Melissa McKinley has spent the last three years helping to build a cutting-edge piece of technology that will make life a lot easier for astronauts on space missions.
NASA’s new $30-million space toilet, the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) this weekend, where astronauts will test how well it works in micro-gravity.
Designed with astronaut feedback in mind, the new toilet is lighter, smaller, better smelling and more gender-inclusive than the Russian-made toilet currently in use aboard the ISS.
“It’s a fun project to work on because of the technical challenges, and because of the big impact on the crew. Obviously, going to the bathroom is something that the crew has to deal with multiple times a day,” McKinley, a systems project manager at NASA, told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann.
“We have such a talented and technical team working on this. It has truly been exciting to see the challenges and solutions that this team has come up with.”
How does a space toilet work?
While toilets down here on Earth use water to flush away waste, space toilets use use air flow.
Feces is pulled away from the body and into a cannister for later disposal, while urine is sent to the ship’s recycling system to be converted into drinkable water.
“Obviously, that’s a vital part of the overall systems on board,” McKinley said.
The new toilet improves upon existing technology in a number of ways, and it was designed with the help of astronaut feedback to be more comfortable and easier to use, clean and maintain.
“The project team is focused on doing the best job technically. And in order to do that, you have to have those frank conversations, and they become very, very commonplace,” McKinley said.
“The goal there for our team is to make it so that the crew can focus on other things they need to do during space travel and make this a more comfortable and convenient way for them to deal with these bodily functions.”
One big complaint about the previous toilet design is that it “really wasn’t customized for the female experience,” McKinley said. “So this is a chance to customize it more for the female anatomy and more for their use.”
Current design is divided into two parts, with crew using a funnel and hose for peeing, and a seat for bowel movements. The UWMS is designed so that the funnel and seat can be used simultaneously.
Another major factor is the smell.
Orion capsule engineering lead Jason Hutt, tweeted last month: “If you want to recreate that used spacecraft smell, take a couple dirty diapers, some microwave food wrappers, a used airsickness bag, & a few sweaty towels, put them in an old school metal trash can and let it bake in the summer sun for 10 days. Then open the [lid] & breathe deep.”
That shouldn’t be a problem with the UWMS, McKinley said. The new model comes with an odour bacteria filter.
“It’s been said that the air coming out of the toilet is some of the nicest smelling air on the spacecraft,” she said.
But, perhaps, the most important upgrade is the reduced mass.
The UWMS is 65 per cent smaller and 40 per cent lighter than the toilet currently aboard the ISS — which means more room for the astronauts, and a safer launch.
The toilet was supposed to launch on Tuesday aboard a cargo capsule as part of a routine resupply mission, but was delayed due to weather. NASA now hopes to launch by the weekend.
If all goes well, NASA also plans to install the toilet on Orion for a flight test that will send astronauts on a 10-day mission beyond the Moon and back.
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Sarah Peterson.
Asteroid 16 Psyche is possibly worth $10,000 quadrillion dollars – SlashGear
The Hubble Space Telescope discovered an asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter called 16 Psyche. The asteroid is approximately 230 million miles from Earth and is 140 miles across. Those dimensions make the asteroid roughly the size of West Virginia.
What makes 16 Psyche so special isn’t its size or distance from Earth. Rather it’s that the asteroid appears to be made of heavy and immensely valuable metals. NASA says that the asteroid isn’t rocky or icy like most in the asteroid belt. Rather it’s almost entirely metal, just like the core of the Earth. NASA says it’s not the only asteroid with metal content, but 16 Psyche could be completely made from iron and nickel.
Estimates are that given the asteroid’s size and its metal content, it could be worth $10,000 quadrillion dollars. That’s too many zeros for most to put into perspective. That figure is about 10,000 times the entire global economy in 2019. Researchers harnessed the ultraviolet spectrum data captured by Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph during observations in 2017 to determine that Psyche 16’s surface could be mostly pure iron.
They do recognize that the presence of an iron composition as little as 10 percent could dominate ultraviolet observations. NASA is planning a mission called Discovery Mission Psyche that’s expected to launch in 2022 using a Falcon Heavy rocket. The mission’s goal is to discover more about the asteroid, including its metal content, when probe arrives in orbit in 2026.
Lindy Elkins-Tanton, the lead scientist on the NASA mission, said in 2017 that 16 Psyche is the only known object of its kind in the solar system. It’s also the only way humans will ever visit a planetary core. She said that scientists could learn about inner space by visiting outer space as the asteroid is believed to be the core of a planet that failed during the early formation of the solar system.
Astronomers scout metal-rich asteroid thought to be worth 10,000 quadrillion dollars – ZME Science
Most asteroids are made of plain rock or ice — but not ’16 Psyche’.
According to recent observations perform using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the chunky asteroid from the solar system’s main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is mostly made of nickel and iron. This makes it an extremely atypical asteroid and a very valuable one — it’s worth as much as $10,000 quadrillion in raw resources by some estimates, or almost 70,000 times the value of the global economy in 2019.
Billionaires: ‘hold my beer’
Psyche spans 140 miles (225 km) in diameter, making it one of the largest objects in the main asteroid belt. In fact, Psyche is so large it was easily discovered using 19th-century technology in 1852.
The novelty is that now scientists have reported in The Planetary Science Journal the asteroid’s composition.
Scientists previously had some hints that Psyche is a dense, largely metallic object. This assumption has now been confirmed thanks to observations at two specific points in the asteroid’s rotation that offered a view of both sides of Psyche at ultraviolet wavelengths.
For the first time, astronomers have recorded iron oxide ultraviolet absorption bands in any asteroid. This is a clear indication that oxidation is occurring on the surface of the asteroid. Its high density suggests that the oxidated metals are nickel and iron. In fact, the entire asteroid might be the leftover core of a failed planet that never succeeded in forming into one.
“We’ve seen meteorites that are mostly metal, but Psyche could be unique in that it might be an asteroid that is totally made of iron and nickel,” Dr. Tracy Becker, Southwest Research Institute planetary scientist and co-author of the new study, said in a statement. “Earth has a metal core, a mantle and crust. It’s possible that as a Psyche protoplanet was forming, it was struck by another object in our solar system and lost its mantle and crust.”
The oxidation is believed to be caused by the solar wind. This flow of charged particles from the sun’s corona is responsible for the beautiful tails of comets, the formation of auroras in Earth’s atmosphere, and, in this case, the space weathering of Psyche.
Such metal asteroids are extremely rare, which is why Psyche was shortlisted in 2017 for a mission to study it closely using a spacecraft. The mission, which will be operated by NASA, is slated for a 2022 launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. The unmanned spacecraft would become the first to visit a body almost entirely made of metal, learning more about the asteroid as well as the solar system.
Since Psyche is believed to be as old as the solar system itself, findings from the mission could enrich our understanding of how planets form. Besides the scientific value of the mission, if you take into account the size of the asteroid and its metal composition, its total economic value could add up to $10,000 quadrillion, or $10 million trillion. That’s quite the incentive to visit the asteroid — provided, of course, we one day develop the technology to mine and retrieve metals from such asteroids.
“To understand what really makes up a planet and to potentially see the inside of a planet is fascinating,” Becker said.
“Once we get to Psyche, we’re really going to understand if that’s the case, even if it doesn’t turn out as we expect … any time there’s a surprise, it’s always exciting,” he added.
NASA’s Hubble Telescope Captures a Rare Metal Asteroid Worth 70,000 Times the Global Economy
Humans just got one more reason to journey to outer space. There’s a rare asteroid the size of Massachusetts orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, and it’s worth an estimated $10,000 quadrillion.
The rarity, known as 16 Psyche, was actually discovered back in 1852, but NASA’s Hubble Telescope has finally given earth-dwellers a closer look. The new study, which was published this week in The Planetary Science Journal, indicates that asteroid’s composition is key to its astronomical value.
To put this touted figure into perspective, when written out in full it boasts a line of zeros that could nearly stretch to the asteroid itself. That’s $10,000,000,000,000,000,000. This makes Psyche 70,000 times more valuable than the global economy, worth about $142 trillion in 2019, or enough to buy and sell Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is just shy of $200 billion, about 50 million times. That’s all thanks to some heavy metal.
Psyche, which spans 140 miles in diameter, appears to made entirely of iron and nickel. This metallic construction sets it apart from other asteroids that are usually comprised of rock or ice.
“We’ve seen meteorites that are mostly metal, but Psyche could be unique in that it might be an asteroid that is totally made of iron and nickel,” said Dr. Tracy Becker, a planetary scientist and author of the new paper, said in a statement.
So, how did the pricey asteroid come to be? According to Becker, it’s possible that Psyche is the leftover core of a planet that never properly formed because it was hit by objects in our solar system and effectively lost its mantle and crust.
The asteroid is currently about 230 million miles from Earth in the Solar System’s main asteroid belt, orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. And, unsurprisingly, NASA is planning to visit it again. In 2022, the administration plans to launch a Psyche spacecraft to further study the asteroid.
If they could just kindly bring the asteroid back, every person on the planet—all 7.5 billion of us—would get roughly $1.3 billion.
Source:- Robb Report
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