Space Farming: The Final Frontier

NASA looks to grow fresh veggies, 230 miles above the Earth

By Jesse Hirsch on September 10, 2013

Photographs by Stephen Allen

Last year, an astronaut named Don Pettit began an unusual writing project on NASA’s website. Called “Diary of a Space Zucchini,” the blog took the perspective of an actual zucchini plant on the International Space Station (ISS). Entries were insightful and strange, poignant and poetic.

“I sprouted, thrust into this world without anyone consulting me,” wrote Pettit in the now-defunct blog. “I am utilitarian, hearty vegetative matter that can thrive under harsh conditions. I am zucchini — and I am in space.”

An unorthodox use of our tax dollars, but before you snicker, consider this: That little plant could be the key to our future. If — as some doomsday scientists predict — we eventually exhaust the Earth’s livability, space farming will prove vital to the survival of our species. Around the world, governments and private companies are doing research on how we are going to grow food on space stations, in spaceships, even on Mars. The Mars Society is testing a greenhouse in a remote corner of Utah, researchers at the University of Gelph in Ontario are looking at long-term crops like soybeans and barley and Purdue University scientists are marshaling vertical garden design for space conditions. Perhaps most importantly, though, later this year NASA will be producing its own food in orbit for the first time ever.

And if space farming still seems like a pipe dream, the zucchini also served a more tangible purpose. It kept Pettit and his crewmates sane…

via Space Farming: The Final Frontier – Modern Farmer.


Strength Of Gravity Shifts, And This Time It’s Serious!


The resulting value for G is 240 parts per million bigger than the official one, set in 2010. James Faller of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who tested G in 2010, is holding out for an error: “Errors are like violets in the springtime: they can spring up in any group’s experiment,” he says. “Logically, either some of the experiments are wrong, or G isn’t constant,” says Mark Kasevich of Stanford University.

Continue reading @ Strength Of Gravity Shifts And This Time It’s Serious.

Two Promising Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years From Earth –

Two Promising Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years From Earth -

Two Promising Places to Live, 1,200 Light-Years From Earth –


3MIN News Feb.15, 2013: METEOR STRIKES RUSSIA – YouTube.

Earth and others lose status as Goldilocks worlds

Bad news for Kepler-22b. Once deemed the most habitable world outside our solar system, it no longer looks life-friendly. More strangely, Earth’s habitability rating has also taken a hit. Both results are thanks to a redefinition of the habitable zone – the region around a star in which liquid water can theoretically exist.

Also known as the Goldilocks zone, because temperatures are “just right” for life there, the habitable zone is the main tool that exoplanet hunters have to rank their finds. But researchers are still using a definition coined in 1993. “Those habitable zones have not been updated in the last 20 years,” says Ravi Kopparapu of Penn State University.

He and his colleagues have a new definition. The zone’s boundaries have always depended on the star’s temperature, plus estimates of how well the atmospheres of any planets would absorb heat from their star. But in recent years, lab experiments have turned up new figures for how water and carbon dioxide absorb light from different types of stars. The redefinition is based on these figures – and pushes the zone further from the star than the old definition.

Now, many planets, including supposedly balmy Kepler-22b, look too hot. However, the redefinition should also bring into the habitable fold planets that were thought to be too cold.

No ultimate judge

Shockingly, Earth – which used to be smack-bang in the middle of our sun’s habitable zone – is now a scant million kilometres away from the warm edge, so almost too hot for liquid water. Of course, we know Earth is robustly life-friendly – the mismatch is probably because neither definition accounts for clouds, which reflect sunlight away from Earth.

As Earth shows, the Goldilocks zone is no ultimate judge of habitability, something exoplanet researchers have known for years. As well as clouds, volcanic activity or the location of other moons or planets in the solar system, may be important for life to develop on planets like Earth.

For now, however, with clouds not visible on an exoplanet, and many other details unknown about alien solar systems, the habitable zone is the best guide we’ve got – and thanks to Kopparapu’s team, it just got a bit better.

“I think this is going to be the new gold standard for the habitable zone,” says Rory Barnes of the University of Washington in Seattle, who was not involved in the new work. “But I think we should always look at planets in the habitable zone and say, maybe. It’s not that planets in the habitable zone are inhabited, it just means we can’t rule them out yet.”

Journal reference:

via Earth and others lose status as Goldilocks worlds – space – 30 January 2013 – New Scientist.

NASA: Asteroid Apophis Won’t Collide With Earth In 2036

NASA: Asteroid Apophis Won’t Collide With Earth In 2036

Has Curiosity Made an ‘Earth-Shaking’ Discovery?

The Mars Science Laboratory team has hinted that they might have some big news to share soon. But like good scientists, they are waiting until they verify their results before saying anything definitive. In an interview on NPR today, MSL Principal Investigator John Grotzinger said a recent soil sample test in the SAM instrument Sample Analysis at Mars shows something ‘earthshaking.’

“This data is gonna be one for the history books,” he said. “It’s looking really good. ”What could it be?

SAM is designed to investigate the chemical and isotopic composition of the Martian atmosphere and soil. In particular, SAM is looking for organic molecules, which is important in the search for life on Mars. Life as we know it cannot exist without organic molecules; however they can exist without life. SAM will be able to detect lower concentrations of a wider variety of organic molecules than any other instrument yet sent to Mars.

As many scientists have said, both the presence and the absence of organic molecules would be important science results, as both would provide important information about the environmental conditions of Gale Crater on Mars.But something ‘Earthshaking’ or “really good” probably wouldn’t be a nil result.Already, the team has found evidence for huge amounts of flowing water in Gale Crater.

Continue reading @ Has Curiosity Made an ‘Earth-Shaking’ Discovery?.


Astronomy forums are buzzing with speculation about newly-discovered Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). Currently located beyond the orbit of Jupiter, Comet ISON is heading for a very close encounter with the sun next year. In Nov. 2013, it will pass less than 0.012 AU (1.8 million km) from the solar surface. The fierce heating it experiences then could turn the comet into a bright naked-eye object.

Much about this comet–and its ultimate fate–remains unknown. “At this stage we’re just throwing darts at the board,” says Karl Battams of the NASA-supported Sungrazer Comet Project, who lays out two possibilities:

“In the best case, the comet is big, bright, and skirts the sun next November. It would be extremely bright — negative magnitudes maybe — and naked-eye visible for observers in the Northern Hemisphere for at least a couple of months.”

“Alternately, comets can and often do fizzle out! Comet Elenin springs to mind as a recent example, but there are more famous examples of comets that got the astronomy community seriously worked up, only to fizzle. This is quite possibly a ‘new’ comet coming in from the Oort cloud, meaning this could be its first-ever encounter with the Sun. If so, with all those icy volatiles intact and never having been truly stressed (thermally and gravitationally), the comet could well disrupt and dissipate weeks or months before reaching the sun.”

“Either of the above scenarios is possible, as is anything in between,” Battams says. “There’s no doubt that Comet ISON will be closely watched. Because the comet is so far away, however, our knowledge probably won’t develop much for at least a few more months.”

Meanwhile, noted comet researcher John Bortle has pointed out a curious similarity between the orbit of Comet ISON and that of the Great Comet of 1680. “Purely as speculation,” he says, “perhaps the two bodies could have been one a few revolutions ago.”

via — News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids.

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