'Very surreal': Surrey students help design space colony in NASA-backed competition - Surrey Now-Leader - Canadanewsmedia
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'Very surreal': Surrey students help design space colony in NASA-backed competition – Surrey Now-Leader

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Imagine designing a city in space. Several local high school students did just that and have returned home after helping their team win a NASA-backed contest that involved designing a habitable space colony.

The International Space Settlement Design Competition was held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida from July 26 to 30.

“It was intense,” laughed Aden Jabbar, who is starting Grade 12 at Surrey’s Princess Margaret Secondary this fall.

She was one of roughly 20 Metro Vancouver students – about half of whom are from Surrey – who participated in the annual competition.

“We were treated like actual engineers,” said Aden, who is in a NASA club at her high school. “The judges, they were questioning us like we were real engineers proposing a real design. It’s stressful.”

As for the win?

”I was so shocked. I was like, ‘How is this even possible?’” said Aden, chuckling. “After doing this I feel like I’m more interested in pursuing a degree in engineering because this has given me a real life experience of actually working in the field. Actually designing proposals for real companies. It was really cool.

The competitors – from around the globe – were split into “companies” and tasked with designing, developing and planning operations for “the second large space settlement on Earth’s Moon Luna” in the year 2059. It was dubbed the “Balderol.”

READ ALSO: NASA launches Orion crew capsule to test abort system

(Some of the local high school students who represented Canada at the International Space Settlement Design Competition in Florida this past July. Submitted photo)

According to their “settlement contract,” the colony had to be a safe living and working environment for a minimum of 16,000 full-time residents.

From infrastructure to safety to automation to costing and even a schedule for construction, the teens had their work cut out for them and were even assigned roles in the company’s hierarchy. The competition involved not only the design and planning phase, but also a presentation to judges and an audience of at least a couple hundred.

The Metro Vancouver students were teamed up with other teens from the U.S., a team from India as well as a team from Uruguay.

In all, about 60 students from the four countries worked on the winning space colony design, meaning about a third of the victorious team were Canadians.

Alvina Gakhokidze, who is entering Grade 12 at Delta’s Seaquam Secondary in September, was in the structural engineering section, helping to design actual buildings.

“My heart was pounding so loudly,” Alvina recalled of the moment before the team found out they’d won. “In the last few seconds I just covered my eyes. It was torture. Then she finally revealed it, there was this whole video of everyone jumping. We all went on stage and got medals. Then we got these big trophies, rocket trophies.

Alvina said she never would’ve guessed she’d be in a contest that involved designing a space settlement. “Now I want to be an aerospace engineer,” she said. “Oh, how things change.”

READ ALSO: ‘Canada is going to the moon’: Trudeau announces partnership in NASA-led quest

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(Alvina Gakhokidze, left, and Aden Jabbar are two of several local high school students who were part of a winning space colony design competition in the U.S. in July. Photo: Amy Reid)

Another student from Princess Margaret’s NASA club, Mehtab Brar, said it was great to “encounter real people from the industry.”

“Engineers, contractors, the organizer herself, she also works with NASA. That was a really good way to network with the industry and the people there…. It was an opportunity to expand on some of the stuff I had already learned.”

Mehtab said about 10 students from Princess Margaret competed, in all.

Sabha El-Shawa, who served as the Canadian team’s adult lead and engineer, explained this was the first year the country has officially participated in the event since its inception in the 80s.

“Previously, the only way Canadians could participate was through a qualifying competition, so instead of having their country’s semifinals, you’d have to write a 40-page proposal over a couple of months, and only three teams get chosen from around the world,” she said, noting that made the chance of being accepted very slim.

“This was the first year Canada was guaranteed a spot.”

El-Shawa organized the national semi-final that served as a qualifier for the first-ever Canadian spot at the competition, and that qualifying contest was held last May at UBC.

All participants are in high school, she noted, and while all came from the Metro Vancouver area this year, she hopes to expand the event and garner more involvement from students across the country in future years.

“It’s pretty awesome,” El-Shawa said of the whole experience, as well as the opportunity the students had, noting real NASA engineers provided support to the Canadian students.

“You literally have people who work on these projects in real life to give you advice.

It’s super helpful.”

El-Shawa, who is about to embark on her masters in space studies, said the whole experience was “overwhelming” for her.

“It’s also the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this year, which they launched from Kennedy Space Center. So we were there, literally a week after the 50th anniversary celebration,” she said.

“The trophy that we won, the Saturn V, is the rocket they launched on. It was all very surreal. It was amazing.”

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(Submitted photo of the students preparing for the International Space Settlement Design Competition, held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida from July 26 to 30.)

READ ALSO: NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years



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'We Should Be Retreating Already From the Coastline,' Scientist Suggests After Finding Warm Waters Below Greenland – EcoWatch

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Andrew Yang’s assertion that people move away from the coast at the last Democratic debate is the completely rational and correct choice for NASA scientists in Greenland.

“There is enough ice in Greenland to raise the sea levels by 7.5 meters, that’s about 25 feet, an enormous volume of ice, and that would be devastating to coastlines all around the planet,” said Josh Willis, a NASA oceanographer, to CNN. “We should be retreating already from the coastline if we are looking at many meters [lost] in the next century or two.”

Willis and his research team at NASA’s Ocean Melting Greenland have been seeing some alarming patterns as they jet around the island’s coastline since heat waves bore down on the U.S. and Europe at the end of July, as CNN reported. Not only is the surface temperature warmer, turning Greenland into a slush-filled mess, but the ocean temperature deep under the water is also rising. The warming water eats away at the foundation of the glaciers, meaning Greenland’s massive ice sheet is getting weaker at the top and the bottom, which spells trouble for the entire world.

“Greenland has impacts all around the planet. A billion tons of ice lost here raises sea levels in Australia, in Southeast Asia, in the United States, in Europe,” said Willis to CNN. “We are all connected by the same ocean.”

The scientists looking at the ice and waters found a large opening of water near Helheim glacier, a huge 4-mile glacier on Greenland’s east coast, that had warm water along its entire depth, more than 2,000 feet below the surface, as CNN reported.

“It’s very rare anywhere on the planet to see 700 meters of no temperature variation, normally we find colder waters in the upper hundred meters or so, but right in front of the glacier it’s warm all the way up,” said Ian Fenty, a climate scientist at NASA, to CNN. “These warm waters now are able to be in direct contact with the ice over its entire face, supercharging the melting.”

Helheim has made news the past two summers. Two years ago it lost a huge 2-mile piece. Last summer a chunk the size of lower Manhattan broke off and was captured on video, as National Geographic reported.

This year the glacier has continued to melt.

“It retreats by many meters per day, it’s tens of meters per day. You can probably set your iPhone on timelapse and actually see it go by,” said Willis to CNN.

The ice in Greenland started the summer weak. There was little snowfall this past winter to reinforce the ice or to absorb the sunlight in the peak of summer, when the sun never fully goes down. Fresh snow stays bright and reflective, which bounces away solar radiation. Older snow is less reflective and absorbs the sun’s heat. When the first heat wave hit in June, 45 percent of Greenland’s ice sheet was ready to melt, according to National Geographic.

Arctic ice like Greenland’s is also vital to removing carbon from the atmosphere, according to a study in the journal Polar Biology. The calcium carbonate crystals that make up sea ice trap carbon dioxide in a cold brine. When the sea ice melts, it drops that carbon dioxide into the ocean where it binds to algae, which stops it from circulating around the atmosphere.

As sea ice decreases, less carbon will be removed from the atmosphere. Plus, the melting ice will raise sea levels. Glaciers like Helheim are big enough to make global sea levels rise by one millimeter in just one month, which concerns scientists, as CNN reported.

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A monster asteroid twice the size of The Shard is heading for Earth – Metro.co.uk

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A view of an asteroid and Planet Earth shining tiny and vulnerable in the bleak blackness of space (Image: ESA)

A gigantic asteroid is coming our way and will zoom terrifyingly close to Earth on September 14.

The monster space rock is called 2000 QW7 and is thought to be up to 650 metres wide.

This means it could be more than twice as big as The Shard in London Bridge, which is about 310 metres tall.

Happily, the object will zoom past at a distance of about five million miles from Earth at a speed of more than 23,000 kilometres per hour.

The last time it came past Earth was in 2000 and we’ll see it again in 2038.

Elon Musk recently warned that Earth has ‘no defence’ against gigantic asteroids.

A doomsday space rock could wipe out millions or even cause the extinction of humanity (Provider: Getty)

A doomsday space rock could wipe out millions or even cause the extinction of humanity (Provider: Getty)

The billionaire issued this chilling assessment of our planetary defence capabilities after his friend Joe Rogan shared a story from a British newspaper which discussed how Nasa is preparing for the arrival of a space rock named after an Egyptian ‘God of Chaos’ called Apophis.

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Musk tweeted: ‘Great name! Wouldn’t worry about this particular one, but a big rock will hit Earth eventually & we currently have no defence.’

The 340-metre wide behemoth is on a path which brings it within such a short distance of our planet’s surface that Nasa once feared it was going to hit us.

Luckily, subsequent calculations showed the object was going to miss us and pass within just 19,000 miles of our planet’s surface – a hair’s breadth in cosmic terms.

‘The Apophis close approach in 2029 will be an incredible opportunity for science,’ said Marina Brozović, a radar scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who works on radar observations of near-Earth objects (NEOs).

‘We’ll observe the asteroid with both optical and radar telescopes. With radar observations, we might be able to see surface details that are only a few meters in size.’

Asteroid approaching Earth. Computer artwork of an asteroid entering Earth's atmosphere.

The space rock which will buzz Earth is big enough to destroy a city (Photo: Getty)

If Apophis did hit a city like London, it would wipe out millions of people and create a crater roughly three miles wide, but our species would probably survive.

It’s only when space rocks are half a mile wide or larger that they start to pose an existential threat to humanity because larger objects could throw so much dust and debris into the air that sunlight is blocked so plants across the planet can no longer grow.

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In a piece of cosmic irony, Apophis will fly past on Friday, April 13, 2029.

Astronomers around the world will train their telescopes on the asteroid.

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The asteroid was discussed at Nasa’s annual Planetary Defence Conference this week, where scientists and disaster planners also simulated an asteroid apocalypse in order to practice their emergency response. 

‘Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs),” said Paul Chodas, director of Nasa’s Centre for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS).

‘By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defence.’



Nasa’s guide to viewing Apophis

‘On April 13, 2029, a speck of light will streak across the sky getting brighter and faster. At one point it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper. But it won’t be a satellite or an airplane—it will be a 340-meter-wide near-Earth asteroid called 99942 Apophis that will cruise harmlessly by Earth, about 19,000 miles (31,000 km) above the surface. That’s within the distance that some of our spacecraft that orbit Earth.

‘It’s rare for an asteroid of this size to pass by the Earth so close. Although scientists have spotted small asteroids, on the order of 5-10 meters, flying by Earth at a similar distance, asteroids the size of Apophis are far fewer in number and so do not pass this close to Earth as often.

‘The asteroid, looking like a moving star-like point of light, will first become visible to the naked eye in the night sky over the southern hemisphere, flying above Earth from the east coast to the west coast of Australia. It will be mid-morning on the East Coast of the United States when Apophis is above Australia. It will then cross the Indian Ocean, and by the afternoon in the eastern U.S. it will have crossed the equator, still moving west, above Africa. At closest approach, just before 6 p.m. EDT, Apophis will be over the Atlantic Ocean – and it will move so fast that it will cross the Atlantic in just an hour. By 7 p.m. EDT, the asteroid will have crossed over the United States.’

Several views of Apophis released in 2013 (Image: Nasa)

Several views of Apophis released in 2013 (Image: Nasa)

In 2013, Nasa calculated that Apophis would not hit Earth.

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‘We have effectively ruled out the possibility of an Earth impact by Apophis in 2036,’ said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL.

‘The impact odds as they stand now are less than one in a million, which makes us comfortable saying we can effectively rule out an Earth impact in 2036. Our interest in asteroid Apophis will essentially be for its scientific interest for the foreseeable future.’

However, it said the ‘April 13, 2029, flyby of asteroid Apophis will be one for the record books’ because of how close the object will come to our planet.

A view of the asteroid as it travelled past Earth (Image: ESA)

A view of the asteroid as it travelled past Earth (Image: ESA)

Last month an asteroid big enough to kill millions zoomed past the planet just a few days after it was spotted.

If it had been on a collision course with Earth, we could have done little to protect ourselves and would have had to watch helplessly as the space rock ploughed into our homeworld.

After this flyby, the European Space Agency issued an urgent call for more ‘eyes on the sky’ to make sure we don’t get caught by ‘surprise’ again.

On July 25, astronomers watched as a 100-metre wide object called 2019 OK came within 65 000 km of our planet’s surface – which  is roughly one-fifth of the distance to the Moon.

The rock had actually been ‘previously been observed but wasn’t recognised as a near-Earth asteroid,’ ESA admitted.

Now it’s hoping to learn from this mistake and make sure every asteroid heading our way is located and identified well ahead of time.

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‘This ‘un-recognition’ of an asteroid, despite it being photographed will be used to test the software going into ESA’s upcoming asteroid-hunting telescope, the Flyeye,’ said Rüdiger Jehn, ESA’s Head of Planetary Defence.

Asteroid approaching Earth. Computer artwork of an asteroid entering Earth's atmosphere.

The asteroid will skim Earth by 4.6 million miles next week (Science Photo Library RF)

Nasa will be sure to keep a close eye on Asteroid 2006 QQ23, which is set to pass by Earth on August 10.

The massive rock, which has been estimated at 570m in diameter and bigger than New York’s Empire State Building, has been classified as a ‘near-Earth object’ (NEO).

It will make its closest approach to Earth at a distance of 4.6 million miles at some time just after 3am.

The asteroid was discovered over a decade ago in 2006, which gives it part of its designated title.

The American space agency says there’s no danger of the wayward rock hitting us, which is a very good thing. Even though the asteroid isn’t a big as some out there, it’s large enough to create widespread devastation if it impacted on Earth.

A land impact could obliterate an entire city while a plunge into the ocean could cause tsunamis that impact low-lying land.

In either scenario, the asteroid would change the climate for many years.

The path of Asteroid 2006 QV89 can be seen alongside the planets' orbit in this graphic (Image: ESA)

The path of Asteroid 2006 QV89 can be seen alongside the planets’ orbit in this graphic (Image: ESA)

Nasa estimates it has already found over 90 percent of near-Earth objects measuring one kilometre or larger – which would have catastrophic global effects in the event of a collision.

But, smaller space rocks are much harder to detect.

The space agency has been working to pinpoint NEOs in the 140-meter range, with a goal of identifying at least 90 percent of these objects.

The asteroid is larger than New York's Empire State Building (Rob Loud/Getty Images for Gotham Organization)

The asteroid is larger than New York’s Empire State Building (Rob Loud/Getty Images for Gotham Organization)

According to Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) manager Paul Chodas there are very few asteroids identified by NASA that have a chance of hitting Earth, one of which, Bennu, is the subject of frequent monitoring by the agency.

Bennu is as wide as five football fields and weighs around 79 billion kilograms, which is 1,664 times heavier than the Titanic.

It has a 1 in 2,700-chance of striking Earth between 2175 and 2199 – which is really very small, so there’s no need to worry unduly for your great, great grandchildren’s safety.

Luckily for us, Elon Musk has already joined forces with Nasa to help defend our planet against doomsday space rocks. 

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Glaciers In Greenland Are Melting Like Never Before, Especially The Helheim Glacier – News Neni

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Helheim Glacier- is where Earth’s refrigerator door is left open, where glaciers dwindle, and seas start to rise.

Air and ocean scientist David Holland, who’s been monitoring Greenland from above and beneath, calls it “the end of the planet.” He’s referring to geography, not making an apocalyptic prediction. But in some ways, this spot just inside the Arctic Circle is where the planet’s hotter and watery future is being written.

It’s so warm right here that on an August day, coats are left on the ground and Holland and colleagues work on the thin melting ice without gloves. In one of many closest towns, Kulusuk, the morning temperature reached 52 degrees Fahrenheit — warm sufficient for shirtsleeves.

The ice Holland is standing on, is hundreds and thousands of years old. Scientists say it will likely be gone within a year or two, adding more water to rising seas worldwide.

Summer season this year is striking Greenland with record-shattering heat and extreme melt. By season’s end, about 440 billion tons of ice — perhaps more — could have melted or calved off Greenland’s giant ice sheet, experts estimate. That’s sufficient to flood all the state of Pennsylvania underwater a couple of foot deep.

Between July 31 and Aug. 3 alone, more than 58 billion tons melted from the surface. The average for this time of year is less than 18 billion tons. And that doesn’t even count the massive calving events or the nice and cozy water eating away at the glaciers from beneath.

One of the places hit hardest in this hot Greenland summertime is on the south-eastern fringe of the vast frozen island. Helheim, one of Greenland’s fastest-retreating glaciers, has shrunk about 6 miles since scientists came here in 2005.

Several scientists, such as oceanographer Josh Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, mentioned what’s occurring is the results of both human-made climate change and natural however bizarre climate patterns.

Glaciers right here do shrink in the summertime and grow in the winter, however nothing like this year.

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