Where Could Life Exist?


Δ S > 0 | s-c-i-guy

When NASA scientists announced earlier this year that they had found evidence of liquid water on Mars, imaginations ran wild with the possibility that life could exist somewhere other than here on Earth.

Scientists continue to explore the possibility that Mars once looked a lot like Earth — salty oceans, fresh water lakes, and a water cycle to go with it. That’s exciting stuff.

So where else are they looking? What exactly are they looking for?

There are nine places in our universe where scientists say life is a possibility. The locations range from a smoking hot planet like Venus to a moon that orbits Saturn called Enceladus, which looks a lot like a massive, tightly-packed ball of ice.

All of these places show signs that water is, or at least was, a possibility. They also appear to feature some kind of energy that could produce heat.

full resolution
(Source: worldsciencefestival.com, via catholicnun)

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)


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The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) seeks and destroys CD4+ cells, a type of T lymphocyte (T cell). T cells are critical to the immune system. They’re responsible for warding off diseases and most infections, including viral infections.

HIV targets the type of cells that would normally fight off an invader like HIV. As the virus replicates, it damages or destroys the infected CD4+ cell and produces more virus to infect more CD4+ cells. Without treatment, this cycle continues in most infected people until the immune system is badly compromised, leaving them open to many serious infections and illnesses. Many of the illnesses that people compromised immune systems get are rare in people with functioning immune systems.

How quickly the virus progresses varies from person to person. Factors like your age, overall health, and how quickly you’re diagnosed and treated can make a difference.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of HIV. At this stage, the immune system is severely weakened, and the risk of contracting opportunistic infections is much greater. Not everyone with HIV will go on to develop AIDS.

Importantly, many of the effects described here are related to the failure of the immune system in progressing HIV and AIDS. Many of these effects are preventable with early antiretroviral treatment, which can preserve the immune system. However, for anyone without access to effective antiretroviral treatment, these effects remain possible.

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Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change


Δ S > 0 | skunkbear

As governments discuss climate change in Paris, they’ll be referring to the dire predictions of climate scientists. Here are three visualizations of possible futures based on detailed climate models and summed up by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their 2013 report. The deeper the red – the hotter things are getting.

The message is clear: we better act fast.

How did they come up with these models? Read or listen to Nell Greenfieldboyce’s story.

Image Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio and NASA Center for Climate Simulation

NASA’s 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Contest


 Δ S > 0 | sci-universe

The top Three of NASA’s 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Contest

Could future Mars astronauts live in places like that? Possibly.
NASA awarded the three winners of the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge Design Competition on Sept. 27. In the first stage the participants had to develop architectural concepts to imagine what habitats on Mars might look like using 3D printing and in-situ resources.

The first prize went to Team Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office for the “Mars Ice House” design, which looks like a translucent pyramid and “in which the mind and body will not just survive, but thrive”. It would be built of Martian ice and serve as a radiation shield, protecting the lander habitat and gardens inside it.

Team Gamma got the second place for its distributed functionality of three inflatable modules to find a suitable location and a protective shield around it, which the habitats would be supported by.
The third place, LavaHive, is a modular design using a proposed novel ‘lava-casting’ construction technique as well as utilizing recycled spacecraft materials and structures.

Teams were judged on many factors, including architectural concept, design approach, habitability, innovation, functionality, Mars site selection and 3D print constructability. The 30 highest-scoring entries with descriptions are here.

Mortal coil at some point

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Each one of us will shuffle off this mortal coil at some point.
What happens next is a fascinating — if frightening — natural process.
After your heart stops beating, your body slowly begins to decay
without preservation techniques like embalming or mummification.
It starts small, down at the cellular level.
Then bacteria, animals, and even the body itself begins to digest
your organs and tissues.Here’s how the complete process of decay plays out.

Thompson hemiarthoplasty prosthesis


Hip replacement. This is the Thompson hemiarthoplasty prosthesis in a right femur. One photo shows the implant in place and the other has the implant removed to show bone remodeling. Hemiarthoplasty is a replacement of only the femoral head in severe cases of fracture, osteoarthritis, avascular necrosis and other conditions that can destroy the hip joint. Total arthroplasty involves also replacing the acetabular joint surface of the pelvis

Martian Movie & Real Journey to Mars



The Martian movie is set 20 years in the future, but here at NASA we are already developing many of the technologies that appear in the film. The movie takes the work we’re doing and extends it into fiction set in the 2030s, when NASA astronauts are regularly traveling to Mars and living on the surface. Here are a few ways The Martian movie compares to what we’re really doing on our journey to Mars:

Analog Missions
MOVIE: In the film, Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on the Red Planet.

REALITY: In preparation for sending humans to Mars, we have completed one of the most extensive isolation missions in Hawaii, known as HI-SEAS. The goal of this study was to see how isolation and the lack of privacy in a small group affects social aspects of would-be explorers. The most recent simulation was eight months long, and the next mission is planned to last a year.

imageMOVIE: The Martian movie launches astronauts on the Aries missions from a refurbished and state of the art space center.

REALITY: Currently, the Ground Systems Development and Operations’ primary objective is to prepare the center to process and launch the next-generation vehicles and spacecraft designed to achieve our goals for space exploration. We are not only working to develop new systems, but also refurbishing and upgrading infrastructure to meet future demands.

Deep Space Propulsion
MOVIE: In the film, the astronauts depart the Red Planet using a propulsion system know as the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV).

REALITY: We are currently developing the most powerful rocket we’ve ever built, our Space Launch System (SLS). Once complete, this system will enable astronauts to travel deeper into the solar system than ever before! The RS-25 engines that will be used on the SLS, were previously utilized as the main engine on our space shuttles. These engines have proven their reliability and are currently being refurbished with updated and improved technology for our journey to Mars.

Mission Control
MOVIE: In the movie, Mission Control operations support the Aries 3 crew.

REALITY: On our real journey to Mars, Mission Control in Houston will support our Orion spacecraft and the crew onboard as they travel into deep space.

MOVIE: The artificial living habitat on Mars in The Martian movie is constructed of industrial canvas and contains an array of life support systems.

REALITY: The Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA), formerly known as the Deep Space Habitat, is a three-story module that was designed and created through a series of university competitions. Studies conducted in habitat mockups will allow us to evolve this technology to create a reliable structures for use on Mars.

MOVIE: The characters in the film are able to cruise around the Red Planet inside the Mars Decent Vehicle (MDV).

REALITY: We are currently developing a next generation vehicle for space exploration. Our Mars Exploration Vehicle (MEV) is designed to be flexible depending on the destination. It will have a pressurized cabin, ability to house two astronauts for up to 14 days and will be about the size of a pickup truck.

MOVIE: Astronaut Mark Watney grows potatoes on Mars in The Martian movie.

REALITY: We’re already growing and harvesting lettuce on the International Space Station in preparation for deep space exploration. Growing fresh food in space will provide future pioneers with a sustainable food supplement, and could also be used for recreational gardening during deep space missions.

MOVIE: The spacesuit worn by astronauts in the film allows them to work and function on the surface of Mars, while protecting them from the harsh environment.

REALITY: Prototypes of our Z-2 Exploration Suit are helping to develop the technologies astronauts will use to live and work on the the Martian surface. Technology advances in this next generation spacesuit would shorten preparation time, improve safety and boost astronaut capabilities during spacewalks and surface activities.

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