Tag Archives | NASA

USA Heading Back To The Moon

320px-Apollo15LunarRoverAssuming you believe that the United States actually put men and machines on the moon before (yes, there are still plenty of naysaying conspiracy theorists who think it was a grand hoax), then this is a case of going back to the moon. If not, then it could be the first time. Exciting! From the Telegraph:

America is preparing to land a robot on the moon for the first time in four decades.

Nasa is looking for private partners to participate in the project that will see a new generation of rovers wandering across the moon’s surface.

The American space agency has set up a programme called Catalyst to exploit commercial opportunities offered by the moon.

It believes that eventually there will be a market for commercial cargo trips to the lunar surface.
“As Nasa pursues an ambitious plan for humans to explore an asteroid and Mars, US industry will create opportunities for Nasa to advance new technologies on the moon,” said Greg Williams, Nasa’s deputy associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

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Mysterious Rock Suddenly Appears In Front Of NASA Rover On Mars

There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation, but I certainly would not want to be left alone on Mars after dark. Via the Daily Mail:

A mysterious Martian rock that appeared in front of the Opportunity rover within days has left scientists scratching their heads. The rover, which landed on Mars in 2004, hasn’t moved in over a month as it waits for better weather on the red planet.

But a photo taken on Sol 3540 (January 8th, or the 3,540th Martian solar day since the Opportunity rover landed) shows a rock that wasn’t visible in previous photos taken on Sol 3536.

The discovery was revealed by Mars Exploration Rover lead scientist Steve Squyres in a keynote at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory last night.

rock

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NASA Plans To Grow Plants On The Moon

plants

The new balanced diet includes space fruits. The Independent reports:

NASA has announced plans to grow plants on the moon by 2015 in a project designed to further humanity’s chances of successfully colonising space. If successful, the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team will make history by seeding life from Earth on another celestial body for the first time, paving the way for humans to set up more permanent habitation.

NASA plans to deliver the payload via the Moon Express lander, a commercial spacecraft enrolled in the Google Lunar X Prize. Seeds will include Arabidopsis, basil, and turnips,” said NASA officials in a press release.

Partial gravity and lunar radiation will need to be accounted for, although the plants will travel with their own water reservoir and enough air for five days of growth. Cameras and sensors will monitor the plants and send data back to Earth.

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Meteor impact trapped ancient swamp plants in glass

themoment

The Moment (Panspermia) by Ryan Rosenberg

Kieren Torres Howard of the Meteorite Working Group, and colleagues have discovered organic material in glass created from a meteor impact.

via New Scientist

Remnants of an ancient swamp have been found preserved inside glass created during a meteorite strike. The discovery marks the first time that traces of life have been found to survive the heat and pressure of an impact, adding weight to arguments that microbes travelling on space rocks could have seeded the solar system.

Astrobiologists have long suggested that simple life forms could have hitched a ride to Earth inside meteors, or that impacts on early Earth could have sent terrestrial microbes to other worlds on ejected pieces of our planet. We know that rocks kicked up by impacts can travel vast distances. Martian meteorites with soil trapped inside have landed on Earth, and theoretical calculations suggest that meteor strikes on Earth could have had enough energy to send rocks as far away as the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

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New NASA Map Shows Where You Are Most Likely to Die From Air Pollution

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 1.38.14 PMVia PlanetSave:

Each year millions of premature deaths world-wide result from various forms of air pollution. According to a new atmospheric pollution model designed by earth scientist Jason West of the University of North Carolina (data from which informs the NASA map shown above), some 2.1 million deaths per year result from just one particular form of atmospheric pollution: fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which is emitted in car exhaust and smokestack effluent (and other industrial, domestic and natural  sources).

In general, these polluting particles in the atmosphere are referred to as aerosols (a mixture of particulate matter and air). Aerosols can take the form of suspended particulate matter (SPM), respirable suspended particles (RSP), which are particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers (microns) or less, and, the aforementioned fine PM2.5…the ’2.5′ refers to particles of 2.5 microns or less and may include ultrafine particles, and some forms of soot (such as black carbon soot from cooking stoves and biomass burning).

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Space Farming: The Final Frontier

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Vegetable Production System (NASA)

What do you do next when you’ve successfully screwed up the Earth? Screw up Space too! Agricultural science is approaching its next frontier reports Modern Farmer:

Last year, an astronaut named Don Pettit began an unusual writing project on NASA’s website. Called “Diary of a Space Zucchini,” the blog took the perspective of an actual zucchini plant on the International Space Station (ISS). Entries were insightful and strange, poignant and poetic.

“I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me,” wrote Pettit in the now-defunct blog. “I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions. I am zucchini — and I am in space.”

An unorthodox use of our tax dollars, but before you snicker, consider this: That little plant could be the key to our future. If — as some doomsday scientists predict — we will eventually exhaust the Earth’s livability, space farming will prove vital to the survival of our species.

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Censored Space?

Pioneer10-plaque_1200-1024x811When we talk about travelling to the stars, we often talk in terms of technological development and pushing past the current limits bounding the horizons of space science. However, one thing a space-bound race will always have a hard time hurdling are the strictures on their own understanding of themselves and their culture.

Terrestrial earthlings and space travelers must be categorically different entities even if they’re part of the same species. The courage to traverse the stars must mirror the boundlessness of space itself — how can one cross that void without becoming a void and emptying oneself of earthbound prejudices, expectations, superstitions and beliefs? It’s the only way.

When people ask why we’ve never gone back to the Moon or why we’ve never put a man on Mars, tell them to look at the small mindedness that surrounded the Pioneer plaque and then look no further. It turns out that there is more than gravity keeping humanity’s feet on the ground: self-loathing, prudishness, war paranoia and the fear of sex.… Read the rest

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Twin Study to Explore Genetic Aspects of Space Health

Twin studies are the Holy Grail of medical research, but in some fields its very rare to find qualifying sets of siblings. Two astronaut twins (imagine the odds!) are giving scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine the opportunity to study the genetic aspects of human health outcomes in outer space.

dn23999-2_300New Scientist:

“We have the best ground control you could dream of,” says Graham Scott of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, who is helping NASA with the experiment. The question of space health is especially timely as several human trips to Mars are currently being discussed.

Last year, Scott Kelly was chosen to take part in the first one-year mission aboard the ISS, double the usual stay, along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. Then last week NASA announced a twist: his brother Mark will be monitored on Earth throughout.

John Charles, chief scientist of NASA’s human research programme, says the brothers came up with the idea: “I was discussing plans with Scott and he said, ‘how about the twins angle?’ ”

Researchers will have access to blood and saliva samples from both twins taken before, during and after Scott’s trip to the ISS, along with assessments of their vision, sleep patterns and cardiovascular activity.

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