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A trip to Mars would make NASA great again

Scientists plan to grow wheat seeds in growing substrate called arcillite

There is a lot of discussion on whether the US can afford to be in the space business. After all it costs something in the range of $4 billion to maintain the International Space Station.

It cost $1.7 billion to build a space shuttle back in the day.  The Space station’s building it and running costs have a price tag of $160 billion. But that bill is divided by all tenants – the Big Four (United States, Russia, Canada, Japan) plus 10 other European nations. Some estimates put the US portion at $3 billion a year.

NASA which is now focused heavily on research, is committed to supporting the space station until 2024, which is about six years ahead of when it expects to have a Mars mission ready. NASA has always had a research bent, since its inception as ‘NACA’ which was called a Research Laboratory.

Exploring another planet may seem a luxury, considering that our tax dollars are being used for other urgent matters at hand – healthcare, infrastructure, etc But the ongoing work in planning for a trip to the red planet is in and of itself an endeavor that helps scientists and engineers push the boundaries of science and technology. Take for instance the ‘lab work’ going on in the continuous study of humans in Mars-like habitats on an Island of Hawaii. Or hundreds of experiments being done in space (on the Space Station) on cellular biology, remote sensing, micro-biology, seed growth, and micro-gravity.

The latter two, are some of the dozen science projects from students, who would one day diversify, and spearhead various fields we have not even heard of today. Mission 12, will accept experiments from Grades 5 to 16, for their experiment to be included on a flight to the International Space Station in September this year.

Perhaps it is this scientific thrust, and the work of an emerging cadre of scientists who would make NASA great again!

 

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2017 in Education, STEM, Technology

 

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Earth to Scott Kelly: Welcome home!

Watching Scott Kelly, and his ongoing work on the International Space Station for the past year has been like following a live-action science-and-technology class.

Many of the NASA-related activities in our school this past year (talking with an engineer at JPL, and the crew of a Mars mission simulation etc) have directly or indirectly addressed to the big question “What will it be like to live on Mars?” Astro-twins Scott and Mark Kelly, have become the human faces of astronomy, aerospace, and space exploration.

Students keep asking questions such as:

What kind of ‘work’ do engineers and astronauts do, besides floating around doing ‘space gardening’ and 3D mapping? Some amazing work is described here. We watched some incredible views taken by GoPro cameras aboard the ISS, including one involving inserting the GoPro into a water bubble.

On the fun side, I’ve even used Scott’s Time Magazine cover photo to teach a class on Photoshop (replacing Kelly with a 6th grade teacher who’s got a similar look.)

Here’s hoping we see more of Kelly brothers, and get to hear from Scott. Perhaps in a future Mars Day!

He should be back on earth tonight – NASA says touchdown is scheduled for 11:27 pm Eastern Time. As he put it in 140 characters before he left the ISS, “the journey isn’t over.”

 

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The body as a machine – works fine on Earth, but…

Since I write mostly about technology issues, I was struck by this description of how the body as a machine works.

The human body is a purpose-built machine, designed for the one-G environment of Earth. Take us into the zero-G of space or the 0.38 G of Mars and it all comes unsprung. Bones get brittle, eyeballs lose their shape, hearts beat less efficiently since they no longer have to pump against gravity, and balance goes awry.

Jeffrey Kluger, in TIME – story about Mark and Scott Kelley. The latter astronaut will spend one year on the International Space Station.

We take gravity so much for granted, don’t we?

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2014 in Social Media

 

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