Tag Archive: Space


Moon Express, a private ‘lunar commerce’ start-up, and the International Lunar Observatory Association, a non-profit devoted to moon observation, have teamed up to put the International Lunar Observatory, a 2-meter radio antenna, on the Moon to observe the galaxy without the interference of Earth’s atmosphere, which absorbs some kinds of radiation.

ILOA plans to start small, establishing a scientific presence on the Moon, and eventually move on to human exploration and settlement. A preliminary mission with a smaller telescope will launch in 2015.

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The full observatory, slated to arrive in 2016, would provide “scientific research, commercial broadcasting and [enable] Galaxy 21st Century education and “citizen science” on the Moon,” according to a press statement from the two organizations. Its access and controls will be available via the Internet to the general public, as well as researchers.

Moon Express will also send a small rover to prospect for resources, including metals, minerals and water, that could be extracted from the lunar surface and one day sold on Earth.

According to Moore’s law it shouldn’t be long until they have the ability to open up a soda plant using local water – watch this space.

Ref – Wired

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Cancer researchers looking for a breakthrough might want to relocate to the International Space Station. Biologists have found that microgravity research and other space-based experiments provide greater insight into abnormal cell behavior.

In Earth-bound labs, cells grow flat, unable to fully mimic the three-dimensional architecture shaped by proteins and carbohydrates of a working human organ. This gap provides an obstacle for scientists studying changes in cell growth and development.

In space, cells clump together easily, arranging themselves into three-dimensional groupings that better replicate cell activity. They also experience less fluid shear stress, a type of disturbance that affects their behavior outside of the body.

Many of the cells in space will likely die due to a lack of blood vessels providing necessary oxygen and nutrients. That might seem like a disadvantage, but it actually resembles the condition of tumors with areas of dead tissue at their centers, biologists say.

While the unique physical conditions of space have proven apt, research on Earth is also making headway with the construction of 3-D cell structures using a collagen gel matrix. Combined with microgravity studies, such research advances could greatly help biologists understand the cellular changes that lead to cancer and develop ways to prevent them.

A few years back, scientists discovered a giant cloud of hooch floating around in space. The 288 billion-mile cloud of gaseous methanol, an alcohol present in antifreeze and some moonshine presented a conundrum: How do alcohols, which are fairly complex organic molecules, form in space.
In the vast expanse of interstellar space, temperatures are so low that chemical reactions shouldn’t be able to occur, following the classic rules of chemistry – there’s just not enough energy. Yet they do occur, and with an even faster reaction rate than at room temperature, according to a study online in Nature Chemistry this week. These impossible reactions can be explained through a phenomenon called quantum tunneling, the authors theorize.

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As temperatures plummet, chemical reactions slow down, as there is less energy and fewer collisions between molecules to rearrange chemical bonds. But, according to the team of chemists from the University of Leeds in the UK, some reactions might skirt the classical rules of chemical reactions through quantum tunnelling, a process in which a particle wiggles through the reaction barrier (the energy required to start a reaction) even when technically it doesn’t have enough energy to overcome it.

Heard and his colleagues plan to study how other alcoholic reactions occur in the extreme cold. “If our results continue to show a similar increase in the reaction rate at very cold temperatures, then scientists have been severely underestimating the rates of formation and destruction of complex molecules, such as alcohols, in space.

All I know is that any omnipotent being that creates a Universe so he/she can brew moonshine is alright in my books…

Ref: PopScience

A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein’s law of relativity.

The idea came to White while he was considering a rather remarkable equation formulated by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. In his 1994 paper titled, “The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity,”
 
Alcubierre suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be “warped” both in front of and behind a spacecraft.
 
Michio Kaku dubbed Alcubierre’s notion a “passport to the universe.” It takes advantage of a quirk in the cosmological code that allows for the expansion and contraction of space-time, and could allow for hyper-fast travel between interstellar destinations.
 
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Which is great news when you consider that recent research has effectively doubled the estimated number of life-friendly planets in orbit around red dwarfs. And remarkably, the astronomers attribute the revised figure to the presence of clouds.
 
Astronomers theorize that red dwarfs, which make up 75% of all main sequence stars in our galaxy, feature circumstellar habitable zones (HZ) that are considerably more interior than those of G stars (of which our sun is one). And in fact, owing to the low energy output of these stars, their HZs are about as close as Mercury is to our sun. But it’s within these sweet spots that water can remain in its liquid state — an important precursor to life.
 
So with the advent of NASA’s (theoretical) warp drive we may be heading out on our five year mission to offend alien species before we know it…