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How otters' muscles enable their cold, aquatic life – Science Daily

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Sea otters are the smallest marine mammal. As cold-water dwellers, staying warm is a top priority, but their dense fur only goes so far. We have long known that high metabolism generates the heat they need to survive, but we didn’t know how they were producing the heat — until now.

Researchers recently discovered that sea otters’ muscles use enough energy through leak respiration, energy not used to perform tasks, that it accounts for their high metabolic rate. The finding explains how sea otters survive in cold water.

Physiologist Tray Wright, research assistant professor in Texas A&M University’s College of Education & Human Development, conducted the study along with colleagues Melinda Sheffield-Moore, an expert on human skeletal muscle metabolism, Randall Davis and Heidi Pearson, marine mammal ecology experts, and Michael Murray, veterinarian at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Their findings were published in the journal Science.

The team collected skeletal muscle samples from both northern and southern sea otters of varying ages and body masses. They measured respiratory capacity, the rate at which the muscle can use oxygen, finding that the energy produced by muscle is good for more than just movement.

“You mostly think of muscle as doing work to move the body,” Wright said. “When muscles are active, the energy they use for movement also generates heat.”

Wright said that because muscle makes up a large portion of body mass, often 40-50% in mammals, it can warm the body up quickly when it is active.

“Muscles can also generate heat without doing work to move by using a metabolic short circuit known as leak respiration,” Wright said.

A form of muscle-generated heat we are more familiar with is shivering. Wright said this involuntary movement allows the body to activate muscle by contracting to generate heat, while leak respiration can do the same without the tremors.

Wright said one of the most surprising findings was that the muscle of even newborn sea otters had a metabolic rate that was just as high as the adults.

“This really highlights how heat production seems to be the driving factor in determining the metabolic ability of muscle in these animals,” Wright said.

Sea otters require a lot of energy to live in cold water. They eat up to 25% of their body mass per day to keep up with their daily activities and fuel their high metabolism.

“They eat a lot of seafood, including crabs and clams that are popular with humans, which can cause conflict with fisheries in some areas,” Wright said.

Wright said we know how critical muscle is to animals for activities like hunting, avoiding predators and finding mates, but this research highlights how other functions of muscle are also critical to animal survival and ecology.

“Regulating tissue metabolism is also an active area of research in the battle to prevent obesity,” Wright said. “These animals may give us clues into how metabolism can be manipulated in healthy humans and those with diseases where muscle metabolism is affected.”

As for future research, Wright said there is still a lot we don’t know about otters, including how they regulate their muscle metabolism to turn up the heat on demand.

“This is really just the first look into the muscle of these animals, and we don’t know if all the various muscle types are the same, or if other organs might also have an elevated ability to generate heat,” Wright said.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Texas A&M University. Original written by Heather Janak. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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NASA spots double crater on Moon caused by mystery rocket crash – ZDNet

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A rocket body impacted the Moon on March 4, 2022, creating a double crater.

Image: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Astronomers have finally identified the impact site of a mystery rocket that curiously created two craters on the dark side of the Moon. 

The rocket part hit the Moon on March 4, but astronomers only reported the discovery of the impact site last week. There’s now an eastern crater on the Moon about 18 meters in diameter (19.5 yards) that’s superimposed on a western crater measuring 16 meters in diameter (17.5 yards). 

Innovation

According to NASA, the double crater may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end. So far, no other rocket crashes on the Moon have created double craters, even though Apollo SIV-B craters were larger. 

SEE: NASA’s Mars helicopter has a problem. This clever software trick could fix it

Neither NASA nor any other astronomers have been able to confirm which nation or company’s rocket it was. 

“Typically a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank,” said Mark Robinson, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, in a NASA press release. 

“Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the double nature of the crater may indicate its identity.” 

Robinson is also the principal investigator for the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera and a new NASA lunar-imaging experiment called ShadowCam. 

Per the New York Times, there was speculation in January that the rocket part was the second stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 that was launched in 2015 on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for its “DSCOVR” Deep Space Climate Observatory project. But that was later ruled out.  

Bill Gray, the developer of Project Pluto astronomical software, first spotted the rocket in January and was tracking it as it approached the Moon. 

SEE: NASA delays its Psyche asteroid mission

He’d posited in January, as reported by Ars Technica, that it was the Falcon 9 part, but a NASA engineer said the launch trajectory didn’t fit with the orbit of the rocket. 

Gray later concluded the likely candidate was a Long March 3C rocket launched from China in 2014. 

But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed in a statement on February 21 that “the upper stage of the rocket related to the Chang’e-5 mission entered into Earth’s atmosphere and completely burned up”. 

Gray disagrees with China’s assessment and thinks it got “two different, but similarly named, lunar missions mixed up”.  

He also argues some official agency like the US Space Force, or potentially some international agency, should be tracking space junk in far-away space, not just objects like astroids in lower orbit.  

“Many more spacecraft are now going into high orbits, and some of them will be taking crews to the moon. Such junk will no longer be merely an annoyance to a small group of astronomers,” wrote Gray on his Project Pluto blog.

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G2V Optics soars on aerospace opportunities – Taproot Edmonton

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G2V Optics has sent solar simulators to NASA to help test a spacecraft that aims to solve Earth’s growing space-junk problem. It’s the latest success in the Edmonton-based company’s evolution toward using its “Engineered Sunlight” technology to help aerospace organizations know what to expect from the sun once they get their devices into orbit.

“It’s a huge project, and … a fantastic feather in the cap of everybody in our team who worked on it,” G2V Optics CEO Ryan Tucker told Taproot. “And I think an awesome thing for Edmonton and our technology.”

G2V Optics has received US$822,100 in contracts from NASA since 2021. This project, the culmination of a two-year procurement process, is for the testing of OSAM-1, a spacecraft that is scheduled to be launched in 2026 to service Landsat 7, a satellite that is past its prime. If OSAM-1 can successfully dock with Landsat 7 and refuel it, then NASA will be a step closer to increasing the life expectancy of satellites, even those that were not designed to be serviced in orbit, and decrease the number of out-of-commission craft at risk of smashing into each other around our planet.

This is not the first foray into the space business for G2V Optics. In addition to a previous contract with NASA laboratories, the company has been working with the Centre nationale d’études spatiales (CNES) in France to enable the testing of technology involved in the 2024 Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission, in which a rover will land on Phobos and fly by Deimos.

“We don’t put anything into space. But we’re creating all the photons to make sure that everything works when they send it there,” Tucker said, noting that it’s fun to have a preview of the space research going on. “We kind of get to peek behind the curtain of these really interesting and exciting space exploration missions before they become public.”

Space is not where G2V Optics started when it was founded in 2015. After founder and CTO Michael Taschuk first developed the company’s light-emitting diode technology at the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta, its first applications tended to be in food production, specifically to maximize the efficacy of vertical farming.

“From a technical perspective, (we) did remarkable things,” Tucker said. “We were able to grow 30% more biomass with the same amount of energy and improve what was possible by using the complexity of our technology. But we realized that we were too early for that market … it’s such a nascent industry that’s dealing with its own challenges around scaling.”

At the same time, solar cell researchers and aerospace companies were ready for what G2V makes.

“We all of a sudden started working in this sector, with this more complex requirement, that was a perfect fit for what we had developed,” Tucker said. “That’s the traction that you’re looking for, right? Your job as a startup is to find that fit. And it wasn’t exactly where we thought it was. But we were, I like to think, smart enough to listen to it and to chase it when we found it.”

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NASA rocket launches to test new orbit for moon missions – CBC News

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NASA wants to experiment with a new orbit around the moon that it hopes to use in the coming years to once again land astronauts on the lunar surface.

So it is sending up a test satellite from New Zealand. The initial stages of the launch went according to plan late Tuesday, with the rocket carrying the satellite reaching space.

If the rest of the mission is successful, the CAPSTONE CubeSat satellite — only about the size of a microwave oven — will be the first to take the new path around the moon and will send back vital information for at least six months.

Technically, the new orbit is called a near-rectilinear halo orbit. It’s a stretched-out egg shape with one end passing close to the moon and the other far from it.

Imagine stretching a rubber band back from your thumb. Your thumb would represent the moon and the rubber band the flight path.

“It will have equilibrium. Poise. Balance,” NASA wrote on its website. “This pathfinding CubeSat will practically be able to kick back and rest in a gravitational sweet spot in space — where the pull of gravity from Earth and the Moon interact to allow for a nearly-stable orbit.”

Eventually, NASA plans to put a space station called Gateway into the orbital path, from which astronauts can descend to the moon’s surface as part of its Artemis program.

Group effort

For the satellite mission, NASA teamed up with two commercial companies. California-based Rocket Lab launched the rocket carrying the satellite, which in turn is owned and operated by Colorado-based Advanced Space.

The mission came together relatively quickly and cheaply for NASA, with the total mission cost put at $32.7 million.

Getting the 25-kilogram satellite into orbit will take more than four months and be done in three stages.

First, Rocket Lab’s small Electron rocket launched from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. Just nine minutes later, the second stage called Photon separated and went into orbit around Earth. Over the next five days, Photon’s engines are scheduled to fire periodically to raise its orbit further and further from Earth.

Six days after the launch, Photon’s engines will fire a final time, allowing it to escape Earth’s orbit and head for the moon.

Photon will then release the satellite, which has its own small propulsion system but which won’t use much energy as it cruises toward the moon over four months, with a few planned trajectory course corrections along the way.

“Perfect Electron launch!” Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck tweeted Tuesday. “Lunar photon is in Low Earth Orbit.”

Rocket Lab spokesperson Morgan Bailey said it was the most ambitious and complex mission it has undertaken so far and comes after more than two years of work with NASA and Advanced Space. She said it will be the first time Rocket Lab has tested its HyperCurie engine that will be used to power Photon.

“Certainly lots of hard problems to solve along the way, but we’ve ticked them off one by one, and made it to launch day,” Bailey said.

Bailey said one of the advantages of the orbit is that, theoretically, a space station should be able to maintain continuous communication with Earth because it will avoid being eclipsed by the moon.

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