NASA Is Finally Going To Reveal Its Plan To Return To The Moon

NASA is going to reveal details on its plans to go to the Moon in early February, as it unveils its budget request for 2019.

In December Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, which tasked NASA with returning humans to the Moon rather than pursuing the Journey to Mars project of the previous administration.

However, noticeably absent were any actual details on how this would be done. NASA is currently building a new heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), and a crew capsule called Orion, both of which will play a part. It also has plans for a space station near the Moon called the Deep Space Gateway.

No plans have been released yet for any sort of lunar lander, nor any timeline for Moon exploration. In fact, very little at all has been revealed about what the Moon program will entail, save for changing NASA’s near-term destination from Mars to our natural satellite.

But speaking last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) civil space forum, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot (acting because Trump has taken more than a year to get anyone close to running NASA, twice as long as Obama) said the upcoming FY2019 budget, expected on or around February 5, would finally reveal some details.

“We’ve been working on the plan. We’ve been working with the administration,” he said, reported SpaceNews. “I think when the budget comes out folks will see what we’ve been asked to go do and how we think we’re going to do it.”

Of course, by the time this budget comes into effect, it’ll be just a year until the next presidential election. If Trump isn’t re-elected, and wouldn’t that be awful, then a new Administration could just as easily change all these decisions again – as has happened many times before.

The plan under Obama and his NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, the Journey to Mars project mentioned earlier, was to perform a few test flights of Orion in or near Earth orbit before going to Mars. That might have included some sort of orbiting Mars station in the early 2030s, followed by crewed landings in the late 2030s. Those plans themselves were also rather threadbare.

Now, for better or worse, NASA has a chance to reveal how it plans to return us to the Moon. Hopefully, in a few weeks, it’ll be worth the wait.

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Brazilian Family Shares Home With Pet Tigers

Brazilian Family Shares Home With Pet Tigers

This incredible news report by Barcroft TV has gone viral, quickly amassing over 100,000 views.

The Brazilian Borges family wasn’t satisfied with a conventional dog or cat, so they super-sized their pet order to not one tiger, but pack of seven. After rescuing two tigers from the circus, Aryas started breeding the big cats, and even lets his daughter play with them. 


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Dog Shoves Cat’s Face In Snow

Oh man, who can’t feel the joy of the dog – or the discomfort of the cat?! Lindsay Roy-Bernatchez witnessed her cat Katniss getting dunked by a German sheppard. Apart from a moment of pure laughter she got over 200.000 views on this video.

“Mon chat et mon chien”

via: tastefullyoffensive

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Dramatic Footage Shows Polar Bear Cannibalizing A Cub

A new video released by National Geographic shows a male polar bear pursuing a female and her young cub across the Arctic landscape, before killing the infant for food. While this footage is unique, the reality is that this type of event is nothing new or unusual, and polar bear cannibalism has been reported on numerous previous occasions by scientists studying the animals.

Despite being a top predator, polar bears are constantly at the mercy of the sea ice, which provides them with a platform for hunting seals. Seasonal fluctuations in sea ice levels therefore have a major impact on the ease with which the bears are able to access their prey. As such, the winter months tend to be the most fruitful in terms of hunting, although as the ice begins to thin during spring and summer, so too does the withering physique of the increasingly hungry bears.

With food resources running low beneath the midnight sun, male polar bears often turn to eating any cubs they come across, which represent their easiest source of nutrition. Because of this, mothers often have to be on the lookout for prowling males as they raise their young during the spring and summer.

The dramatic footage was captured by scientists aboard the National Geographic Explorer in Baffin Island, Canada, last summer. Appearing in the video, Ian Stirling of the University of Alberta explains that polar bear cannibalism could be on the rise as a result of climate change, which has been attributed with driving a reduction in sea ice levels, leaving polar bears with fewer hunting opportunities.

While this may well be the case, it is not accurate to state that climate change is the cause of this behavior as some news outlets have claimed as cannibalism has long been established as a natural element of polar bear conduct, and has also been observed in many other species.

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Affectionate Cat Thanks Human for Rescuing Him Hours Before He Was Supposed to Be Euthanized

  • I decided to let him roam around my car and stretch his legs. The moment I opened his cat carrier, Henry walked up onto my shoulder and gave me the most heartwarming kitty kiss I had ever received since becoming a foster carer.

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The Cold War Created Some Absolutely Crazy Plans For Space Innovation

Sure, the world might have been under the constant threat of a nuclear apocalypse, but the Cold War was a great time for space.

Driven by the rivalry between the capitalist West and the communist Eastern Bloc, the scientific exploration of space was funded like never before. We sent satellites to orbit Earth, tortoises went around the Moon, and 12 humans set foot on the Moon. We even played golf up there.

Within these strange and paranoid times, there were also a lot of totally insane plans that never came to fruition, primarily because they were so totally insane (and that’s not even talking about the Space Race’s animal missions).

A-Bombing The Moon

One of the most startling plans involved nuking the Moon. Around June 1959, the US military hatched a plan to drop a small W25 nuclear warhead on the Moon for the purposes of weapons testing and gaining insight into the lunar environment. However, there was another motive: flexing muscles. The Americans wanted to drop the bomb directly on the Moon’s terminator, the division between the illuminated and shadowed parts, hoping it would be visible from Earth and, more to the point, Moscow.

Fortunately, this was one of the many plans that never happened. At the time, however, it had a team of scientists working on it, one of whom was a young Carl Sagan.

The Soviet’s Death Star

Spacecraft shooting each other with laser guns sounds like an old James Bond film, but the USSR and the US came remarkably close to making this a reality.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviets set about designing Polyus-Skif, an unmanned orbital weapons platform that was equipped with a carbon-dioxide laser designed to destroy enemy US satellites. By 1986, it was bumped up to a high-priority satellite and launched into orbit a year later.

Thankfully, there was a pretty big screw up and the satellite failed to reach orbit. With the Cold War cooling down and the Soviet economy in stagnation, the USSR had little interest in rebooting the plan.

This artist’s concept depicts the Space Station Freedom (text below) as it would look orbiting the Earth, illustrated by Marshall Space Flight Center artist Tom Buzbee. NASA/Tom Buzbee

Putting A Copper Ring Around Earth

Project Needles, officially known as Project West Ford, was another batsh*t plan that came slightly closer to completion. The Air Force and Department of Defense decided to put 480,000,000 tiny copper wires into orbit to form a ring around Earth (just like Saturn’s rings), with the aim of helping their long-range communications.

Between 1961 and 1963, they launched a series of attempts to bump these needles into orbit. However, the plan eventually lost momentum when budgets and attention moved on to more grounded issues. Even so, there are still a few dozen clumps of these needles in orbit to this day.

Space Station Freedom

Not all of the Cold War’s ambitions were total ego-fueled failures. Through the latter half of the 1980s, the US was busy working on a bold plan to build a giant, permanently crewed, super-futuristic space station called Space Station Freedom. Ronald Reagan even announced plans for Space Station Freedom in the 1984 State of the Union address.

Space Station Freedom is what you imagine a space station to be like: spaceports, multiple labs, living quarters, an observatory, sick bays, satellite repair facilities, you name it.

However, politicians began to doubt the project and worried it was too expensive by the early 1990s. Equally, the Cold War had come to an end, meaning the days of “one-upmanship” were over. Nevertheless, the project ultimately laid the groundwork for the International Space Station – a structure that costs a mere $100 billion.


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Scorpion Protein Illuminates Brain Tumors for Surgeons


Jim Olson, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, was reviewing with his colleagues the case of a 17-year-old girl several years ago who had just undergone brain surgery to remove a tumor. An MRI scan revealed a thumb-size piece of tumor left behind. In the operating room, the tumor tissue had looked just like healthy brain tissue. During the review meeting, the hospitals’ chief of neurosurgery turned to Olson and said: “Jim, you have to come up with a way to light these cells up.”

So Olson and a neurosurgical resident started searching for a way to highlight cancer cells in the operating room. Eventually, they came across a report of a scorpion toxin that binds to brain tumors but not healthy cells. By linking a synthetic version of this protein to a molecule that glows in near-infrared light, the researchers think they may have found what they call “tumor paint.”

In their very first test, the pair injected the compound into the tail vein of a mouse whose body harbored a transplanted human tumor. “Within 15 to 20 minutes, the tumor started to glow, bright and distinct from the rest of the mouse,” says Olson.

A Seattle company called Blaze Bioscience has licensed the technology from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Olson says human trials will begin late in 2013.

The scorpion toxin is special not only because it binds to tumor cells, but because it can cross the blood-brain barrier—a cellular and molecular fortification that lines blood vessels in the brain and prevents most compounds from entering.

“Usually, peptides don’t get into the brain unless they bind to something specific that carries it in there,” says Harald Sontheimer, a neurobiologist at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, who first identified the neurological potential of the scorpion protein.

Although derived from venom, the toxin seems to be safe. A biotech company started by Sontheimer showed in early clinical trials that a version of the scorpion toxin tagged with radioactive iodine was safe in patients. However, the company closed before late-stage testing of the iodine-tagged compound, which is now owned by Japanese pharmaceutical company Eisai.

The tumor paint developed by Olson may also light up cancer outside of the brain. Animal studies suggest it could also demarcate prostate, colon, breast, and other tumors. The potential the compound has to save healthy brain tissue and improve patients’ lives is told in a short film called Bringing Light, which is in the running for the Sundance Film Festival.

Photo courtesy of Flickr, Furryscaly

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review

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The Science Behind Why Things Go Viral

Scientists for the first time have created a mathematical model for how memes spread across social media. The international team constructed the model based on how epidemics spread; its not a coincidence that things are said to go “viral.”

The main finding is that something goes viral thanks to the initial combined effect of many people. Most individuals wont share it straight away, so they form a barrier thatneeds to be overcome. Once the barrier has been breached, if friends start sharing a story for example, then it explodes, spreading exponentially.

We often witness social phenomena that become accepted by many people overnight, especially now in the age of social media, Dr. Francisco Perez-Reche, co-author of the paper, said in a statement.

This is especially relevant to social contexts in which individuals initially hesitate to join a collective movement, for examplea strike, because they fear becoming part of a minority that could be punished.But it also applies to new ideas or products.

The quick spread of ideas might seem like a recent phenomenon, but the Internet has simply made the transmission more evident. The word meme itself was coined by biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976, long before the first cat was shared over the web.

The researchers showed that the most important factors are the intrinsic value of the idea and the adoption by trustworthy virtual neighbors. This could explain why marketing campaigns engineered to go viral tend to backfire spectacularly.

In very basic terms our model shows that peoples opposition to accepting a new idea acts as a barrier to large contagion, until the transmission of the phenomenon becomes strong enough to overcome that reluctance at this point, explosive contagion happens, he added.

The research, which is published inNature Scientific Reports, connects what happens at a very local level to the general spread. This model could be used to better address social issues and even for better advertising strategies.

Our conclusions rely on numerical simulations and analytical calculations for a variety of contagion models, and we anticipate that the new understanding provided by our study will have important implications in real social scenarios, he explained.

For instance, it could lead to better strategies to minimize the risk of sudden and often unexpected epidemics of undesired social behavior.Similarly, it will suggest methods to engineer explosive diffusion of innovative products and ideas.”

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Comets Are Astonishingly Fragile, Which Could Scupper Earth’s Defense Plans

If you have a hankering to avenge the death of the dinosaurs by smashing apart a comet with your bare (spacesuited) hands, it might be easier than you think. An analysis of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko suggests it is held together by forces a million times weaker than styrofoam. The work could shape how we tackle frozen threats to our planet.

Dr Nicholas Attree of Aix-Marseille Université, France, and scientists from 27 other institutions studied twenty overhanging cliffs seen by the Rosetta spacecraft as it circled 67P. Knowing the comet’s gravity, they were able to calculate the minimum tensile strengths (resistance to lengthwise stress) required to prevent these cliffs collapsing. The gravity is so weak, just one ten-thousandth of Earth’s, the ice and rock doesn’t need to be bound tightly at all. Forces of around 0.3 Pascals would be sufficient.

If that was all we knew, it wouldn’t tell us much. The calculated values are minimums, and the bonding could be much higher. However, in a paper to be published in Astronomy and Astrophysics (preprint on, Attree and co-authors note many overhangs have eroded material at their base, indicating material frequently falls off. Unless the fallen ice once had radically different shapes to what remains, or was broken off by some more powerful disruptive force, it can be assumed the tensile strength of most, if not all of the comet’s surface is not far from the calculated minimum.

The study also found 67P is quite homogenous, at least on this measure. Neither of the two great lobes that form its odd shape has significantly larger overhangs than the other, as would be expected if they were made of different material. Similarly, there is no trend for the overhangs to get larger or smaller towards the point where the lobes join.

“Low material strengths are supportive of cometary formation as a primordial rubble pile or by collisional fragmentation of a small (tens of km) body,” the authors note in their study. The rubble pile hypothesis, where comets form from small bits of rock and ice gently nudging into each other, has competed with models where they are formed by higher speed impacts, creating more solid objects.

When (not if) the Earth is again threatened by a comet, we might push aside a tightly bound object, but would need a different approach to a loosely bound rubble pile. Having only examined one comet in this much detail, we can’t be sure that all such objects formed in the same way. It’s possible there are more strongly bound “dirty snowballs” whizzing around the Solar System, and asteroids are a different matter entirely. On a sample of one, it’s time to start planning.

Location of some of the measured overhangs. Others are at the edges of the main lobes. Attree et al


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