Can Plants Survive In Lunar Soil?

Posted by on Apr 21, 2008 in Blog, Europe, Moon | 1 comment

(Image: The marigold plants in the first two pots on the left were grown with bacteria, while the third was not. The soil was made to mimic that on the lunar surface. Credit: N Kozyrovska / I Zaetz, via BBC)

While for most plants, the answer to this is probably a “resounding no,” it looks as if one species may be able to brave the harsh lunar environment.

(BBC News) An Esa-linked team has shown that marigolds can grow in crushed rock very like the lunar surface, with no need for plant food. […]

A team led by Natasha Kozyrovska and Iryna Zaetz from the National Academy of Sciences in Kiev planted marigolds in crushed anorthosite, a type of rock found on Earth which is very similar to much of the lunar surface.

In neat anorthosite, the plants fared very badly. But adding different types of bacteria made them thrive; the bacteria appeared to draw elements from the rock that the plants needed, such as potassium.

While marigolds may help make future space environments prettier, it will not “fill the tummies” of future colonists.

However if scientists can find a way to duplicate “this success” with other plants (perhaps in combination with certain bacteria), we may be able to establish permanent outposts on not only the Moon, but Mars as well.

Note: Also check out Ken Murphy’s article about lunar gardens, who briefly explores perfecting lunar soil and exporting it to Martian colonies.

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Russia And Europe To Team Up For Manned Mars, Moon Mission

Posted by on Aug 22, 2007 in Blog, Europe, Mars, Moon, Russia | 0 comments

With the United States determined to maintain its place in the cosmos, it seems that Russia has struck a unique partnership with Europe that may enable both of them to secure their place among the heavens.

(RIA Novosti) The Russian and European space agencies will develop a manned transport spaceship for flights to the International Space Station, the Moon and Mars, the head of the Russian agency said Tuesday.

“We agreed today with Jean-Jacques Dordain, the head of the European Space Agency, to form a working group to deal with developing a piloted transport system to fly to the International Space Station, the Moon and Mars,” Anatoly Perminov said after talks with Dordain on the sidelines of the MAKS-2007 air show in Zhukovsky, near Moscow.

While a partnership between the two may strike some as strange, both Russia and Europe could potentially benefit from relying on each others strengths. Russia currently lacks the funds for a lunar landing while Europe lacks the expertise.

Russia previously was attempting to partner with NASA for a lunar mission, although NASA was not too thrilled with that idea and seems to have chosen England instead.

Hopefully the nation that originally brought humanity to the cosmos is able to regain is “solar honor,” as it would be embarrassing for future historians to refer to Russia as a “former space power.”

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Galactic Suite Plans Space Hotels By 2012

Posted by on Aug 11, 2007 in Blog, Europe, Space Stations, Space Tourism, Spain | 7 comments

Galactic Suite, a space firm located in Barcelona, Spain, is planning on creating space hotels by 2012, and populating these structures with space tourists from below.

(MSNBC) Galactic Suite’s Barcelona-based architects say guests would pay $4 million each for a three-day stay aboard the orbital equivalent of a three-bedroom boutique hotel.

Before the flight, guests would get eight weeks of intensive training at a space camp on a tropical island, company director Xavier Claramunt told Reuters. Then the tourists would ride an private shuttle into orbit. Hotel guests would see the sun rise 15 times a day and use Velcro suits to crawl around their pod rooms by sticking themselves to the walls like Spiderman. […]

Claramunt, a former aerospace engineer, said the Galactic Suite concept began as a hobby. He told Reuters that a space enthusiast agreed to provide most of the $3 billion needed to build the hotel — but he declined to name the backer.

In order to help realize their vision, Galactic Suite has forged partnerships (or at least gained support) with several other space firms such as 4 Frontiers, Global Business Technologies and the Aerospace Research and Technology Centre.

They intend upon creating a “chain” of orbiting space hotels circling our planet, and it seems as if they have partnered with ADD+Xavier Claramunt to help construct their “molecule-look alike” space stations.

Europe’s entrance into the field is welcome, although they may have to play catch up to Bigelow Aerospace which has successfully launched two space stations in orbit.

Note: Galactic Suite has also launched several weblogs to compliment their young company, although their main one appears to be Galactic Suite News.

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Europe Constructs A Space Dump Truck

Posted by on Jul 3, 2007 in Blog, Europe, Spacecraft, Technology | 0 comments

(Image: 20 Ton ATV developed by Europe, Credit: ESA via BBC)

With America and Asia taking most of the space glory, Europe has decided to make its mark in the industry by constructing a large “space truck.”

Although designed for transporting food, water, oxygen and technology to the International Space Station (aka ISS), this space craft can will also give the ISS a rocket boost–not to mention serve as a solar dump truck.

(BBC News) New oxygen supplies brought up by the ATV are simply vented into the station; water is carried out in bags; fuel is piped across to Zvezda.

The ATV will stay at the station for six months. At intervals of 10 to 45 days, the vehicle’s thrusters will be used to boost the platform’s altitude.

Over time, the ISS crew will use the vehicle as a refuse skip, filling the cargo section with all their waste. After undocking, the ATV will destroy all this material – and itself – in a controlled re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.

Although we often dream of space stations “reusing, reducing and recycling” 100 percent of everything they bring on board, the reality is that astronauts are going to need the option of throwing some items away.

Since transporting garbage back to Earth is expensive (and releasing it into space can cause future problems), storing space junk inside this ATV may help decrease the future supply of orbital garbage that dangerously circles our planet.

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Scientists Testing For Cabin Fever On Martian Trip

Posted by on Jun 20, 2007 in Blog, Europe, Health, Mars | 0 comments

Although radiation, micro-gravity and tiny organisms can spell havoc for future explorers of the red planet, probably one of the biggest threats towards visiting Mars is “cabin fever.”

In order to find ways to thwart this issue, scientists are asking for volunteers to willingly isolate themselves with strangers in order to simulate a journey towards Mars.

( The European Space Agency (ESA) on Tuesday called for applications for one of the most demanding human experiments in space history: a simulated trip to Mars in which six “astronauts” will spend 17 months in an isolation tank on Earth.

Their spaceship will comprise a series of interlocked modules in an research institute in Moscow, and once the doors are closed tight, the volunteers will be cut off from all contact with the outside world except by a delayed radio link.

They will face simulated emergencies, daily work routines and experiments, as well as boredom and, no doubt, personal friction from confinement in just 550 cubic metres (19,250 cubic feet), the equivalent of nine truck containers.

Communications with the simulated mission control and loved-ones will take up to 40 minutes, the time that a radio signal takes to cross the void between Earth and a spaceship on Mars. Food will comprise mainly the packaged stuff of the kind eaten aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The psychological health of a crew can either make or break a mission. Although there have been few incidents (if any) aboard the ISS, simply being isolated from ones family, friends and country can literally push some people over to the breaking point.

As far as boredom goes, perhaps the ESA should consider shipping a few popular board games (like chess, monopoly or Chinese checkers) as they would not only help keep their mind off other things (like home), but help foster unity amongst the crew.

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Will French Ideas Kill The European Space Race?

Posted by on Feb 12, 2007 in Blog, Europe, France, Space Race | 1 comment

(Hat Tip: Space Pragmatism)

With China, India, and NASA getting serious about returning humanity to the Moon (and beyond), France is trying to motivate its European neighbors to collaborate their efforts lest they be left behind in the space race.

( Among the 50 proposals:

  • Sanctions should be imposed on any European government that does not give preference to European launch vehicles for its government civil and military satellites.
  • France should begin preparing nuclear-powered satellites to permit deep-space exploration, using expertise at the French Atomic Energy Commission and in French industry.
  • Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket should be made capable of launching astronauts within five years.

Although it’s good to see France rounding up the Europe to take the space race seriously, penalizing nations for outsourcing their launch vehicles would probably do more to split the group than unify it.

What makes the industry great is the ability to choose where to do business from (e.g. Space Adventures, and American company launches from Russia).

If France tries to impose some sort of weird embargo on outside competition, they may be stuck with an undeveloped and expensive space industry that no one wants to ride in.

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