Weed Grows in Lunar Soil (with some help) #NASA #botany #space

Fifty years ago, astronauts brought lunar regolith back to Earth. Now, University of Florida scientists have grown plants in tiny samples.

Arabidopsis thaliana, the species used for the study – though those were ground up for analysis before flowering like this one pictured. Generally considered a weed (it is found along the shoulders of roads and in disturbed land) it is often used in studies.

It was clear that the plants were not as robust as the control group plants growing in volcanic ash, and the plants were growing differently depending on which type of sample they were in. The plants grew more slowly and had stunted roots; additionally, some had stunted leaves and sported reddish pigmentation… the plants were indeed under stress and had reacted the way researchers have seen Arabidopsis respond to growth in other harsh environments, such as when soil has too much salt or heavy metals.  NASA

Plants will grow in various sterile materials, or with no solid substrate at all, given proper nutrients and light, so my first thought was… now we see that lunar regolith is not poisonous. Good to know. But it wasn’t totally inert, either.

Will astronauts, or maybe colonists, grow food hydroponically? Aeroponically? Will the pumps, pipes, and valves needed for such systems be too much to transport and maintain compared to beds of local regolith? Even after whatever treatments may be needed to prepare the alien soil? Will bioreactors brewing microbes make more sense? I suspect all these possibilities will be tried at some point, but I can’t predict what method will win. Maybe bulk calories will come from those bioreactors, with herbs and flowers that brighten a hard life in space sitting on every table. What plants would you want in your colony?

I started my Martian farmers with treated regolith, spiked by composting and recycling everything organic they could get their hands on, but I have an advantage over NASA. I create science fiction. Join my colony on Mars – what do you think?

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  • Glory on Mars – Roboticist Emma Winter must discover the truth before the Red Planet kills the first settlers.
  • Born on Mars – Jake didn’t ask to be born into a failing habitat on Mars. When new colonists land half a world away, can he save his friends and family?
  • Hermit on Mars – Sig will save ungrateful Martian miners if it kills him.
  • Water on Mars – Scoundrels on Mars and Earth drag Bliss into their deadly schemes.
  • Storm on Mars – Zeker must find a way back into the colony, but can a psychopath save humanity’s foothold on Mars?

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Solar Eclipse as Seen from Mars #Perseverance #NASA #Mars

I’ve viewed solar eclipses here on Earth, and they send chills through me. So does this one, viewed from Mars.

It’s a partial eclipse, of course, because Mars’ moons are much too small to cover the Sun’s face.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its Mastcam-Z camera system to shoot video of Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons, eclipsing the Sun [on April 2, the 397th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.] It’s the most zoomed-in, highest frame-rate observation of a Phobos solar eclipse ever taken from the Martian surface. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Some sort of solar filter must have been used, because the glare would otherwise overload the camera. That yielded a view of some significant sunspots too.

BTW, you see warning to avoid looking into the Sun during eclipses because… when else would you try? But you should never look directly at the Sun without protection (like filters or a totally eclipsing Moon) – you could damage your eyes permanently. That would apply on Earth and Mars.

NASA’s Next Big Space Telescope to Launch in December :) #astronomy #NASA #JamesWebb

Webb will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System… extending the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity. NASA

Innovative and international, the James Webb folds up like origami inside its payload for its rocket-ride into space, then deploys gold-coated beryllium mirrors. It will orbit the Sun, not the Earth! Farther away than our own Moon (which does, of course, orbit the Earth,) Webb will occupy a Lagrange Point.

The L2 is one of several points in space where the gravitational interplay of the Sun and Earth precisely equal the centrifugal force of a much smaller third body, such as the Webb telescope. It’s a delicate balance, and the telescope won’t sit exactly at the L2 point, but orbit around it as that point orbits the Sun. Kinda wild looking orbit, but a great place for a telescope looking outward to the stars.

You can have your own Webb telescope! At least, you can craft your own paper model. From NASA and telescope enthusiasts from 4th Graders up, download the PDF files, print on heavy or standard paper as described, and assemble.

Click here for the PDF files – free from NASA – and view models created and modified by other astronomy enthusiasts.

Have fun as you wait for the James Webb launch. 🙂

7 More Minutes of Terror! Mars Perseverance Rover to Land – Be Ready #Mars2020 #Mars

Only one week to go! On Feb. 18, 2021, NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover (aka Percy) makes its final descent to the Red Planet, landing via a sky crane. Mars is too far away for mission controllers to help; the car-sized craft’s programming is all it has to rely on. The maneuver’s been used before, in the “seven minutes of terror” that we all endured when Curiosity landed. But still, I’ll be holding my breath (with a few gasps interrupting the seven minutes.)

Here’s what NASA has planned:

The mission will explore Jezero crater, which scientists speculate was a 250 m (820 ft) deep lake about 3.9 billion to 3.5 billion years ago. Jezero today features a prominent river delta where water flowing through it deposited much sediment over the eons, which is “extremely good at preserving biosignatures”. The sediments in the delta likely include carbonates and hydrated silica, known to preserve microscopic fossils on Earth for billions of years. Wikipedia

NASA has a great resource site: download lots of information, learn how to participate and watch the mission, and there are activities for students. The first interplanetary drone helicopter is aboard this mission, and I can’t wait to find out how that works out.

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