Invoice for Mars Mission: $1 Trillion?

Mars-manned-mission-NASA-V5Sending humans into space has become mundane.  In addition to various government space programs, there are now private corporations either sending people to space or planning commercial space flights.  The holy grail of all this development is to send a human mission to Mars.

In 1969 the first humans stepped onto the surface of the moon in a program that cost between $20-23 billion.  Adjusted for inflation and current market prices, NASA estimated that the six moon landings of the Apollo program would cost $170 billion today.  That seems likes peanuts compared to the estimated cost associated with sending one mission to Mars by 2040.  Some estimates put that figure at close to $1 trillion.

Mars One Proposal

That figure is in dispute.  A Dutch entrepreneur believes he can send four people to Mars for $6 billion. His plan, under the umbrella of Mars One, is to send colonists on a one way trip to settle on the planet.  He will then send additional groups every few years to increase the population and bring in additional supplies.  Mars One claims they will launch the first crew in 2023 and has already received hundreds of thousands of applications from those want to be on the first ship.

The $6 billion price tag seems low, given that the Mars rover Curiosity cost $2.5 billion.  The trick behind the Mars One cost is that it only considers the hardware of the ship and the operational expenses associated with the program.  It relies on buying ships and equipment from other companies and assumes such technology will be available in time.  They also plan to offset the cost of the program by turning it into a reality television show, where people on earth can watch the training, launch, and mission life in the comfort of their homes.

Real Costs of Mars

Experts agree that the cost of reaching Mars extends far beyond the purchase of a ship.  In fact, a group of professionals from 20 different organizations are meeting throughout 2014 in a series of conferences to determine how to reach Mars in the 2030s.  Sponsored by the American Astronautical Society and Explore Mars, Inc., the first conference, in December 2013, identified several key steps along the road to sending humans to land on the Red Planet.

  • Coordinated human and robotic missions — these will lay the groundwork for a future Mars mission, including missions that test landing options, return trips, and eventually a manned orbital mission to the planet.
  • Deployment of a transitional deep-space facility and bridge facility in addition to upgrades to the International Space Station
  • Development and construction of space craft capable of transporting humans and necessary equipment for landing/settling the planet.
  • Development and construction of equipment necessary to survive on the planet for a short or long-term mission. This includes housing, food production and environmental controls that will survive in less gravity, extreme temperatures, and the stormy environment of Mars.
  • Research into the physical, health, and psychological effects of both the long space journey and the time on the planet in order to develop systems to ensure a positive experience for the Mars astronauts/settlers.
  • Administrative costs of coordinating R&D, technology, construction, and personnel across multiple governments, corporations, and non-profit agencies involved in the various Mars projects.

Adding all that together, it is easy to see that the cost of reaching Mars is probably much closer to the $1 trillion figure than the $6 billion proposal.

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Rover Finds New Evidence of Water on Mars

Over ten years ago, the first Rover was put on the surface of Mars to learn a variety of things about the “Red Planet.” One such discovery was that water may have existed at one time on Mars, but is now long gone.

MarsNew evidence has been found by two Mars Rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, that suggest that Mars was once a water-rich planet. This information is highly important not just to understand more about Mars, but understand other planets in our solar system including our own. Read on for a look at why the Rover find is so important, and what is next for the Rover fleet.

Why is this information important?

The Mars Rovers have identified that Mars soil is rich in minerals that require water to grow and develop. This is important information because it tells us how rich the planet could have been with life. Water is required to sustain life, and if there are minerals and deposits in the Mars dirt that require water to grow, we can ascertain that Mars was once plentiful with waters. You won’t find any rivers or streams there now. Scientists believe Mars dried up around 5 million years ago. This is important to us because if life once existed on Mars, it potentially could again. In addition, could we possibly keep Earth from facing the same fate one day?

Is Earth the new Mars?

With melting polar ice caps and over seventy percent water to earth ratio, it doesn’t seem likely that Earth would face the same scenario that Mars seems to have faced. Here is what is significant, though. With signs of water on Mars, the chance that life existed there at one time is good – and if life did exist there, we need to learn more about the type of life, whether it be flora, fauna, people or aliens. By doing so, we can apply our knowledge to other planets and solar systems that we encounter.

What’s Next for the Rovers?

The Rovers will continue searching for life on Mars, which includes their search for signs of water. The ancient planet holds clues for us to discover what was one there. The barren wasteland that exists now holds many secrets, and learning them will not only help us understand our planet better, but other planets in our solar system as well.

Microchips to Track Bees in Australia

In a move that sounds more science fiction than reality, scientists in Australia have announced that they are instituting a microchip process to monitor the movement of bees across the continent. There is a number of reasons why scientists feel that it is important to track the movements and migrations of bees, and there are some strong benefits that could be reaped from the information found from this initiative. Read on for a look at why scientists are using microchip technology to track bees in Australia.

beesWhat Are the Benefits?

There are many benefits to tracking bees movements through Australia. Since bee pollination have a huge effect on crops in Australia, scientists believe that tracking their migration will be beneficial to research. Scientists hope to understand the bee’s role in pollinating crops and with its environment as a whole. Other benefits of this study is to understand whether bees have an effect in spreading disease across the continent.

How Does Microchipping Technology Work?

Scientists will microchip 5,000 bees in a controlled environment then set them into the wild. This is done by shaving the back of a bee, and then gluing a 2.5 millimeter sensor on the bee. Scientists will be able to track this sensor through their computers and determine how far a particular bee travels and how many plants the bee potentially pollinated. The microsensor is tiny, just over one-sixteenth of an inch, but it will produce huge results if scientists can track bees movements and help keep more crop alive in years to come.

What is the Scope of This Initiative?

The scope of this initiative is quite large. Scientists will glue a sensor to over 5,000 adult bees. It will be quite interesting to see the survival rate of these bees and how far their reach truly is. Potentially if one part of the continent is not as well pollinated, scientists will be able to target where to release bees in the future. It is an intelligent and pro-active initiative that can help ensure that there is enough food to go around in Australia.

The Bottom Line

While this research project may seem weird, there are significant benefits to it. Tracking the bees migration can help to ensure that the entire continent of Australia is well pollinated, and this information can help the world as a whole. With bees being tracked, they can easily determine that areas that need extra help, and bees can be deployed there.

Scott Tucker, ALMs and Auto Racing Safety

sebastian vettelEvery race fan loves to see photos posted on their favorite team’s profiles, from Danika Patrick to Scott Tucker to Sebastian Vettel.  Doctors and other medical professionals have a different reaction to this dangerous sport. While there is some truth to the adage that some fans go to the races in hopes of witnessing an accident, the vast majority admire racers ability to handle these state of the art vehicles while racing against tough competitors.  While there will likely always be accidents — and possibly even deaths — the race industry continues to take steps to make it safer for drivers to compete at higher and higher speeds.

HANS device

The development of the Head And Neck Support (HANS) device in the late 20th century was a major breakthrough for the sport.  By bracing the helmet and diverting the flow of energy to the driver’s torso and chest, the device provides additional protection for the head and neck during a crash.  It keeps the head from whipping forward during a crash without adding undue stress to the neck.  This greatly reduces neck injuries like whiplash.

Suits & Seats

Fire retardant racing suits, gloves and shoes that protect drivers during a fire seem like a no-brainer (and most racers also wear fire retardant underwear).  What most people don’t know is that the seats within the cars are designed for safety. Most racing seats actually wrap around the driver’s rib cage and even the shoulders.  These support the driver by spreading the g-forces of high speeds around more of the body, instead of concentrating it in small areas.  In addition, the carbon fiber construction absorbs far more impact energy in a crash than earlier seat designs.  Lastly, each seat includes an elaborate harness system of 5 or 6 points that secures the driver at the shoulders, waist, and legs.

Car Design

Race car design varies depending on the style of racing and type of car.  However, most race cars have window nets and roll cages to protect drivers during a crash.  They may also have roof flaps, special glass and additional steel support for the driver’s door. Future cars may have more head room to decrease head impact and smaller fuel cells to reduce the chance of fire.

Track Features

Many race tracks around the world have installed safety barriers to help reduce crashes.  The SAFER barrier was designed to replace concrete walls and they absorb the energy of a crash significantly better than their predecessors. Speedways also enforce strict pit stop safety precautions to protect both the drivers and the pit crew from accidents.

Safety will continue to be a priority for racers, leagues, and car designers as long as the sport exists.  New designs for suits and helmets are being developed with input from medical professionals as well as the drivers themselves.  Cutting edge race teams like Scott Tucker’s Level 5 team keep an eye on protecting their racers, not just thrilling their fans.

Hans device demo

Exercise & fitness Vs. Vitamin C

As recently as just a decade ago, it was considered right and proper to add vitamin and mineral supplements to most nutritional plans. The use of anti-oxidants like vitamin C or vitamin E made sense. As the body ages it creates free radicals. These byproducts seemed to be causing destruction at the cellular level.

Consequently, if there were compounds introducing too much deleterious oxygen, one considered removing these free radicals. Thus the push to introduce anti-oxidants into the consumers field of vision. Today, several studies now seem to suggest the use of vitamin C supplements or E, and others may in fact reduce the positive effects of exercise on the body.

To be certain, none of the recent reports indicate that regular ingestion of small doses of anti-oxidants is specifically harmful to the body. However, when combined with a regular exercise regimen, it seems the removal of free radicals actually reverses some of the reason why people exercise.

One set of findings indicates that while free radicals do hasten the death of cells in the body, apparently they perform dual roles. Without these substances cells seem to have a more difficult time repairing themselves. Exercise causes damage to the cells and the availability of free radicals at that time provides a means of conveying cells the ability to fix themselves. Exactly how this works is yet unknown.

What is known, as a result of some studies is the more effective the anti-oxidant therapy is, the lower the number of cell friendly free radicals. Thus the positive effects of exercise are reduced by taking vitamins like C or E.

Another challenging finding deals with insulin resistance. It seems that along with fighting off free radicals, anti-oxidants also cause the body to lower its insulin resistance, a much touted symptom associated with performing exercise. Participants who exercised regularly and did not use additional forms of anti-oxidants had higher levels of insulin resistance.

Health practitioners, doctors, and exercise enthusiasts will all tell you in order to feel better, have more energy, etc., one should actively engage in a health and fitness regime by either going to the Gym, using a home Gym or frequenting exercise classes.  Apparently there is scientific reasons why this is so. The physical stress which exercise creates in the body is counteracted with the manufacture of mitochondria, or energy producing factories.

The number of mitochondria in ones body directly affects fatigue and endurance. As fate would have it, for whatever reason, vitamin C reduces the amount of mitochondria in the body. Again, this directly contradicts the desired effects one hopes to produce by participating in exercise.

Even some of the older studies whose results have been reinterpreted based upon new findings show that Vitamin C and exercise may not necessarily go hand in hand. One such report compared regularly athletic individuals to otherwise sedentary participants. The results of engaging both groups in the same levels of exercise and physical stress showed no increase in the participants bodies requirements for anti-oxidants like vitamin C.

It might be wise to consider whether increasing ones intake of vitamin and mineral supplements specifically marketed for anti-oxidant purposes is the best choice to add to an exercise plan. If true, and most of the studies seem to point towards similar conclusions, ingestion of extra anti-oxidant vitamins may require additional levels of exercise in order to gain the desired results that exercise alone might provide.

 

Straight-Arm Freestyle Swimming with Scott Tucker

This video for Straight-Arm Freestyle Swimming features Scott Tucker the Olympic gold and silver medalist. In the video he reviews six points which are applicable for all levels of swimmers. These points help to develop this style of swimming. They are easy to learn and you can put them to immediate use. This video with Scott  will help you to quickly and efficiently master straight arm, freestyle swimming.

Important Medical Breakthroughs of 2013

2013 was a year of great strides in the medical field. A lot of ground was covered in terms of research and there were quite a few important medical breakthroughs that are worth discussing. Please read on for a look at five important medical breakthroughs of 2013.

alzheimersNew Genes Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease

Over a dozen new genes were linked to Alzheimer’s Disease, giving scientists and researchers more leads to go on when researching cures and treatment methods. By having more genes to research, scientists believe they are closer to finding a cure.

Only One Dose of the HPV Vaccination is Needed

When the HPV vaccination was first released, it was recommended that women receive three separate doses of the vaccination. Now doctors are suggesting that one dose may be all that is required. One dose of the HPV vaccination Gardasil is proving to be effective at stemming the risks of HPV.

A Newborn is Functionally Cured of HIV

Doctors have done what was thought to be impossible. They functionally cured a newborn that was diagnosed with HIV. The baby showed signs of the infection shortly after birth and doctors gave the child a triple dose of anti-HIV injections instead of just one. After two years, the child was functionally cured of the virus. This is another example of how early detection can help save lives.

Advanced Pregnancy Tests Tell You How Pregnant You Are

In 2013, a new pregnancy test was released on the market that not only tells women whether they are pregnant or not, but how far along they are in the pregnancy. This test measures the HcG levels in urine and determines the pregnancy age by how high the levels of HcG are. While bloodwork and an ultrasound are more definitive science, this is certainly an exciting new addition to pharmacy shelves.

Advancements in Detecting Parkinson’s Disease Early

Similar to other serious conditions such as cancer, early detection is proving to be key in Parkinson’s Disease patients. Scientists and researchers have gotten closer to determining what the early symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease are, and they believe that one of the symptoms include a specific panel of proteins present in the spinal fluid. By detecting the disease early, doctors and scientists can learn how to better treat or prevent the disease from getting worse.

photo by GollyGforce courtesy of Creative Commons License

Science Terms You Should Know

At least once a year every news site will run a story about how Americans are falling behind in scientific knowledge compared to other countries. This has come to be measured as scientific literacy and there are numerous tests on the web that can give you a score as to how scientifically savvy you are compared to the rest of the population.

laboratoryScientific literacy is important because an understanding of basic scientific words and concepts can inform everything from job success to community participation to the making of decisions in your personal life.

The United States National Center for Education Statistics has outlined seven characteristics of the scientifically literate person. These include things like being able to read and discuss scientific articles in the popular press and recognizing specific scientific issues that are involved in the decisions made at the local, state, and national levels of government.

A number of organizations and websites have published their own lists of basic science. These include scientific facts, terms, concepts and currently established theories. There is even a book listing 100 terms every college graduate should know about science.

A quick perusal of these lists reveals many words that people use in everyday conversation: zero, photon, big bang, pheromone, placebo, sex. But there are also words that people use without knowing what they mean. When you talk about how many gigabytes of data a memory card holds, do you know exactly how many bytes that is? (1 gigabyte equals 1024x1024x1024).

Here are some of the tech and science terms that you may want to brush up on in 2014:

algorithm
cloud storage
cognitive dissonance
cyber security
game theory
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
prion
radiometric dating
logic gate
junk DNA
big data
sociobiology
nanotube
solar wind
protein folding
dark energy
retrovirus
string theory

watch popular astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discuss the importance of scientific literacy in the video below:

Margie Zellweller is an educational blogger who spent 15 years working in elementary education.  In addition to writing about the importance of science education, she has addressed topics like computers, e-learning, and even helped develop lessons plans for everything from grammar to math to vocabulary lists (similar to this one).

Scientific Research Grants

scienceThe advancement of science is grounded in research.  While anyone can come up with a theory, it is through experimentation and testing that scientists actually prove (or disprove) their theories and move science forward to the next theory. Funding that research, coming up with money for the experiments and prototypes and tests after test is just as crucial as coming up with the theories in the first place.

Scientific research grants are the source of most funding in the United States. Research grants can be for “hard” sciences such as biology, medicine, and technology or for “soft” science such as social science studies and experiments. This type of funding has several components that make it stand out from other types of funding.

  1. Grants require a detailed application covering all aspects of the research and testing to be funded.
  2. Grants are usually competitive, with multiple applicants vying for a set amount of money.
  3. Grants are usually constrained by time, such as a three-year grant or a five-year grant. If no results are achieved during the grant, the application process has to be repeated.

In the US, most funding comes from one of two sources: Government or Corporations. A small number of grants come from non-profit or charitable organizations, but those tend to be specializes, such as finding a cure for a specific disease.

Government Grants

Research funded by government grants may be carried out by government agencies and entities or by universities and other research labs that receive government funds. The main advantage to government funded research is that the results of the research are shared publicly. This allows for collaborative projects between researchers and for researchers in related fields to build on those results. Much of the government-funded research is focused on military research & development and space exploration.

Only 10% of scientific research is carried out by the government directly with an additional 20% being done by universities.  The remaining two-thirds is done by industry.

Private/Corporate Grants

Corporate funded research, which may be done in universities or think tanks, not just within the corporation itself, is usually targeted toward a profit-making result – developing a new product, process, or technology that can advance their industry and make money.  The results of corporate research are usually privately owned, unless there has been a special grant agreement between an independent researcher or university and the corporate funder.

Some of the major sources of research grants in the US include the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and 26 government agencies, including the Department of Energy.

photo by: *~Dawn~*

The Science of Race Car Driver Fitness

race car driverIn the world of sports and athletes it’s a given that football, basketball, baseball, and hockey players need to be in top physical condition to compete at the top of their field without injury.  Race car drivers, however, are not often thought of as athletes requiring physical conditioning and training.  After all, how much does it take to drive a car around in circles for hours on end?

On the contrary, recent studies have shown that race car drivers are just as much athletes needing to be physically fit as those that play traditional sports.

To test the strain that racing puts on drivers, devices were used to monitor their heart rates.  The results showed that during the race their BPM was nearing 200, resting BPM is approximately 76.  For the average person that BPM would result in a heart attack; however a well-toned athlete is able to sustain this.

While many Americans drive cars every day they aren’t typically driving at speeds of over 200 mph for hours at a time.  The physical and mental stress that drivers experience requires them to be in both mental and physical shape.  Endurance and muscle training allows them to be in ideal physical shape to drive for hours on end.  Also as a result of the high speeds race car drivers experience as they take turns they experience more G-forces, the force of gravity that is felt as weight, than the average person and, like fighter pilots, they must train their bodies to be able to handle the additional pressure.

Physical training is vital; however so is mental.  Being able to handle the mental stress of driving a 3500 lbs automobile at speed greater than 200 mph for several hours as a solo driver would be challenging enough.  Most drivers are doing this surrounded by dozens of other drivers doing the same thing with sometimes no more than a few inches between the vehicles.  Maintaining control so as not to cause harm to themselves or the other drivers around them requires an inordinate amount of mental control and training.

Race car driving is not just an afternoon driving in circles in an advertisement decorated car, it’s a testament the immense physical and mental training that drivers go through to be able to complete such a strenuous task safely.

For more on racing safety click here http://www.orionweblog.com/scott-tucker-leawood-kansa-alms-auto-racing-safety/.

photo by: williamcho