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How Canadian technology could protect Space Force troops



This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.


Author: Fiona E. McNeill, Professor of Radiation Sciences, McMaster University

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence has announced that the United States plans to establish a “Space Force.” President Donald Trump endorsed the announcement in a follow-up tweet.

The response was mixed: Some support, some pushback. The topic also became fodder for late-night TV shows.

The U.S. says it’s establishing Space Force as a response to perceived threats to American space hardware from Russia and China. Both countries have been developing high-powered lasers to knock out communications equipment on satellites. The U.S. government is taking a number of space threats seriously; hence the desire for space military capability.

It was not clear from Pence’s announcement whether troops would actually be sent to space, but fundraising emails from the Trump campaign included the logo “Mars awaits.”

This suggests support for plans to send humans to our neighbouring planet. But the journey to Mars will be perilous.

Protecting astronauts from radiation

I am a professor of radiation physics and a co-investigator on a team that is launching a new satellite to look into radiation doses in space. I know that one of the big space exploration challenges is how to protect astronauts and troops from high radiation fields in space.

Past astronauts were found to have a higher risk of cataracts, for example. Last year, Scott Kelly found that his DNA profile was no longer the same as his twin after a year in space.

A trip to Mars (and back) would take years, and astronauts and troops would be subjected to substantial radiation doses. We don’t yet fully understand all of the radiation risks from space travel.

On Earth, we are bombarded with radiation from space, but we have the Earth’s magnetic field and our atmosphere to protect us.

Fly or travel up a mountain, and you’ll be exposed to more radiation, because there is less atmosphere between you and space. Once outside the atmosphere, space travellers will be exposed both to higher levels of radiation and to different types of radiation than at sea level.

Space Force fighters would be exposed to higher fields of neutrons, protons and heavy ions, including the ionized atoms of helium and even iron. Some of the radiation comes from supernovae outside of our solar system and some comes from occasional high bursts of energetic solar particles from our sun.

A portion of the radiation exposure will be a result of interactions of particles with the space craft materials. The radiation field changes over time, and also varies with location in space.

Cancer, cataracts

Radiation can result in biological and health effects because it can directly damage DNA or cause build-up of toxic molecules, like hydrogen peroxide, inside cells. Studies of the survivors of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki found increased levels of cancer and a higher incidence of cataracts in people exposed to high levels of radiation.

Troops sent to Mars could receive doses comparable to some atom bomb survivors, although at a slower rate over a longer period of time. However, some could be exposed to heavy charged particles that are more densely ionizing than X-rays. Heavy charged particles have a more significant biological impact relative to X-rays because they deposit more energy, in shorter tracks, as they pass through human cells.

It will be important for Space Force to monitor radiation fields in real time, so that troops can don suits with radiation shielding or move to shielded areas of spacecraft for protection during high radiation episodes.

This is where Canadian technology may play a future role. I am one of the co-investigators in the NEUDOSE satellite team. We are a multidisciplinary student team from the Faculties of Engineering and Science at McMaster University who are designing and building a novel radiation detector that we plan to test in space.

The detector will be mounted in a small satellite — about the size of a loaf of bread — known as a CubeSat.

If we meet our mission goals, our satellite will be launched from the International Space Station by the Canadian Space Agency in 2021. We have already completed one successful balloon mission using NASA’s High Altitude Student Platform (HASP).

Detector launched into space

In 2017, the detector was launched 34 kilometres above the Earth on a zero pressure, 11-million-cubic-foot, helium-filled balloon from Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

This September, the detector will be tested inside the CubeSat on a second NASA HASP launch. Our team plans to test our ground receiving station by mounting it on a truck and driving over the New Mexico countryside, chasing the balloon test. We hope to confirm that we can receive test signals from our satellite back on the ground.

The novelty of our radiation detector is that it will, through an ingenious design first proposed by Andrei Hanu, a senior scientist at Bruce Power, simultaneously measure in real time both charged and neutral particles and distinguish them.

The detector is based on designs that are being developed at McMaster by Prof. Soo Hyun Byun for radiation protection in the nuclear industry, adapted for space radiation.

Launching the detector on a CubeSat allows us to test the detector performance in space, and will also provide several months of data of the space radiation fields in near-Earth orbits after launch.

The satellite will orbit for nine to 12 months. Every time it passes over McMaster, it will beam back radiation data to a ground station. That data should allow improvements to be made to current radiation modelling tools that will help the planning for future missions into deep space, including Mars.

A new era of space exploration

The NEUDOSE team members, myself included, truly believe that humanity is entering a new era of exploration. Human beings may soon fly on missions back to the moon and out to Mars.

Our hope is that our radiation instrument could ultimately replace current equipment on the International Space Station and be used on future space craft to identify high-dose areas in space and incoming solar storms.

And who knows? Maybe our detectors will be installed on the first Space Force deep space mission vehicles.


This article was originally published on The Conversation. Disclosure information is available on the original site. Read the original article: https://theconversation

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‘Zombie bacteria’ found miles beneath Earth's surface hint life might have begun in the depths – Yahoo News




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What is lurking beneath the surface? (Getty)
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Deep beneath the surface of our planet lurks an immense amount of life, with tiny life forms such as ‘zombie’ bacteria amounting to a mass 245 to 385 times greater than the carbon mass of all humans on the surface.” data-reactid=”31″>Deep beneath the surface of our planet lurks an immense amount of life, with tiny life forms such as ‘zombie’ bacteria amounting to a mass 245 to 385 times greater than the carbon mass of all humans on the surface.

A 10-year international effort to reveal our planet’s secrets found that the ‘deep biosphere’ amounts to 15 to 23 billion tonnes of life – far more than previously believed.

Scientists with the Deep Carbon Observatory drilled 1.5 miles into the seabed, and sampled microbes from mines and boreholes up to three miles deep.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The scientists say that the hitherto unknown microbes deep inside our planet are like a new Galapagos, the islands which helped to inspire Darwin’s theory of evolution.” data-reactid=”34″>The scientists say that the hitherto unknown microbes deep inside our planet are like a new Galapagos, the islands which helped to inspire Darwin’s theory of evolution.

View photos

:Life persists even miles below the surface (Getty)

Two types of microbes – bacteria and archaea – dominate Deep Earth.

This so-called microbial “dark matter” dramatically expands our perspective on the tree of life. Sientists now believe that about 70% of Earth’s bacteria and archaea live in the subsurface

Deep microbes are often very different from their surface cousins, with life cycles on near-geologic timescales, dining in some cases on nothing more than energy from rocks.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="MORE: Woman feeling ‘Claus-trophobic’ after falling through ceiling getting Christmas decorations
MORE: Shocking images show horrific injuries suffered by woman, 50, robbed in her own home” data-reactid=”58″>MORE: Woman feeling ‘Claus-trophobic’ after falling through ceiling getting Christmas decorations
MORE: Shocking images show horrific injuries suffered by woman, 50, robbed in her own home

The findings have led some experts to question whether life actually began deep beneath the surface, either within the crust, near hydrothermal vents, or in subduction zones, then migrated upwards towards the sun.

Fumio Inagaki, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology says, ‘Even in dark and energetically challenging conditions, intraterrestrial ecosystems have uniquely evolved and persisted over millions of years.

‘Expanding our knowledge of deep life will inspire new insights into planetary habitability, leading us to understand why life emerged on our planet and whether life persists in the Martian subsurface and other celestial bodies.’

—Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK—

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The Morning After: 'The mother of all demos' – Engadget




Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Besides our usual suggestions of new TV shows, movies and games to watch this week, we’ve got a 50-year-old video that you really should see. Also, the second human-made object has entered interstellar space, plus, there’s a confusing deal between Samsung China and “Supreme.”

Do it live.50 years ago, ‘the mother of all demos’ foretold our tech future

Innovation usually happens in slow, measured steps over many years, but a demo in 1968 transformed the world of personal computers in just 90 minutes. In a presentation dubbed “the mother of all demos,” Douglas Engelbart showed off technology that would lead directly to Apple’s Macintosh, the internet, Windows, Google Docs, the computer mouse and much, much more. The most remarkable part was that it happened 50 years ago, in 1968, when microchips were just a gleam in scientists’ eyes.

So long, space cowboy.NASA’s Voyager 2 probe has entered interstellar space

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft has exited the heliosphere — the plasma bubble created by the sun that encompasses most of our solar system — and entered interstellar space, making it the second human-made object to do so. Voyager 1 was the first to do it, but this spacecraft still has a working Plasma Science Experiment, used to measure solar-wind particle flow until the amount dropped to nothing at all. Both spacecraft are still technically within the solar system, however. And they will be until they exit the Oort Cloud, a large collection of distant objects that are still affected by the sun’s gravity.

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Cool cool cool.Elon Musk says the SEC can’t stop him from tweeting what he wants

In an interview with CBS program 60 Minutes, Musk declared that he’s only abiding by the SEC because he “respects the justice system.” He also said he handpicked Robyn Denholm as Tesla’s new board chair, and that aside from not wanting to be chairman again, he would prefer “to have no titles at all.”

That sounds interesting.Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentary debuts January 18th

Fyre Festival was billed as “the cultural experience of the decade,” but as we all know, it actually turned out to be a massive disaster and far from the luxurious, celebrity-filled event it was advertised to be. A new documentary, Fyre, gives viewers a look into the festival as described the organizers themselves.

But wait, there’s more…

The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t Subscribe.

Craving even more? Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter.

Have a suggestion on how we can improve The Morning After? Send us a note.

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The brightest comet of 2018 will be lighting up night skies this week (PHOTOS) – Daily Hive




Keep your eyes glued to the sky because 2018’s brightest comet is about to make an appearance.

According to EarthSky, Comet 46P/Wirtanen is expected to pass closest to the sun on December 12 and closest to Earth on December 16, when it will be 12-million km away.

Kat Kelly, astronomer at Vancouver’s HR McMillan Space Centre, explains that 46/P will appear as a greenish-blue glowing ball in the sky.

While comets are known to have a tail of light that follows them, 46P will not.

“We are unlikely to see a tail,” Kelly told Daily Hive. “Just the main snowball part.”

She says that comets are essentially “dirty snowballs” in the sky. “They are kind of like ice and gravel packed together with small pieces of dust and rock.”

Space enthusiasts around the world have already spotted the comet using high-powered telescopes.

46p/Wirtanen / (Edgar CastroBathen/ Facebook)


46p/Wirtanen / (Edgar CastroBathen/ Facebook)

Images show a turquoise glowing ball in the night sky with a faint tail, trailing behind.

Brett Gladman, professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia, says that 46P is an older comet — first spotted in the 1940s — that reaches Jupiter on its 5-year orbit cycle.

“It has gone close to the sun and burned off a lot of its tail,” Gladman told Daily Hive.

Those wanting to see 46P should head out to a very dark outdoor area on the evening of December 15 or 16, which is when the comet will be closest to earth.

Kelly says the best time for viewing will be between 12 and 2 am and the comet will be south facing.

“If people know the Orion Constellation, [46P] is kind of at the top right,” she said.

But Gladman warns not to get “all excited” about the phenomenon because the comet will be difficult to see. “It will be faint and diffuse,” he said.

If you’re a city dweller, it’s best to head out to the darkest spot you can find, and look up for turquoise glow. And if you don’t see 46P this time around, it will be back in another 5 years.

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Simran Singh

Simran is a Staff Writer at Daily Hive. She enjoys writing about culture, society, and politics. Email her: [email protected]

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