On April 13th 2017, NASA held a press conference that began with a single question, “is there life elsewhere?” The Oceans Beyond Earth conference investigated whether Europa and Enceladus; two ocean worlds could harbor life in the vast liquid oceans shielded by their icy surfaces.
These moons were chosen because they contain vast liquid oceans beneath the ice on their surface. The thick ice layer acts somewhat like our own atmosphere, allowing the water to exist below the surface. In theory, there should be heat vents at the bottom of these oceans, heating the water and providing potential energy for life.
There are four primary ingredients for life, Water, Time, Energy and CHNOPS, or the six most important chemical elements that make up the majority biological molecules here on Earth. The Cassini mission has demonstrated that Enceladus has all of these elements. Ocean worlds are more likely to harbor life because they have one of these categories in abundance, water.
Dives into our own oceans have proven that life does not need access to sunlight to survive. In fact the deep-ocean heat and methane vents on earth are teeming with tiny organisms. This discovery turned the search for life on its head. Rather than turning sunlight into energy, these organisms convert chemicals into energy. No longer were we looking for worlds that could have sunlight, but worlds with water that were geologically active.
When Cassini drifted through the great water plumes of Enceladus enough data was collected to allow scientists to make the first calorie count on an alien world. They estimate that the plume gas mixtures have roughly 300 pizzas per hour (their measurement, not mine) in energy content, which should be plenty to help stimulate to the growth of life.
These findings are significant because they also imply that there is some kind of “ice tectonics” at work on Enceladus and Europa. Both moons are heavily affected by the gravity of their respective gas giants. In Europa’s case the entire surface moves by as much as 30 meters every 2-3 days due to Jupiter’s influence. This movement is important because it creates an active shell that helps to move energy around and distribute the nutrients necessary for life.
So potentially, both Europa and Enceladus and other ocean worlds could harbor life. The question, which one more likely to? When asked this , Mary Voytek, Astrobiology senior scientist for NASA, answered that she believed Europa is still the best candidate in our solar system for finding extra-terrestrial life.
Her primary argument for this was the amount of energy found in Enceladus’ plumes. If there were life, you would expect it to use this energy, instead it is fired off into space. She believes that even if there were life on Enceladus, it would likely be quite primitive compared with any potential life on Europa. This is primarily down to time. Europa is older than Enceladus so there have simply been more chances for life to develop beneath it’s icy crust.
While any life on these ice sheathed moon is likely to be quite primitive, they offer our best shot at finding extra terrestrial life in our own solar system.
The Cassini Mission has proven that life can exist on ocean worlds. It is now up to the Europa Clipper to find out whether it does exist.
NASA’s DART probe successfully collided with an asteroid.
At the time of impact, the impactor vehicle, about the size of a vending machine, was moving at about 14,000 mph.
After traveling for over a year, NASA‘s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, which attempted to provide answers, “Could a specially crafted satellite be used to divert an asteroid from its planet-destroying course? How about a number? “has effectively impacted the Dimorphos asteroid. However, NASA ground control has confirmed that the DART impact vehicle has intercepted the target asteroid. The results and data from the collision are still being received. Yes, Dimorphos is about the size of a football stadium, but space is very big, extremely dark, and both the asteroid and the spaceship were traveling rather quickly at the time.
“It’s been a successful completion of the first part of the world’s first planetary defense test,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said after the impact. “I believe it’s going to teach us how one day to protect our own planet from an incoming asteroid. We are showing that planetary defense is a global endeavor and it is very possible to save our planet.”
In an effort to investigate the employment of defensive satellites as a method of planetary defense against Near Earth Objects, NASA launched the DART mission in November 2021. Nearly 68 million miles from Earth, the DART impactor vehicle, about the size of a vending machine, tragically crossed Dimorphos’ path while traveling at about 14,000 MPH.
It remains to be seen if future generations of a planetary defense system will be packed with satellites ready to go full June Bug vs. Chrysler Windshield against real planet-killer asteroids. Dimorphos is one of two asteroids that are gravitationally entangled; its parent rock is more than five times larger than Dimorphos itself, but both are dwarfed by the space rock that struck Earth 66 million years ago and destroyed 75% of the planet’s multicellular life while gouging out the Gulf of Mexico.
Various Companies Partner Up to Put a Mobile Phone Network on the Moon
The world of science and technology brings us yet another crazy possibility that’s going to be explored quite soon. Fourth Generation Cellular Networks are seeing implementations on various places. One of them could be the natural satellite orbiting the earth: The Moon.
A partnership between Nokia, Vodafone and Audi is looking to implement cellular networks on the moon sometime next year. Even if the proposition sounds crazy, it seems like they have a lot of plans to make this dream a reality.
Vodafone will be designing the lunar network and will make use of equipment designed by Nokia Bell Labs. This connectivity will allow two Audi Lunar Quattro rovers to communicate wirelessly with a base station at the Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module.
Using existing satellites, mission organizer Part Time Scientists will also be able to live stream scientific data and HD video content from the Moon to viewers on Earth. In other words, we will be getting some very detailed views of Earth for public viewing.
The networking equipment will be launched into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. If you think it’s going to be very heavy and sloppy to handle. Nokia’s engineers have worked really hard to make it weigh less than one kilogram.
We’re seeing the vestiges of life in the moon very frequently now. All thanks to the options becoming more and more accessible with the fast advancements in technology. Of course, this rapid growth is far from reaching its peak potential.
Who knows? Maybe we will be able to look at interplanetary travels and living. The sky is the limit when it comes to the amount of creations. Nowadays bizarre ideas like mobile networks in different planets aren’t that far fetched eiher.
It’s going to be an interesting ride, for sure. However, we must be also conscious about the planet we’re currently living in. Even though there are efforts to make this planet greener, there is a lot left to do.
Spacesuit’s “Take Me Home” Button can help Lost Astronauts
Alright, it’s been some time since we’ve talked about developments in Space Technology. This development in particular can actually save the lives of countless astronauts who find themselves in quite nightmarish situations. I mean, being “lost in space” is a very serious issue for a lot of astronauts.
A recent patent made by Kevin Duda, a space systems engineer at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts shows a self-return system that allows safety for spacewalking astronauts. Even in the most threatening scenario of the crewmates not being able to rescue the astray spaceman.
The self-return spacesuit system, Duda explained, had to be capable of determining a precise location in a harsh space environment where GPS is unavailable. This basically makes for a “Return to Home” button that is very tricky to develop.
The system has to compute an optimal return trajectory that accounts for time, oxygen consumption, safety and clearance requirements. Not only that but the system has to be able to guide a disoriented and possibly unconscious astronaut to safety effectively.
Draper Director of Space Systems Séamus Tuohy said the return-home technology is an advance in spacesuits that is long overdue. He mentions how current spacesuits feature no navigation system and could be a very challenging aspect for astronauts in the current age.
The patent also shows how the system works. It monitors the movement, acceleration and position of the crewmember relative to a fixed object nearby. The navigation module can also be configured using GPS, vision-aided navigation or a star-tracker system.
Additionally, to improve the astronaut’s positioning and orientation, Draper has developed software that fuses data from vision-based and inertial navigation systems and that benefits from the advantages of both sensing approaches. The development of this and other kinds of spacesuits will be handled by NASA
Not only that, but this technology can be used to help Earth’s inhabitants as well. Clothing equipped with sensors of this caliber could help First Response members and even firefighters during dire situations. If you want to see the full patent listing, I’d suggest you read it right here.
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