Space Snacking

As Mars Pays a Visit, NASA
Wonders What to Eat Up There

The Red Planet is upon us this week, as it’s closest to Earth in its 2-year orbit. While backyard astronomers or simply stargazers go into their usual frenzy of Internet commentary and great photos, astrophysicists continue researching ways for our first visit to a planet other than our own. It won’t be easy.
Practical considerations such as what to wear and how to live up there assume epic proportions, as do issues of safety and comfort. Nothing is as hard, though, as to figure out what astronauts will eat during the trip, and specially, once they’re there. NASA, for example, started a four-month program to develop a healthy diet fit for astronauts.
Open to anyone, the program will also address the fact that space travelers seem to crave spicy foods and sweet and sour things. The technology of growing and recycle food in space will have to be greatly improved too if we’re to survive in such inhospitable conditions.
These are but a few of the so far insurmountable obstacles that the estimated three-year trip presents to earthlings. We still don’t even have a suitable rocket to take us there, nor the sources of renewable fuel are sufficiently up to par to supply us with the energy necessary for the journey. And never mind getting into the psychological challenges such a gruesome enterprise would represent.
So, while this is not even Mars’s closest approach to Earth, being at a mere 63 million miles from us, it’s still fun to gaze at its fuzzy surface where the rovers Spirit and Opportunity wander about and the Phoenix lander now sits silently, and at the Gale Crater where the Curiosity Continue reading

Rainforest Mezzanine

Gold Threatens Slice of Amazon
& Crowdfunding Saves Another

A gold rush in Peru is the latest threat to the Amazon Rainforest, as record prices attract speculators.
But in Ecuador a $116 million trust fund has preserved hundreds of square miles from oil exploration.
The most entertaining news about the forest, though, is the discovery that, not unlike most theaters and arenas in the world, it too has vantage observation points.
So step right in for the show is about to begin. Between ground floor and the nose-bleed section, here are…
THE BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE
Between its high treetops and the 20-inch decaying-matter thick floor, the rainforest has a previously overlooked layer: call it a luscious mezzanine.
While the majority of the canopy leaves falls to the forest’s floor, a great many get trapped mid-air by the almost-invisible filaments of the fungus Marasmius, which provides room and board to insects, Continue reading

Fab Four Reunion


Mars, Jupiter, Venus
& Mercury Together!

Astro Chimp

First Astronaut Never Told
Anyone About His Experience

In 1961, the U.S. was hopelessly behind the Soviet Union in the space race. The Soviets had already sent the Sputnik and a dog named Laika into orbit and, few knew at the time, were readying Yuri Gagarin to be the first human to fly beyond earth’s atmosphere that same year.
Under pressure, the U.S. couldn’t even find an American born chimpanzee to be trained and flown to outer space. The solution was to use Ham, a French Camaroon-born chimp, who was purchased for $457 for the experiment. His 16 minutes of fame came and went fast, but gave the U.S. some precious time Continue reading