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Speed of Sound

This month on Newsdesk: Planes break the speed of sound, robot spiders head to the Moon and a “salmon cannon” fires up.

Planes break the speed of sound

Modern planes can reach extremely high speeds. The American pilot Chuck Yeager helped pave the way for high-speed planes.

Sadly, Chuck recently passed away, but in 1947 he became the first ever person to fly faster than the speed of sound! Chuck boarded his plane, soared into the sky, and accelerated to over six hundred miles per hour – breaking what is called the sound barrier.

When a plane reaches this speed, a loud bang can be heard. This bang is called a sonic boom, and is caused by the shockwaves of the fast-moving plane forcing their way through the air. Since Chuck’s flight, many more planes have broken the sound barrier.

Now, engineers are developing even faster planes – called hypersonic planes. Although designed to fly at over five times the speed of sound, these new planes still rely on the work that pilots like Chuck did over sixty years ago!

Robot spiders head to the Moon

Like planet Earth today, the Moon was once home to active volcanoes. Millions of years ago, volcanic eruptions helped shape the lunar surface, contributing to the Moon’s eye-catching landscape.

Scientists have used research vehicles to explore the surface of the Moon, but a new type of vehicle will now explore the Moon’s craters and caves – robot spiders! A rocket carrying the robots will blast off to the Moon later this year.

Once released onto the Moon’s surface, the high-tech spiders will use their mechanical legs to access locations that vehicles with wheels can’t reach, such as old volcanic craters, and underground tunnels created by lava flows.

The robot spiders will make 3-D scans of these mysterious landscapes, mapping previously unexplored areas of the Moon and enabling scientists to prepare for future human missions.

A “salmon cannon” fires up

Every year across North America, wild salmon swim up rivers to find a safe spot to reproduce.

Swimming against the current, salmon battle their way upstream until they find a shallow, gravelly river bed to lay their eggs.

However, river-blocking obstacles, such as dams, can stop thousands of salmon from reaching their breeding grounds. Now, a device has been designed to help the salmon bypass any obstacles – a salmon cannon!

The cannon uses low air pressure to gently push the salmon through a flexible tube, shooting the fish over any obstacles and landing them safely on the other side.

The cannon also has an important new feature – a fish detection camera! When an unwanted fish is detected, a small gate in the cannon opens up to divert the intruder back downstream, ensuring the breeding salmon are free from unwanted visitors.

Learn more about sound waves and the speed of sound by watching the Twig Film Speed of Sound.

For more great topical science content, visit Reach Out Reporter  where you'll also find videos, transcripts and lesson support to accompany this article.