We like to remain optimistic here at GFR. We like to think that, in spite of all the challenges facing our species, we will ultimately overcome those obstacles and find a way forward, together, even if that path is messy and full of false starts. But if we are doomed to be wiped out before we manage to leave the cradle, one of the most likely doomsday threats is a rogue asteroid smacking into our planet. It’s a very real threat, and there’s no telling whether we would be able to do anything about it even if we got plenty of advance warning. So, you can understand why some people might have been a little upset earlier this week when CNN published a story claiming that we had a 50% chance of being hit by a potentially civilization-ending asteroid in 2041. On March 35, 2041, to be precise.
Soon there won’t be any cosmonauts on the ISS, but new residents will soon arrive, and while they might not be as helpful as cosmonauts, they may be cuddlier. Elon Musk calls them “mousetronauts,” and in August they’ll fly to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship to be part of a NASA study on the physiological effects of long-duration weightlessness.
The rodent research focuses on the physiological changes that occur when living for long periods in zero or microgravity. Even though astronauts exercise while on the ISS, they invariably lose muscle, immune system capabilities, and bone density, among other problems. Prolonged stays in microgravity also affect the nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems, as well as genetic and molecular processes. Researchers believe that studying the mice will help them learn how and why these changes occur.
It won’t get astronauts to the ISS anytime soon, but NASA’s Morpheus is pretty darn cool, and it’s always good to see the agency working on new spacecraft technology. In addition to sounding like a Matrix spin-off, the Morpheus Project is NASA’s planetary lander development program. Among other goals, the space agency wants a device that can take off and land vertically, like SpaceX’s Grasshopper. A few days ago, Morpheus completed a successful test flight at the Kennedy Space Center.
Six weeks after NASA announced that it would be cutting ties with Russia, except for their collaboration on the ISS, Russia has gone a step further, saying that it plans to stop participating in the ISS after 2020.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, said that Russia will use its resources to focus on other projects. In the statement, he said, “We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States, which politicises everything.” He also mentioned “inappropriate” sanctions, including plans to deny the export of high-tech equipment to Russia. In turn, Russia says that while it is ready to deliver engines used to build widely-used Atlas V rockets, it will only do so on the “condition that they will not be used to launch military satellites.” Um…
It’s astounding to me that more big decisions aren’t solved by crowdsourcing opinions. I mean, it doesn’t always work so well when it comes to politics, but that’s because politics are evil. I’m talking about good decisions, like what should happen to characters on TV shows, what robots deserve their own stamps, and what NASA‘s spacesuits should look like. That last one actually was decided by the general public over the last couple of weeks, and NASA just announced the winner. With over 233,000 votes (63%), the “Technology” design takes the prize, and also happens to look like a cross between Tron and a Futurama robot in biker shorts.
You have may have seen this design for the Z-2 suit prototype already here on GFR, when we first talked about the voting process. All three potential designs also included a “Biomimicry” design and an extremely goofy looking “Trends in Society” option. It turns out people are way more into the cool, calming color blue for their electroluminescent lights than they are white and yellow. The “Technology” one was my favorite, though I didn’t even cast my vote. (The problem with voters today is…)
Today’s news cycle may have been dominated by the official announcement of Star Wars: Episode VII’s cast, but I’d hate to let any smaller stories fall into the cracks. Like, how a NASA astronaut decided to send out a celebratory video in anticipation of May the Fourth — Star Wars Day!
Yes, ISS flight engineer Rick Mastracchio figured the perfect way to celebrate Star Wars day was to beam a special message down from the ISS while hanging weightlessly in the way all us jealous landlubbers wish we could. But wait! The communications array is failing! Thankfully R2-D2 just happened to be hanging around NASA, so he just hopped a right on a conveniently timed launch, zipped up to the ISS, and saved the day. Thanks, little buddy!