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Astronauts may need to jump in space to fight bone loss – Space.com

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When astronauts spend extended periods of time in space, many surprising and sometimes harmful changes can occur in their bodies. Unfortunately, there aren’t always ways to avoid or mitigate these effects. 

One such health concern is a loss in bone density and bone strength due to the effects of microgravity and, to a lesser extent, radiation exposure. A NASA-funded study in 2009 found that astronauts’ bone strength decreased by at least 14% on average during a six-month stay in space. Other studies have found much higher rates of bone loss.

But a new study suggests that astronauts and mission planners could employ an effective weapon in the fight against bone-density loss: jumping and other forms of high-impact exercise.

Related: Landmark NASA twins study reveals space travel’s effects on the human body

Out of the 17 astronauts who participated in the new study (opens in new tab), which was published online Thursday (June 30) in the journal Scientific Reports, only eight regained full bone mass density one year after returning from flight. Bone density loss was found to be much higher in astronauts who flew on missions longer than six months.

But the researchers also found that astronauts who engaged in resistance-based training while in space were able to recover bone mineral density after they returned. The authors thus propose adding  “jumping resistance-based exercise that provides high-impact dynamic loads on the legs” to astronauts’ existing exercise routines to prevent bone loss and promote bone growth while on spaceflight missions.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, Expedition 40 flight engineer, gets a workout on the advanced Resistive Exercise Device (aRED) in the Tranquility node of the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA)

“Jumping provides short bouts of high-impact, dynamic loads that promote osteogenesis [bone growth],” the researchers wrote, while adding that “neither running, cycling, squats, nor heel raise volume were associated with bone recovery.” Adding jumping exercise routines to astronauts’ existing exercise regimens may prevent bone loss and actually reduce the amount of exercise time needed each day, the authors suggest.

Of course, any new jumping regimen would require specialized equipment, and space is always limited aboard any spaceflight. “Successful implementation of high-load jump-training on-orbit will require an exercise device that mitigates forces transferred to the vehicle, along with an exercise regimen that accounts for astronaut deconditioning,” the researchers wrote in the new study. The authors acknowledge that since living quarters are typically cramped aboard spaceflights, “exercise equipment will need to be optimized for a smaller footprint.”

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Obviously, a study size of 17 astronauts isn’t exactly conclusive, and the authors note that much more data is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn regarding the effects of resistance training on astronaut bone loss.  

Astronauts already engage in regular exercise while in space to combat the effects of microgravity, and scientists have already tried feeding astronauts genetically modified vegetables to help stimulate bone growth and fish oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids to help mitigate bone breakdown. With bone loss still plaguing astronauts on long flights, there is still a need for more methods to mitigate it. 

Email Brett at BTingley@Space.com or follow Brett on Twitter at @bretttingley. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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University of Calgary study examines if Mars could have once supported life – Ottawa.CityNews.ca

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Was there ever life on Mars?

Using data from the Curiosity rover, a University of Calgary (UofC) scientist is studying Mars’ geology “for signs the planet could have once supported life.”

It’s part of the NASA-led Mars Science Laboratory mission to examine the rocks on the surface of Mars, as they could offer evidence of life on the Red Planet.

“Our goal is to place constraints on whether Mars was habitable,” Tutolo said. “And if Mars was habitable, then we can think about whether it actually did evolve life.”

The study will be using data collected by Curiosity as it was slowly climbing Mount Sharp 10 years ago to finally land in the centre of the Gale crater.

The rover has analyzed the chemistry and minerology of 1,211 samples of rocks and soil surfaces and sent 2,659 results back to Earth.

Tutolo and his team will do experiments in the laboratory to better understand and interpret the results. They will also conduct field research in British Colombia and run numerical models on a computer.

Study focuses on geological transition of rocks

The team will focus on examining the geological transition of rocks from the oldest layers of sediments to the younger layers “deposited in the crater and which formed Mount Sharp around 3½ billion years” ago.

Tutolo’s study suggests the oldest rocks in the crater are from a lake that is river-fed – “fluviolacustrine environment” –while the younger sediments contain extremely soluble salts – magnesium sulphate salts – such as Epsom salt that can be used for bathing. As these salts are extremely soluble, precipitating them requires all the water to be evaporated.

“We think that it must have been drier on Mars in order to precipitate those minerals. What we’re exploring is how that transition is recorded in the rocks,” Tutolo said.

The research is also taking advantage of the “rare-on-Earth” Basque Lakes near Cache Creek, B.C., that contain magnesium sulphate where the same sulphate minerals found on Mount Sharp on Mars are actively precipitating.

Tutolo is trying to answer this question: “Is there a point where it gets so salty that nothing could live there?”

Since Mars is red as a result of all the iron on its surface where its atmosphere doesn’t have similar levels of oxygen to Earth’s atmosphere, the team is using special tools in the lab to examine sensitive substances in the absence of oxygen, such as an anaerobic chamber that simulates conditions on Mars.

Mars’ geology helps understand Earth’s evolution

Understanding the geological transition on Mars will provide information on whether the planet’s environment would still be habitable in drier and colder environments and whether there’s a potential that life evolved and existed on Mars’ surface at that time. If life did evolve, what evidence can we get from the rocks?

“There was probably a period of time when Mars was getting warm and having water again, and going back and forth (from warmer to colder),” said Tutolo.

He explained that the Earth has experienced ice ages and greenhouse climates as a result of the slight variations in its movement through space, whereas Mars’ movement changes a bit more dramatically, making those cycles more enhanced.

Tutolo also adds that the geological history of early Mars helps understand the history of early Earth as there’s limited access to its geological record from that time.

The limited access to early Earth’s geology is attributed to “plate tectonics whereby, over the eons, the surface gets subsumed into the planet’s mantle as continent-sized slabs of rock collide.”

“But on Mars, all of those rocks have been there since they were deposited, some 3½ billion years or more ago,” Tutolo said. “So we can see those rocks on Mars and understand how life evolved on our planet, going from totally abiotic, or without life at all, to what it is today.”

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Blaxtair Inc. embedded pedestrian detection system – Canadian Occupational Safety

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Blaxtair is an embedded pedestrian detection system for industrial vehicles, designed to prevent collisions between vehicles and pedestrians in co-activity zones. It has a smart 3D camera able to distinguish a person from other obstacles in real time and alerts operators in case of danger, without unnecessary alarms.

Blaxtair can be equipped to any industrial vehicle, including but not limited to forklifts and wheel loaders, and is perfect for sites within any industry where co-activity between pedestrians and vehicles poses a safety threat (logistics, warehousing, recycling, mining, construction, etc.)

Blaxtair is made up of 3 main parts:

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Starburst galaxy shines in new 'whirlpool of gold' photo – Space.com

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The ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this view of the starburst galaxy NGC 4303, with gas clouds of ionized oxygen, hydrogen and sulfur shown in blue, green and red, respectively.  (Image credit: ESO/PHANGS)

A mesmerizing new photo captures bright, golden swirling clouds of gas that generate an exceptionally high rate of star formation. 

This stellar nursery, a spiral galaxy known as NGC 4303 or Messier 61, is located 50 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. NGC 4303 is one of the largest galactic members of the Virgo Cluster — a large, nearby grouping of galaxies.

NGC 4303 is considered a starburst galaxy, where an unusually high amount of stars are born. In turn, studying this type of galaxy helps astronomers to better understand star formation across the universe, according to a statement from the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

Related: Amazing space views from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (photos)

“Stars form when clouds of cold gas collapse,” ESO officials wrote in the statement. “The energetic radiation from newly born stars will heat and ionize the surrounding remaining gas.” 

The photo, taken using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, shows bright swirling clouds of the ionized gas, appearing as a “whirlpool of gold.” The swirling clouds are like cosmic breadcrumbs, tracing the path of new stars being born, according to the statement.  

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Astronomers using the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on the VLT observed NGC 4303 at different wavelengths of light to create this “jewel-like” image. Combining their observations revealed a glowing golden whirlpool, speckled with gas clouds of ionized oxygen, hydrogen and sulfur shown in blue, green and red, respectively. 

The recent observations were collected as part of a project called the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby Galaxies (PHANGS), which aims to uncover nearby galaxies across all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the statement. 

Follow Samantha Mathewson @Sam_Ashley13. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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