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Space Trash or Space Shield?
Researchers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida are evaluating small tiles made of space trash to find out whether they can be stored aboard spacecraft safely or even used for radiation shielding during a deep-space mission.
At Ames Research Center in California, engineers have developed and built a compactor that melts trash but doesn't incinerate it. After compaction, a day's worth of garbage becomes an 8-inch diameter tile about half an inch thick. Plastic water bottles, clothing scraps, duct tape and foil drink pouches are left patched together in a single tile along with an amalgam of other materials left from a day of living in space.
"One of the ways these discs could be re-used is as a radiation shield because there's a lot of plastic packaging in the trash. The idea is to make these tiles, and, if the plastic components are high enough, they could actually shield radiation," said Mary Hummerick, a microbiologist at Kennedy working on the project.
Possible areas for increased radiation shielding include astronauts' sleeping quarters or perhaps a small area in the spacecraft that would be built up to serve as a storm shelter to protect crews from solar flare effects.
Hummerick and the team working in the Space Life Sciences Lab at Kennedy are trying to identify if the tiles -- which are made according to recipes based on trash from shuttle missions -- are free of microorganisms or at least safe enough for astronauts to come into contact with daily.
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NASA and Ahoora What If?
NASA, Ahoora Foundation Unite to Ignite Students' Passion for Science, Space, and Technology
Candy, soda and other everyday items will be the tools of the trade for teenage rocket makers competing in the What If? Live Student Design Challenge, which was kicked off Tuesday by NASA and the Ahoora Foundation of Plano, Texas. Registration is open through Feb. 28 for the worldwide contest, in which 14- to 18-year-old students will design experimental propulsion systems using materials that are cheap and easy to get.
What If? is designed to excite students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The goal is to develop their creative and analytical abilities by learning about the growing need for green fuels and designing a vehicle propulsion system using commonly available materials, including sweet treats and carbonated beverages. Students in two age categories, 14-16 and 17-18, may work alone or in groups of as many as four. They must create a research plan, write a research paper, develop and build the propulsion system, make a video showing the vehicle in action, and submit the video to judges via YouTube.com.
A panel of scientists, astronauts and educators will judge the entries and select finalists. There will be one winning design in each age category. Winners will be announced in May and receive special recognition from NASA and Ahoora.
To register, submit research, and learn more about vehicle design, the official rules and other information about the What If? Live Student Design Challenge, including view a two-minute video of the propulsion system in action, visit:
For more information about NASA, visit:
Space Photos by Request
EarthKAM (Earth Knowledge Acquired by Middle school students) is a NASA educational outreach program enabling students, teachers and the public to learn about Earth from the unique perspective of space. During EarthKAM missions (periods the EarthKAM camera is operational), middle school students around the world request photos of specific locations on Earth. The entire collection of EarthKAM images is available in a searchable EarthKAM image archive. This image collection and accompanying learning guides and activities are extraordinary resources to engage students in Earth and space science, geography, social studies, mathematics, communications and art.
The project was initiated by Dr. Sally Ride (America’s first woman in space) in 1995 and called KidSat. The KidSat camera flew on three space shuttle flights (STS 76, 81 and 86) to test its feasibility. In 1998, the program was deemed successful and renamed to EarthKAM. The EarthKAM camera flew on two additional space shuttle flights (STS 89 and 99) before moving over to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2001 on Expedition 1. The EarthKAM camera has since been a permanent payload on board the ISS and supports approximately four missions annually.
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Martian Condition on Earth!
You may already know the Spanish river Tinto. You may have seen it, or even live around it. However, you might not know that Tinto mimics martian conditions! Thanks to the toxic quality of its water, somewhat resembling old acid mine drainage, Tinto is not habitable for the most part. At least that is what was believed until biologists found pockets of salt mixed with sulfur and iron in the river that harbored bacteria. These salt pockets resemble salt deposits on Mars which were discovered by the Opportunity rover in 2004.
Biologists have identified five different varieties of microorganisms in the salt deposits of Tinto. “The reason is that conditions in this environment (salt deposits) remain less adverse than those of their surroundings given that they provide protection from radiation, for example,” said Felipe Gómez of Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología in a press release, “and they keep moisture levels higher than outside.”
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My Dream of Stars
My Dream of Stars: From Daughter of Iran to Space Pioneer: a book by Anousheh Ansari and Homer Hickam.
In her memoir, Anousheh recalls her long path to success and to achieving her dream. To learn more about the book, please visit: http://www.anoushehansari.com/book/
To find a book signing, please check the upcoming appearances section of this newsletter.
To obtain a copy please visit: