The past week has had an unequal combination of cool news and potentially catastrophically bad news. NASA captured video of the safe asteroid DA14, but Russia got hit by a destructive space rock. Scientists have potentially find a way to propel space technology outside the bounds of the solar system, but Salmonella might just kill any astronauts who try to get there. Oh, and the moon is acting up again (it must have gotten jealous about all the attention on Mars).
DA14 The Movie: With what is quite possibly the world’s worst FPS (at 0.003), NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory released a video of DA14’s journey past Earth. The recording is based off of radar as the asteroid was leaving Earth’s periphery at a distance of 74,000 to 195,000 miles away. While this might not be too impressive relative to the distance of far-away galaxies we’ve captured glimpses of, it gave us an impressive amount of detailed information. Not only does this data about the asteroid’s size, surface, and rotation teach us more about asteroids in general (they are an ever-present threat, after all), it might be important in the upcoming asteroid-mining boom.
A New Alteration to Science Books Everywhere?: The space section in science textbooks just keep giving us problems. This time, scientists at University of Michigan are arguing that the moon wasn’t formed from debris knocked off the Earth during a (dare I pun?) Earth-shattering collision. Signs of water – including hydroxyls (one hydrogen, one oxygen) in volcanic rock and water ice being knocked into the air by the crashing LCROSS – pretty adamantly disprove that theory. Of course, this leaves us without a good theory to go on (and American science education just seems to hate that).
Space Keeps Finding New Ways to Kill Us: Or, rather, we keep discovering new methods of destruction that demonstrate just how human-unfriendly the final frontier really is. While humans tend to not do that well in space, and microgravity is a big part of that, microbes have no such limitations. Microbiologist Cheryl Nickerson is studying how well disease-causing organisms exist in microgravity, and the answer is ‘disturbingly well.’ Astronauts have to face the double whammy of having lowered immune systems in space and having pathogens like Salmonella be far more aggressive. The only good news is now that scientists know about the problem, they might be able to do something about it.
Space Rock Wake-Up Call: It will end up costing an ungodly amount in repairs, and over 1,000 people were injured. But, all in all, the space rock that hit Russia was a mild reminder of exactly how dangerous space objects can be. At the very least, it’s a sign that the world needs a much improved, and all-encompassing, monitoring system for incoming space rocks. Even that’s not enough – knowing that danger is imminent is only half the battle of preventing said danger and, as it stands, no country or space organization is equipped to do either. It’s a sobering thought, because nobody saw this thing coming.
Using Ion Propulsion to Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before: I don’t expect human exploration outside the solar system anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that scientists are slowly preparing for it. This newest technological improvement takes Hall thrusters, which use a fast-moving ion stream for movement, and gets rid of the tendency for the discharge channel walls to erode. This erosion has restricted this mode of transportation to ‘in the solar system,’ but we’ve hypothetically – and in this one aspect – moved beyond that restriction.
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Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.