Who wants to go to Mars?

Mission Summary – Crew 174

Mars Desert Research Station End of Mission Summary

Crew 174 – Team PLANETEERS

 

Team PLANETEERS (All Indian Crew):

Commander:  Mamatha Maheshwarappa

Executive Officer/Crew Scientist:  Saroj Kumar

Engineer/Journalist:  Arpan Vasanth

GreenHab Officer:  Sneha Velayudhan

Crew Health & Safety Officer/Geologist:  Sai Arun Dharmik

Success occurs when your dreams get bigger than your excuses

 

The Solar System is a tiny drop in our endless cosmic sea (Universe). Within our solar system, a very few planets host an environment suitable for some life forms to exist. The closest one being Mars after the Earth, following the success of rovers such as Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity and several space probes, the human understanding of the planet has reached new levels. The next important aspect is to find out if there exist any life forms or if the planet had hosted any life in the past. Although the rovers send out a lot of information about the planet, so far humans have not found anything substantial. With advancements in science and technology by organizations such as NASA, ESA, ISRO, CNSA along with private industries such as SpaceX manned mission to Mars seems to be within reach in a few years. To carry out successful missions humans will have to develop key tactics to cope up extreme conditions, confined spaces and limited resources. Team Planeteers (MDRS Crew 174) is the first all Indian crew consisting of five young aspirants from different domain who have come together to embark on a special mission in order to develop such key tactics. The crew was successful in executing the planned experiments. The key for their success is the temperament and dedication shown by each individual and fixing small issues immediately. Since all the members were of same origin, food and cultural aspects was an advantage. Going forward the team is planning out for outreach activities. As a part of QinetiQ Space UK, Mamatha will be involved in outreach, education and media activities (TeenTech & STEMNET). Similarly, Saroj and Sneha will be conducting STEM outreach activities at Unversity of Alabama and Rochester Institute of Technology respectively.

Figure 1 Team Planeteers inside the MDRS Hab

Research conducted at MDRS by Crew 174:

 

  1. Characterizing the transference of Human Commensal Bacteria and Developing Zoning Methodology for Planetary Protection

The first part of this research aims at using metagenomics analysis to assess the degree to which human associated (commensal) bacteria could potentially contaminate Mars during a crewed mission to the surface. This involved collection of environmental soil samples during the first week of the mission from outside the MDRS airlock door, at MDRS airlock door and at increasing distances from the habitat (including a presumably uncontaminated site) in order to characterise transference of human commensal bacteria into the environment and swabbing of interior surfaces carried out towards the end of the mission within the MDRS habitat to characterize the commensal biota likely to be present in a crewed Mars mission. In the interests of astrobiology, however, if microbial life is discovered on the Martian surface during a crewed mission, or at any point after a crewed mission, it will be crucial to be able to reliably distinguish these detected cells from the microbes potentially delivered by the human presence.

The second part of the research aims at testing the hypothesis that human-associated microbial contamination will attenuate with increasing distance from the Hab, thus producing a natural zoning.  The previous studies hypothesize that there may be relatively greater contamination along directions of the prevailing wind because windborne particles or particle aggregates allow attachment of microbes and help to shelter them against various environmental challenges, e.g. desiccation, ultraviolet light, etc. Efforts are afoot to try to develop a concept of zones around a base where the inner, highest contamination zone is surrounded by zones of diminishing levels of contamination occur and in which greater Planetary Protection stringency must be enforced (Criswell et al 2005).  As part of that concept, an understanding of what the natural rate of microbial contamination propagation will be is essential.

a. Sample collection process:

Two sets of samples were collected as the analysis will be carried out at two different stages.

i. Samples of the soil outside the MDRS were collected aseptically into sterile Falcon tubes. Sampling sites included immediately outside the habitat air lock (with presumably the highest level of human-associated bacteria from the crew quarters), at increasing distances from the airlock along a common EVA route (to track decrease in transference with distance), and at a more remote site that ideally has not previously been visited by an EVA (to provide the negative control of background microbiota in the environment).

Figure 2 Soil Samples collected at increasing distances from the Airlock

 

ii. Various surfaces within the crew quarters were swabbed using a standard sterile swab kit to collect microbes present from the course of normal human habitation. These included door handles, walls, table surface, airlock handles, staircase, working table, computer. This did not expose the science team to additional infection risks (such as not swabbing toilets).

Figure 3 (a) Sterile Swab Kit (b) Internal swab collection (working table)

Sampling locations within the habitat and soil sampling sites during EVA were recorded by photographs and written notes. After collection, the samples were refrigerated at the MDRS Science lab, and then returned with the crew to London for storage and analysis. This is analogous to medical samples being collected from ISS astronauts and returned to Earth for lab analysis. The molecular biology sample analysis and data interpretation, including all the metagenomic analyses to identify bacterial strains present, will be conducted by Lewis Dartnell in collaboration with John Ward. The collaboration agreement is already in place and lab space and resources confirmed. The analysis is carried out in two different stages:

 

a. Stage 1 Analysis:

The first set of samples will be tested using off-the-shelf simple tests for the presence or absence of human associated microbes, namely coliforms.  These are simple to use and give a yes/no answer, so plots will be made of yes/no results with distance from the hab in different directions.  This could be correlated with prevailing wind directions and/or to show common human pathways from the hab versus directions in which people typically don’t go.

b. Stage 2 Analysis:

The second set of samples (internal swabs) will not be cultured or otherwise processed back on Earth (as culturing of human commensurate and environmental microorganisms could present a biological hazard to the MDRS astronauts). All sampling materials and storage containers were provided by the study, and thus will require no consumables or other resources from the MDRS. All sample collection pots and sampling materials will be removed by the study scientists, and the sampling process itself (small soil samples and surface swabs) will not impact the MDRS habitat or its natural environment.

 

  1. Zoning and sample collection Protocols for Planetary Protection

 

Planetary protection is one of the major subjects that require immediate attention before humans travel to Mars and beyond. MDRS being one of the closest analogues on Earth with respect to dry environment on Mars was the best site to perform and simulate issues related to planetary protection. Our work on planetary protection was to simulate zoning protocol to be used to manage relative degrees of acceptable contamination surrounding MDRS and implementation of sample protocols while at EVA’s for soil sample collection, geological study and during hab support activities etc.

 

a. Zoning protocols for crew exploration around MDRS

During the mission, we extensively studied the zoning protocol in and around the hab and how contamination issues on Mars can be restricted.  On the first day on ‘Mars’ we used the geographical map of MDRS exploration area to formulate and characterize zones around the hab and the strategy for sample collection.

i. Zone: 1 (Area within Hab) – This area is believed to be the most contaminated with the human microbes.

ii. Zone 2 (About 20 meters from the hab) – This is the area where most of the hab support systems and rovers are parked. This zone is supposed to have less microbial contamination than hab but higher than Zone 3 and 4.

iii. Zone 3 (Beyond 20 meters but within 300 meters around the hab) – This area is considered to have regular human presence during an EVA. Soil samples of Zone 2a and 2b were collected for future analysis in lab to study human microbial contamination.

iv. Zone 4 (Special Region) – This area was considered to have insufficient remote sensing data to determine the level of biological potential. This area was marked as no EVA zone and can only be studied in detail by remote sensing data using satellites or drones.

 

b. Sample collection protocols

The crew studied the sample collection protocol requirements for all the activities such as soil sample collection, geological study and during the operations of hab support systems etc., this was to avoid forward and back contamination.  The protocols were planned to be initiated from the time a crew member leaves the airlock for EVA and until he/she returns from the EVA to Hab. During the EVA, the crew noted every experiment procedure and made sure there was no breach in spacesuits and no human microbial contamination during soil collection. The tools used for the soil collection were required to be completely cleaned and sterilized. The study of rocks on site during an EVA was one of the major challenges where it was realized that special tools were required to pick the rock samples without getting them exposed to spacesuit gloves. Using only gloves to pick rock samples could also rupture the spacesuits and thus there could be a decompression issue. Even with a detailed geological exploration map of MDRS and high resolution satellite imagery, it was noted that the use of drones can drastically reduce the human EVAs and lots of geological and terrain information can be obtained in a shot span of time. This step would heavily reduce the human EVA and thereby contamination issues to special regions where there could be a possibility of having a biological activity. Water, a major carrier of human microbes is proposed to be within the structures of hab. During the simulation, the crew made sure that there was no water spillage outside the hab.

 

  1. Development of New Techniques to Enhance Plant Growth in a Controlled Environment

A crewed mission to the Mars demands sufficient food supplies during the mission. Thus cultivation of plants and crops play an important role to create a habitat on Mars. There are some factors to be considered before cultivating crops on the Martian surface. First, the planet’s position in the solar system, Mars receives about 2/3rd of sunlight as compared to the Earth that plays a vital role in crop cultivation. Second, the type of soil used for crop cultivation should to be rich in various nutrients. Since the MDRS site is considered as one of the best analogue sites on Earth to simulate Mars environment, the experimental results of plant growth at MDRS was considered for this research. This research aims at growing fenugreek (crop that is rich in nutrients and grows within the mission time) to determine the effect of Vitamin D on the growth.

At MDRS, the fenugreek seeds were allowed to germinate for 2 days. In the mean-time, an EVA was carried out to collect soil from different parts on ‘Mars’. The soil was collected based on the colour and texture. Five types of soil, white (01), red (02), clay (03) coloured soil, course grey soil (04) and sand from river bed (05) were collected. Two set of experiment pots were made as shown in the Figure 4. Each had 15 pots, 10 pots with Earth soil (ES) labelled with different levels of Vitamin D (0- 0.9) and 5 pots of Mars soil (MS) labelled according to the area of the soil collected (0-5). One set of 15 pots was placed in the Green hab and the other in the controlled environment (under the Misian Mars lamp) after planting the well germinated seeds. The plants were watered twice a day in order to maintain the moisture in the soil.

Figure 4 Experimental Setup with Earth and ‘Mars’ Soil

The temperature and humidity levels were monitored twice a day throughout the mission both in the green hab and the controlled environment (Misian Mars Lamp). It was noted that there was a steep increase in the temperature in the green hab as the outside temperature was high that inturn decreased the humidity in the green hab drastically. The situation was managed by switching on the cooler and then by monitoring the heater thermostat. The plants were watered with specific measurement of Vitamin D every day. The experiment was successfully completed by monitoring the growth regularly, it is evident that humidity and temperature impacts the growth of plants. The plants in the green hab showed more growth of primary root than the secondary, the leaves were normal in colour and growth. In the controlled environment, the root growth was fast, the plants developed many secondary roots in few days. The plants looked healthy, the leaves were dark green and bigger than the ones in the green hab as seen in Figure 5.

Figure 5 Plant growth in (a) Misian Mars Lamp (b) GreenHab

In conclusion, the graphs were plotted for the root growth for the Earth Soil with Vitamin D in the green hab and the controlled environment from Sol 08 to Sol 13. The graphs indicated that the low level of Vitamin D (0.1) enhances root growth in the green hab. Under misian Mars lamp, the growth rate is high for ES 0 (without Vitamin D).   Readings tabulated for the Mars soil was plotted on daily basis but, after few days it was noted that there was neglibile growth in the Mars soil. The graphs plotted for few days are as shown in the Figure 6.

Figure 6 Root growth of seedlings (a) Misian Mars Lamp (b) GreenHab

 

  1. Study of magnetic susceptibility of the rocks and their comparison

 

The primary objective was to study the magnetic susceptibility and magnetic minerals of the rock samples collected and compare them with multi-spectral remote sensing data back in the lab. MDRS contains a range of Mars analogue features relevant for geological studies. It contains a series of sediments derived from weathering and erosion from marine to fluvial and lacustrine deposits containing also volcanic ashes (Foing et al. 2011). With the preliminary understanding of the MDRS geographical exploration area and identification of potential targets, the lithology can help us decipher the structural history of the region, with understanding of genesis of such rock types and aid exploration efforts. The previous studies done at MDRS reveals that the magnetic susceptibility did not vary significantly near the Hab. Hence, the locations of various geological formations far away from the hab were selected to study the distribution of magnetic minerals. The selected locations for the same were sedimentary outcrops, cattle grid, burpee dinosaur quarry, widow’s peak and near the Motherload of concretions.

We found layers of horizontally bedded sandstone and conglomerates, sandstones and siltstones. Some of them seem to have inverse grading which could have been created by the debris flow. Gypsum and lichens were spotted around the area of sedimentary crops. In the next visit to Motherload of concretions, we have seen a variety of lichens: yellow, black, orange and grey. And in the Cattle grid region, colors of mudstone and conglomerates bands of rich cream, brown, yellow and red were found. The basalt samples were collected from the gravel in the cattle grid region and from the URC north site (porphyr) to be studied in the lab. Near the widow’s peak, shales were found along with gypsum shining bright, distributed around that area. Most of the region was covered mostly with loose soil. The locations of all the samples collected from different regions were marked with the help of GPS. The magnetic susceptibility of rock samples were measured and documented them using the magnetometer in the science lab. Inspection of samples was possible with the microscope at the science dome, with 10X zoom as seen in Figure 4. They need to be studied in thin sections for better understanding and will be done on Earth under the guidance of specialists.

Figure 7 (a) Porphyr under microscope (b) Siltstone under the microscope

 

  1. Drone Experiment

‘Mars’ has a harsh environment that risks Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA). The main objectives of the drone experiment were:

a. To ease EVAs by understanding the scenario of a region that is hard to access by rover/ATV.

b. To simulate the application of drone in search of a crew member during an emergency situation and during loss of communication.

c. Video making and photography for outreach activities.

The first objective to make use of drone in isolated regions was successfully executed on Sol 07. Since it was the first trial, the drone was operated in beginner’s mode restricting the field of operation to 30m range. The crew was looking out for soil samples, when confronted by a medium size hill the drone was sent out to check for soil sample availability on the other side. The region looked to be same and it was easier for the crew to take a decision to abort the mission and move to a different location.

Execution date:                Sol 07 (Earth date: 02/05/2017)

GPS Satellites:   13

Flight mode:                     Beginner’s mode of max 62 FT altitude and within 30m range.

 

The second objective was to simulate an emergency situation when one of the crew lost communication with other member during EVAs. The beginner mode range was too less and hence the drone was operated in advanced mode to search the missing crew member. The mission was successful in identifying the crew member.

Execution:         Sol 11 (Earth date: 02/09/2017)

GPS Satellites:   14

Flight mode:                     Advanced mode with 121 FT altitude and 500m range.

 

Figure 8 Drone Searching a Crew Member

 

Several photographs/videos were captured as per the planned outreach activity.

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What can we share with Africa?

Dr. Jose Barbosa, loading up produce.

This year, students in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) have been able to get their hands dirty while putting down roots in the community – literally!

The UTC Teaching & Learning Garden began this past spring, taking students out to learn about raising food in an urban environment. In total this year, the Garden was able to raise 2100 pounds of produce that was donated to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen.

“And that’s pesticide free during an extremely difficult summer without rain. The students are learning more than they could have imagined. More than any of us could’ve imagined,” said Dr. Joe Wilferth, UC Foundation Professor and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The last harvest of the year, approximately 400 pounds of produce, was delivered to the Community Kitchen in time for Thanksgiving.

“They had quite a Thanksgiving feast!” Wilferth said.

UTC student Chloe Dente

The Teaching & Learning Garden is more than just a community garden, however. The Garden is a hands on learning space that addresses topics that UTC students care about, like sustainability, gardening, local food economies, health and food production

Dr. Jose Barbosa, Associate Professor of Biology, Geology, and Environmental Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, is the primary faculty sponsor for the project, providing oversight and planning of the space. Most of the students who worked in the garden were earning class credit in Barbosa’s Urban Gardening classes. However, students not in Barbosa’s class also volunteered.

“The garden is open for academic use to faculty and students all across CAS. In the future, faculty are invited to approach Dr. Barbosa or me if they wish to integrate the garden into their coursework,” said Wilferth.

Wilferth looks forward to the opportunities for interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work both within CAS and across the campus that the Teaching & Learning Garden provides. Approximately 125 students in Art, Biology, English, Environmental Science, Political Science, and Sociology all participated in the project since spring.

“The garden may be used by specific courses across the CAS as it exemplifies experiential and hands-on learning. It could be expanded in the future to include courses and experiential learning opportunities in other colleges on our campus—e.g., courses in other colleges that focus on food production, nutrition, health and wellness, environmental literature, as well as the sociopolitical and socioeconomic factors involved in food production and food quality,” Wilferth said.

A bountiful harvest of radishes.

The Garden is located behind the outfield wall of Engel Stadium, just around the corner from the Value Lot. This past March, the folks in Facilities donated their time and resources to clearing the land, which wasn’t previously in use, for the Garden.

“This is an ideal space because of its proximity to campus. The shuttle service can take students to and from the garden. Class meetings wherein students visit/work in the garden will not require additional time, nor will the students’ academic schedules be interrupted,” Wilferth said.

This year, all of the produce to come out of the Garden went to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, but in future years some of the food may also end up in students’ stomachs.

“In the future, we are considering ways to have something like a farmers market on campus where the proceeds might go to support student travel and undergraduate and graduate student research,” explained Wilferth.

The Chattanooga Community Kitchen would still receive at least a third of the harvest.

The Environmental Task Force, which oversees the “Green Fee” funds, supported half of the garden’s costs this year.

“This first year, of course, was the most expensive year simply because we had to get the garden going. We had to purchase tools, a storage facility, and more,” said Wilferth. “Other offices around campuses committed funds, too. Significant support came from both the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity and from the Vice Chancellor for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. In the end, this is a relatively cheap project that has potential for a big impact. We’re doing something exciting here. We’re literally growing!”

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Farewell to NASA’s General Bolden

 Farewell to NASA’s General Bolden:   Kids Talk Radio Space Science News

Ivor & General.jpg

In 1964, a high school junior dreams of attending the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland but he faces some major obstacles.   He is African American in ‘Jim Crow’ South Carolina and he has no political sponsors. Undaunted, he writes to President Johnson asking for his help and, as it would happen, LBJ has just launched a program to recruit minorities for the military academies. The president dispatches a recruiter to South Carolina.

Charles Bolden goes on to become a Naval Academy graduate, a Marine jet pilot, a major general, a four time space shuttle astronaut and NASA’s Administrator from July 2009 until January  2017.

Because of my association with Nichelle Nichols I was fortunate to have several wonderful encounters with “General Bolden” like the one captured by photographers at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC.  One of our last conversations was about Nichelle and I flying to the “edge of space” aboard the 747 Jumbo Jet carrying SOFIA, NASA’s airborne telescope. I wanted to leverage the notoriety of the flight as a way of inspiring young people to star gaze; Bolden responded by asking NASA’s entire education department to assist me in my endeavor. I never saw so many names cc’d on an email chain. I was truly overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed can be used to describe NASA when Nichelle Nichols recruited the first African American and female astronauts in 1978—and that Bolden was among those who she pursued! Ultimately, he decided to take her advice and applies for astronaut training two years later and the rest is history.

Because Bolden considered Nichelle a friend and mentor, NASA wanted her to be a part of their official farewell video to their boss. I was honored to be present when Nichelle recorded her funny and heartfelt farewell.

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NASA is losing a friend and mentor –and also a mensch.  Thank you for your service, general sir!

Ivor

Bolden and Deputy Director, Lori Garver in video salute to Nichelle Nichols in 2010

The man in the black suit is Ivor Dawson.  He is the owner of the Traveling Space Museum in Los Angeles California.  From time to time he collaborates with Bob Barboza producing school workshops in STEM and Star Parties where the community can come together to learn more about space science.   Ivor is a fantastic presenter and he is loved by his audiences.   For more information about STEM and STEAM++ projects visit http://www.KidsTalkRadioLA.com.

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President Obama Talks About Going to Mars

Mars 2030 what’s good?
Who wants to go to Mars?   The students at the Barboza Space Center were thrilled to hear the news coming from President Obama this week.  “We are all training to be junior astronauts, engineers and scientists and President Obama was saying just what we wanted to hear.”   We invite you to read  what we found in the international news.
Kids Talk Radio Science
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President Obama is on his way out, but he has one final request: he wants to send Americans to Mars by 2030. In a new op-ed, Obama penned for CNN the President outlined his plan to make that request a reality. In the piece, President Obama detailed his efforts to partner with private companies to send citizens to outer space.

“The space race we won not only contributed immeasurably important technological and medical advances, but it also inspired a new generation of scientists and engineers with the right stuff to keep America on the cutting edge,” Obama wrote about the importance of space exploration, before outlining the next steps. “We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time,” he added.

But to accomplish this ambitious goal of his, he says it will “require continued cooperation between government and private innovators.” And while that may be just a dream, he has hopes that it will happen. “Someday, I hope to hoist my own grandchildren onto my shoulders. We’ll still look to the stars in wonder, as humans have since the beginning of time,” he wrote. “But instead of eagerly awaiting the return of our intrepid explorers, we’ll know that because of the choices we make now, they’ve gone to space not just to visit, but to stay — and in doing so, to make our lives better here on Earth.”

Obama isn’t the only one working on a master plan though. In September 2016, a billionaire businessman by the name of Elon Musk, announced that he too had plans to send people to Mars, using a rocket developed by his SpaceX company, according to The New York Times.

In 2001, space shuttles discovered water and evidence of rocks and minerals on the planet. We’ve got some more time left on the clock, but get your space gear ready to be walking (or floating) on Mars in 2030.

Read Obama’s full op-ed here.

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Will people from Africa go to Mars?

NASA is now hiring astronauts for trips to space and Mars that would blast them with radiation, but Crave’s Eric Mack learns that some corners of the world already get a similar treatment.

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    Why the best Mars colonists could come from places like Iran and Brazil

by Eric Mack

@ericcmack

Mars colonists will need to stand up to heavy doses of radiation.

NASA

On Monday, NASA officially opened an application window for the next generation of American astronauts it hopes to send to the International Space Station, lunar orbit and eventually to Mars. But to find the best candidates for dealing with the harsh levels of radiation in space and on the Red Planet, the agency may want to consider looking beyond the borders of the United States for applicants.

One of the biggest challenges in sending astronauts into deep space or setting up a base on Mars is dealing with the radiation from the cosmic rays that our sun and other stars send flying around the universe. Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field deflect the worst of this radiation, but Mars has no substantial magnetic field, which has in turn allowed much of its atmosphere to be lost to space over the millennia.

Spacecraft can be equipped with radioactive shielding to some extent, and a base on Mars could also be constructed essentially underground, using several meters of Martian soil to provide radiation protection on par with Earth’s atmosphere (this is what Mars One hopes to do). But when it comes to roaming around the surface of Mars in a spacesuit or in a rover, there’s no real practical way for those astronauts to avoid some big doses of radiation in the process.

When I attended the New Worlds conference earlier in 2015, there was a discussion of the challenge that cosmic radiation presents for space exploration, and there were some pretty far-fetched possible solutions, like genetically engineering astronauts in the future to handle more radiation.

But I was more intrigued by one partial solution that was mentioned in passing and only half-seriously — to consider astronaut candidates who are already used to dealing with more exposure to radiation than most of the rest of us.

For years now, scientists have been studying residents of Ramsar, a town in northern Iran that is believed to have the highest levels of naturally occurring background radiation for an inhabited area. Levels up to 80 times the world average (PDF) have been measured in town, yet studies of the few thousand people living in the area show rates of lung cancer are actually below average. In fact, research shows that a gene responsible for the production of white blood cells and so-called “natural killer cells” that attack tumors was more strongly expressed among the population.

10 spots in our solar system worth visiting…

In other words, there may be no need to engage in controversial “editing” of human genetics to create radiation-resistant astronauts because there might already be good prospects in a few corners of the world.

Besides Ramsar, the beaches near Guarapari, Brazil, also exhibit very high levels of natural radiation. People in Yangjiang, China, live with radiation levels three times the world average but have below-average cancer levels, and the story is the same in Karunagappally, India.

Unfortunately, none of the people from these areas would be eligible for the program NASA is now hiring for — the agency is only looking for American applicants. So who in the United States might be best suited for withstanding the most cosmic radiation?

Related stories

NASA puts out open call for new astronauts to pave way to Mars

NASA’s 20-year road map for getting us to Mars

Red Planet red flags? NASA council has doubts about Mars mission

Las Vegas odds on who will set foot on Mars first are totally nuts

As it turns out, I think it might be me. According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the National Radiation Map, Colorado — where my family has hailed from for generations — has some of the highest levels of background radiation in the country thanks to the high altitude and naturally occurring radioactive elements working their way up from the Earth.

Today, I’m actually about 50 miles south of the Colorado border, but I’m living at a higher elevation than Denver, and previous reporting has taught me that radon levels are actually quite high in the neighborhood as well.

Unfortunately, I am quite content just writing about space exploration and have no interest in ever leaving this planet myself. (As witness our CraveCast episode, Who wants to die on Mars?) Besides, some of my neighbors — who have lived with this region’s natural radiation for many more generations than my family has — would probably make better candidates.

So if NASA is unwilling to change its eligibility requirements to consider candidates from northern Iran, perhaps the organization ought to consider sending a recruiter to Taos Pueblo in northern New Mexico instead.

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Why is Ed Dwight Important to All of Africa?

A man whose resume reads: former Air Force Test Pilot, America’s First African American Astronaut Candidate, IBM Computer Systems Engineer, Aviation Consultant, Restauranteur, Real Estate Developer and Construction Entrepreneur can best be described as a true renaissance man. Ed Dwight has succeeded in all these varied careers. However, for the last 30+ years, Ed has focused his direction on fine art sculptures, large-scale memorials and public art projects. Since his art career began in 1978, after attaining his MFA in Sculpture from the University of Denver, Dwight has become one of the most prolific and insightful sculptors in America.

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Air Force Pilot and America’s First Black Astronaut Cadidate

Born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, Ed left his hometown in 1953 to join the U.S. Air Force. After completing pilot training, he served as a military fighter pilot and obtained a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Arizona State University. In 1961 Dwight was chosen by President John F. Kennedy to enter training as an Experimental Test Pilot in preparation to become the first African American Astronaut candidate.  Ed completed the Experimental Test Pilot course and entered Aerospace Research Pilot training. He successfully completed the course and continued on to perform duties as a fully qualified Aerospace Research Pilot. Three years after the death of President Kennedy, Ed left the military and entered private life.

A New Beginning

After leaving the military in 1966, Ed took a position with the IBM Corporation as a Marketing Representative & Systems Engineer. After leaving IBM, Ed became an Aviation Consultant for a Dallas firm and performed pilot duties with Executive Aviation, an executive air charter service. This was followed by the development of a restaurant chain. In 1970, Ed founded Dwight Development Associates, Inc., a real estate land development and construction company, making him one of the larger real estate development entrepreneurs in Denver.

Black Frontier Spirit in the American West

Ed’s childhood dream was to become an artist, but was encouraged by his father to become an engineer. He received a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Arizona State University in 1957. With little formal art training, his first serious artistic endeavor began with a commission to create a sculpture of Colorado’s first Black Lt. Governor, George Brown in 1974. From this first artistic endeavor, he was commissioned by the Colorado Centennial Commission to create a series of bronzes entitled “Black Frontier in the American West.” The series depicted the contribution of African Americans to the opening of the West. Few facts were known about Black pioneers, explorers, trappers, farmers and soldiers. Through using his newly developed and unique artistic style, Ed opened the minds of viewers to this unknown history of the American West. The Series of 50 bronzes was on exhibit for several years throughout the U.S., gaining widespread acceptance and critical acclaim.

Jazz: An American Art Form      

After the success of his “Black Frontier Spirit Series” exhibit, at the behest of the National Park Service, at the St. Louis Arch Museum, Ed began to explore the most significant Black contribution to the culture of America: the history of Jazz in a sculptural form. He studied the African culture and the improvisational role the Africans contributed to the art form. This led to Ed’s study of his next major series of bronzes, “Jazz: An American Art Form”. This series depicts the evolution of jazz music from its roots in Africa to the contemporary superstars of the jazz era, and focuses on this style as a pure American musical idiom. Elements of the Jazz series are on display at major galleries and museums throughout the U.S. and Europe, and have received critical acceptance internationally. This series of over 70 bronzes features many works focusing on the African tribal contributions, then presents such great jazz performers as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman.

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Recognize 1st African American Astronaut Candidate Ed Dwight as an “HONORARY ASTRONAUT.”

Will you add your name to ours?
SHADES OF BLUE  wanted to let you know about a We the People petition and ask for your support. If this petition gets 100,000 signatures within 30 days of its creation, the White House will review it and respond!
Thanks for raising your voice!
On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States was assassinated. Ranked as a favorite President among American citizens, he had been in office a brief 1,000 days; his death changed the futures of many. Specifically, that of former test pilot and the 1st African American astronaut candidate appointed by the Kennedy administration, Captain (USAF Ret.) Ed Dwight, Jr.
The death of President Kennedy and discrimination during the civil rights era dictated that he would never realize his dream of becoming an astronaut and experiencing first hand the – big blue marble – from space.
We of the aeronautical and aviation industry ask the Federal Government to recognize 1st African American Astronaut Candidate Ed Dwight as an  “HONORARY ASTRONAUT.”
Please sign our petition: https://wh.gov/iLMWi
More about Captain (USAF Ret.) Ed Dwight, Jr.  http://www.eddwight.com/about/behind-scenes
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Wanted Raspberry Pi Projects for K-12 Education Worldwide

The Barboza Space Center: http://www.BarbozaSpaceCenter.com  is collecting Raspberry Pi projects to share with the Open Source Community.   Send us what you are working on an we will share the resources that we are working on.   If you need more information you can contact us at Suprschool@aol.com.

450px-Raspberry_Pi_3_Model_B.pngThe Raspberry Pi is a series of credit card-sized single-board computers developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and developing countries.[3][4][5] The original Raspberry Pi and Raspberry Pi 2 are manufactured in several board configurations through licensed manufacturing agreements with Newark element14 (Premier Farnell), RS Components and Egoman.[6] The hardware is the same across all manufacturers. The firmware is closed-source.[7]

Several generations of Raspberry Pis have been released. The first generation (Pi 1) was released in February 2012 in basic model A and a higher specification model B. A+ and B+ models were released a year later. Raspberry Pi 2 model B was released in February 2015 and Raspberry Pi 3 model B in February 2016. These boards are priced between US$20 and 35. A cut down “compute” model was released in April 2014, and a Pi Zero with smaller size and limited input/output (I/O), general-purpose input/output (GPIO), abilities released in November 2015 for US$5.

All models feature a Broadcom system on a chip (SoC), which includes an ARM compatible central processing unit (CPU) and an on chip graphics processing unit (GPU, a VideoCore IV). CPU speed ranges from 700 MHz to 1.2 GHz for the Pi 3 and on board memory range from 256 MB to 1 GB RAM. Secure Digital SD cards are used to store the operating system and program memory in either the SDHC or MicroSDHC sizes. Most boards have between one and four USB slots, HDMI and composite video output, and a 3.5 mm phone jack for audio. Lower level output is provided by a number of GPIO pins which support common protocols like I²C. The B-models have an 8P8C Ethernet port and the Pi 3 has on board Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth.

The Foundation provides Raspbian, a Debian-based linux distribution for download, as well as third party Ubuntu, Windows 10 IOT Core, RISC OS, and specialised media center distributions.[8] It promotes Python and Scratch as the main programming language, with support for many other languages.[9]

In February 2016, the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced that they had sold eight million devices, making it the best-selling UK personal computer, ahead of the Amstrad PCW.[10][11] Sales reached ten million in September 2016.[12]

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USA Students are Interns at Space X

At Hawthorne-based SpaceX, high school students learn to reach for the stars

Hundreds of standout college engineering students launch their careers each year as SpaceX interns, working long hours beside some of the country’s best rocket engineers at the trailblazing Hawthorne commercial spaceflight company.

But only a few high school students get the same opportunity.

A handful of teens are chosen annually from Hawthorne’s three high schools to walk through the glass doors at 1 Rocket Road and join the visionary team at Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s headquarters.

They aren’t tasked with building rockets, of course. But they are assigned work that’s crucial to keeping the round-the-clock company running smoothly. They’re stationed in the heart of the operation, in the information-technology lab, where they troubleshoot computer problems and maintain employee work stations.

“We try to have close partnerships with Hawthorne high schools,” said community outreach manager Lilian Haney. “We treat it like our regular college intern program. The students have to submit resumes and cover letters.”

Teachers recommend their best science and engineering students from Da Vinci science, design and communications charter schools, Hawthorne Math & Science Academy and Hawthorne High School. SpaceX then chooses a few of those hopefuls each year.

Inside the giant gleaming white rocket-building warehouse, students learn about the real world from the perspective of a company focused on expanding human access to Mars and beyond.

“I find it amazing that humans can send stuff to space and how far we’ve come,” said Vincent Ornelas, a new graduate of Da Vinci Schools in Hawthorne who snagged one of the coveted spots this summer. The 19-year-old is about to start college classes at Loyola Marymount University studying mechanical engineering.

When he began his SpaceX internship, Ornelas said he’d built robots at school but they were just toys. Working among top-notch engineers taught him that, above all, success takes a lot of work.

“I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew they wanted to go to Mars but I learned there’s a lot to that. It’s a real situation here. It’s important.

“On the robotics team at school, we went from designing a robot to making a finished product in six weeks. I have a couple mentors who work here. There’s a lot of structure behind what’s done.”

There are three Da Vinci Schools students, including Ornelas, working as interns there now. Natasha Morse, the school’s director of real-world learning, said students covet the spots.

…………………………..

“Students are just always so excited to be in the environment of SpaceX,” Morse said. “They feel like an adult employee. It really motivates them for college.”

Rachael Tucker, manager of the company’s high school interns, said she looks for candidates who are great students and eager to learn.

“Most of them are in awe of the sheer volume of work. It can be a little overwhelming,” Tucker said. “But most are eager to go out and explore and learn what they can. This job really gets them out of their shells. You can’t be shy here.”

Interns participate in weekly classes about the company’s specialties — complex electrical hardware and software built from the ground up, computer science, mathematical modeling, rocket manufacturing, structural engineering and launch pad infrastructure.

The challenges are constant. Since the inaugural launch of the Falcon 9 in 2010, SpaceX has suffered crashes, an explosion, and aborted and delayed launches. But there were more successes than failures and, last year, the company became the first to bring a rocket back to Earth from orbit intact.

SpaceX continues to grow rapidly and is increasing the number of launches as it works toward creating a near-perfect reusable rocket. Reusability, company founder Elon Musk believes, is the key to expanding access to space.

Musk, who also founded Tesla Motors — which has a design studio next door to SpaceX in Hawthorne — and now owns SolarCity, among other ventures, regularly works at the SpaceX office’s open-air cubicles and engineering and testing labs.

Molly Mettler, 19, has been interning at SpaceX for two years, and hasn’t had a full conversation with the famous inventor-engineer-entrepreneur, but has heard him speak at lectures.

“He’s really smart,” she said, adding that Musk is one of the topics her friends usually ask about, along with what the rockets and work environment are like.

Mettler recently started college at UC Davis, where she hopes to mesh her love of engineering with animal science. Veterinary medicine often lags behind modern advances, she said, and there is room for engineering innovations in fields like prosthetics.

She started her internship after her sophomore year but has continued to return because she enjoys the work. The experience she got fixing computers also landed her a part-time job at college.

“It’s a very fast-paced company that’s always constantly moving forward and changing,” Mettler said. “In a sense, your work is never finished and the time pressure makes problems more difficult.”

Day to day, she gets to watch the rockets and Dragon capsules being built, piece by piece. And she can hobnob with the engineers to learn more about their cutting-edge creations. New spacecraft can be seen at all stages of development on the work floor, attended by teams of workers. A cafeteria that looks over the operations provides low-cost, healthy meals.

In the midst of work stations, launch operations and feeds from the International Space Station are constantly monitored on giant screens in a glassed-in command center.

“I was definitely more to myself when I started,” she said. “As a high-schooler working at SpaceX, you want to live up to and exceed expectations.”

Students at the Barboza Space Center are looking to collaborate with other high school students that are working in related space intern  programs.  We are using distance learning and hands on programs at the Columbia Memorial Space Center.   We will come your letters of intent and student resumes.

http://www.BarbozaSpaceCenter.com

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Farming in Africa and on Mars

What can we learn from Africa?  We won’t to grow food on Mars.  Microsoft has a few ideas that we all should take a look at.

Bob Barboza, The Occupy Mars Learning Adventures

Dear Bob,

A revolution is coming, one that will overcome challenges we can only imagine, powered by technology we won’t even see.

The next generation of life-changing technologies goes far beyond keyboards, screens, smart phones, cameras, watches, and hard drives. Join Microsoft’s Emerging Tech Virtual Summit: How IoT and Artificial Intelligence Can Transform the World and Your Organization to learn about the next wave of technology innovation.

Join us live online to hear from leading researchers and tech leaders as they explore what’s possible.

Check out the full agenda  ›
Summit Highlights
Farm Beats: Data Driven Farming
By 2050, the world will need to feed 9.7 billion people. Join Ranveer Chandra, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, as he explains how low-cost technology can make small-scale farming more productive to help meet the challenge of feeding a growing world.
Project Natick: Microsoft’s Underwater Datacenter
Fifty percent of us live near the coast. So why doesn’t our data? Hear Ben Cutler, Project Manager, Microsoft Research, discuss the development of undersea datacenters that offer rapid provisioning, lower costs, high responsiveness, and sustainability.
Emerging Tech in the Startup World
Whether it’s IoT, artificial intelligence, or any other innovative solution, many startups are looking to the technology horizon to solve tomorrow’s challenges. Tereza Nemessanyi, Microsoft Entrepreneur-in-Residence, will explore the exciting things startups and entrepreneurs are doing with emerging technology.
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