from the pawn (i.e. up one square and one square to the right or left).
    • There is another move a pawn may make under very specific circumstances. The move is called en passant (“in passing”). (See below).
    • Pawn promotion, detailed below, occurs when your pawn has marched all the way across the board to the eighth (your opponent’s first) rank.
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    Learn the rank and file system. This is not required, but it makes it easier to visualize moves and talk about moves, especially in chess literature and on websites. Also, when your opponent wasn’t paying attention and says, “Where did you go?”, you can respond with “Rook to a4 (Ra4).” Here’s how it works:

    • The files are the columns going up and down, pointing at you and your opponent. From left to right as white views it, they are files “a” through “h.”
    • The ranks are the horizontal rows from the players’ perspective. From bottom to top as white views it, they are ranks 1 through 8. All of white’s main pieces start at the 1 position (first rank); black’s main pieces start at the 8 position (eighth rank).
    • It is an excellent learning habit to notate your games, listing each move you and your opponent make, writing down the piece and the square to which it moves (using the piece and square notations already mentioned).

Part 2

Knowing How to Win

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    Understand the object of the game and how it’s achieved. To win, you need to checkmate your opponent’s king. This means forcing the opposing king into a position where he will be captured no matter what, so that he cannot move and no other piece can protect him. Checkmate (the end of the game) can occur in as few as three moves, but it’s more likely that a game will last for dozens, even hundreds, of moves. A typical game requires a lot of patience.

    • A secondary goal is to capture as many of your opponent’s pieces as possible, thus making checkmate easier. You capture pieces by landing on the squares they occupy.
    • While attacking the opposing pieces, you must simultaneously protect your own king so he doesn’t get captured.
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    Know how to put your opponent’s king in “check.” That means threatening to checkmate the king on your very next move if your opponent doesn’t do something immediately to protect him.

    • When you place your opponent in check, as a courtesy you should say “check” out loud Your opponent must then, if possible, do one of the following:
      • Avoid checkmate by moving their king to any vacant square not attacked by one of your pieces.
      • Block the check by placing a piece between your piece and their king.
      • Capture your piece that has placed their king in check.
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    Remember that you are not allowed to put yourself in check. You cannot make a move that exposes your king to capture in the opponent’s next move. This means you cannot move your king onto a square to which an opponent’s piece could move in their the next move. It also means you cannot unblock your king from attack (that is, expose your king to direct attack by moving an interposing piece).

Part 3

Playing the Game

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    Set up the chess board. Use the positions described in the first section. If you don’t have a board, you can make your own.
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    Start the game. The player with the white pieces begins the game by moving one piece as described above. Then it’s black’s turn to move, and the players take turns moving for the rest of the game.

    • Choose who plays white by a coin flip, or the stronger player may let the weaker player take white. In an evenly matched game, white has a slight advantage by moving first. [1]
    • If two players engage in a series of games, they can alternate colors from game to game, or they could agree that the previous loser could take white.
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    Capture an opponent’s piece by moving one of your pieces into a square occupied by that piece. The captured piece is then permanently removed from the game.

    • In formal tournament play there is often a rule stating that a player may not touch a piece unless s/he intends to move it and in fact, must move it if s/he touches it. If s/he wants only to adjust the piece, s/he must say “adjust” before touching it. [2]
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    Continue to play with each player moving one piece per turn until the game ends. Making a move is compulsory; it is not legal to “pass”, even when having to move is detrimental. Play continues until a king is checkmated or a draw occurs. Draws can occur in five ways:[2]

    • Stalemate: a king is the only piece left of his color, is not in check, but cannot move without placing himself in check (which is not legal).
    • Insufficient material: the pieces left on the board cannot force a checkmate on either side so that neither player can win.
    • Threefold repetition: The position of all pieces on the board has been repeated three times, such as players moving pieces back and forth.
    • Fifty-move rule: at least fifty moves for each player have occurred since the last time any piece was captured or any pawn was moved.
    • Agreement: both players simply agree to a draw.
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    End the game with a checkmate. Any game not ending in stalemate or a draw will end in checkmate, where either your king or your opponent’s king cannot avoid capture. Whoever accomplishes checkmate announces “checkmate!” out loud to make sure both players are aware the game is over. Here’s more about “check” and “checkmate”:

    • Do one of the following to get out of check (where your king is threatened with capture, but you have a way to escape):
      • Capture the piece threatening your king. You can do this with one of your other pieces or (if the opponent’s piece is not protected) with your king.
      • Move your king from the square being attacked.
      • Use one of your pieces to block the piece threatening your king.
    • If you cannot get your king out of check in your next move, it’s “checkmate,” and your opponent wins. If their king is checkmated, you win.

Part 4

Utilizing Strategy

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    Know the relative offensive-strength value of each piece:

    • Pawn – 1 point
    • Knight – 3 points
    • Bishop – 3.5 points
    • Rook – 5 points
    • Queen – 9 points
    • The king has no offensive value because it is normally not used as an offensive weapon except in the last stage of a game.
    • When assessing the relative strength of the two sides during a game, compare the total point value of all the captured pieces. This will show who has the current disadvantage and by how much.
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    Understand the individual strengths of each piece and their best positioning.Generally, pieces are strongest near the center of the board. Specifically, the queen and bishops can control longer diagonals from the center, knights lose some of their range of movement if situated near an edge, and pawns are more dangerous the farther they advance.

    • Pawns are stronger when together, such as in chains (diagonal lines in which each pawn protects another). Try not to break this formation unless there is a clear, overriding advantage to be had by doing so.
    • Knights are weakest near the edge of the board.
      • The maximum number of spaces a knight can control is eight. If a knight is on the edge of the board, the number of squares it can jump to is cut in half. Likewise, if a knight is one row from the edge, it controls only six spaces.
      • You may not miss the power of the knight right away, but if you move a knight near the edge of the board, you will often find yourself wasting a move to reposition it closer to the action near the center of the board.
    • Bishops are strongest on or near the long (“major”) diagonals where they command the most squares.
      • Realize that the bishop’s power can be diminished if the opponent places a protected piece along a diagonal controlled by your bishop. On the other hand, that piece is pinned in that position if the piece it is protecting is of high value.
    • Rooks are very powerful in open files. Position rooks on files that contain none of your pawns. Rooks are also powerful when controlling the seventh rank for white (second rank for black), but only if the opposing king is on its starting rank.
    • Queens have the most power when commanding the center of the board. On the other hand, they are in the most danger there as well. It is often a good strategy to keep the queen one move away from this position and to avoid blocking your queen’s movement with your own pieces.
    • Kings should always be protected. They are best shielded by lower-value pieces.
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    Aim to control the center of the board. As deduced from the optimal piece positionings detailed above, pieces near the center of the board are at their most powerful. Usually, the game is a fight for control of the center and, when you’re in the center, your opponent has far fewer “good” places to choose from. You have the power that can expand in all directions, while your opponent is relegated to the side, putting him/her on the defensive.

    • Pawns can help with this. While your more powerful pieces are attacking, a pawn or two can maintain control in the center.
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    Have a strong opening. A weak opening automatically puts you at a disadvantage for the rest of the game. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    • Usually you’ll be best off opening with the d or e pawn. That opens up the center of the board.
    • Make only a couple of pawn moves at the start. You want to get your more powerful pieces into play as soon as possible.
    • Get your knights out and then your bishops. Knights’ range is limited. It often takes several hops to get them into the fray. (Bishops, rooks, and queens can swoop the entire length of the board, whereas the lowly pawn must trudge space by space.) Sometimes it is less obvious what effect moving a knight might have, so their attack is often stealthiest.
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    Use all of your pieces. If your rook is sitting back in the corner, you are wasting powerful ammo. The beauty of chess is that no one piece can win the game. You need a team of pieces to bombard your opponent’s king.

    • This is especially important if your opponent is skilled. It’s fairly easy to thwart one attacking piece; it’s possible to fend off two; but a skilled opponent will mount a three-pronged attack if you don’t keep him/her busy with your own attack.
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    Protect your king. It’s important to capture pieces and to attack the opponent’s king, but if your king is unprotected, you’ll be checkmated, the game will be over, and that offense you were running will be entirely useless.

    • Chess is challenging because you have to think about half a dozen things at once. You have to protect your king while planning moves for your other pieces. You have to understand what your opponent is doing while anticipating all of his/her possible next moves. It can be a daunting task, but with plenty of practice, you’ll find it easier to do all of these things at once.
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    Think several moves ahead. When your opponent makes a move, there’s a reason why. They’re setting something up, eyeing a potential attack. What’s happening? What are they aiming for? Try your best to anticipate and circumnavigate their actions and thwart their plan.

    • The same goes for you. Maybe you can’t capture a pawn on your next move, but what can you do to set yourself up for subsequent moves? This isn’t your usual board game. Every move you make now affects the moves you make in the future.
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    Never give up pieces needlessly. When your opponent makes a move but doesn’t take one of your pieces, take a second to scan the board. Are they in a position to take one of your pieces? If so, don’t allow it! Move that piece out of the way, or threaten another of your opponent’s pieces. Even better, capture that threatening piece yourself. Never just let a piece go.

    • It’s OK to give up a piece if it’s bait to draw your opponent to a specific area of the board where you’re planning to trap an even more valuable piece.
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    Try for a speedy checkmate. Did you know you can checkmate your opponent in as little as two moves? There are very specific instructions for a win in two, three, and four moves. If you’re curious, here are some wikiHow articles to read:

Part 5

Knowing the Special Moves

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    Use the “en passant” rule for pawns. En passant (from French: “in [the pawn’s] passing”) is a special capture made by a pawn. It’s permitted immediately after a player moves a pawn two squares forward from its starting position, and if an opposing pawn could have captured it if it had only moved only one square forward. In this situation, the opposing pawn may on the very next move capture the pawn as if taking it “as it passes” through the first square.

    • The resulting position would then be the same as if the pawn had only moved one square forward and the opposing pawn had captured it normally. En passant must be done on the very next move, or the right to do so is lost.
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    Promote your pawns. If a pawn reaches the far side of the board (eighth rank for white, first rank for black), it can be promoted to any other piece (except a king). The piece to which the pawn is promoted does not have to be a previously captured piece; it can be any piece. Usually, a player promotes a pawn to a queen. Thus a player could wind up with two (or more) queens, three (or more) rooks, etc. This is a very powerful offensive move.

    • To indicate pawn promotion in chess notation, write the square where the pawn is promoted (e.g., c8). Then write an equals sign (e.g., c8=) and then the symbol for the piece to which the pawn is promoted (e.g., c8=Q).
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    Use castling as a means to protect your king. This is used to get your king out of the middle of its rank where it is most vulnerable. To castle, move your king two squares toward either rook, then move that rook to the square immediately on the other side of the king. You can castle only if:

    • There are no pieces between the king and that rook.
    • The king at that point is not in check and does not have to pass through or to a square in which he would be in check.
    • Neither the king nor that rook has made any moves yet in the game.

Community Q&A

  • What if the opponent doesn’t move the way I wish?
    wikiHow Contributor
    You need a strong defense and to be prepared for almost anything. One of the main strategies of chess is forcing your opponent into a situation where, no matter what he or she does, you are given an advantage, such as capturing a piece or securing a better position.
  • Can the pawn move forward two spaces only once?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Yes. Your pawns may each move either one or two spaces forward on their first move. In all subsequent moves, each may move only one space.
  • Can the rook and king move together?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Under certain conditions, yes. It is known as castling and is very useful. It was one of the few changes made in the last millennium.
  • What are promoted pawns?
    These are pawns that have reached their eighth row (the opponent’s first row) and have been converted to some other piece such as a queen.
  • Can a horse come back to its previous place?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Yes, it can.
  • What will happen if in the end only both kings are left?
    wikiHow Contributor
    This is called a stalemate, which is a draw or tie, because neither player can capture the other’s king. The game ends as soon as such a situation occurs.
  • What are the moves of the bishop?
    wikiHow Contributor
    A bishop moves diagonally in any direction and as many open squares as it wants. It must stop before coming to a square occupied by a piece of its own color. It can stop on a square occupied by an opponent’s piece (thereby capturing that piece).
  • Can you ever capture the king and take it off the board?
    wikiHow Contributor
    No. The king remains on the board until the very end of the game. If your king can be captured on your opponent’s next move, you are in check and must get out of check immediately. You can do so by moving your king to a safe spot, by putting one of your own pieces between your king and the attacking piece, or by capturing the attacking piece. If you are in check and cannot immediately get out of check in one move, you are in checkmate, and the game is over (without your opponent’s actually having to remove your king).
  • Can any chess pieces move backwards?
    wikiHow Contributor
    All pieces except pawns can move backwards in directions permitted for the piece in question (e.g. rooks can move straight backwards, bishops can go backwards diagonally, etc.). Promoted pawns can move backwards in the same manner as the piece they’ve become.
  • Can the king move without check?
    wikiHow Contributor
    A king can move anytime except if a move would put himself into check. A king becomes more powerful toward the end of the game and can help checkmate the other king.

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Quick Summary

In chess, you want to capture the opponent’s king while protecting yours, which you can do by moving your pieces across the board and eliminating their pieces. Remember how each piece moves: pawns move 1 space forwards but capture pieces by moving diagonally; rooks move vertically or horizontally as far as they’d like; bishops move diagonally as far as they’d like; knights move 2 spaces in one direction and then 1 space perpendicularly and can hop over pieces if necessary; the queen can move in any direction for as many spaces; and the king can move 1 space in any direction.

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We need your help growing food for Mars

 

We have the supper seeds and we are sharing them with students.  Our job is to find teachers and students in Ireland to help with our space science experiments.   We are involving students in grades K-12 and at the college level.  A team of California educators, business and community members will be visiting Ireland from June 2-13, 2018.  We will be talking about new grant programs and creative ways to collaborate from California to Dublin and beyond. We are involved in the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures Fellowship Program.  This is all about getting students excited about Mars.  For more information contact Suprschool@aol.com

http://www.BarbozaSpaceCenter.WordPress.com

 

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Martian agriculture challenges

Martian soil is devoid of the nutrients found in Earth’s soil, and it is also fine, meaning water would likely seep through it much more quickly than it would on Earth. Using human poop or other fertilizers could provide a quick boost of nutrients, such as nitrogen, and may also change the texture of the soil so it would cling to water longer, said Sokoloff, who was a crewmember last year at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah.Earthly soil gets its nitrogen from the atmosphere, though atmospheric nitrogen is in a form that is not easy for plants to use. To transform nitrogen into a better “food” for plants, bacteria “fix” it.

“On Earth, a lot of nitrogen in our soil is fixed by bacteria that reside in the roots of various plants, like legumes,” Sokoloff told Live Science. “In the long term, you would want a way to fix nitrogen to the soil there.”

Martian soil is also laced with nasty chemicals called perchlorates, which would have to be chemically removed for plants to grow there, Sokoloff said.

And then there’s gravity. Mars has about one-third the gravity of Earth. Though experiments have shown that some plants can grow relatively normally in microgravity on the International Space Station (ISS), there’s really no way to mimic the “gravity-lite” of the Red Planet.

“Plants use gravity as a way of orienting themselves, so some plant species may or may not be confused,” Sokoloff said.

For instance, willow seedlings taken up to the ISS grew twisted because, in microgravity, they never developed their orienting “root-shoot axis,” Sokoloff said.

A 2014 study in the journal PLOS ONE showed that tomatoes, wheat, cress and mustard leaves grew particularly well, and even flowered and produced seeds, in simulated Martian soil for 50 days, without any fertilizers. In fact, these hardy plants grew even better in Martian soil or “regolith” than in nutrient-poor river soil from Earth. [7 Theories on the Origin of Life]

To determine what food ingredients to actually bring to Mars, scientists must balance trade-offs among the nutritional density of a crop, the resources required to grow them and the germination time. Scientists may be growing lettuce on the ISS as a demonstration, but “man cannot live on lettuce alone,” Sokoloff said.

Instead, people have suggested crops such as radishes and strawberries as better Martian snacks, he said. (Number crunchers have determined it would actually require less fuel to simply send over premade foods, rather than the ingredients for farming, for initial short-term visits, Sokoloff said.)

Simulating Martian conditions

Before the Martian farming project gets going, humans would need to know a lot more about how plants will grow. That’s part of the reasoning behind simulations of the Martian environment, such as the Mars Desert Research Station.

Scientists there have grown everything from native desert plants to barley and hops in the station’s simulated Martian soil. The soil, called Johnson Space Center Simulant I, is produced using Earthling rocks and soil based on Martian soil samples from 1970s-era Viking landers.

And researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada are growing plants in low-pressure, or hypobaric chambers to mimic the thin atmosphere of Mars. The team exposes plants to a host of rough conditions — including varying levels of carbon dioxide, pressure, heat, light, nutrition and humidity — to see which plants are hardy enough to survive Martian conditions outside a self-contained, air-controlled greenhouse, The Star peported.

Greening the Red Planet?

Growing plants out in the Martian elements, and not in a temperature- and air-controlled greenhouse, would be much more challenging, Sokoloff said.

“Some people have said we should make Mars more like Earth,” Sokoloff said. “That’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s in the realm of science fiction, for sure.”

And even if people decided it’s ethically acceptable to “terraform” Mars, it would be hundreds of years before the thin Martian atmosphere could be transformed into an oxygen-rich cradle for life.

To build up that atmosphere, explorers would need to seed Martian soil chock-full of  oxygen-producing cyanobacteria, lichens and microbes, and it would take hundreds of years for them to produce enough oxygen and nitrogen for an atmosphere. That’s still not too shabby, considering it took hundreds of millions of years for Earth’s oxygen levels to stabilize. (People could conceivably eat the cyanobacteria in the meantime, though the tiny organisms are not noted for their tastiness, Sokoloff said.)

While the microbes were busy creating an atmosphere, solar wind would constantly be blowing that atmosphere away, because Mars lacks a magnetosphere (a magnetic field to shield the planet from solar radiation), he said.

Even if people could figure out how to generate atmosphere faster than it dissipated, Martian winters can be a bone-chilling minus 207 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 133 degrees Celsius). It’s possible that people could tailor an atmosphere with greenhouse gases that trap heat, but Mars is simply farther from the sun than Earth is, so it would still likely be colder than our planet on average, Sokoloff said.

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitterand Google+. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.


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Robots in the Classroom

In Finnish experiment, robots teach language and math classes

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robot

Students use a language trainer robot, Ellias, during their lesson at the school in Tampere, Finland March 27, 2017.

Credit: Attila Cser/Reuters

Elias, the new language teacher at a Finnish primary school, has endless patience for repetition, never makes a pupil feel embarrassed for asking a question and can even do the “Gangnam Style” dance.

Elias is also a robot.

The language-teaching machine comprises a humanoid robot and mobile application, one of four robots in a pilot program at primary schools in the southern city of Tampere.

The robot is able to understand and speak 23 languages and is equipped with software that allows it to understand students’ requirements and helps it to encourage learning. In this trial however, it communicates in English, Finnish and German only.

The robot recognizes the pupil’s skill levels and adjusts its questions accordingly. It also gives feedback to teachers about a student’s possible problems.

Some of the human teachers who have worked with the technology see it as a new way to engage children in learning.

“I think in the new curriculum the main idea is to get the kids involved and get them motivated and make them active. I see Elias as one of the tools to get different kinds of practice and different kinds of activities into the classroom,” language teacher Riikka Kolunsarka told Reuters.

“In that sense I think robots and coding the robots and working with them is definitely something that is according to the new curriculum and something that we teachers need to be open minded about.”

Elias the language robot, which stands around a foot tall, is based on SoftBank’s NAO humanoid interactive companion robot, with software developed by Utelias, a developer of educational software for social robots.

The math robot — dubbed OVObot — is a small, blue machine around 10 inches high and resembles an owl, and was developed by Finnish AI Robots.

The purpose of the pilot project is to see if these robots can improve the quality of teaching, with one of the Elias robots and three of the OVObots deployed in schools. The OVObots will be trialled for one year, while the school has bought the Elias robot, so its use can continue longer.

Using robots in classrooms is not new — teaching robots have been used in the Middle East, Asia and the United States in recent years, but modern technologies such as cloud services and 3D printing are allowing smaller start-up companies to enter the sector.

“Well, it is fun, interesting and exciting and I’m a bit shocked,” pupil Abisha Jinia told Reuters, giving her verdict on Elias the language robot.

Despite their skills in language and mathematics however, the robots’ inability to maintain discipline amongst a class of primary school children means that, for the time being at least, the human teachers’ jobs are safe.


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36 Student Teams Roll on to URC 2018 Finals

From a record field of 95 student teams, the University Rover Challenge (URC) has announced the 36 team finalists from 10 countries which have been selected to compete May 31 – June 2 at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in southern Utah.  [To watch the official video announcement (produced courtesy of Protocase), please click here.]

Teams previously passed a Preliminary Design Review milestone, and most recently passed an extremely competitive System Acceptance Review milepost. Vehicles competing at the URC finals will face four extremely difficult tasks involving their Mars rovers: 1) The Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Task, 2) The Equipment Servicing Task, 3) The Autonomous Traversal Task, and 4) The Science Cache Task.  These events challenge teams to design and build highly capable robotic systems able to traverse extreme and aggressive terrain, perform maintenance on critical field equipment and conduct meaningful field science.

Now in its 12th year, URC has challenged hundreds of teams and thousands of students from around the world through this unique multi-disciplinary educational event.  In recent years URC’s parent organization, the Mars Society, has formed the Rover Challenge Series (RCS), which features similar competitions around the world aimed at developing the next generation of talented and ambitious leaders in engineering, science and space exploration.

The Mars Society would like to express its appreciation to URC’s primary sponsor – Protocase – for once again producing this year’s video announcement. As always, we would also like to thank Kevin Sloan, our long-time URC Director, and his staff of volunteers for all of their hard work in planning and coordinating this important scientific competition.

A full review of this year’s University Rover Challenge will be presented at the 21st Annual International Mars Society Convention (August 23-26) in Pasadena, California. Register onlinetoday to take advantage of ‘Early Bird’ ticket rates.