Organic Matter Found on Mars — Two NASA Studies

For many decades, the idea of life outside Earth has intrigued many of us, but most especially scientists, astronomers, and well, sci-fi writers. For them and other Mars enthusiasts (a.k.a. people who eagerly believe that Mars can harbor life), the recent year has shown us great updates. Snow has been discovered in the planet. Soil made to simulate the planet’s conditions has grown earthworms.

Due to updates like these, some organizations are being inspired to plan ahead for life on Mars. MIT designed dome forests that will adapt to the environment there. The UAE is building a Mars-like metropolis as well, in preparation for a future in that planet. And it looks like they are bound to be more inspired as NASA releases the results of two new major studies about the Red Planet in the journal Science.

The first study centers on methane, a simple organic molecule that forms the basis for natural gas. Biological sources produce most of the methane on Earth, so researchers suspected that methane on Mars could point them towards biological sources — life! — on Mars.

Astronomers were already detecting methane in Mars as far back as 2003, but they first confirmed its presence there in 2015. After analyzing years worth of data, they realized that the methane was probably coming from pockets of ice. When these ice pockets melt during “summer” in Mars, methane slips out and methane levels go higher. Scientists say the seasonal presence of methane might clue us in on how there used to be life in the Red Planet, though the current study is still inconclusive about that.

The next study, however, also implies the idea of ancient life, as scientists find evidence of organic matter in soil that came from Mars.

In the second study, [NASA’s Curiosity rover] collected soil samples from two spots in Gale crater estimated to be about three billion years old. When Curiosity heated them up, the researchers recognized several organic molecules commonly found in Earth’s organic-rich sedimentary rock.

The discovery of methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic matter on Martian soil suggests interesting similarities between that planet and ours. Thus, it further spurs the question of life on Mars. And since the Curiosity rover is still roving around and looking for signs, one can only hope its next breakthrough will finally answer that question.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

NASA’s Podcast Boasts Real Space Stories

Do you want to hear astronauts themselves talk about the possibility of life on Saturn’s moon, the adventures of planet protection officers against alien microbes, and other real stories that could have come from science fiction books but definitely didn’t? You might want to check out NASA’s official website for their fantastic podcast.

The podcast features plenty of astronauts reliving their greatest accomplishments and talking about their rigorous training. Recent episodes bring you audio from inside the Orion, the capsule that NASA is developing to carry a crew of four astronauts into deep space, and along Scott Tingle’s path from test pilot to astronaut.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center launched “Houston, We Have a Podcast” last July 2017 and has since released more than 40 episodes on its official site. The cleverly-titled podcast is revitalized every week, which means you only have to wait that long to get your new fill of amazing space-related content.

The show overflows with the voices of the engineers, researchers and mission control flight directors who develop and test NASA’s most complex technology and protect astronauts during their flights. There’s historical information on pioneering missions and space explorers, too.

While on the way home from work, shopping at the grocery, or making dinner, you might want to relive your childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut. Thanks to the podcast form, it has never been this contemporary and accessible.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

3D-Printed House Is Affordable And Easy To Build

Who needs retail therapy when you have 3D printing? From furniture to electronics, the process has surpassed its own limits in just a few years. Now that brain tissue and functioning ears are part of 3D-printing catalogues, why not up the grandeur? Thanks to startup ICON, it’s totally possible to zap a 650 square foot home into existence in just under 24 hours.

“We have been building homes for communities in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia,” [says] Alexandria Lafci, co-founder of New Story.

“It’s much cheaper than the typical American home,” [founder Jason] Ballard says.

ICON spends a modest $10,000 printing a single home, and aims to lower costs down to $4,000. The Austin-based group will initially bring houses into El Salvador and eventually the Americas. The modern huts will slash labor costs and produce minimal waste.

“(ICON) believes, as do I, that 3D printing is going to be a method for all kinds of housing,” [co-founder Alexandria Lafci] says.

If ICON can come up with affordable space habitats, I’d be the first off the planet.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Cryogenic Freezing Hints At Possibility Of “Immortality”

Looks like the sleeping pods in sci-fi blockbuster “Passengers” are closer to becoming a reality. If we can figure out out how to grow replacement organs, why not take a crack at immortality? While it isn’t totally possible (yet), cryogenic freezing has brought us a step closer to living forever.

Experts in the US have shown that they can preserve brains and bodies in a state of suspended animation where they freeze an individual to sub-zero temperatures and revive them at a time of choosing in the future.

Initial experiments with fish embryos used anti-freeze as a type of sealant, but wasn’t enough for full preservation. Gold nano-rods, on the other hand, saw success.

When the minuscule rods are added to the anti-freeze, lasers are shot at the frozen embryos which were frozen to -196C.

The nano-rods conduct the laser’s heat, allowing the embryos to be warmed up much quicker.

Some 10 per cent of the embryos survived and then continued to grow as normal.

Not only does the process bring us closer to, in theory, “immortality”, it will allow for long-period traveling. Paying a visit to Mars, for example, takes 6 months, while getting to Pluto takes nearly 10 years. But if space isn’t your thing, maybe you’d prefer to meet your great-great grand children.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

There’s A Possibility Of Life On Saturn’s Moon

People are always eager to learn more about space. This astronomy student even photographed it, using only a telescope and Game Boy. While it’s impressive, NASA never fails to blow us out of the water. In its final voyage, satellite Cassini discovered a possibility of life on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Using data from Cassini, the first study… documents so-called carbon chain anions—negatively charged carbon molecules that are thought to serve as a step to the formation of more complex organic molecules that can develop life.

These molecules don’t normally appear in other space environments, meaning this is big news. Also found present on Titan was vinyl cyanide, a molecule that can build cell membranes.

This molecule, if it fell into the pools of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan’s surface, could theoretically serve a role similar to that of phospholipids on Earth, which comprise the soft, but durable membranes surrounding all of our cells and their precious genetic material.

The material is toxic on Earth but would develop perfectly on Titan — just differently. Actual life on Saturn has not yet seen the light of day, but this major discovery is crucial, nonetheless. (Or should I say out of this world?)

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

UAE To Build Mars-Like Metropolis For Space Study

The future is closer than ever before, and it’s brighter than we expected. Experts are optimistic about the expansion of the AI universe and it seems technology may not be killing us after all. With the wave of new technologies comes grand efforts by nations to advance society. In particular, the UAE is planning to build a Mars-like metropolis to prepare humankind for its potential march into space.

A team will live inside the experimental city for a year, which will recreate the conditions of the Red Planet. Scientists will work in laboratories dedicated to investigating self-sufficiency in energy, food and water for life on Mars.

Looks like preparations for an impending apocalypse are finally coming to fruition. Or perhaps we’re just being cautious. The dome-shaped buildings will simulate Mars’ environment down to the degree. Developers will also erect a museum and educational spaces.

“We believe in the potential of space exploration, and in collaborating with global partners and leaders in order to harness the findings of this research and movement that seeks to meet people’s needs and improve quality of life on earth,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid of Dubai.

The UAE hopes to build an initial settlement on Mars within the coming century. Will you be among the first to experience life on another planet?

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Students Discover Rare NASA Suits At Thrift Store

With the recent discovery of four Earth-sized planets (two of which could be habitable!), NASA may want to stock up on astronauts. If anything, they won’t have to worry about uniforms. Two students bargain shopping at a Florida thrift store scored rare NASA suits at only 20 cents each. Now that’s a steal.

According to experts at the American Space Museum, the astronauts’ names and flight dates on the white labels seem to match the time astronauts George “Pinky” Nelson, PhD, Robert A. Parker, PhD, and Charles D. Walker, a payload specialist , flew shuttle missions between 1983 and 1985.

Talia Rappa and Skylar Ashworth plan to auction the suits, which could go for up to $5,000 each. Do I now wish I made this miraculous discovery? Um, yes.

“It just blows my mind,” Ashworth said, “It (the bin holding the suits) was under two other big totes, I moved them off to the side and I’m digging through a whole bunch of sweaters and stuff, and I found the white one with the patch just kind of laying there.”

I feel you, Skylar. I’d be out of my mind as well. A portion of the auction proceeds will go to the museum, while the rest will fund both students’ tuition fees. That’s pretty out of this world.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

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.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

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!

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

China Has Figured Out Space Teleportation

Scientific advancements of today make anything from the X-Men to Hogwarts magic seem possible. We can grow organs and generate energy from passing cars. Nothing is too far-fetched, as proved recently by these scientists. Chinese researchers have finally come to grips with space teleportation, and no–it doesn’t work the way you think.

Researchers in China have found a way to transmit particles from the ground to a satellite orbiting more than 300 miles above the planet.

Quantum teleportation sends information about a quantum particle—such complete information that a new version of the particle can be created on the other end.

Simply? When two particles share a link so strong, altering one will alter the other. I suppose it’s something like twin telepathy. Scientists are experimenting using points located on Earth and in space (via satellite).

“This work establishes the first ground-to-satellite up-link for faithful and ultra-long-distance quantum teleportation, an essential step toward global-scale quantum internet,”

So we’re not exactly beating traffic by teleporting ourselves to work, but this could mean a much faster exchange of important information.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends: