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Mars Colonists Could Spend Their Entire Journey Sleeping

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suspended animationWith today’s technology, it takes a spacecraft approximately seven months to reach Mars. That’s a long time for astronauts to be crammed together, especially if their Netflix access is choppy. It also means that astronauts have to eat, use the bathroom, exercise, and clean (at least a little bit) during the journey, which increases the amount of supplies they need, and thus, the cost of the mission. And something tells me that playing “I Spy” would get a little old. NASA is backing a study at SpaceWorks Enterprises in Atlanta to see if it’s feasible to put a crew into deep sleep for the journey.

The official term for the state is “torpor,” which involves slowing down metabolic functioning to the point where hypothermia is induced and people enter a state of hibernation. The technique has been used in medical facilities, particularly in trauma units, for keeping patients alive long enough to undergo surgeries or other procedures. For crews headed to Mars in the future, scientists consider six months to be an optimistic traveling time. So the idea of the idea is to see what it would take to keep humans in a state of torpor for 180 days. Thus far, the longest any human has been kept in this state is one week. Human suspended animation trials are currently being conducted on gravely injured ER patients, however, and may provide some insight into how the process can be adapted for longer-term scenarios.

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India’s Mars Orbiter Mission Makes History

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MOMIt’s been a big week for Mars, with the arrival of both NASA’s Maven and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (also known as MOM) probe. Maven will try to gather information about Mars’ atmosphere (namely, where it went), and we’ll definitely be keeping tabs on what it uncovers, but at the moment, the arrival of MOM is bigger news. India is the first Asian country to reach Mars, and only the third space program to do so. It’s also the first country to successfully reach Mars on its first attempt, which indicates the arrival of a new space power.

MOM entered Martian orbit yesterday, which may not seem as grand an achievement as actually landing on the planet’s surface. However, almost half of all attempts to reach the Red Planet’s orbit have failed, largely due to malfunctions that occur when spacecraft begin complicated positional maneuvering. India’s success here is indicative of a solid space program, and puts the country ahead of China when it comes to exploring Mars.

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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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Cross The Streams: The World’s End Will Assimilate You

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Streamers! After a short hiatus, your favorite Giant Freakin’ Robot streaming column is back! (Just because it wins that distinction by default doesn’t mean it’s not a victory.) We’ve given Cross the Streams a bit of a facelift, and we’ll be moving forward by sticking to the five most notable new movies and TV series that the Internet has to offer by way of streaming, for better or worse. If this means we’ll have to leave all the $15,000 creature features behind, so be it.

the world's end

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NASA Reveals Three Potential Habitats You Could Live In On Mars

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Martian HabitatsIf we, as the collective human race, are ever going to get to Mars, there are some massive challenges that we will have to overcome. Actually getting there is only the first part of the problem, once we arrive on the Red Planet, we’ll have to deal with other issues, like where the hell do we live? Now we have a look at three designs that could, in the future, prove to be habitats for humanity while we vacation on our nearby neighbor.

NASA has joined forces with MakerBot to issue the Mars Base Challenge, which allows anyone willing to go through the effort the chance to submit their own design for possible Martian domiciles. In doing so, the contestants have to take a number of factor into consideration, like bitterly cold temperatures (down to negative 70 Fahrenheit), the constant, deadly radiation, vicious dust storms, and other things that I probably haven’t even considered that will make life on Mars rather difficult.

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Curiosity Got Stuck In A Martian Sand Trap

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CuriosityIf you’re going to go through the effort of sending a mechanical explorer millions of miles across the galaxy, all the way to Mars, you better make damn sure it has the appropriate traction and can function in adverse conditions. NASA recently ran into just this problem with their Curiosity rover, which just got stuck in a sand trap, and no, it’s not the same kind of sand trap you hit your golf ball into last weekend. Curiosity has a job to do, it doesn’t have time to hit the links.

The one-ton rover is in the process of heading to Mount Sharp, which has been its ultimate destination all along, despite the meandering, roundabout route. At 3.4 miles high, the peak sits in the middle of Mars’ Gale Crater, and in order to access the site, Curiosity planned a path through the Hidden Valley (no salad dressing jokes please).

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