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ISS Tested Plasma May Be New Medical Miracle

May 25, 2012
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The latest benefit from research conducted as a result of space exploration may be a weapon for killing the most dangerous and deadly bacteria we have on Earth.

Experiments astronauts have conducted aboard the International Space Station have helped develop cold plasma hospital applications that will potentially wipe out strains of anti-biotic-resistant bacteria.  Chief among these is staphlococcus aureus, the deadly MRSA germ.

Often the result of surgery or just being in the hospital, MRSA is highly resistant to most anti-bacterial applications, and can be deadly.  Mortality rates in the area of 50% have been linked to MRSA, which comes in various strains.  Bacteria are not likely to develop resistance to cold plasma applications any more than people can develop resistance to gun shot wounds.  Cold plasma is more effective at sanitizing surfaces because it can get into cracks in the skin soap or UV light don’t penetrate.

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Dragon Capsule Will Rendezvous with ISS

May 22, 2012
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A successful launch of the Space-X privately owned and developed spacecraft early today, May 22, 2012, will lead to delivery of 1000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station.  Space-X is under contract with NASA to begin a series of deliveries, ultimately of crew as well as cargo.  The dragon capsule will be visible as it orbits earth.  Anyone wishing to see it can visit NASA’s website for exact times for their part of the country. 

For example, if you live in Southeast Michigan, It will pass overhead starting at 5 am Thursday and move from roughly 15 degrees above the horizon in the west-southwest to about 34 degrees in the north-northwest.  It can be viewed at other times and other days if you don’t mind getting up in the middle of the night.  The original launch, scheduled for last Saturday, had to be postponed because of a faulty fuel valve.

NASA will desperately need private enterprise to fill in for the shuttle in the next three years until its own advanced vehicle replacing the shuttle can be developed.  A better alternative would be to turn space station supply over totally to private companies while NASA concentrates on deep space.  But with no definite goals set for the next few years, and decreasing budgets, it’s difficult to predict if we will ever get beyond low Earth orbit:  Sad news for the United States and the human race in general.


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Cheaper Hydrogen in Future

May 16, 2012
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A new relatively low cost method of producing hydrogen gas is being developed by scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

The process replaces the platinum catalyst with a cheaper nickel-molybdenum combination.  Cheaper hydrogen could make fuel cells for powering cars and other things more affordable, as well as bring down the price of one component of rocket fuel.  As most of you know, a hydrogen-oxygen combination produces the highest specific impulse of any cchemical fuel currently available for space vehicles.

According to sources, platinum sells for around $50,000 a kilogram, while nickel and Molybdenum go for around $20 and $32 a kilogram respectively. 

In combination with nitrogen, the process produces nanosheets of nickel-molybdenum nitride providing more surface area for the catalyst to perform and making up for the lack of efficiency of nickel alone.

 


Multiple Star Systems Can Have Planets

May 12, 2012
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Imagine waking up in the morning to look out a window and see two suns rising in the East.  Years ago scientists theorized that double or triple star systems (our nearest neighbors, Alpha, Beta, and Proxima Centauri, make up parts of a triple star system) could not possibly have planets.  The gravitational perturbations inherent in two or more stars revolving around each other would just be too complicated. 

But data from the Kepler telescope suggests that planets in multiple star systems may be common.  Kepler-16b was discovered in September, and now Kepler 34b and 35b can be added to the collection of binary star planets.  Both are gas giants and so unlikely to support life as we know it.  Astronomer William Welsh who discovered the latest two “Tatooine” planets (named after Luke Skywalker’s home in Star Wars) believes that millions of other planets orbit double stars.


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Russian Failures Endanger Astronauts

May 11, 2012
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A string of Russian launch failures does not bode well for space station astronauts.  The U.S. is contracted with the Russian Space Agency to supply people and supplies to the International Space Station while it develops new launch vehicles necessitated by the retirement of the space shuttles. 

Russia’s biggest launch failure was the Phobos mission, designed to fly to the Martian moon to find out if it could supply future Mars missions with oxygen.  The launch vehicle failed to even achieve Earth orbit.  Last August, a supply ship bound for the space station didn’t make it.  Several satellite launches over the last year have ended in failure for the Russians also.  These events just underline America’s failure to provide a new launch vehilce before the retirement of the space shuttle due to NASA budget constraints. 

It shouldn’t be long, however, until private industry supplies new means of reaching the space station.  President Obama has outlined a strategy whereby NASA will concentrate on developing equipment for deep space missions while private industry begins finding ways to profit from building vehicles to reach near Earth orbits.  This is a logical step towrd the future of space travel, but lack of funding for NASA means that research and development will proceed very slowly.


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New Mayan Calendars Found–Earth is Safe

May 11, 2012
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You can breathe easier now.  Archaeologists have found Mayan calendars on the walls of a small recently excavated building that measure time thousands of years into the future and past.  So the world will not end on Dec. 21 this year. No scientific evidence ever existed that it would anyway.  Just because a calendar dating system ends is no reason to believe the world will–or that primitive peoples somehow were privy to future events. 

Some day, of course, things will come to an end, either for our civilization, humans in general, or the entire planet Earth.  And there are myriad ways that each could happen.  One of the reasons for going further into space should be to reduce the possibility that the first two scenarios could happen.  The earth has been hit by large asteroids and/or comets in the past and there is no guarantee that it won’t happen in the future.  With enough warning, we can move asteroids out of our way.  Comets could be a bigger problem since we generally don’t detect them in time to gravitationally affect their orbits.  Then, nuclear devices might have to be used to break them up.  That means advanced delivery systems as well as knowledge of cometary makeup.  Right now, no large objects have been detected that are certain of smashing into Earth.  But tomorrow or next year could change that.  It will take years to develop effective defenses against incoming celestial objects.  We shouldn’t wait too long to start.