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NASA plans yearlong Mars simulation to test limits of isolation – UPI News



ORLANDO, Fla., Sept. 1 (UPI) — NASA wants four people to test the limits of human isolation by placing them in a simulated Mars habitat for a year, cut off from the world except for delayed communication and possible simulated spacesuit walks.

The simulation, planned for Johnson Space Center in Houston, won’t be the first time the space agency attempts to mimic a stay on Mars, but it will be one of the longest.

NASA seeks applicants between 30 and 55 years old who are willing and able to perform a daily routine that could include taking cognitive tests, performing indoor exercise, eating prepackaged food, engaging in limited social media and working on indoor gardens of leafy greens.

“NASA has a lot of good data on astronauts in the space station for up to six months. We’ve got a lot of good health data, performance data,” Michele Parker, a NASA project manager, told UPI.

“But we don’t have a lot of data beyond that six-month mark, or associated with challenges that we would experience on Mars, especially for the communication delays and limits on fresh food,” Parker said.

Such delays could be up to 45 minutes, she said, to simulate the period when Mars is farthest from Earth at 249 million miles.

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The isolation and limited resources apparently don’t seem so odious to many people. NASA officials said they’re surprised by a flood of interest in advance of the Sept. 17 deadline for applications.

“I think a lot of people are excited about Mars,” Parker said.

Project begins in 2022

The first round of the project is to begin in fall 2022. The volunteers — to be called crew members — won’t interact with anyone except via delayed transmissions like they would experience on the Red Planet.

The simulation’s primary goal is to collect health and performance data from the crew, so NASA can learn how those who someday travel to a base on Mars might react to isolation, Parker said.

“We’ll be figuring out how these challenges and constraints, for humans in a Mars environment, affect performance,” she said.

Exactly what kinds of data and how it will be collected may not be disclosed because of privacy concerns, she said. While astronauts on the International Space Station station collect blood, urine and fecal samples, researchers still are meeting to determine medical tests needed during the simulation.

The men and women chosen will be required to check in daily and report how they are feeling. Eight more crew members may be chosen for future missions in 2024 and 2025.

Testing food storage

A major goal of the program would be to test food storage for a year, which might provide insight into health and psychological issues, Parker said.

“We will test a Mars-realistic spaceflight food system, because fresh delivery of food is a regular highlight for astronauts living at the space station — and that won’t be possible on Mars,” she said.

The stored food will be supplemented with greens grown on the simulated base to provide fresh flavors and nutrition.

Such indoor gardening and other activities will occur in a 1,700-square-foot module — Mars Dune Alpha — that will be 3D-printed by Texas-based ICON Technology.

The habitat will be a demonstration of new building methods, Melodie Yashar, director of building design and performance at ICON, said in an interview.

“Both NASA and ICON have a vested interest in demonstrating how 3D printing can be used for a Mars habitat,” Yashar said.

That’s because sending construction materials to Mars will be nearly impossible, but 3D printing may be able to use Martian dust or rocks to build structures, she said.

The design of a habitat for lengthy isolation also is crucial, she said.

“NASA had a specific interest in separating recreational areas from working areas, and [having] redundant restrooms within both areas so that they could be evaluated for optimum location in such a habitat,” Yashar said.

Time apart

The habitat — about the size of an average American home — will allow crew members to find time apart from each other and from workspaces to diffuse tension, she said. It will have four private bedrooms, dedicated workstations, medical stations and food-growing stations, with shared living and kitchen area in-between.

“The general idea is that the crew quarters are in the far end of the habitat. You go from the crew quarters to the main recreation area and then the working quarters, and then finally the airlock, which will allow you to exit the habitat,” Yashar said.

The roof and ceiling will arch upward in the middle, meaning each room will have a different ceiling height and feel “to avoid spatial monotony and crew member fatigue,” the company said.

Some furniture will be movable to allow for differences in daily routine. Crew members will be able to set levels for lighting, temperature and sound control to help “regulate the daily routine, circadian rhythm, and overall well-being of the crew,” according to Icon.

Besides food and resource limitations, challenges may include dealing with equipment failures, performing simulated spacewalks and conducting scientific research, according to NASA.

Hobbies and routines are recommended methods to cope with isolation, Lisa Stojanovski, a science communicator and participant in a 2018 Mars simulation in Hawaii, told UPI. Her simulation, intended to last four months, was sponsored in part by NASA and run by the University of Hawaii.

“I took my knitting needles just to have that kind of relaxing hobby to fall back on,” Stojanovski said. “Personalizing your space with things like photographs and letters from the home or your favorite pillow also is going to be important.”

Her simulation, however, was cut short after four days when a crew member suffered a medical emergency.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used two different cameras to create this panoramic selfie, comprised of 60 images, in front of Mont Mercou, a rock outcrop that stands 20 feet tall on March 26, 2021, the 3,070th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. These were combined with 11 images taken by the Mastcam on the mast, or “head,” of the rover on March 16. The hole visible to the left of the rover is where its robotic drill sampled a rock nicknamed “Nontron.” The Curiosity team is nicknaming features in this part of Mars using names from the region around the village of Nontron in southwestern France. Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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Bird reports rose during lockdowns | Cornell Chronicle – Cornell Chronicle



Around 80% of bird species examined in a new study were reported in greater numbers in human-altered habitats during pandemic lockdowns, according to new research based on data from the eBird program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

In the paper, “Reduced Human Activity During COVID-19 Alters Avian Land Use Across North America,” published Sept. 22 in Science Advances, researchers compared online eBird observations from the United States and Canada from before and during the pandemic. They focused on areas within about 100 km of urban areas, major roads, and airports.

Vast amounts of data from a likewise vast geographic area were vital for this study. The researchers used more than 4 million eBird observations of 82 bird species from across Canada and the U.S.

“A lot of species we really care about became more abundant in human landscapes during the pandemic,” said study senior author Nicola Koper of the University of Manitoba, which led the research. “I was blown away by how many species were affected by decreased traffic and activity during lockdowns.”

Reports of bald eagles increased in cities with the strongest lockdowns. Ruby-throated hummingbirds were three times more likely to be reported within a kilometer of airports than before the pandemic. Barn swallows, a threatened species in Canada, were reported more often within a kilometer of roads than before the pandemic.

A few species decreased their use of human-altered habitat during the pandemic. Red-tailed hawk reports decreased near roads, perhaps because there was less roadkill when traffic declined. But far more species had increased counts in these human-dominated landscapes.

The authors filtered pandemic and pre-pandemic eBird reports so that the final data sets had the same characteristics, such as location, number of lists, and level of birdwatcher effort.

“We also needed to be aware of the detectability issue,” said co-author Alison Johnston, assistant director of the Center for Avian Population Studies and Ecological Data in the Lab of Ornithology. “Were species being reported in higher numbers because people could finally hear the birds without all the traffic noise, or was there a real ecological change in the numbers of birds present?”

The study tested whether better detectability might be a factor in the larger bird numbers reported. If it was, the scientists expected that to be more noticeable for smaller birds, which are harder to detect beneath traffic noise. However, effects were noticed across many species, from hawks to hummingbirds, suggesting that the increased numbers were not only caused by increased detectability in the quieter environments.

“Having so many people in North America and around the world paying attention to nature has been crucial to understanding how wildlife react to our presence,” says lead author Michael Schrimpf, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Manitoba. “Studies such as this one rely on volunteer birdwatchers, so if you enjoy watching wildlife, there are many projects out there, like eBird and iNaturalist, that can use your help.”

The study was funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada with in-kind support provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon cupola provides awe-inspiring view of the Earth from space –



Holy Molly.


Give a few seconds (or a minute or two if needed) to startle and gaze at the Earth’s scenery from the recently launched SpaceX Crew Dragon above.

on Wednesday, As part of the Inspiration4 mission, four civilians were blown up in a three-day orbital stay.Tied to the SpaceX Crew Dragon with one of the upgrades: Cupola. The transparent dome at the top of the Dragon Capsule provides the Inspiration 4 crew with the best views of the Earth that up-and-coming astronauts can dream of. This is the first time a cupola has been installed on a dragon. Dragons typically carry astronauts and cargo to the ISS, with docking ports at the top instead of windows.

A short video posted to the SpaceX Twitter account hours after the launch shows the cupola’s transparent dome against the Earth, which is a pale blue marble.

As the Crew Dragon orbits from a height of 585 kilometers (more than 360 miles), our planet is exposed to the sun and slowly roams around the orbs.

Inspiration 4’s crew (commander Jared Isaacman, doctor’s assistant, childhood cancer survivor Haley Arseno, aerospace engineer Chris Sembroski, African-American geology professor Sian Proctor) are in orbit for three days. Ride and stare at the cupola and the earth.

And did you say that the cupola is right next to the dragon’s toilet? Yeah, the view of the earth should be visible from the crew dragon’s bathroom. Isaacman told insiders Toilets are one of the few places where you can separate yourself from others with privacy curtains and have the best toilet windows of mankind. “When people inevitably have to use the bathroom, they will see one view of hell,” he said.

Astronauts who have been to space often talk about a phenomenon called the “overview effect.” Looking at the planet from above, the idea is that the way we think about the planet and the mass of humankind that depends on it will change. There may be a lot of revelation at the end of the Inspiration 4 journey, as I don’t know if they thought of it while sitting in the can.

The mission is the first mission to take off from the Florida coast on Wednesday night and be launched with four civilians. It is expected to return to Earth on Saturday and land in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX Crew Dragon cupola provides awe-inspiring view of the Earth from space Source link SpaceX Crew Dragon cupola provides awe-inspiring view of the Earth from space

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Oldest human footprints in North America found in New Mexico – Al Jazeera English



Fossilised footprints dating 23,000 years push back the known date the continent was colonised by thousands of years.

Footprints dating back 23,000 years have been discovered in the United States, suggesting humans settled North America long before the end of the last Ice Age, according to researchers.

The findings announced on Thursday push back the date at which the continent was colonised by its first inhabitants by thousands of years.

The footprints were left in mud on the banks of a long-since dried up lake, which is now part of a New Mexico desert.

Sediment filled the indentations and hardened into rock, protecting evidence of our ancient relatives, and giving scientists a detailed insight into their lives.

The first footprints were found in a dry lake bed in White Sands National Park in 2009. Scientists at the United States Geological Survey recently analysed seeds stuck in the footprints to determine their approximate age, ranging from 22,800 to 21,130 years ago.

“Many tracks appear to be those of teenagers and children; large adult footprints are less frequent,” write the authors of the study published in the American journal Science.

“One hypothesis for this is the division of labour, in which adults are involved in skilled tasks whereas ‘fetching and carrying’ are delegated to teenagers.

“Children accompany the teenagers, and collectively they leave a higher number of footprints.”

Researchers also found tracks left by mammoths, prehistoric wolves, and even giant sloths, which appear to have been approximately at the same time as the humans visited the lake.

Historic findings

The Americas were the last continent to be reached by humanity.

For decades, the most commonly accepted theory has been that settlers came to North America from eastern Siberia across a land bridge – the present-day Bering Strait.

From Alaska, they headed south to kinder climes.

Archaeological evidence, including spearheads used to kill mammoths, has long suggested a 13,500-year-old settlement associated with so-called Clovis culture – named after a town in New Mexico.

This was considered the continent’s first civilisation, and the forerunner of groups that became known as Native Americans.

However, the notion of Clovis culture has been challenged over the past 20 years, with new discoveries that have pushed back the age of the first settlements.

Generally, even this pushed-back estimate of the age of the first settlements had not been more than 16,000 years, after the end of the so-called “last glacial maximum” – the period when ice sheets were at their most widespread.

This episode, which lasted until about 20,000 years ago, is crucial because it is believed that with ice covering much of the northern parts of the continent, human migration from Asia into North America and beyond would have been very difficult.

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