Independent Space Nation Launches Satellite

While NASA is busy trying to ward off aliens, Russian scientist Dr. Igor Ashurbeyli is considering other options. The rocket scientist is behind Asgardia, the world’s first space community which has launched its first satellite into orbit late last year.

[The nanosat] contains 0.5 TB of data belonging to 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, such as family photographs, as well as digital representations of the space nation’s flag, coat of arms and constitution.

Talk about getting serious! Asgardia may not be NASA’s brainchild, but the agency is on board as a partner. Currently, 114,000 people are cleared for citizenship in the independent space nation. Asgardia’s physical platforms will hover close to Earth in low orbits, and will be home to its first inhabitants in just eight years. While the UN remains skeptical about the space nation, as they should, Ashurbeyli is more than optimistic.

“We have to be like a normal country. All countries have problems, and soon we will have the same problems,” he says. “But we will have more than normal countries because we are not on earth.”
I myself have doubts, but with the many technological breakthroughs by humans that were previously thought of as impossible, I am assured that at least, a person can dream. And pursue that dream scientifically. It may be a long ways away for Dr. Ashurbeyli, but if I’m still around by the time he successfully puts Asgardia up in the air, I might just look into applying as a citizen.
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MIT Designs Dome Forest Habitat To Win Mars Contest

Preparing for life on Mars has become increasingly tedious, especially after discoveries of snow on the planet. Nevertheless, places like the UAE are eager to push forward the limits of space study, building a massive Mars metropolis. You know — just in case. But clearly, it’s MIT engineers who are coming out on top after snatching the top prize at the Mars City Design contest for their dome habitats.

MIT’s winning design, which the team calls Redwood Forest, is a collection of “tree habitats” connected through a system of tunnels called “roots.” The roots would provide safe access to other tree habitats, private spaces and “shirt-sleeve transportation,”

If the designs make it to Mars, each dome would house up to 50 inhabitants. Realistically, the ambitious tech team hopes to build 200, which guarantees 10,000 hopefuls a spot on life beyond Earth.

“On Mars, our city will physically and functionally mimic a forest, using local Martian resources such as ice and water, regolith (or soil), and sun to support life,” MIT postdoctoral researcher Valentina Sumini said.

It’s a daunting prospect, if it does happen. Hopefully MIT’s “forest” will make future residents feel right at home.

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NASA To Launch Reused Supply Rocket Into Space

For NASA, 2017 has been bustling, looking to save the planet from a threatening volcano and maybe ward off aliens on the side. Topping off the year with an impressive first, the agency is launching a previously-used Falcon 9 rocket into space.

SpaceX will launch 2.5 tons of supplies to the ISS from pad 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral, and it’ll do so with a rocket booster that’s been used before.

Normally, ships discard booster rockets in space, where they float off to… somewhere. Landing boosters back into Earth will potentially save millions on production and labor. That being said, NASA still remains meticulous about safety measures, despite SpaceX’s constant success.

“Some [rocket booster] components are removed and some new components are added,” Gerstenmaier [of the spaceflight committee] said… “There’s a detailed list of what inspections need to be done. They did a detailed test program. They did a detailed plan.”

It’s painstaking, but NASA is committed to running case-by-case checks. True enough, nobody wants a loose rocket hurtling back into the atmosphere.

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U.K. Tests World’s First High Definition Color Satellite

When student Alex Pietrow photographed Jupiter with a Game Boy, it was just a matter of time until a new satellite came around. Beating NASA to the punch, British companies Earth-i and and Surrey Satellite Tech built a complete and total gem. At only 100 kilograms, the CARBONITE-2 can capture HD images of Earth — in color!

We can collect up to 50 frames per second which is a lot of information,” Richard Blain, CEO of Earth-i [said]… “That allows us to stack the individual images and increase our effective resolution, achieving somewhere around 65 centimeters to 75 centimeters [25 to 29 inches].”

What makes the seemingly perfect machine even more impressive is that it’s just a prototype. Yes, it’s successor will be far more advanced, sending images back in mere minutes.

“The Vivid-i Constellation will provide capabilities we haven’t seen before including full-color video, and an assured stream of high-quality data from space to help improve both our planet and our lives on Earth,” Josef Aschbacher, director of Earth Observation Programmes at the European Space Agency (ESA), said.

Sure, HD satellites may seem trivial, like enjoying a film in 720p instead of the usual 360. But hey, if the world won’t be holding up for much longer, a pretty good selfie wouldn’t hurt.

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Belize Puts Indefinite Ban On Oil Drilling

Though global efforts to counter climate change have been plentiful, greed remains on top of the food chain. Man has exploited nature to no end. While the earth is slowly recovering, not every starfish will save itself. Of the nations participating in oil explorations, little Belize has had enough. As the Trump administration opens more waters to drilling, Belize is placing a moratorium on its own.

“Belize is a small country making a mighty commitment to putting the environment first,” says Nadia Bood, a reef scientist with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

The developing country produces some 3,000 barrels of profitable oil per day, but its people know better. Despite a gleaming export income, the nation-that-could believes more in the value of its coral reefs.

“Ending oil activities will encourage other countries to follow suit and take the urgent action that is needed to protect our planet’s oceans,” says Chris Gee, a campaigner at WWF.

With a $200 million annual tourism cut that supports 190,000 livelihoods, banning excavations may not be a misstep after all.

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Earth-like Planet Is Only 11 Lightyears Away

Since the discovery of four Earth-sized planets along Tau Ceti, Mars-like community simulations are being set in motion. While space studies are progressing, new intergalactic breakthroughs may be calling for NASA to pick up the pace. The planet may not look much like Earth, but it appears to be the most potentially habitable — and it’s only 11 lightyears away.

“Those flares can sterilize the atmosphere of the planet,” said Xavier Bonfils of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics in Grenoble, France… “Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of the neighborhood.”

The planet’s mother star, Ross 128, is significantly calmer than most others, and minimally eruptive. Though astronomers have only managed to observe the planet with a telescope, the facts don’t lie. The planet is warm enough to sustain liquid water, and has since stabilized in its billions of years of existence.

The star may have been more turbulent in its youth. But even if solar flares billions of years ago stripped away the planet’s atmosphere, it could have been replenished by gases emanating from the planet’s interior.

Whatever the case, I’m glad to know that if our own planet bites the dust, there are others to hold future generations.

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Second Home: Four Earth-Sized Planets Discovered

NASA couldn’t have sought planetary protection officers at a better time because we may be facing life in space. A team of astronomers has detected four Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby sun-like star. Tau Ceti is close enough to Earth that it’s visible to the naked eye.

These planets have masses as low as 1.7 Earth mass, making them among the smallest planets ever detected around nearby sun-like stars. Two of them are super-Earths located in the habitable zone of the star, meaning they could support liquid surface water.

Researchers discovered the planets using a sensitive movement-detection technique. Two of the planets are potentially habitable, though prone to disruption by asteroids and comets. How these planets were studied is anything but simple.

“We are slowly learning to tell the difference between wobbles caused by planets and those caused by stellar active surface. This enabled us to essentially verify the existence of the two outer, potentially habitable planets in the system.”

We may not be migrating to the four planets anytime soon, but due to tau Ceti’s similarity to the sun, it could eventually be possible.

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Carbon Calculator Helps Reduce Harmful Footprints

The rise of eco-friendly household devices is allowing people to become less wasteful within the comfort of their home. You can host a guilt-free barbecue with a biodegradable grill. You can even sustain a high-tech home garden. Some of our actions, however, aren’t always considerate towards the environment. This carbon calculator by Conservation International allows you to adjust every aspect of your lifestyle for the benefit of the planet.

Using [the device], you can calculate your carbon footprint based on a number of personal behaviors and find how much or how little carbon you are producing – and how you make that number smaller and, therefore, better for the planet.

Don’t let the extent of climate change fool you — our individual contributions are capable of making a difference. In fact, the carbon calculator suggests that simply reducing the consumption of animal-based products can be highly impactful. It works using a simple mechanism.

Once you calculate your carbon footprint and find your offset option, the tool also gives you a comparison of your footprint to the averages by country and quick tips on how to decrease the number, for example, related to your fuel economy, clothing choices, and thermostat settings.

Nowadays, it seems we are more equipped to maintain our planet than ever. We are tackling challenges head-on, one app at a time.

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Floating Islands To Sustain Rising Sea Levels

According to recent studies, by 2100, parts of Asia may be too hot to live in. With climate change a harsh truth, we’re doing everything we can to reverse it. We’re planting a record-breaking number of trees and even manufacturing food from energy. But others are preparing for the reality that a potential apocalypse is soon to come. In fact, a team at the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands has built prototypes for floating islands to sustain rising sea levels.

“As sea levels rise, raising dikes and reclaiming land are perhaps no longer an effective solution. An innovative alternative that fits with the Dutch maritime tradition is floating ports and cities.”

The flexible island can generate and store sustainable energy, cultivate food, and support houses. So far, it has been tested to withstand varying types of weather and succeeded.

The next set of technical challenges the Marin team faces includes working out how islands will be able to withstand winds and currents, how they can best be interconnected and anchored, and the effect of wave motion on those living on it.

Seeing that 70% of the planet’s surface area is water, floating islands make a lot of sense. With the impending rise of Earth’s heat index, perhaps it’s time to get over our sea sickness and jump aboard.

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NASA Hiring Protection Officer To Ward Off Aliens

We may now be able to photograph planets using a makeshift super-camera, but can we defend Earth? NASA certainly thinks so and is looking to hire a planet protection officer to ward off alien microbes.

The position was created after the US ratified the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, specifically to support Article IX of the document:

“States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.”

The annual salary projected for the position boasts six figures. In fact, it’s approximately $187,000 and that doesn’t include additional benefits. The final candidate will travel to space centers around the world — but not everything is fun and games.

The officer helps ensure something from another world, most imminently Mars, doesn’t contaminate Earth.

They help establish the equipment, protocols, and procedures to reduce… risks.

The job is not as easy as it seems, and not just anyone can qualify. Candidates must have been civilian government employees and (obviously) know a lot about space. Not to mention NASA also requires applicants to hold degrees in physical science, engineering, or mathematics. I wouldn’t be surprised if top universities saw a spike in such degrees!

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