Keeping Recycled Space Water Clean (Via Ultraviolet Light)

Posted by on May 12, 2010 in Blog, Health, Technology, Video | 0 comments

Unless you are fortunate enough to live on a water abundant world (like Earth, the red planet, and yes, even the Moon), future space travelers are going to have to recycle every drop of water that exits their body (regardless of origin).

Since bacteria have a tendency to thrive in micro gravity, astronauts will need to find a way to kill off these microscopic creatures before they kill us off via recycled sweat and other bodily fluids (especially since our immune system becomes weaker in zero-G).

Fortunately for us a company may have a quick solution that is not only effective but inexpensive as well.

(Homedics, note: PDF file) UVC [ultraviolet C] light, with wavelengths between 100 and 280 nm, is commonly referred to as “germicidal light” due to its effectiveness in destroying microorganisms. UVC light acts as a natural outdoor air purification system by deactivating the DNA of microorganisms and destroying their ability to multiply. […]

Utilizing the germ-killing benefits of UVC light, HoMedics, the leader in health and wellness products, developed Restore®, a complete water purification system in an easy to use pitcher. Restore combines UV Clean technology to remove bacteria, viruses and microbial cysts with a filtration system to reduce heavy metals, chlorine (taste and odor), and some industrial and agricultural pollutants.

Although this technology could also be used for off world settlers (who may have to drink recycled water until they can melt enough space ice), this technology would also benefit residents of orbital space stations around Earth, Venus or even a gas giant.

It could also help reduce the overall cost of filtering space water, allowing corporations and governments alike to invest money into other area’s (like propulsion or food).

(via Gizmodo, Image Credit: HoMedics.com)

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Space Settlers May Replace Soap With Plasma Gas?

Posted by on Feb 23, 2010 in Blog, Health, Technology | 0 comments

(Image Credit: Phil Wilson of the New York Times)

Having existed for thousands of years on Earth, soap has helped keep our human hands clean since the days of ancient Babylon.

Unfortunately if our species ever travel beyond the sky, creating this cleanser via fats and oils may be just a ludicrous as importing it from the home world (aka Earth just in case you were wondering).

Instead of spending minuets scrubbing your hands in sub Earth gravity, future colonists instead could disinfect their hands via plasma gas (in mere seconds nonetheless).

(New York Times) Instead of scrubbing, the workers would put their hands into a small box that bathes them with plasma — the same sort of luminous gas found in neon signs, fluorescent tubes and TV displays. This plasma, though, is at room temperature and pressure, and is engineered to zap germs, including the drug-resistant supergerm MRSA.

The technology is being developed in several laboratories. Gregor Morfill, who created several prototypes using the technology at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, says the plasma quickly inactivates not only bacteria but also viruses and fungi.

Since micro gravity is one of few environments dangerous micro organisms love, having plasma gas around to sanitize hands, feet as well as everything in between (and above) could help keep future settlers healthy whether they are living off world or traveling to another.

Combined with anti-germ paint, future space colonists may not have to fear receiving a deadly infection from a creature that they can not see (as they will have plenty of other issues to worry about).

(Via Gizmodo)

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Off World Colonies Will Have Organ Labs (But No Organ Donors)

Posted by on Nov 13, 2009 in Blog, Health, Science, Video | 0 comments

earlab

(Image Courtesy of Gizmodo)

One of the beauties of living on planet Earth is that if you ever have an organ fail, you can easily sign up for a new one before the rest of your body expires (well, at least you can in China).

However if one lives upon say Mars, the dwarf world Ceres or the Galilean mega moons of Ganymede and Callisto, your options of finding a suitable match may be close to zero.

Instead of waiting for suitable donor organ from Earth, it may be more practical for off world settlers to grow their own instead.

(Gizmodo) Laboratory-grown organs and tissues are already benefiting patients today. For example, laboratory-grown bladders are being tested in children with spina bifida and adults with spinal cord injuries and will soon be tested in patients with bladder cancer. Tissue engineering technology has been used to repair narrowed urethras, the tube that empties urine from the body.

The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has already made great strides in producing functioning organs which will potentially benefit millions of individuals on Earth.

Led by Anthony Atala, this medical technology could have the potential of affecting millions of future settlers across our star system, enabling them to live with greater independence from our home world.



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Space Cancer Begone, Via Terrestrial Stroke Drug?

Posted by on Nov 13, 2009 in Blog, Health, Israel, Science | 1 comment

cancercells

(Image Credit: Pat Kenny, via National Cancer Institute)

Despite the beauty and tranquility that comes with viewing the cosmos close up, the reality is space is a very dangerous place thanks to radiation.

Aside from the fact that it can turn your brain into mush, space radiation can also encourage cancer to form, leading to an early death for a future space settler.

Fortunately a drug designed to fight off strokes may also help space colonists defeat a future foe.

(Haaretz) Israeli scientists have identified a substance that can kill cancerous cells without harming healthy ones, paving the way for more effective cancer treatment. […]

The substance identified by the researchers, which delays cell proliferation in healthy and cancerous cells, is a component of a drug developed a decade ago to preserve nerve cells and prevent them from dying after a stroke.

But while the drug causes the rapid death of cancer cells, healthy cells activate a mechanism that overcomes the delay in proliferation within hours, and those cells continue to proliferate exactly like cells not exposed to the substance.

This is really good news, especially considering that there are very few radiation safe worlds within our star system.

If perfected, this drug (along with an anti-radiation drug) could enable humans to safely dwell upon Mars, Callisto and (with heavy shielding) Ganymede too.

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NASA To Irradiate Monkeys (What Will PETA Say?)

Posted by on Nov 5, 2009 in Blog, Health, NASA, Science | 0 comments

space-chimps

(Image Credit: Space Chimps)

If humanity is to ever conquer the final frontier, then we have to understand the effects of radiation beyond current assumptions.

Since human subjects are hard to find, it looks like NASA has chosen the next best thing–monkeys.

(Telegraph.co.uk) If a manned mission to Mars ever takes place, the human pilots will be outside Earth’s protective magnetic field for several months, unprotected from solar radiation. Little research has been done on this sort of long-term exposure to low doses of radiation. […]

Eleanor Blakely, a biophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said: “Obviously, the closer we get to man, the better.”

The researchers are to pay particular attention to the effects on the monkeys’ central nervous systems and behaviour. The monkeys, previously trained to perform a variety of tasks, will be tested to see how the exposure affects their performance.

While PETA has yet to publicly show their displeasure regarding these tests (via their blog or on Facebook), these experiments are necessary in order to determine whether its safe to live off world (as there are not many radiation safe worlds within our star system).

NASA is already promising that the monkeys used in the experiment will have free health care for the rest of their lives, although the data from these tests should help determine how safe it is for humanity to travel to other worlds–along with all of their animal friends too.

(Update: Hat Tip Mars News)

Update (11/19): It looks like PETA has spoken. Oy!

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Lunar Dust Dilemma Solved (Via Space Umbrellas?)

Posted by on Apr 28, 2009 in Blog, Health, Moon, Science | 0 comments

Despite having the potential to feed our energy gluttonous world, lunar dust can be fetal to both humans and our robot friends, not to mention very electric (thanks in part to the solar wind).

While scientists have suggested melting down nearby Moon soil in order to counter the rough dust particles, it may be better to construct large space umbrellas thanks to new research regarding lunar dust.

(Moon Today) “Before you can manage the dust, you have to understand what makes it sticky,” says Brian O’Brien, the sole author of the paper. His analysis is the first to measure the strength of lunar dust’s adhesive forces, how they change during the lunar day — which lasts 710 hours — and differ on vertical and horizontal surfaces. O’Brien used data from the matchbox-sized Dust Detector Experiments deployed on the Moon’s surface in 1969 during the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions. […]

O’Brien found that later, as the Sun rose and the angle of incidence of the Sun’s rays on the dusty vertical surface facing east decreased, the electrostatic forces on the vertical cell weakened. The tipping point was reached when the Sun was at an angle of about 45 degrees: then the pull of lunar gravity counteracted the adhesive forces and made the dust start falling off. All dust had fallen by lunar night.

“These are the first measurements of the collapse of the cohesive forces that make lunar dust so sticky” O’Brien says.

If the Sun is really influencing the stickiness of lunar dust, then the easiest way to combat it may be to erect an enormous space umbrella over the Lunar base.

While this may not give a future settlement an aesthetic look (which would not matter unless one was into the lunar hotel business), it could help reduce the amount of dust that makes it inside these future space habitats (a feature that may appeal to long term residents).

(Image Credit: Fashionably Geek)

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