Posts Tagged ‘Earth’

mars 2

Dutch nonprofit Mars One has named 100 people who will remain in the running for a one-way trip to Mars, expected to leave Earth in 2024. Out of more than 200,000 people who applied, 24 will be trained for the mission and four will take the first trip, if all goes according to plan.

This round of eliminations was made after Norbert Kraft, Mars One’s chief medical officer, interviewed 660 candidates who said they were ready to leave everything behind to venture to Mars. The applications were open to anyone over age 18, because the organization believes its greatest need is not to find the smartest or most-skilled people, but rather the people most dedicated to the cause.

Even the astronauts on the International Space Station switch out every couple of months and go back home to family,” Kraft said. “In our case, the astronauts will live together in a group for the rest of their lives.”

Of the 50 men and 50 women selected for the next cut, 38 reside in the U.S. The next-most represented countries are Canada and Australia, both with seven. Two of the candidates were 18 when they applied in 2013; the oldest, Reginald George Foulds of Toronto, was 60.

By education, the group breaks down as: 19 with no degree, two with associates, 27 bachelors, 30 masters, one law degree, four medical degrees and seven PhDs. Thirteen of the candidates are currently in school, 81 are employed and six are not working.

Of the 16 candidates who live in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, 10 were eliminated, including a married couple. Those who remain are:

Daniel Max Carey, 52, a data architect who lives in Annandale, Va.

Oscar Mathews, 32, of Suffolk, Va., a nuclear engineer and Navy reservist.

Michael Joseph McDonnell, 50, of Fairfax, Va.

Laura Maxine Smith-Velazquez, 38, a human factors and systems engineer in Owings Mills, Md.

Sonia Nicole Van Meter, 36, a political consultant who recently moved from Austin, Tex., to Alexandria, Va.

Leila Rowland Zucker, 46, an emergency room doctor at Howard University Hospital in D.C.

Here’s how Mars One describes what comes next for these candidates:

“The following selection rounds will focus on composing teams that can endure all the hardships of a permanent settlement on Mars. The candidates will receive their first shot at training in the copy of the Mars Outpost on Earth and will demonstrate their suitability to perform well in a team.”

To fund the estimated $6 billion trip (for just the first four people), Mars One will be televising the remainder of the competition to narrow the group down to 24. Those 24 people will be divided into six teams of four that will compete to determine which group is most prepared to leave for Mars in 2024.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2015/02/16/100-finalists-have-been-chosen-for-a-one-way-trip-to-mars/?tid=trending_strip_6

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

By Jason Samenow

On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA.

Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

“I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did,” Baker tells NASA. “If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire.”

A CME double whammy of this potency striking Earth would likely cripple satellite communications and could severely damage the power grid. NASA offers this sobering assessment:

Analysts believe that a direct hit … could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.

According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair.

CWG’s Steve Tracton put it this way in his frightening overview of the risks of a severe solar storm: “The consequences could be devastating for commerce, transportation, agriculture and food stocks, fuel and water supplies, human health and medical facilities, national security, and daily life in general.”

Solar physicists compare the 2012 storm to the so-called Carrington solar storm of September 1859, named after English astronomer Richard Carrington who documented the event.

“In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” Baker tells NASA. “The only difference is, it missed.”

During the Carrington event, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii according to historical accounts. The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA notes.

NASA says the July 2012 storm was particularly intense because a CME had traveled along the same path just days before the July 23 double whammy – clearing the way for maximum effect, like a snowplow.

“This double-CME traveled through a region of space that had been cleared out by yet another CME four days earlier,” NASA says. ” As a result, the storm clouds were not decelerated as much as usual by their transit through the interplanetary medium.”

NASA’s online article about the science of this solar storm is well-worth the read. Perhaps the scariest finding reported in the article is this: There is a 12 percent chance of a Carrington-type event on Earth in the next 10 years according to Pete Riley of Predictive Science Inc.

“Initially, I was quite surprised that the odds were so high, but the statistics appear to be correct,” Riley tells NASA. “It is a sobering figure.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/07/23/how-a-solar-storm-nearly-destroyed-life-as-we-know-it-two-years-ago/

A team of astronomers has identified possibly the coldest, faintest white dwarf star ever detected. This ancient stellar remnant is so cold that its carbon has crystallised, forming, in effect, an earth-sized diamond in space.

It is likely its age is the same as of the Milky Way, approximately 11 billion years old.

“It is a really remarkable object,” said David Kaplan, professor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the US.

“These things should be out there, but because they are so dim they are very hard to find,” he said.

Kaplan and his colleagues found this stellar gem using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (NRAO) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), as well as other observatories.

White dwarfs are extremely dense end-states of stars that have collapsed.

Composed mostly of carbon and oxygen, white dwarfs slowly cool and fade over billions of years.

“Our final image should show us a companion 100 times fainter than any other white dwarf orbiting a neutron star and about 10 times fainter than any known white dwarf, but we don’t see a thing,” said Bart Dunlap, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and one of the team members.

“If there is a white dwarf there, and there almost certainly is, it must be extremely cold,” he added.

The researchers calculated that the white dwarf would be no more than a comparatively cool 3,000 degrees Kelvin (2,700 degrees Celsius).

Astronomers believe that such a cool, collapsed star would be largely crystallised carbon, not unlike a diamond.

The findings were published in the Astrophysical Journal.

http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/earth-size-diamond-found-in-space-547564

The NASA Curiosity rover that was thought to bring only cameras, sensors, and scientific equipment when it traveled to Mars in August 2012 may have brought along dozens of species of bacteria that originated on Earth, according to a new study.

A study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology and published in the Nature science journal revealed that 377 strains of bacteria may have survived the sterilization process that the Curiosity rover endured before it was launched in an attempt to avoid contaminating the red planet.

It was less of a surprise for scientists that the bacteria survived the cleaning process than the revelation about the conditions they went through. The microbes in question endured near-freezing temperatures and intense damage caused by ultra-C radiation, thought to be the most harmful type of radiation.

“Although studies are constantly expanding our knowledge about life in extreme environments, it is still unclear whether organisms from Earth can survive and grow in a Martian environment where there is intense radiation, high oxidation potential, extreme desiccation, and limited nutrients,” microbiologist Stephanie Smith of the University of Idaho in Moscow and lead author of the study wrote in the study’s abstract.

“Knowing if microorganisms survive in conditions simulating those on the Martian surface is paramount to addressing whether these microorganisms could pose a risk to future challenging planetary protection missions.”

Whether the bacteria spread to the Mars surface is unknown, although the very possibility has already made scientists concerned about unnaturally spreading life from earth to Mars.

There is already a United Nations Outer Space Treaty that aims to regulate how the increasingly advanced space programs from the international community explore the unknown. The parameters were first agreed upon in 1966 and they include, among others, the stipulation that “States shall be liable for damage caused by their space objects; and shall avoid harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.”

The limits vary depending on where the spacecraft lands. Mars, Europa, and other bodies that could potentially nurture life have a relatively strict standard of 300 bacterial spores per square meter. The goal is to keep the odds of contamination Mars (and others) at less than 1 in 10,000.

“Up to 300,000 spores are allowed on the exposed surfaces of the landed spacecraft. That many spores would fit on the head of a large pin,” said Laura Newlin, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. “Currently our total spore count on the surface…is comfortably under 200,000, so we’re below the allowable level.”

The announcement comes at a time when another team of researchers published an unrelated study revealing that methanogens, the oldest organisms on earth, could be the perfect candidate to foster Martian life. The University of Arkansas Fayetteville study determined that, because methanogens are non-photosynthetic and capable of living without oxygen, they are capable of living underground on Mars.

“The surface temperature of Mars varies widely, often ranging between minus 90 degrees Celsius and 27 degrees Celsius over one Martian day,” Rebecca Mickol, a doctoral student of space and planetary sciences, told Science Daily. “If any life were to exist on Mars right now, it would have to at least survive that temperature range. The survival of these two methanogen species, exposed to long-term freeze thaw cycles, suggests methanogens could potentially inhabit the future of Mars.”

http://rt.com/usa/160636-mars-curiosity-rover-bacteria/