According to Buzz Aldrin though, "Tang sucks." (NBC News)
I don't know if I can fully define human nature, but I'm pretty sure it includes a prurient and/or practical interest in how one uses the bathroom under strange circumstances. Thus, the various videos you've seen over the years explaining how astronauts use the toilet on board the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. Until a recent visit to Seattle's Museum of Flight, however, I'd never seen how cosmonauts do their business — an issue with increasingly broad reach, now that Americans and other international space voyagers are being ferried into the heavens aboard Soyuz.
The Soyuz toilet does not look much like the ones on board the Shuttle or the ISS. Those are recognizably toilets, for one thing. The Soyuz sanitary unit is more akin to peeing into a soda bottle in the back seat of the family station wagon — if that soda bottle were hooked up to a vacuum cleaner.
This video — kindly shared with us by The Museum of Flight — was filmed in 2009 by NASA astronaut Michael Barratt. It features the urination demonstration talents of spaceflight adventurer Charles Simonyi and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. Please note that this video only demonstrates how the "part Number 1" works — and even that really only seems to apply to gentlemen cosmonauts. As best I can tell, women apparently just pee into something akin to a compact diaper or sanitary pad. (Fun!) As for "part Number 2", here is how it was described in a 2007 NASA publication written by James Lee Broyan, Jr.:
For fecal collection, a porous bag is placed in the receptacle. Once defecation is complete, the bag is removed, placed sequentially in three bags, and then placed in a wet trash compartment. Based on personal conversations with АСУ trainers, urine collection is acceptable but fecal use is avoided if at all possible with the crew using diet restrictions and preventive measures prior to flight.
• Read the 2007 NASA publication comparing different space toilet systems. Apparently, part Number 2 has also been used by female cosmonauts to dispose of menstrual waste.
• Read a description on the RuSpace site, which gives a little more detail on part Number 2.
• Watch the video at YouTube
Thanks to Ted Huetter at The Museum of Flight!
Illustration by Edgar Ainsworth.
"It will probably be some 50 years before any safe space flight from Earth to another planet and back is made, but there seems now to be very little doubt that the dreams of Roger Bacon in AD 1249 and Albertus Magnus in 1280 have left the realm of Wellsian imaginings and become a practical proposition."
Here's a larger size. Guess they didn't think of Rovers!
In developing their papers, respondents are asked to carefully consider the following broad questions."Submitting an Input Paper to the Committee on Human Spaceflight"
What are the important benefits provided to the United States and other countries by human spaceflight endeavors?
What are the greatest challenges to sustaining a U.S. government program in human spaceflight?
What are the ramifications and what would the nation and world lose if the United States terminated NASA's human spaceflight program?
Read the rest
A mechanical engineer (awesomely) named Anjan Contractor has won a NASA grant to prototype a 3D printer for food -- specifically pizza. It will lay down layers of food and flavor powder and melt them together; the powders are room-temperature stable for long periods and can be made from relatively abundant, sustainable foodstocks like insects and soylent green. He prototyped the concept with the 3D chocolate printer in the video above, and he holds out hope that food-printing could solve world hunger by allowing billions to feast on low-wastage, low-energy-input, low-carbon-footprint foods that are printed to order.
Contractor's printer is RepRap based, and is open source hardware; he promises to keep the plans open and free.
I suspect that there's a lot of nutritional subtleties lost when you turn food into processed elements that are recombined (in the same way that beta-carotene in carrots is reliably shown to have health benefits, while beta-carotene supplements are far more questionable). But as a form of food processing, it certainly is exciting!
Pizza is an obvious candidate for 3D printing because it can be printed in distinct layers, so it only requires the print head to extrude one substance at a time. Contractor’s “pizza printer” is still at the conceptual stage, and he will begin building it within two weeks. It works by first “printing” a layer of dough, which is baked at the same time it’s printed, by a heated plate at the bottom of the printer. Then it lays down a tomato base, “which is also stored in a powdered form, and then mixed with water and oil,” says Contractor.
Finally, the pizza is topped with the delicious-sounding “protein layer,” which could come from any source, including animals, milk or plants.
The audacious plan to end hunger with 3-D printed food (Thanks to everyone who sent this in!)
NASA released this stunning video of two powerful X-class solar flares erupting off the upper left side of the sun earlier this month. (Background here.) The images come from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and from the ESA/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory. The music is by Duesseldorf-based ambient composer Lars Leonhard whose track Thunderbolt was featured in an equally-magificient video of the sun's corona captured by the SDO and released earlier this year. Watch that video below. Leonhard's debut album, 1549, inspired by the US Airways flight that famously hit a flock of geese and was ditched in the Hudson River, is available from Forced Exposure. Read the rest
Read the rest
Tonight, PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien will serve as master of ceremonies in a Kennedy Center gala honoring the life and legacy of astronaut Sally Ride. The tribute will highlight her impact on the space program and her lifelong commitment to promoting youth science literacy.
At the PBS NewsHour website, read the column Miles wrote immediately following Ride's death in July 2012, 17 months after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
When I first saw this Angus McKie illustration, I had a moment when I thought it depicted the Earth being encased in a huge, space-going shell and I flashed back to Damon Knight's spectacular novel Why Do Birds?, a straight-faced yet comic novel about a man who puts the whole human race in a box. Then I realized that the picture depicted a hollow, space-going sphere being fitted with an armored cover and my mind spun into a deep future from which it hasn't entirely returned. Beautiful work. Here's the official McKie site, but it appears to be down.
Annalee Newitz, founding editor of IO9 and former EFF staffer, has a new book out today called Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction, and it's terrific.
Scatter's premise is that the human race will face extinction-grade crises in the future, and that we can learn how to survive them by examining the strategies of species that successfully weathered previous extinction events, and cultures and tribes of humans that have managed to survive their own near-annihilation.
What follows from this is a whirlwind tour of geology, evolutionary biology, cultural anthropology and human history, as Newitz catalogs the terrifying disasters, catastrophes and genocides of geology and antiquity. From there, the book transitions into a sprightly whistle-stop tour of sustainable cities, synthetic biology, computer science, geoengineering, climate science, new materials science, urban theory, genomics, geopolitics, everything up to and including the Singularity, as Newitz lays out the technologies in our arsenal for adapting ourselves to upcoming disasters, and adapting our planet (and ultimately our solar system) to our long-term survival.
This has both the grand sweep and the fast pace of a classic OMNI theme issue, but one that's far more thoroughly grounded in real science, caveated where necessary. It's a refreshingly grand sweep for a popular science book, and if it only skims over some of its subjects, that's OK, because in the age of the Net, one need only signpost the subjects the reader might dive into on her own once she realizes their awesome potential.
This is a delight of a book, balanced on the knife-edge of disaster and delirious hope. It neither predicts our species' apotheosis nor its doom, but suggests paths to reach the former while avoiding the latter.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield -- the tweeting, tumbling Canadian astronaut who's a one-dude astro-ambassador from the space programme to the Internet -- has produced and released a video of his own performance of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" (AKA the "Major Tom song") on the ISS. He adapts the lyrics a bit to his own situation -- and changes out the whole dying-in-space chorous -- but is otherwise pretty faithful. From the credits, it appears that David Bowie gave permission for this, though that's not entirely clear. I would think that not even a major record label would be hamfisted and cack-handed enough to send a takedown notice over this one (it's been suggested for Boing Boing more than any other link in my memory), but I'm prepared to be surprised.