Building the World

February 9, 2019
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SPACE: Naming the Future (and searching for Photo 52)

Rosalind Elise Franklin, once and future DNA pioneer. Image: wikimedia.

Space: will we find life? If we do, Rosalind Franklin will be part of history – again. It was Franklin who helped to discover the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA. Franklin’s X-ray images led to the detection of the double helix. Under Franklin’s direction, a photo, famously called Photo 51, revealed the structure of life itself.

Life takes a Selfie. Photo 51, most important photo ever taken – yet. Image: wikimedia.

Many scientists believe that Franklin would, and should, have been awarded the Nobel Prize, along with Crick, Watson, and Wilkins in 1962; her untimely passing may have eclipsed her significant contribution.

When the European Space Agency (ESA) sends its Mars Rover in search of life, the explorer will bear the name of Rosalind Franklin. NASA is already on Mars, and SpaceX is planning for habitation. As the human race proceeds into space, there will be discoveries that may reframe what we know as civilization, and life.

Franklin, Rosalind E. “Influence of the Bonding Electrons on the Scattering of X-Rays by Carbon. Nature 165, pp. 71-72. (1950).https://www.nature.com/articles/165071a0

NOVA, “The Secret of Photo 51,” Public Broadcasting Service, PBS. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/photo51/

Space.com. “European Mars Rover Named for Crystal Scientist Rosalind Franklin,” by Meghan Bartels. 7 February 2019. https://www.space.com/43259-exomars-rover-named-for-rosalind-franklin.html

“All the countries (and companies) trying to get to Mars.” Mary Beth Griggs, 20 September 2017. Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/who-wants-to-go-to-mars?” 60mGfwRBa7H1hCz4.03.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licen

 

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January 3, 2019
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New Year, New Place, New Space

January 1, 2019, Nasa reached Ultima Thule. Image: wikimedia.

January 1, 2019. New Horizons, Nasa‘s spacecraft, made history, achieving a successful flyby of the most distant space object ever reached, 6.5 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away. Likely coalesced more than 4.5 billion years ago, iced together in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt, also termed Trans-Neptunian Region of our solar system, two round balls (some liken the formation to a space snowman) are officially designated as 2014 MU69, but more lyrically named “Ultima Thule.” Scientifically, this new place in space may yield valuable data about how planets were formed, including Earth. While many know the meaning of Ultima (name of the larger part),  Thule merits further comment: the name is a Latin phrase meaning a place beyond the known world.

Amos, Jonathan. “Nasa’s New Horizons: ‘Snowman’ shape of distant Ultima Thule revealed.” 2 January 2019, BBC.

Chang, Kenneth. “Snowman-like Photo of Ultima Thule Sent Home by NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft.” 2 January 2019. The New York Times.

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute. “Ultima Thule in 3D.” 1 January 2019 historical date; published 3 January 2019. https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/resources/2237/ultima-thule-in-3d/

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December 24, 2018
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Golden Anniversary, Golden Opportunity

Earthrise, December 24, 1968: “You don’t see . Image: wikimedia.

Fifty years ago, someone grabbed a camera and changed history. NASA Apollo 8’s crew was to orbit precisely 10 times while photographing the surface of the moon, as a field study for the Lunar Landing mission.  It was 1968: before digital photography, a crew could carry only so much film – all of it was to be used for lunar surface documentation.

For hours, only the occasional click was heard as the spacecraft hovered above the lunar surface, snapping photos of the topography of the moon. There was not much to look at: gray gravely surface cloaked by a dark sky. Then, suddenly, as Apollo 8 completed the first circle of the moon, an orb of blue and green surrounded by swirling clouds appeared in the module window. It was Earth.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets.

When Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders looked out the spaceship module’s window, three voices whispered astonishment in unison. Anders grabbed the camera. “Hey, that’s not our authorized mission; we’ve only carried designated film,” said the commander. The three stared at each other in a wild surmise. Then, all three nodded in assent. Anders, mission’s official photographer, captured the first view that humanity ever saw of our own Earth.

To call it a selfie would be to trivialize it. Earthrise, as the photo came to be called, snapped history into a new era. “It was credited with awakening the modern version of the environmental movement,” according to former American Vice President and environmental leader Al Gore; author of An Inconvenient Truth. “You don’t see cities, you don’t see boundaries, you don’t see countries,” stated mission commander Frank Borman. The first Earth Day followed. World water laws developed further; in the United States, the Colorado River Compact updated environmental provisions; new policies like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act set new standards.

But where are we now, fifty years later?  Hope for our planet’s blue and green miracle is narrow but not impossible. Many governments are setting new goals to save the climate before it is too late, bringing the Paris Agreement COP21 to shared measurement standards at COP24. Cities and states are taking matters into their own hands. Businesses and industries, including aerospace, shipping, and fashion, are setting global supply chain standards to reduce emissions. In response to changing markets, innovations are developing at a pace that some find encouraging. Clean energy jobs are growing faster, and more profitably. There could be trouble, but there is a narrow window of success possible. If we too see the vision in the photo, words of Borman and Anders might ring true: “Got it?” “Yep.” 

Watch the video. Apollo 8 took the Earthrise photo on December 24, a half century ago. So, today is a kind of Golden Anniversary. Is it time to renew our vows?

“Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act,” 1974. http://usbr.gov/lc/region/pao/pdfiles.crbsalct.pdf

NASA.”Earthrise.” https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap181224.html.

Vaughan-Lee, Emmanuel, director, and Adam Loften, producer: “Earthrise.” Go Project Films. http://goprojectfilms.com

Wall, Mike. “This New ‘Earthrise’ Photo from NASA Is Simply Breathtaking.” 21 December 2015. Space.com. https:///www.space.com/31422-earthrise-photo-nasa-moon-probe.html/

Wright, Ernie. “Earthrise” – visualizations created for the 45th anniversary, released on 20 December, 2013. Includes extensive downloadable videos showing the actual cloud pattern on Earth at the moment. There is link to Wright’s presentation at SIGGRAPH Vancouver. NASA, Scientific Visualization Studio. http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-releases-new-earthrise-simulation-video/.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice

 

 

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November 26, 2018
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SPACE: Touchdown – InSight Landed on Mars

Mars. “Mars: BeforeAfter Duster-2018” Image: wikimedia commons.

 Touchdown! InSight landed on Mars. “We can’t exactly joystick the landing,” quipped InSight’s Descent and Landing Leader, describing the approach at an angle of precisely 12 degrees, in precisely planned stages measured by velocity changes from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) to 5 mph (8 kph) in seven minutes, all directed by  NASA‘s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, USA. Once established on the Red Planet, InSight will get to work, revealing data relevant to the deep interior of Mars. One scientist likened the deeper probe to taking Mars’ temperature; if it’s warm, that may have implications for a suspected lake of water inside the planet.

InSight is supported by a team of partners including France’s Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, and Imperial College, Oxford University. With scientific cooperation, how might space advances influence updates of the Outer Space Treaty that governs the rights of planets? Can space become our first true commons establishing shared values, including environment and peace?

Cook, Jai-Rui and D.C. Agle. “NASA InSight Team on Course for Mars Touchdown,” 21 November 2018. Jet Propulsion Laboratory. https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8389/nasa-insight-team-on-course-for-mars-touchdown/?sight=insight

“Mars Had a Busy Year.” A  review of recent scientific advances including NASA’s Curiosity Rover identifying organic modules in June, followed by July’s discovery by the European Space Agency ESA of a large, watery lake beneath the planet’s southern polar ice, and in November, the confirmation of NASA Mars 2020 Rover landing site on Jezero Crater. The New York Times team. 25 November 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/25/science/mars-nasa-insight-landing.html

Outer Space Treaty: http://www.ifrc.org/docs/idrl/I515EN.pdf

Watch the landing in an interactive visualization: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/entry-descent-landing/

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Lice

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November 20, 2018
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Happy 20th Birthday, International Space Station

International Space Station Insignia. Image: Nasa.gov.

What do you get for a birthday present – for a space station? Today is the 20th birthday of the International Space Station. It was on November 20, 1998, that the Zarya module launched from Kazakhstan; two weeks later, the United States launched the NASA module, Unity. A new era of cooperation and peace began when Russia and the United States joined together to build the largest human-made object in space. At 375 feet, it’s just one yard shy of a regulation football field. Over the past 20 years,  230 people have joined the scientific crew, with Peggy Whitson staying the longest – 665 days. For its 20th birthday present, the International Space Station will receive a 3D Printer: combination recycling and fabricator, the Refabricator can melt old plastic and transform the material to build new tools. Regarding birthday cake: surely no candles. But, since astronauts dine while hovering in zero gravity, but maybe root beer floats.

NASA. “NASA, Northrop Grumman Launch Space Station, National Lab Cargo.” 17 November 2018. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-northrop-grumman-launch-space-station-national-lab-cargo.

Sommerland, Joe. “International Space Station: twenty facts about the ISS as it celebrates its 20th birthday.” 19 November 2018. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/international-space-station-iss-location-nasa-orbit-20-birthday-anniversary-a8641431.html.

Watch an astronaut eat cake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zRKValrrGE

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October 6, 2018
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Report Card: Warning on Warming

“Simulating Carbon,” by William Putnam, 18 November 2014, NASA Visualization Explorer. Image: nasa.gov.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a warning: if the world keeps going at present rate, we’ll miss the target agreed upon in Paris 2015 (COP21) for limiting global warming. The goal of 1.5 may be out of reach; 2.0 Celsius may be unlikely.

Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0 Centigrade of global warming, above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8 to 1.2. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5 between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.

Global warming in 2015; things now are even worse, warns IPCC. Image: wikimedia commons.

Consequences include extreme weather events, damage to warm water corals, mangroves, arctic, coastal flooding, fluvial flooding, terrestrial ecosystem, crop yields. (Reasons for Concern RFCs). The IPCC advocates climate-resilient development pathways (CRDPs) that “strengthen sustainable development at multiple scales and efforts to eradicate poverty through equitable societal system transitions and transformations while reducing the threat of climate change through ambitious mitigation, adaptation, and climate resilience.” (IPCC SR1.5)

IPCC, Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Centigrade (SR15), 6 October 2018. http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15

IPCC, “Global Warming of 1.5Centigrade: Summary for Policymakers.” http://report.ipcc/ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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September 21, 2018
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Space: Hayabusa touchdown on Ryugu

Ryu Hayabusa, video game ninjutsu martial artist, now also conquering the sky? Image: Hideo Yoshizama, wikimedia.

It may take a ninjutsu martial artist to fight and float at the same time. Gravity is light on asteroid Ryugu. So, if visiting rovers tried to roll along the surface, as Curiosity did on Mars, the momentum would send them quickly aloft. Solution? Hops. Touchdowns will allow two 7 inch rovers to collect data before elevating into another hop. The Minerva Rovers descend from Hayabusa2, Japan’s spacecraft that embarked upon the mission on 3 December 2014 from Tanegashima Space Center. It took two tries: but Hayabusa2 scored a touchdown today.

While NASA may have been the first to touch down spacecraft, and human footprints, upon the lunar surface, in the Apollo mission, much space exploration has followed, including the promising field of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, thought to contain valuable minerals worth quadrillions. Japan’s Hyabusa1 was the first spacecraft to achieve a roundtrip to an asteroid, bring a bit of asteroid dust from Itokawa to earth in a sealed capsule in 2010. Meanwhile, NASA is still in the running. Osiris-Rex will arrive at asteroid Bennu on New Year’s Eve 2018. Purpose? Information on the origins of the solar system, perhaps even the building blocks of life.

Corum, Jonathan. “Hayabusa2 Prepares to Drop Rovers on Asteroid Ryugu.” 19 September 2018. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/06/25/science/hayabusa-ryugu-photos.html.

Desjardins, Jeff. “There’s big money to be made in asteroid mining.” 5 November 2016. Business Insider.https://www.businessinsider.com/the-value-of-asteroid-mining-2016-11.

JAXA. For a view of the landing, see: http://www.hayabusa2.jaxa.jp/en/galleries/onc/nav20180920/

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July 27, 2018
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Red Sky At Night

“Lunar Eclipse 2018 07 27” Image: nasa.

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” goes the saying. This weekend’s red sky is also a watcher’s delight. Mars, the red planet, will be at its closest to Earth (a cosy proximity not achieved since 2003). Also visible in this weekend’s night sky, moving from strawberry moon to blood moon, the lunar body glows rosy during a rather prolonged eclipse.

Both celestials have reason to blush, with pride:

Mars: is the subject of scientific discovery rapidly unfolding. SpaceX is planning a landing and habitation. Transport innovations like reusable rockets make a station possible. Recent discovery of a lake on Mars may hold more than promise.

Moon: July 1969, NASA’s Apollo Lunar Landing and Return, witnessed by practically everyone on earth with a new device called a television (just invented a few years before), saw the first human step on a surface that was not Earth. Humanity collectively held its breath. Since then, the sky has been busy. New industries have been born, with many new technologies from rockets to satellites. COMSAT put the world in the sky, with satnav, gps, cellphones, internet. Currently, lunar explorations include NASA’s Lunar Quest Program: the multi-element array includes flight missions, instruments for lunar missions of opportunity, research

Seeing Red This Weekend: From July 27-31, Mars will be particularly visible to the naked eye: here’s the red moon recap of July 27. Mars and Moon glowing red – at the same time? Perhaps Mars and Chang’e are blushing.

Halton, Mary. “Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars.” 25 July 2018. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-44952710/

NASA, “Watch: Total Lunar Eclipse (JULY 2018) NASA TV #Longest eclipse of this century.” https://youtu.be/uqBStEIVF80.

Space.com “Chang’e 4.” https://www.space.com/40715-change-4-mission.html

Yann Charront, Robert Moss, Stephen Edwards, and Dimitri N. Mavris. “Utilization of System Dynamics to Model a Self-Sustained Mars Surface Colony.” August 31-September 2, 2015. Aerospace Systems Design Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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July 14, 2018
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Ghost of a Chance

Image: NASA

Space research just opened a new chapter: the “ghost particle” neutrino was found on earth, having come from a blazar galaxy to the left of Orion, 3.7 billion light years away. Ghost particles can pass through any kind of matter without changing. The team that found the neutrino is based at the University of Wisconsin, joined by 49 collaborating institutions worldwide, including NASA‘s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The detector, called the IceCube, is located in Antarctica’s South Pole. The long-sought neutrino gives evidence of cosmic rays, and accelerators, opening a new view of space and energy. Summing up the discovery, Naoko Kurahashi Neilson of Drexel University stated: All of astronomy is light.

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June 28, 2018
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Life on Enceladus?

The global ocean of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, may contain organic molecules that are the birth of life. Image: NASA.

Water is one of the foundations of life: on Earth and perhaps elsewhere. NASA‘s Cassini spacecraft has discovered “complex organic molecules” in the plumes of spray from the ocean of Saturn’s moon. In 2015, Cassini found a global ocean beneath the crust of Enceladus. The mission collected data that will drive research for decades to come, even though Cassini immolated itself in September 2017, merging and disintegrating into the atmosphere of the planet it had come to explore, to court, and finally to become. Is there life on Enceladus?

Postberg, F, et al. “Macromolecular organic compounds from the depths of Enceladus.” 28 June 2018. Nature, Volume 558, p. 564 ff. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0246-4.

Strickland, Ashley. “Could life exist on Saturn’s moon Enceladus?” 27 June 2018. CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2018/06/27/us/enceladus-saturn-search-for-life/index.html.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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