Friday, May 11, 2018

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Moon mission 'a step towards Mars', NASA boss says.

The US space agency has emphasized that its Moon ambitions will not distract from its efforts to reach Mars.

In December, instructing Nasa to send astronauts back to the moon, half a century after Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot there. Last week, Nasa issued a draft request for a proposal encouraging the US commercial space industry to help it deliver payloads to the moon.

Last week, NASA seemed to be doubling down on the Moon as a target for future missions when it published a draft request for a proposal encouraging the commercial space industry to assist in its upcoming efforts to land payloads on the lunar surface.

Now though, new administrator Jim Bridenstine has reiterated that Mars is still the main objective.

"If some of you are concerned that our focus in the coming years is the Moon, don't be," he said during a speech at the annual Humans to Mars summit in Washington.

"The president's vision has emphasized that our exploration campaign will establish American leadership in the human exploration of Mars."

"We are doing both the moon and Mars in tandem and the missions are supportive of each other."

"In fact, our return to the surface of the moon will allow us to prove and advance technologies that will feed forward to Mars: precision landing systems, methane engines, orbital habitation, surface habitation, surface mobility, long duration life support operations and much more that will enable us to land the first Americans on the red planet."

According to space subcommittee chairman Senator Ted Cruz, the US is particularly committed to not only landing humans on Mars but to also being the first nation on Earth to do so.

"The first foot that sets foot on Mars will be an American foot, and an American explorer," he said. "That's leadership that I think this country needs and values."

"Restoring America's leadership in space I think is incredibly important."

Source:The Guardian
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Monday, April 23, 2018

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Asteroid mining could be worth trillions

According to Goldman Sachs, asteroid mining has the potential to produce the world's first trillionaires.

The asteroids that pass us by on a regular basis might not seem particularly valuable, but inside many of these spacefaring rocks there lies a fortune in gold, platinum and other minerals that could actually make space mining an extremely viable commercial venture.

Last year, investment banking firm Goldman Sachs published a 98-page report advocating asteroid mining as a potentially lucrative money-making opportunity for those willing to make the investment.

"While the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower," wrote aerospace and materials analyst Noah Poponak.

"Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion."

Professor Michio Kaku has also commented on the opportunities of asteroid mining, noting that asteroids are essentially "a flying gold mine in outer space" filled with valuable resources.

Given that a single 3,000ft asteroid could contain as much as $5.4 trillion worth of platinum, anyone who succeeds in tapping in to this plentiful new resource could become very wealthy indeed.Smaller asteroids that don’t exceed 100 feet across are estimated to have precious metal contents of around $50 billion

Renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson agrees with Kaku’s prediction.
“The first trillionaire there will ever be is the person who exploits the natural resources on asteroids.”
Tyson believes that asteroid mining, which opens up a whole new, wider horizon, would help prevent future conflicts over resource access.
“There’s this vast universe of limitless energy and limitless resources. I look at wars fought over access to resources. That could be a thing of the past, once space becomes our backyard,” he said in a statement.
We may even see an asteroid 'gold rush' take place within the not-too-distant future.

Source: Inquisitr.com

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

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Hawaii 'lava dome' revealed in throwback image


This remarkable dome of churning molten magma was photographed in Hawaii by the US Geological Survey.

The incredible spectacle, which climbed as high as 65ft over a period of three days, was captured on camera during the 5-year-long Mauna Ulu eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano back in 1969.

Lava fountains like this one occur when gas bubbles from vents, fissures and lava tubes rapidly form and cause a huge jet of lava to shoot up in to the air.

Incredibly, the largest of them can grow to over 500 meters.

"A remarkably symmetrical dome fountain occasionally 20m high but usually half that, often welled from the eastern compartment [of the vents] for periods of several hours," the researchers wrote.

"Most of the lava from this fountain flowed away from the vent, but some formed a narrow river that poured back into the western compartment."

"Every few seconds, gases burst explosively from the western compartment, carrying spatter possibly derived from the lava drainback." This remarkable dome of churning molten magma was photographed in Hawaii by the US Geological Survey.


The incredible spectacle, which climbed as high as 65ft over a period of three days, was captured on camera during the 5-year-long Mauna Ulu eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano back in 1969.

Lava fountains like this one occur when gas bubbles from vents, fissures and lava tubes rapidly form and cause a huge jet of lava to shoot up in to the air.

Incredibly, the largest of them can grow to over 500 meters.

"A remarkably symmetrical dome fountain occasionally 20m high but usually half that, often welled from the eastern compartment [of the vents] for periods of several hours," the researchers wrote.

"Most of the lava from this fountain flowed away from the vent, but some formed a narrow river that poured back into the western compartment."

"Every few seconds, gases burst explosively from the western compartment, carrying spatter possibly derived from the lava drainback." 

Of course, Kīlauea is far from done. Only nine years later, the Pu'u 'Ō'ō eruption began - and it is still active today, producing regular spectacles of lava explosions.
What's particularly crazy is that's not even the longest continually active volcano on our planet. According to Guinness World Records, this honour belongs to Mt Stromboli in Italy.

Source: Sciencealert

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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Stephen Hawking, Famed physicist, Dies at 76.



One of the greatest scientific minds of our age, Hawking passed away in the early hours of this morning.

Recognized around the world as both a scientific genius and pop-culture icon, Hawking's work in the field of cosmology, as well as his distinctive computer-generated voice, made him one of the most respected and recognizable people on the face of the planet.

Diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and given just two years to live at the age of 21, Hawking went on to defy all the odds by living a long and eventful life.

His best-selling book, 'A Brief History of Time', sold over 100 million copies and he made several appearances in TV shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Simpsons.

Most of all however, he will be remembered for his extensive contributions to science, his keen sense of humor and his indomitable determination in the face of his life-long illness.

"My goal is simple," he was quoted as saying in 'Stephen Hawking's Universe'. "It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

In a statement today, his three children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, paid tribute to him.

"We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today," they said. "He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years."

"His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world."

"He once said, 'It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love.'"

"We will miss him forever." 


Source: BBC News
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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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Mysterious "Disease X" could be next global pandemic






The World Health Organization has highlighted the potential danger of a deadly, as-yet-unknown pathogen.

Each year, the global health body convenes a meeting of senior scientists in an effort to put together a concise list of the most likely diseases to cause a major international public health emergency.

While it isn't surprising to see viruses such as Zika and Ebola make it on to the list, this time around something unexpected has been added - a mysterious malady referred to only as 'Disease X'.

As it turns out however, this unspecified disease is actually a placeholder.

"Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease," WHO said in a statement.

With the potential for gene editing to produce a disease far deadlier than anything ever seen before, it is not difficult to see why health authorities are being advised to expect the unexpected.

"History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before," said John-Arne Rottingen, chief executive of the Research Council of Norway.

"It may seem strange to be adding an 'X' but the point is make sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests."


"As the ecosystem and human habitats change there is always the risk of disease jumping from animals to humans," Rottingen said.
"It's a natural process and it is vital that we are aware and prepare. It is probably the greatest risk."
"We want to see 'plug and play' platforms developed which will work for any, or a wide number of diseases; systems that will allow us to create countermeasures at speed." 

While we can be thankful Disease X probably doesn't exist yet, the likelihood of it appearing in the future is definitely something we should be aware of, in the hopes we can stay one step ahead of any future threats – especially as we continue to encounter and take over what remains of the natural environment.
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Saturday, March 3, 2018

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The World's last male northern white rhino is dying


Conservationists have reported that the health of the last male northern white rhino is rapidly deteriorating.

Few species on Earth are as critically endangered as these animals and now, with a mere three individuals remaining, the fate of the northern white rhino hangs in the balance.

Situated in Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy, this lone trio remains under armed guard at all times.

Now to make things even worse, the male of the group is suffering from serious health problems, bringing the species, which is already hanging on by a thread, one step closer to extinction.

According to reports from Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the rhino had recovered well from a leg infection he had developed last year but now another, deeper infection seems to have taken hold.

"We are very concerned about him - he's extremely old for a rhino and we do not want him to suffer unnecessarily," said a spokesman for the conservancy.

Not all is lost, however. Scientists are currently working on efforts to bring the species back from the brink by using southern white rhinos as surrogates to carry northern white rhino embryos.

If the method works, it could at least prevent the species from disappearing entirely. 

Northern white rhinos once roamed parts of Chad, Sudan, Uganda, Congo and Central African Republic, and there were more than 2,000 remaining as recently as 1960, according to Save the Rhino International, a London-based group.
The last northern white rhinos in the wild were observed more than a decade ago in Congo's Garamba National Park, whose animals have often been targeted by armed groups during conflict in the region. Efforts to safeguard the subspecies by moving a small number to Kenya failed.
There are roughly 20,000 southern white rhinos in Africa after efforts to save them from extinction began in the 1950s. Their numbers had fallen to fewer than 100 in the late 19th century because of uncontrolled hunting.
African rhinos remain under intense pressure from poachers who kill them to meet demand for their horns in illegal markets, primarily in Vietnam and China. There are about 5,000 critically endangered black rhinos.
In Asia, the greater one-horned rhino species has been recovering and has a population of several thousand. The Sumatran and Javan rhinos are in extreme peril, with fewer than 100 of each species remaining.
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Thursday, February 8, 2018

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Millions of viruses are raining down every day

A new study has revealed that large numbers of viruses may be falling from the sky on a daily basis.

The research, which was conducted by a team of scientists from Spain, Canada and the US, aimed to find out how near-identical viruses managed to keep turning up on opposite sides of the planet.

By taking samples from high up in Spain's Sierra Nevada Mountains, they discovered that billions of viruses and tens of millions of bacteria were being swept up in to the planet's atmosphere, carried across vast distances and then deposited again on a regular basis.

"Every day, more than 800 million viruses are deposited per square meter above the planetary boundary layer - that's 25 viruses for each person in Canada," said virologist Curtis Suttle.

"Roughly 20 years ago we began finding genetically similar viruses occurring in very different environments around the globe."

"This preponderance of long-residence viruses travelling the atmosphere likely explains why - it's quite conceivable to have a virus swept up into the atmosphere on one continent and deposited on another." 
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