Search results for: NASA plants

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NASA Will Try To Grow Plants On The Moon In 2015

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plants on the moonIn President Obama’s 2010 speech on the country’s space program, he undid the previous administration’s plan to send American astronauts back to the moon: “But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before. Buzz has been there. There’s a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do.” My favorite comedy show of all time, Mr. Show (starring Bob Odenkirk and David Cross) has a sketch about blowing up the moon, in which a former Apollo astronaut says, “I walked on the moon. I did a push-up, I ate an egg on it… What else can you do with it?” Well, NASA has an answer to that question — it intends to grow plants on the moon.

The Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team, comprised of NASA scientists, as well as contractors, volunteers, and students, will try to grow a couple of plants such as basil, sunflowers, and turnips in specially constructed cylindrical aluminum planters that contain sensors, cameras, and other equipment that will broadcast images of the plants as the grow (or don’t grow). The plant habitats are intended to be self-sufficient, able to monitor and regular temperature, moisture, and their own power supply.

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Growing Plants On Mars May Be A Realistic Possibility

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mars plantsWork is underway to figure out methods of growing produce in space, which is especially vital for eventual Mars colonists. Space food leaves a lot to be desired, so scientists are working on getting more variety into astronauts’ diets. They’re also working on ways to create sustainable agricultural practices, given that resupplying Earthly goods will bend, if not break, the budget. But that will require astronauts growing their own food, which raises the question of how suitable an environment is Mars (or the moon) is for growing plants. According to a study recently published in PLoS One, both Mars and the moon may be much better suited for agriculture than previously thought.

Dutch researchers planted fourteen different species of plants in soil similar in composition to that on Mars and the moon—the same soil NASA uses for simulations. The control group in the study used Earth soil from an area without many nutrients. Scientists planted mustard, tomatoes, rye, carrots, wheat, and cress into 840 different pots—20 replicas of each kind of plant species in each of the three types of soil. From there, all the subjects were kept under the same greenhouse conditions with 16 hours of light each day and temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers let them grow for 50 days.

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NASA Program Aims To Put Commercial Landers On The Moon, Stirs Property Rights Debate

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moon miningNASA recently announced a new initiative called Lunar CATALYST (Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown) and is seeking proposals to join forces with commercial companies who can develop and deliver robotic lunar landers. The way the partnership works is that participants have free access to NASA scientists, equipment, laboratories, software, and research in exchange for giving NASA the rights to any lander designed during the partnership. While the initiative reflects the growing collaboration between the private and public sectors, some believe that the program penalizes foreign teams and may give rise to property rights disputes when it comes to who owns or regulates what happens on the moon.

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Nine Universities And A High School Launched Nanosatellites Into Space With NASA

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cubesatWhen money is tight, creative solutions make all the difference. NASA, no stranger to funding woes, has made the brilliant tactical decision to essentially crowdsource work that once upon a time it might have done itself, or work that otherwise might not have happened. One example is the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team, which hopes to grow plants on the moon. Another is the ELaNa IV (Educational Launch of Nanosatellite) mission and the cubesat Launch Initiative, which involved over 300 students. Nine teams from universities and one high school team got to launch their work — nanosatellites, otherwise known as cubesats — into the cosmos.

Cubesat launch initiative started in 2010 and has since chosen over 90 cubesats from universities and colleges, as well as government labs; the upcoming launch will be the fourth. The cubesats hitch a ride up on commercial rockets, and they’re tiny — about four inches long with a weight of less than three pounds. While researching for their projects, students get to learn all kinds of awesome stuff and often snag aerospace experts as mentors. On November 19, the cubesats launched on an Orbital Science Minotaur-1 rocket. Everything went well, and that rocket brought up 29 satellites in total — a record for a single rocket. We’re making satellites like crazy, y’all!

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Can Astronaut Waste Be Turned Into Fuel?

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space toiletOne of my favorite aspects of Mary Roach’s book Packing for Mars is her hilarious but thorough examination of what happens to astronauts’ bodily functions in space. Given how much these rely on gravity, microgravity is a challenge in many ways, including using the bathroom. I certainly never thought about the advantages of a toilet with a vacuum system before reading the book. But all those messy details may soon amount to more than just a funny story. NASA commissioned researchers at the University of Florida to see how human waste could be useful, and the results indicate that we may be able to make rocket fuel out of astronaut poop.

Just yesterday I was watching a nature documentary that featured small communities living in India just south of the Himalayas. They burn goat and buffalo poop, which establishes the dual purpose of maintaining a degree of cleanliness while also providing cooking and heating energy–though they’re not trying to get rockets off the ground.

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Breaking Bad’s Walter White Bobblehead Goes To Space

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Walter White BobbleheadWhat we choose to send into space is a fascinating representation of our culture. From professional astronauts and Mars One applicants to plants and a soda can masquerading as a time capsule to robots, every individual and object we send into the cosmos becomes a symbol for qualities we hold dear. Thus, it comes as no surprise that employees from TVtag, a social networking site and app whose users check in and unlock information about the shows they watch, recently launched a Walter White bobblehead into space.

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