Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Space Babies: Cockroaches Conceived In Space

(Image Credit: Wm Jas via Flickr)

While breeding in space has been a topic with some (obvious) controversy associated with it, a few Russian scientists are examining what happens to animals that are conceived among the cosmos.

(Space Fellowship) Though the newborn creatures already eat and drink respectively well, microgravity conditions may have had an impact on the natural darkening of their chitinous carapace, a part of a cockroach's exoskeleton.

"Cockroaches are born with a transparent carapace, which gradually turns into brown, and the space cockroaches went darker earlier than usual," the scientist explained, adding that final conclusions would only be able to drawn only after the second female had given birth.

While breeding cockroaches is a start, hopefully scientists will be able to find a higher animal, preferable a mammal (such as a mouse or pig) and allow the animal to not only be conceived in space, but perhaps birthed there as well.

Doing so is the only way to determine whether or not humanity will be able to raise their kids off world, a critical item if we are ever going to inhabit other moons and planets.

Baby Step: Reversing Bone Loss In Micro Gravity

(Hat Tip: IsraGood)

One of the greatest dangers of living in micro gravity (and even reduced gravity) is bone loss. Without a medical solution, our species may have to resort to living upon orbital space stations, or even weighted suits for those living off world.

However new research in the medical field may lead towards developing medicine counteracting the affects of micro gravity--at least for women.

(Israel 21st Century) Se-cure's flagship product Femarelle, which is now available in 15 countries around the world, is derived through a unique enzymatic procedure that creates a specific biochemical composition proven to combine the treatment of menopausal symptom relief and bone loss. [...]

Femarelle has been proven in clinical studies to exert stimulatory activity on the estrogen receptors that control menopausal symptoms and the process of bone build-up, while having a blocking effect on estrogen receptors in the breast and the uterus. Moreover, Femarelle was shown to have a unique mechanism of action on bone build-up through increased osteoblast activity, having a direct effect on bone formation.

If this drug can be perfected, it may enable our species to easily adapt to the micro gravity environment of space. This would allow humans to take long term trips throughout our solar system (and beyond) without worry of being forever stranded among the stars due to bone loss.

Now if someone would come up with something similar for our immune and cardiovascular system, then the human race may be prepared to settle off world.

UFO's Inspired The Founder Of Bigelow Aerospace?

(Hat Tip: Hobby Space)

Some people desire to visit the stars because of a few resources. Others are motivated simply by their existence. But Robert T. Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, wants to taste the cosmos in order to establish "first contact."

(Wired Magazine) His signature quirk, however, is an obsession with space that extends beyond his business interests. In addition to the $100million Bigelow has already put into BA (and the $400million more he has promised), he has doled out millions to fund research into alien abductions and UFO sightings. He's done some of the work himself, personally interviewing hundreds of people who claim to have had extraterrestrial encounters. In fact, one of the main reasons he's so eager to get his stations launched is that he thinks they might provide a step toward making contact. [...]

(page 3) Years before he started building space habitats, Bigelow began looking for the truths he was sure were out there. He says he has met with more than 230 people who claim to have witnessed ETs. In the 1990s, he gave millions of dollars to launch the National Institute for Discovery Science, whose staff — which included several PhDs and ex-FBI agents — researched alien abductions, out-of-body experiences, cattle mutilations, and other paranormal phenomena.

While Bigelow's inspiration may cause others to laugh, it does however make one of the most successful space pioneers in the 21st Century a bit more interesting. This probably also explains the alien face which appears on some of their corporate logos.

Whether or not Bigelow's space stations help us to establish first contact will be something future historians will have to decide. Either way, Robert Bigelow is already making history with the launch of his Genesis space stations, and his next one may enable our species to finally dwell among the heavens that surround us.

Is NASA Trying To Provoke A Space Race?

Despite the fact that NASA has gained additional funding for its quest towards the stars, the space agency faces an enormous problem.

With a major Presidental candidate expressing disinterest in returning humans to the Moon, and Congress against sending Americans to Mars, NASA may be attempting to spark interest in human space exploration by promoting America's Asian rival.

(Orlando Sentinel) Aides acknowledge that Griffin -- like the rest of the space community -- is hoping for some kind of a "Sputnik moment," an event capable of driving public demand for space exploration as the Soviet Union's launch of the first satellite did 50 years ago. And recently, he has been warning that America is already falling behind China's aggressive space program. [...]

But there is considerable question whether Griffin's invocation of China -- or even his assertion that space exploration is important to U.S. national security -- will move a Congress or a public that each year seems less enthusiastic about the space program and increasingly focused on the price of war and terrorism.

While NASA's attempt at provoking a space race may gain the attention of Congress, it will receive little support with the public. The space agency is in a different era than Apollo, and unless they outsource jobs to China, making nationalistic statements will have little effect upon the IPOD generation.

NASA's only hope may lie in the private sector, who may be able to help the space agency reach the moon at a fraction of the cost.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Nigeria Seeks Out The Final Frontier

Of all the nations with an excuse not to invest in the final frontier, Nigeria would be it. Infested with numerous problems ranging from disease to corruption, Nigeria has every excuse to refrain from embracing the cosmos above as apart of its inheritance.

But despite being a prime example of a third world nation, Africa's largest country (population wise) is looking towards the heavens to solve its problems below.

( Boroffice thinks space technology is the key to addressing such woes relatively cheaply and efficiently. For example, NASRDA spent $13 million, less than 0.1 percent of the nation's budget, in the 2003 launch of NigeriaSat-1, an advanced imaging satellite that punches its weight with 1990s satellites in the $300 million class. NigeriaSat-1 -- the first satellite to provide close-up images of the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina -- helped sow the seeds of technological development in a nation that needs engineers, infrastructure and IT. [...]

"There are seminars and workshops to teach farmers how to read (NigeriaSat-1) maps and how to identify areas where they can plant rice, when to plant and when to harvest and also to provide a system for monitoring the health of the rice (crop)," Boroffice said.

Boroffice heads the National Space Research and Development Agency, or NASRDA which is Nigeria's space agency. Although the nation has a long ways to go before catching up with their western (or eastern) friends, Nigeria is seeking the ability to operate and launch its own satellites within its own borders.

What makes Nigeria really interesting is its position near the equator, which would make it a prime location for launching space ships or satellites into geostationary orbit.

If Nigeria ever decided to lease its space to western nations, Nigeria could build up the funds to eventually launch one of their own beyond the sky and into the black.

Poll Results: Is Google's Lunar X-Prize Good For Humanity?

Over on the sidebar of Colony Worlds, this author ran a mini poll asking readers whether or not Google's X-Prize was of any benefit to humanity.

The poll closed four days ago with a grand total of 26 votes. Here are the results below:

Question: Is Google's Lunar X-Prize Good For Humanity?

    Choice 1: Yes, as it helps us reach the moon (17 votes or 65%)

    Choice 2: No, as it won't reduce the cost of rocket launches (3 votes or 11%)

    Choice 3: Maybe, if they provide more money (1 vote or 3%)

    Choice 4: No, as going to Mars is more important (1 vote or 3%)

    Choice 5: Yes, as we can finally discover what moonbats are (4 votes or 15%)

The next poll will deal with who will colonize the Moon first, which was inspired by Mike Griffin's comments regarding China.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll, and I am looking forward to the results of the next! (and no, moonbats will not be apart of this unscientific survey).

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (Sorting Out Science)

Sam Wise of Sorting Out Science hosted this week's Carnival of Space.

Despite being new to the event (at least to this author) Sam created a very professional layout for the Carnival, with a mash of links to not only some of the bloggers posts, but to related media sites as well.

We even had mention of space elevators, with the Marc of the Space Elevator Reference and Ted via the Space Elevator Blog.

Be sure to subscribe to either of those blogs as they are covering the Space Elevator Olympics (aka Space Elevator Games) in which their are currently six teams competing (you can find video's over here).

Other interesting posts included:

Next week's Carnival will be hosted by Pamela over at Star Stryder, and if anyone is interested in submitting a post to the Carnival of Space (as its always great to hear from fresh minds), please visit this link.

SpaceX Clears Another NASA Hurdle Towards ISS

After passing NASA's last test with flying colors, it looks as if the NewSpace giant has cleared another hurdle in its attempt to become the main supplier to the International Space Station.

(Space Fellowship) SpaceX has successfully completed the Critical Design Review (CDR) for its first Falcon 9 / Dragon mission as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration program. [...]

During the event, all comments and questions raised by NASA's experts were satisfactorily addressed by the SpaceX design team, which resulted in official NASA approval. With this, SpaceX continues its track record of meeting all COTS milestones on schedule.

"In terms of overall design maturity of the Falcon 9 project, we are well ahead of the curve for a program of this size," said Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. "Few CDRs feature multiple hardware items in fabrication, assembly, integration and test phases."

Currently SpaceX is the main player when it comes to securing the COTS (or Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) from NASA.

If SpaceX is able to clear the remaining hurdles, they could potentially open up the doorway for the private sector to colonize the Moon, which would free up NASA to send men towards Mars.

Communism In Space: The New Solar Religion?

(Image Credit: Himalayan Academy)

It look as if the Chinese government will be spreading the socialistic gospel in the heavens above. Not satisfied with millions of registerd members on Earth, China wishes to establish a communist branch beyond the sky.

(Space Travel) Chinese taikonauts (astronauts) may start a branch of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in space, said the country's first taikonaut Yang Liwei. China now has a 14-strong astronaut team. The team members, including Yang himself, are all CPC members. "If China has its own space station, the taikonauts on mission will carry out the regular activities of a CPC branch in space in the way we do on earth, such as learning the Party's policies and exchanging opinions on the Party's decisions," said Yang, a delegate to the on-going CPC national congress in Beijing. [...]

"Like foreign astronauts having their beliefs, we believe in Communism, which is also a spiritual power," said Yang. "We may not pray in the way our foreign counterparts do, but the common belief has made us more united in space, where there is no national boundary, to accomplish our missions."

Although such rhetoric may be an indicator that our fragile planet is heading for another cold war, it may help motivate the US (as well as its capitalistic space businesses) to take the moon much more seriously.

As the dream of harnessing helium-3 becomes more of a reality, we will probably see an increase of nationalism as various nations carve out lunar territories--and defend their "white lands" viciously via lunar armies.

Self Sustaining Space Habitats A Possibility?

(Hat Tip: Space Pragmatism and Engadget, Image credit: NASA)

If humanity is ever going to venture beyond lunar orbit, then they need to develop a way to survive off world indefinitely, or at least for long periods of time (as in years).

While no one has yet developed a biosphere that can survive without outside assistance, it looks as if James Chartres (an aerospace engineer from Australia) may have figured out how to create one that is "95 percent efficient."

(Cosmos Magazine) The Luna Gaia concept integrates technologies such as the Closed Equilibrated Biological Aquatic System (CEBAS), an enclosed aquarium designed by the German Aerospace Centre and the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELIiSSA) developed by the European Space Agency. MELIiSSA uses microbes to purify water, recycle carbon dioxide and derive edible material from waste products.

Algae – which generates oxygen from carbon dioxide via photosynthesis, and doesn't require pollinating – is the key to the proposed design.

The food required for astronauts would come from a mixture of tending small crops and from pre-packed supplies. Such crops would include peanuts, lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and wheat. In addition, certain types of algae, such as Spirulina or Chlorella would provide other vitamins, minerals and trace elements.

If successful, this proposed biosphere could enable humanity to not only build large scale colonies on the Moon, but also actually settle the red planet itself (not to mention Ceres).

The idea is at least 20-30 years away from being realized upon another world, although if proven to actually work Chartres efforts may result in our species raising families upon other worlds.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Is Humanity Heading To Space For All The Wrong Reasons?

For the past six thousand years of recorded history, humanity has usually had a reason for every route they took while traveling the world. Some people would span the oceans to escape persecution, while others would sprint across deserts to inherit their promised land.

Regardless of the path they took, there was ultimately a compelling reason to brave the unknown, to risk health and wealth in order to seek out a future greater than the present.

The final frontier is no different, and for the past 50 years a few courageous souls have been struggling to convince the masses of the need to visit the stars above, without much success.

Could it be that space is really not that important for humanity as a whole, or could it possibly be that we are attempting to revisit the cosmos for all the wrong reasons?

When Russia first launched Sputnik 50 years ago, our primary motivation for reaching the stars could be summed up in one word--ego. Since that first moment, Russia and the United States were in an epic "battle of the brains" in order to prove which country was the greatest nation on planet Earth.

Despite the fact that nationalism can easily whip up political and financial support, that support can also dry up very quickly. Once the US landed a man on the Moon, they found no need to continue with the lunar landings.

Satisfied at defeating our rivals, both America and Russia decided that visiting the Moon was no longer in fashion, returning back to the much more relevant games of the cold war.

Since nationalism was no longer in style, our reason for space had to change in order to keep up with the times. In order to give a more stable reason (long term wise) for humanity to dwell among the heavens, scientists decided that focusing on exploration as the key.

While exploration helped convince the public that space was important, it produced support that was often a "mile wide and an inch deep." Space became more of a passive experience, something always for either robots or "the next generation."

Without a human element attached to the cosmos, space unsurprisingly loses its emotional appeal. Unable to prove itself as relevant to the public, space agencies will have to constantly point towards past spin offs in order to justify their existence in the present.

Lacking a prime reason to exist in the future, tomorrow's children may one day decide to simply remove space as a priority for our culture, as health care, energy prices and other matters crowd out the cosmos from public view.

Having yet again failed to keep the publics attention regarding the stars above, a new motivation is sought out to keep "the vision" alive.

Since inspiring the public through ego and exploration did not seem to capture the media's attention, why not make space an emergency and use fear to convince them otherwise?

By sounding the alarm that humanity is in danger of wiping themselves out on our small world, space once again becomes the focus of the masses. Whether it is from nuclear war, biological diseases or an upcoming asteroid, the need to find a home beyond Earth quickly becomes a priority.

But just as quickly space loses appeal once the public begins to learn just how dangerous (not to mention expensive) it is to travel to another world, let alone build upon one. Unable to envision stepping foot upon another world themselves, the public will simply urge politicians to find more ways to combat asteroids, biological diseases, health care, etc., regardless of the cost.

While this may help ensure humanities survival, it will not help them expand beyond their earthen cradle towards their solar playground, resulting in another setback for those passionate about space.

But if using ego, exploration and making space a dire emergency can not convince the public on the importance of space, then what really can? Borrowing a phrase from a former President, "It's the economy stupid!

While economical reasons may not sound as inspiring or motivating as nationalism (aka ego), exploration or turning the case for space into some type of emergency, it will however silence the many doubting voices who oppose space in general.

After all, if there is money to be gained (honestly) from inhabiting the heavens, then why wouldn't you want to go there in the first place?

Whether the financial reasons are tourism, solar power satellites or even helium-3 on the moon, justifying space in a way everyone can relate to will make it much easier to promote.

While highlighting the economic reasons for space will not grab headlines like the previous three, it will find grass roots support among not only businesses, but governments as well (mainly because of the taxes). It will also help make the cause of space to seem "more Earthly," as it will be viewed as a near future necessity rather than something well beyond the horizon.

Our journey towards the final frontier is similar to running a marathon. While some may run for their own ego or health, ensuring a prize at the end can go a long way towards engaging the public, which will ultimately benefit everyone.

Note: Due to lack of time, images (and a few links) will be added later.

Updated: Images and extra links added.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Carnival Of The Space Geeks (23rd Edition)

It's hard to believe that the Carnival of Space has lasted this long! Last weeks roundup was over at Space For Commerce (by Brian Dunbar).

Although the number of entries has thinned out a bit, the quality has thus far has continued to blossom, with interesting posts from:

Sam Wise of Sorting Out Science will be hosting the next Carnival of Space, and if anyone would like to participate, they can check out the details over here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Colonizing Ceres Before Mars Could Save The Red Planet

Some people say Mars is our next home. Other people say Mars is utterly worthless. Regardless of the viewpoint, humans will probably end up visiting the place for "eternal glory," if not for scientific reasons.

Whether or not our species actually settles the red planet is highly questionable. Unlike Earth's Moon, Mars lacks major resources of any kind that would make colonizing the planet worthwhile. Unless those crimson deserts can provide some return on investment, it may be wiser to turn Mars into a penal colony, than attempting to recreate the world into a second home.

But humanity may be able to justify settling Mars by diverting its attention towards the asteroid belt first--and the key towards conquering the asteroid belt, as well as Mars may lie upon the dwarf world Ceres.

Despite their major differences, both Mars and Ceres share a few similarities. Both worlds harbor abundant supplies of water, respectively, and both worlds are located closer to the metal rich "zone" of the asteroid belt than our home world.

Ceres however is located within the "mineral field of dreams," dancing around the sun between 2.5-3 AU (or astronomical units). This places the icy world in the heart of the metal rich zone, the majority of which can be found orbiting our star between 2 and 3.5 AU.

Its prime location gives it an enormous advantage over the red giant, as well as a motivation for both national governments and companies to visit this lonely dwarf planet.

Ceres also has a lower gravity well than either Earth or Mars, making rocket launches off of the asteroid king very inexpensive. Boasting 3% Earth gravity, Cerian colonies would be able to easily transport precious metals back to our home world (from other asteroids) without the need for large amounts of rocket fuel.

Ceres's prime location as well as its gravitational benefits could (like Earth's moon) help jump start our solar economy, if not give it a second wind. But how would an active mining industry aid a future Martian colony? After all, if Mars has very little to offer our species financially, why even bother colonizing it?

Despite the fact that Ceres has an abundant supply of water, that supply is finite and will not last forever. As the number of asteroid colonies increase throughout the asteroid belt, so too will the demand for water. Although Earth has plenty of water to spare, it may be simply too expensive to rocket the precious liquid to quench the thirst of asteroid minors.

As the demand for water increases, so will the cost of transporting it from Ceres's dwindling supplies. While launching water from Earth may not be affordable, launching it from Mars probably will. With only 38% Earth gravity, the crimson planet would have a much shallower gravity well than our blue home world, enabling it to meet the future water demand at an affordable price.

Although Mars may ultimately provide a second habitat for humanity, it may make business sense to refocus our efforts on the asteroid belt first. Not only would it sustain political support from various Earth governments over time (mainly because of the money), but it would satisfy the "why space" questions in the public, without resorting to a short hand list.

(Image Credits: NASA)

Note: Due to lack of time, images (and some links) will be added later.

Update: Added several paragraphs as well as edited a few sentences for grammar and clarity. Also added several images and links as well.

Russian Banks May Finance The "Next Great Leap"

In an ironic twist of fate, it seems that the nation that first brought humanity to the stars is more "capitalistic" than the first one to put a man on the moon.

With more individuals considering space tourism as a worthwhile activity, it looks as if a Russian banks will consider loaning the necessary cash for those who can least afford.

(Interfax-AVN) Russian banks could offer low- interest loans to people wishing to go into space as tourists, Roman Popov, the president of the First Russian-Czech Bank, told journalists on Tuesday.

"If space tourism develops, we are prepared to combine efforts of three or more banks to issue five-year low-interest loans to a future space tourist," Popov said at a press conference dealing with prospects of space exploration[.]

This is probably a smart move by Russia, who has been heavily embracing the capitalistic version of the final frontier despite their current leanings towards "all things big brother."

If the cost of travel towards space (and future space hotels) becomes somewhat affordable, they may find plenty of eager customers in North America as well as Europe.

Russia Launches Malaysia's First Astronaut In Space

(Image Credit: CNN)

It is a proud day for Malaysians everywhere, as they are for the first time seeing one of their own journey beyond the sky in order to orbit the heavens above.

(Earth Times) Malaysia's first astronaut created national history when he blasted off on board a Russian rocket into space Wednesday, marking a first for the nation which tuned in to watch the historic event live on television. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor took off for the International Space Station (ISS) on board a Soyuz-FG rocket, adorned with the Malaysian flag, from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. [...]

At the ISS, Sheikh Muszaphar is to experiment with microbes of tropical diseases and with proteins for a potential HIV vaccine, and study the effects of microgravity and space radiation on cancer cells and human genes.

Malaysia is located in the Pacific below Vietnam and Thailand and right above Indonesia. Although predominantly Muslim, Malaysia seems to have a more "liberal" view than its Islamic neighbors.

Their entrance into the space arena should help bring about more diversity among the stars, as well as an opportunity to encourage its neighbors to claim their stake in our solar system.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Russia, NASA Team Up In Quest For Space Water

The head of both Russia and America's space agencies signed an agreement to cooperate as they search both the Moon an Mars in the quest for "liquid gold."

(USA Today) The agreements signed by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and Russian Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov deal with putting Russian instruments on board NASA probes that would be sent to the moon and Mars.

"These two projects demonstrate the commitment by our countries to continue to look for opportunities where it's mutually beneficial to cooperate," Griffin said. "When these opportunities happen it's our intent to work together to bring them to fruition."

This partnership should help out both NASA and Russia, as it will lessen the cost of finding the best locations for a moon base, as any habitation near water is considered prime real estate.

This could also help relieve some of the space war rhetoric, as the last thing humanity needs is a cold war in space.

Japan's Lunar Orbiter Dances Around The Moon

(Image Credit: JAXA)

The land of the rising sun has a new accomplishment to boast about. Having successfully launched its satellite from Earth to the moon, SELENE now orbits this lunar world in an attempt to better understand Earth's nearest neighbor.

(Moon Daily) "The satellite successfully entered the moon's orbit. We are glad that we achieved one of the big challenges in this mission," said Tatsuo Oshima, a spokesman from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). [...]

Once it gets close to the moon it will start observation of land features and study gravitational fields, the JAXA spokesman said.

"Our next challenge is a successful launch of observation activities with cameras and radars functioning normally," he said.

Hopefully Japan's SELENE satellite will help the island nation (as well as the world) locate fertile grounds for habitation on the Moon. Although they have yet to launch one of their own in space, Japan does have plans to establish a lunar colony in 2030.

The Billion Dollar Question: Can Congress Help NASA?

After facing grueling budget cuts in 2007, the US Senate is trying to offset the damage done towards NASA by rewarding it with an extra billion dollars in 2008.

But with the White House threatening to kill the bill for over spending, one has to wonder whether or not the funds will actually arrive in NASA's pocket.

( The Senate approved $1 billion in additional funding for NASA on Thursday, with Democrats and Republicans alike ignoring President Bush's threat to veto any spending bills that exceed his budget proposal. [...]

"We're thrilled," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who has been working with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and other Senate budget writers for the past two years to secure the additional money. "This is a major step in the right direction to ensure that America stays at the forefront of being first in space exploration."

With Congress under pressure to reduce spending, it is unlikely that NASA will receive the extra billion dollars for 2008. This however may turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it would force NASA and NewSpace to work together in order to beat China back to the moon.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Video: Happy Space Age Day!

Today marks the anniversary when humanity first began to wander beyond the sky by the launch of Sputnik 50 years ago.

It demonstrated our species ability to send objects above our atmosphere and has spurred our race to find its place among the stars.

(Video Hat Tip: Robot Guy)

A hundred years from now humanity may celebrate October the 4th as an interplanetary holiday, uniting all cultures throughout our solar system in our quest to conquer the final frontier.

Until then our young race must continue to pursue the journey started by our forefathers, in order to pass that same torch towards our children and their children's children.

Happy Space Age day to all, and may God bless our fragile world, as well as those living upon it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Raising Pigs On Mars

Orbiting our celestial star at an average distance of around 228 million kilometers, Mars is often romanticized as the next home world for humanity. Scientists and space enthusiasts alike often wonder what would life be like living on the red planet, and dream of the future culture that will emerge there.

The first explorers upon Mars will probably rely on supplies previously shipped to the red planet in order to survive upon this harsh world. But in order to settle on this crimson globe, future Martians will need to import fruits, vegetables, grain, trees and pigs--yes pigs.

Pigs represent many things to many people on Earth. To some pigs are smelly, ugly, awful creatures that only look half way descent when staring in a children's film. To others they are delicious beasts who fit perfectly into ones personal barbecue.

Regardless of the viewpoint, pigs may serve a useful purpose on Mars, and could ultimately determine the fate of not only future colonists, but whether or not Martians thrive upon that rusty world.

When compared to Earth, Mars is a nightmare, medically speaking. Orbiting hundreds of millions of kilometers away from the nearest advanced hospital (that is fully equipped), future colonists will be in trouble if any of them required an organ transplant.

If finding a matching donor on Earth was not hard enough, imagine trying to locate one on Mars, especially if future settlements are spread out all over the planet? Since pigs already share many biological traits with humans, they may make prime candidates for people looking to replace a failing organ (or two).

Not only would these Martian swine make excellent "donors," but they may also help determine whether or not it is safe for mothers to carry babies full term on Mars.

When compared to Earth, Martian gravity is only about 38% as strong as our home world. While this may not pose any problems for humans venturing to the crimson planet, it may pose a threat to future humans intending upon raising kids upon the red deserts.

Since pigs probably breed a lot faster than humans, scientists could study how gravity affects several generations in the long term without endangering a future soul from our own species. If any problems did arise, pigs would give scientists an opportunity to develop drugs to counter side affects early on, which would aid future humans down the road.

Another reason Martians may desire to take along Miss Piggy (and friends) is the fact that pigs (especially wild ones) will often eat anything one puts before them.

If future colonists raising crop encounter any of their plants spoiling (for whatever reasons), they would be able to feed the decaying leftovers to our pink (and sometimes black) friends, leaving nothing to rot. Future colonists could then take the pig waste and turn it into fertilizer for their crops, which may be a better option than using our own.

As far as food goes, pigs would also provide an excellent alternative to just simply eating "fruits and berries" on Mars. Pigs would also be much easier to transport than say, cattle, as a little piglet would weigh much less than a baby calf (as launching objects to GEO can cost between $5,000-$10,000 per pound).

For those who prefer to love on their animal friends (instead of dining upon them), pigs would make excellent pets. Having an intelligence greater than dogs as well as a love for cuddling, space faring kids may enjoy raising their pet Wilbur or Babe.

While humans could also transport chickens, fish, cats and dogs to Mars, these may be a little harder to justify expense wise, making the former two a delicacy and the latter couple an exotic Martian pet.

With all of the benefits of transporting (and raising) terrestrial swine to the crimson world, it may not be too surprising to see Mars in the future being labeled as "the pig planet."

Video: Carnival Of The Space Geeks (22nd Round)

Last week's Carnival of space was hosted over at Wandering Space which included some interesting videos from Louise of A Babe In The Universe, as well as several new comers.

The first was Brian Dunford who discusses on Riding With Robots his fascination with asteroids, especially Ceres and Vesta.

The second is by Steven from the OutsideIn blog. Steven is working on a mini film to help bring space to life on the small screen (and hopefully the large screen as well).

Here is a teaser of the trailer below.

This is but a sample of the work Steven wants to bring to the world, and if you feel like supporting his efforts, you can make a tax deductible donation to the project over here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

NASA Looking For A Few Good Space Suits

Fifty years into the future our space born descendants may ponder why their forefathers explored the lunar surface in bulky white suits. With NASA calling out to the private sector for a "space tailor," future suits worn by astronauts may not resemble the outfits worn by the first men on the Moon.

(Moon Today) NASA has issued a request for proposals from industry for the design, development and production of a new spacesuit system for Constellation Program voyages to the International Space Station and the moon. [...]

Prospective contractors are being asked to develop a system that minimizes mass, volume and carry weight; donning time; maintenance requirements; suit logistics; operational overhead; life cycle costs; and operational constraints on the lunar surface in varying geographical, solar and thermal conditions. The same spacesuit system also must maximize pressurized and unpressurized crew comfort, range of motion, reliability and work efficiency throughout multiple suit uses. Designers are being asked to incorporate flexibility and modularity to allow for efficient incorporation of future upgrades.

NASA's best option may lie in choosing skin tight space suits as they would enable an astronaut to actually run upon the lunar world instead of skipping like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

Note: This would be a perfect time for Louise to show off her space suit, although hopefully she includes a video post on her web journal.