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Category Archives: Space Travel

‘Star Trek,’ Space Travel and Teleportation with Tig Notaro –

Posted: November 7, 2019 at 10:41 pm

Beloved stand-up comedian and "Star Trek: Discovery" actor Tig Notaro is proud to be in the Trek universe, but isn't so sure she'd fly to space herself.

Notaro recently took some time to chat with during the weekend of the Bentzen Ball, an annual comedy festival in Washington, D.C., that she curates and performs at. During the conversation, Notaro revealed her feelings regarding human spaceflight, the importance of diversity and representation, and what it feels like to become a part of the "Star Trek" universe.

Notaro has recently played chief engineer Reno in "Star Trek: Discovery" and an astronaut in the film "Lucy in the Sky." She also recently made waves in the space world as she joined forces with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope on Twitter.

Related:'Star Trek: Discovery' Renewed for Third Season

Here you can see comedian and actor Tig Notaro as Chief Engineer Reno in "Brother," Episode 201 of "Star Trek: Discovery."

(Image credit: Jan Thijs/CBS)

"It's not anything that I chose," Notaro said about her work in sci-fi with roles in both Trek and "Lucy in the Sky." But, while she noted that she wasn't seeking out sci-fi acting gigs, "I feel open to that world," the actor said.

"It's very different," Notaro added as a person who works primarily as a stand-up comic about her foray into science fiction. But, while it's different, "I like it, I like being a recurring role on "Star Trek" I'm not looking to become a full cast member but I enjoy the world, and I enjoy the cast and crew, and I think what I have going on is kind of perfect."

Now, while Notaro might be a relatively new face in the sci-fi world, "I did follow 'Star Trek' when I was a child, the original series obviously I'm more familiar with Discovery now, but I love being a part of it, if just simply for the ability to tell people I am on 'Star Trek,' it's really fun to be able to say that."

"It's fun, I'm proud to be a part of it," she added. "My sons, they think I actually work in space because whenever I go off to Toronto to film 'Star Trek,' I always tell them I have to go work on the space rocket "

Notaro, unsurprisingly, had a few funny words to say about her other recent sci-fi work in "Lucy in the Sky." According to Notaro, the film's director Noah Hawley liked her stand-up work and reached out, then joked that he thought, "she could probably act like herself in this too." She added that she received a nice surprise after filming, when the "Lucy in the Sky" team gave her the on-screen spacesuit that she wore in the movie.

While Notaro has recently played characters who either travel to space ("Lucy in the Sky") or spend their lives working in space ("Star Trek: Discovery"), she's not sure she would launch into space herself.

"I think it's really exciting and terrifying," she said. "If I could be in space, I would like to just be teleported; I don't know that I would want that actually takeoff and journey to outer space."

"I was just talking to my wife about that; she has absolutely no interest in being in outer space. I don't think were gonna run into 'should we go, should we not go?'" Notaro said, adding that, while her wife isn't interested, her sons would probably want to go. "I would bring my sons. I really think they would be interested."

Notaro, as a gay woman leading in stand-up comedy, is no stranger to providing representation for marginalized groups in spaces typically dominated by straight men.

On the topic of representation and diversity in Trek, Notaro noted that "It's really impressive, 'Star Trek' was already so ahead of its time with diversity and representation, but that's, I think, another part of what makes me proud to be a part of that show," she said. "It's really thoughtful it's just a smart, thoughtful show and it's nice to be a part of something that's positive. It's not just some random space series or sci-fi project. It's a really smart, thoughtful, diverse series."

"I'm certainly in ridiculous things, like my own nonsense talk show, but the other projects that I do, it is nice to have that anchor of pride with something. And I think it's tremendously important to have the representation that they do and the diversity." Notaro added.

This past year, NASA astronaut Anne McClain became the first active astronaut to be out as part of the LGBTQ+ community, astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch completed the first all-woman spacewalk, and NASA, with their Artemis program, has increased its efforts to land the first woman on the moon.

So, while Notaro is very familiar with the world of comedy, and now sci-fi, she also spoke about the importance of increasing diversity and representation in other sectors, like the world of real human spaceflight. As she described, it is extremely important "to kind of make sure that people and especially younger generations know that it's possible to do what you think is not possible."

Notaro, who was born in Mississippi, grew up largely before such representation was mainstream. "As a kid, when you don't have that, you just kinda skim past it and and you do feel like 'oh that's not for me' or 'I don't have that opportunity.' And then when you do see somebody, how invigorating it is and all the possibilities that start coming to light. I know it's kind of an obvious thing, but it's really really powerful."

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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'Star Trek,' Space Travel and Teleportation with Tig Notaro -

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New space station crew will rely on astronaut Chris Cassidys experience to prepare for the unexpected – Houston Chronicle

Posted: at 10:41 pm

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy has spent 182 days in space, and is well-versed in the unexpected hazards of space travel as he prepares to return to the International Space Station next spring.

In 2013, during Cassidys first long-duration mission at the space station, he was tasked with an emergency spacewalk to troubleshoot a radiator leaking ammonia in the stations power system. The leak was repaired in less than 3 hours, a minor hiccup by space standards, but as Cassidy prepares to return to the space station in April 2020 with the Expedition 63 crew, he believes they are prepared for any new problems that should arise on their 6-month mission.

The reason we train is to be ready for any contingency that happens, Cassiday said at a media briefing at Johnson Space Center with his crewmates, Russian cosmonauts, Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin. You dont know what the next weird thing thats gonna happen is but we practice for all the weird situations that we can think of.

The Expedition 63 mission will be Cassidys third spaceflight, and his second aboard the Russian Soyuz rockets that have been ferrying NASA astronauts to the space station since the agency shuttered its space shuttle program in 2011. Commercial rockets being built by SpaceX and Boeing are meant to alleviate that reliance, but those programs are behind schedule.

The Russian Soyuz spaceflights have not always gone smoothly. Astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were scheduled to join the space stations Expedition 57 crew in October 2018, but they were forced to abort their mission when the Soyuz spacecraft transporting them to the space station experienced a rocket booster malfunction shortly after launch.

Russian officials later announced that the failed launch the first of its kind in 35 years was the result of a malfunctioning sensor, which caused the first and second stages of the rocket launching the Soyuz to crash into each other, breaking the second stage and forcing an emergency landing.

The abort was preceded by the discovery of an air leak-causing hole in a different Soyuz docked to the space station in late August.

Subsequent Soyuz launches have gone smoothly, but Cassidy acknowledged the risks that come with any rocket launch carrying a human crew. He said he is confident that both Russian and American engineers and scientists have worked to ensure the Soyuzs systems are as safe as possible.

If youre not a little bit nervous on launch day, you dont understand the physics behind you, Cassidy said. That being said, were all really well trained and I think (Hagues) aborted mission shows that the equipment actually is pretty robust too. Theres a reason theres an abort system and theres a reason that its automated and things happen quickly.

Cassidy, Tikhonov and Babkin will be on the space station for six months, and besides a brief overlap with the previous space station crew, the three of them will be the only humans on the space station during that period.

This is an interesting time because the astronaut and cosmonaut communities (are) very small and tight-knit, Cassidy said. So even though we are formally together for just a very short period of time, weve known each other for several years and our families have dined together in both countries, so theres a familiarity there thats rooted in friendship.

It will be the first spaceflight for the two cosmonauts, and Tikhonov mentioned that he was happy to have Cassidys prior space experience to lean on.

Tikhonov had previously been scheduled for space travel three different times before finally being named to the Expedition 63 crew. He said there was a point that he thought he would never make it to space and said he is proud to carry on the tradition of international collaboration in space, regardless of the occasionally tense Russian-American relations on the ground.

Right now we have some different points of view, different understanding, maybe different traditions, Tikhonov said. The International Space Station actually shows us how its possible to not allow your traditions, your habitats, (to) affect international cooperation. Our partnership and friendship just continues through these years, 20 years of ISS. Its really wonderful and Im looking forward to these new steps.

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Space travel may change the human heart – Inverse

Posted: at 10:41 pm

Spending time in the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station appears to alter gene expression in the human heart. The results shed light on what life in space might do to the human body and what happens when that body returns to Earth.

Humans have been venturing out into space for over 50 years now, but very little is known about the toll microgravity might take on the human body. With the age of commercial space travel fast approaching, it is increasingly critical to understand how our bodies adapt to space flight.

Space is our next frontier. In the next 100 years, humans will be traveling through space all the time, says Joseph Wu, Stanford University professor and senior author on the study.

To understand the effect of space travel on our most crucial, blood-pumping organ, in 2016 Wus team sent beating, human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes, a kind of heart muscle cell, to the International Space Station.

The results, published in the journal Stem Cell Reports, show that time in a microgravity environment alters gene expression in the heart muscle cells, but most of these changes revert after the cells are back on Earth.

This is the first study to look at the effects of microgravity on a cellular level, the researchers say.

To create the stem-cell model, the researchers harvested blood cells from three people, none of whom had a history of heart disease. They then reprogrammed the cells to become cardiomyocytes. The cells were sent to the ISS and cultured aboard, staying in the microgravity environment for a total of five and a half weeks before being flown home.

By comparing the cells gene expression in-space, on return and to controls, the researchers found that time in space altered the expression patterns in 2,635 of the cells genes. Most of the altered genes are related to mitochondrial metabolism, the process by which nutrients are converted into energy and used to carry out different functions in cells. Expression patterns looked similar to controls after 10 days back on Earth a possible sign that the body can reverse adaptations to life in space.

We do know that heart muscle cells can adapt. Its hard to tell if these changes are necessarily negative or if they are natural adaptations, says Alexa Wnorowski, a graduate student at Stanford University who was involved in the study.

Its hard for us to come up with a conclusion of what that means. It gives us a future direction to look into, she says.

The team plans to use the data and compare it with both records of physiological changes in astronauts during missions and with symptoms of heart disease in order to get a better sense of these adaptations long-term effects.

The study could also have implications on heart health for those that dont even plan to travel beyond the stars, say the researchers, offering insight into how the environment may affect gene expression in heart cells here on Earth.

Thats one of the hopes for the directions that this type of research might go, Wnorowski tells Inverse. If we figure out that microgravity is able to replicate some of the gene expressions we see in diseases on Earth.

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Space Travel: Redefining the Travel Customer Journey with Virgin Galactic | By Pier-Luca Rapin – Hospitality Net

Posted: at 10:41 pm

"It is another level of personalization, it is not only to be sure to have the right water and the right pillow in the room, this is understanding why people are actually going in that journey, helping them realize that dream and being able to live that little moment the best as they can."- Martijn Brouwer, General Manager Astronaut Relations, Virgin Galactic.

During the 2019 Young Hoteliers Summit, EHL Lausanne took a one-way ticket for space with the visit of Martijn Brouwer, General Manager Astronaut Relations and hospitality at Virgin Galactic. Virgin, as a group, has always been defined by a strong service philosophy. Nevertheless, Virgin Galactic is taking this philosophy a step further.

The offer of space travels has to come with a perfect customer journey and must be an experience as a whole. The person in charge of the customer experience is Martijn Brouwer, a 20-year veteran of the Virgin Group. During his career, he had the opportunity to work with Richard Branson's family on their Caribbean island, allowing him to discover the Virgin Hospitality spirit first-hand. Admittedly, he said: "I don't have the deep love for space our pilots have, but definitely an interest into bringing hospitality into this field."

So what are the possibilities for hoteliers? How can a heavily scientific operation endeavor turn into a world-class experience with high standard relations? How can they deliver a unique hospitality experience to their guests? Fasten your seatbelts, and be ready to reach Mach 3 through the Virgin Galactic experience.

"In the near future, we'll have a base on the moon, or there will be some form of hospitality in space."

The experience at Virgin Galactic's base in New Mexico will start six months before takeoff. Customers will begin their transformation process which involves physical and psychological preparation, building the tailor-made hardware, suit, communication gear and all the equipment necessary for a round-trip to space. Customers go from being on a waiting list to being labelled future astronauts, but it is only the beginning.

Four days before the actual flight, future astronauts will arrive in New-Mexico, experience a three-day preparation program and on the 4th day, they officially become astronauts by breaking Mach 3, breaching the atmosphere and reaching space at an altitude of 100km. The whole Virgin team uses this long preparation process to determine the motivations behind each customer's aspiration to fly is with Virgin Galactic and what they want to get out of this flight. This is Virgin Galactic's gravity point, which informs and enhances the entire experience.

Shifting from a technical environment to a world-class experience

Shifting from scientific operations to a world-class experience is a stringent process that has been taking place over many years at Virgin Galactic and it is no easy feat. It involves a complete culture shift of companies to provide the best possible journey for their customers.

Virgin Galactic aspires to make their team understand the key fragments of customer relations and what guests are going through when they choose to experience a space flight. But customer-centricity is not a given, some scientific teams will either not relate or not see an incentive to evolve a hospitality mindset.

The highest stakes lie with the employees who are involved in guest relations and are in direct contact with them, no matter the stage of the journey or the nature of the interaction. They are a group of people who makes a dream come true by delivering a high-standard service. They need to tailor the experience as a whole. This is only possible if they have a better understanding of how to produce the right service for the right client, they focus on why future astronauts want to go to space and what guests want to take back from this experience. At each touch point, it is a highly personal, individualized and empathetic process.

Virgin Galactic need to bring the level of personalization a step further,

It is not only to be sure to have the right water and the right pillow in the room said Brouwer, they help their guests to realize the dream and strive to make them live this relatively short voyage to the fullest.

This is only made possible through a deep understanding of the client, by each employee. Breaking the barriers down is the way to do so. People are much more open to learn and listen to an employee if he is more than just a worker on-site. They need to mentor customers through their experience. Guests need to be coached to enjoy such an unknown and stressful experience, and employees need to be aware of this reality. People working in space hospitality will have much more responsibilities than traditional hospitality workers, they enter the intimacy of the future astronauts and provide an unparalleled service.

"All the experience you live during your flight are things people haven't been through before, so they need to be coached to enjoy these moments."

Virgin Galactic understands that involving customers' friends and family constitutes an important part in the experience. Richard Branson's company ensures that the future astronauts' loved ones are closely involved in a way enhances the experience and provides support throughout the duration of the trip.

"They are so closely involved that the future astronaut feels their support all the way, and don't have to go back in the evening and relate the story of the day, they are there, and they can support each other."

This includes looking after them during moments where they can't be with the future astronaut, by taking them out, connecting them to the other families, involving kids in the experience and making it is an enriching experience for all. Bringing this dimension into the process allows the customer to focus on his experience and allows him to feel the support of people close to him.

The space hospitality industry is a very niche and yet-to-be-defined field, but there are existing opportunities for hoteliers. Professionals: keep your eyes open! The space tourism industry faces the same kind of difficulties hotels do. For example, talent acquisition, demographic conditions, regulations, profitability and turnover. Moreover, space companies need to find the right product for the right client, at the right moment as well as the right people to work with. This emerging industry will be a sandbox for new hospitality concepts and set new standards for the industry as a whole. These changes bring new solutions to hospitality problems and are a source of inspiration. Providing a fully tailor-made experience is an example for our hotels and must be taken into consideration. It represents a development of the industry that hoteliers can bet on. Takeoff is imminent: hoteliers, don't forget to book your tickets.

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Yes, the ‘Von Braun’ Space Hotel Idea Is Wild. But Could We Build It by 2025? –

Posted: at 10:41 pm

Will you be planning a trip to an orbiting "space hotel" as early as 2025?

The Gateway Foundation, a private company developing this "space hotel," thinks so. The organization plans to build what it describes on its website as "the first spaceport." This spaceport, the Von Braun Rotating Space Station, will orbit Earth and will accommodate not only scientific research but also visiting tourists looking to experience life away from our home planet.

But, while any timeline for the creation of such a structure would be daunting, the Gateway Foundation plans to build the spaceport as early as 2025 (with the support of the space construction company Orbital Assembly).

Related: In Pictures: Private Space Stations of the Future

This visualization gives a closer look at the design of the Von Braun "space hotel."

(Image credit: The Gateway Foundation)

According to Timothy Alatorre, the lead architect of this space station, who also works as the treasurer and an executive team member at the Gateway Foundation, the Von Braun station is designed to be the largest human-made structure in space and will house up to 450 people. Alatorre is also designing the interiors of the station, including the habitable spaces and gymnasium.

As its name implies, the concept for the station is inspired in part by the ideas of Wernher von Braun, who pioneered in the field of human spaceflight first for Nazi Germany and then for the U.S. This design is inspired by his ideas for a rotating space station, which were derived from other, older ideas. "He had inherited a lot of ideas from previous scientists and authors and theorists, so it wasn't entirely his idea for the torus-shaped, doughnut-shaped space station, but he kind of adopted it. He expanded upon it and eventually, he popularized it," Gary Kitmacher, who works for NASA in the International Space Station program, told Kitmacher also has worked on the design of the space station, NASA's shuttle program, Spacehab and Mir, and has contributed as an author in textbooks and to the book "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space (Smithsonian Books, 2018)."

Additionally, "the inspiration behind it [this space station] really comes from watching science fiction over the last 50 years and seeing how mankind has had this dream of starship culture," Alatorre told

A look inside the planned Von Braun space station.

(Image credit: The Gateway Foundation)

"I think it started really with 'Star Trek' and then 'Star Wars,' and [with] this concept of large groups of people living in space and having their own commerce, their own industry and their own culture, as it were," he added.

The team drew inspiration partially from Von Braun's concept of a rotating space station that utilizes artificial gravity for the comfort of its passengers. But, while this new design will use artificial gravity in areas of the station, it will also have spaces on board that will allow passengers to feel the weightlessness of space.

The ultimate goal for this station is to have it include amenities ranging from restaurants and bars to sports that would allow passengers to take full advantage of weightlessness on board the station. The station will also have programs that include the arts, with concerts on board. "We do hope, though, that people take the time to be inspired, to write music, to paint, to take part in the arts," Alatorre said.

Gateway Foundation officials acknowledge that the station might not be entirely finished by 2025, but the group aims to develop the station's main structure and basic functions by then. "We expect the operation to begin in 2025, the full station will be built out and completed by 2027. Once the station's fully operational, our hope, our goal and our objective is to have the station available for the average person," Alatorre said. "So, a family or an individual could save up reasonably and be able to have enough money to visit space and have that experience. It would be something that would be within reach."

He added that "once or twice a week, we would have new people coming up, and they would be able to spend a couple days or a couple weeks."

So how would this all work? Is it at all possible?

Related: Space Hotel? Orion Span's Luxury Aurora Station Concept in Images

Alatorre said that the Gateway Foundation feels that such a project is now possible because the growing success of commercial aerospace companies like SpaceX has made launch options more affordable.

He added that the company admits that it's possible its timeline is pushing it somewhat. "We completely understand that delays are almost inevitable with aerospace, but based on our internal projections and the fact that we're already dealing with existing technology, we're not inventing anything new. We really feel that the time frame is possible," he said.

The company also concedes that its plans are ambitious.

"I think you could do it," Kitmacher said. "You'd have to have the way to transport it into orbit."

"It might not be done the way in which we would go about doing it at NASA, but I think you can design and build hardware on a fairly rapid schedule," Kitmacher added.

Related: Space History Photo: Walt Disney and Wernher von Braun

But while it may be possible, there are a number of variables specific to space that the team will need to consider. For instance, the temperatures in space for those orbiting our planet range from extreme heat to extreme cold, depending on whether the astronauts are in direct sunlight or in the dark. "The real concern is to design the habitat the pressurized module that you're going to be living in [in] such a way that it can handle those kinds of temperature changes," Kitmacher said.

Kitmacher added that the company's current timeline might not be the most realistic. "If you look at something like a commercial airplane, typically a large, commercial airplane is in development for something like a 10-year period, so that's probably a more reasonable schedule," he said.

With a tight timeline and a number of difficult variables, Kitmacher said that the main obstacle the Gateway Foundation will have to overcome is actually cost. The "cost not only of designing and certifying and getting the whole thing into orbit but also the cost associated with taking the paying passengers, the tourists, up and back," he said.

The Von Braun space station is designed to be a vacation destination and aims to feature some artificial gravity on board.

(Image credit: The Gateway Foundation)

In addition to the technical challenges involved in building this space station, there are a heap of social concerns that could make its success more difficult.

For starters, if there is a "space hotel," that means the facility would have to have employees. That would mean extended periods of time in space, and research has shown that spaceflight and being in microgravity can have a number of effects on human health.

This would also mean that, if the space station actually becomes an accessible spaceport in orbit around Earth, more people (and not all of them highly trained astronauts) would be flying to space much more regularly than humans do today. There would likely be physical risks involved with such an increased amount of space travel for a wider variety of people, as well as significant legal red tape that the company would have to deal with to get this space station not only off the ground but also to allow for travel to this "space hotel."

Photos: Wernher von Braun, Space Pioneer Rememembered

Another issue that could affect the public's perception of this developing concept is its association with Wernher von Braun, who was a member of the Nazi party and an SS officer during World War II.

"We were drawing off of his [von Braun's] inspiration, which is why we started describing it as the von Braun station," Alatorre said. But, "there have been people who've questioned the name, definitely."

While many might disagree, Alatorre added, "our opinion on it is Wernher von Braun was a reluctant Nazi."

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Need more space? Subscribe to our sister title "All About Space" Magazine for the latest amazing news from the final frontier!

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The Case Against Sending Animals Into Space – Forbes

Posted: at 10:41 pm

Laika, Russian cosmonaut dog, 1957. Laika was the first animal to orbit the Earth, travelling on ... [+] board the Sputnik 2 spacraft launched on 3 November 1957. The Soviet space programme used dogs and other animals in order to ascertain the viability of later (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Laika was just a Moscow stray when she was drafted as a guinea pig for the Soviet Unions launch of its Sputnik 2 spacecraft.The iconic photo in which her mongrel paws lazily grace the edge of her tiny metal carrier belies the fact that her first launch would be her last.

While Sputnik 2, which blasted into low-Earth orbit on November 3, 1957 was deemed a success, Laika was on a one-way trip.As NASA points out, she expired a few hours after launch, even though the Sputnik 2 spacecraft didnt burn up in Earths outer atmosphere until April 1958.

Thus, this weeks sixty-third anniversary of this poignant launch raises a real ethical question - should we humans be sending animals into space?And even if they are sent up with all the precautions, is that a risk that they deserve having inflicted upon them?

Sergei Khrushchev, the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschevs eldest son, told me in a 1998 interview that he was worried about what would happen to Laika.That he sympathized with the dog.But his father told him in so many words, Laikas fate was inconsequential when looking at the larger picture of what the soviets deemed their mandate to conquer low-Earth orbit.

"My father's goal was to threaten Americans with death in the cheapest way," Sergei Khrushchev, who now lives in the U.S., told me in the February 1998 issue of the U.K.s Geographical Magazine. "For him the [Soviet] R-7 ICBM was most important. We were defenseless against the Americans and their huge fleet of heavy bombers. But it was never our goal to destroy the US, and we didn't have the capability to make a first strike until the 1970s."

Even so, ground-based geopolitics and the notion that animals are expendable has been an attitude that has pervaded throughout the history of spacefaring nations forays into space.

Before humans actually went into space, one of the prevailing theories of the perils of space flight was that humans might not be able to survive long periods of weightlessness, NASA has noted.The American space agency points out that both American and Russian scientists utilized animals - mainly monkeys, chimps and dogs - in order to test each country's ability to launch a living organism into space and bring it back alive and unharmed.

These early space missions were deemed too risky for humans and, in the case of Laika, were known to be a one-way trip, Lori Marino, an evolutionary neurobiologist and president of The Whale Sanctuary Project, told me.There were also many monkeys, mice, cats, insects and even fish who gave their lives unwillingly so that we might explore space, she says. Most of these animals died either during or shortly after their flights or were deliberately killed afterwards, Marino notes.

On January 31, 1961, Ham became the first chimpanzee to make it to sub-orbital space launched atop an American Mercury Redstone rocket; paving the way for the successful 1961 launch of Alan Shepard, Jr. - America's first human astronaut, says NASA.Ham splashed down in the Atlantic some 60 miles from the recovery ship after his 16.5-minute flight, says the agency.And aside from suffering fatigue and dehydration was in good shape.

Even so, Marino says Ham was cruelly captured by animal trappers and ripped from his family at a very young age; subjected to 18 months of training in which he received electrical shocks to the soles of his feet.Then when he failed to respond correctly in tests, Marino says he had restraints placed on his neck, torso, and limbs for extended periods.He spent his remaining years in zoos, dying at the young age of 26.

Chimpanzee "Ham" in space-suit is fitted into the couch of the Mercury-Redstone 2 capsule #5 prior ... [+] to its test flight which was conducted on January 31, 1961.

Yet NASA has a different take.

Without animal testing in the early days of the human space program, the Soviet and American programs could have suffered great losses of human life, says NASA. These animals gave their lives and/or their service in the name of technological advancement, paving the way for Humanity's many forays into space, it says.

But Marino disagrees.While we rightly laud the courage of human astronauts, she says, we need to remember that the path was paved for them by other animals who were not fortunate enough to reap the rewards of their service.

Does that also go for family pets who might want to follow their humans into space?

Animals should not be taken into space, full stop, said Marino.

Space travel in the near future is going to be, at best, severely uncomfortable and compromising for human astronauts, Marino notes.But while human astronauts know what they are getting into, other animals do not, she says.

We do not have the right to put the lives of other animals at risk for our purposes, said Marino.

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Made in space: In a historic experiment, astronauts to bake chocolate-chip cookies at the ISS – Economic Times

Posted: at 10:41 pm

After 12 bottles of Bordeaux wine made their way to the International Space Station (ISS), now cookie dough is giving it company in outer space.

Astronauts will bake the chocolate chip cookies at the ISS in a prototype oven, as part of a historic micro-gravity experiment. The objective of the initiative is to make long-duration space travel more hospitable.

The spacecraft carrying the dough of DoubleTree by Hilton's chocolate-chip cookies left the Earth on Saturday from NASAs Wallops Flight Facility, and arrived at the ISS on Monday.

For the initiative, DoubleTree by Hilton has partnered with New York-based Zero G Kitchen, which creates appliances for microgravity use in long-duration space flights, and Nanoracks, a provider of commercial access to space.

Excited to be the first hospitality company to participate in research aboard the space station, Shawn McAteer, senior vice president and global head, DoubleTree by Hilton, said, Were thrilled that our chocolate chip cookie is sending Hilton hospitality into orbit and contributing to a pivotal moment in aerospace history as we test the outcome of the first food baked in space.

Commenting on this being the first time that anything will be baked in space, Mary Murphy, senior internal payloads manager, Nanoracks said in a statement, "What will the cookies look like? Will they bake out equally in all directions and form a sphere, or stay flat? While we dont know for sure how the experiment will turn out, we are looking forward to finding out and learning how to best bake food products in space.

Whether Earthlings will get a taste of the cookies is yet to be decided, as they will undergo additional testing on their return home to assess the outcome.

And though astronauts aboard the ISS will have to skip eating the cookies they bake, the spacecraft has taken up special pre-baked chocolate chip cookies by the hotel for them.

In 1985, a half bottle from Bordeauxs 1975 vintage spent a week in space, thanks to a French astronaut who also took fine viands along on a space shuttle trip.

22 Jul, 2019

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Made in space: In a historic experiment, astronauts to bake chocolate-chip cookies at the ISS - Economic Times

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The final frontier? Studying stem cells on the International Space Station – Scope

Posted: at 10:41 pm

It's not often I get to write about astronauts and space travel. In fact, it's happened exactly... never. But now, thanks to a high-flying collaboration of Stanford researchers past and present, I get to write about something that's really out of this world.

Since 2006, iPS cells (short for induced pluripotent stem cells) have been at the forefront of groundbreaking research in biology and medicine. The cells' ability to become nearly any tissue in the body makes them an invaluable resource for physicians wishing to study the effect of drugs on specific, hard-to-obtain tissues or for researchers wanting to delve into the molecular missteps that lead to all manner of diseases.

Now iPS-derived human heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes have found their way into space, as part of a study by cardiologist and stem cell researcher Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, graduate student Alexa Wnorowski and former Stanford graduate student Arun Sharma, PhD. With the help of NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, PhD, (also a former Stanford graduate student!), Wnorowski and Sharma studied the effect of the low gravity of the International Space Station on the heart cells' structure and function.

They published their findings today in Stem Cell Reports.

As Sharma, now a senior research fellow at Cedars-Sinai, explained in an email:

This project represented an opportunity for biomedical researchers to collaborate with astronauts and engineers in order to learn more about how a very unique environment, microgravity, affects the cells of the human heart.

Sharma, Wnorowski and Wu found that the cardiomyocytes cultured on the space station exhibited different patterns of gene expression than did their counterparts grown back here on Earth. They also displayed changes in the way they handled calcium -- an important regulator of contraction rate and strength.

Interestingly (and perhaps reassuringly for astronauts like Rubins), the cells appeared to return to normal when their five-and-a-half week jaunt into low Earth orbit ended.

"Working with the cells that launched to and returned from the International Space Station was an incredible opportunity," Wnorowski said. "Our study was the first conducted on the station that used human iPS technology, and demonstrated that it is possible to conduct long-term, human cell-based experiments in space."

All in all, the researchers were interested to see how nimbly the cells adjusted to their new, free floating life.

"We were surprised by how quickly human heart cells adapted to microgravity," Sharma said. "These results parallel known organ-level adaptations that happen to the heart during spaceflight."

Photos of Kate Rubins by NASA


The final frontier? Studying stem cells on the International Space Station - Scope

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Will Chinas Belt and Road Initiative include affordable space travel? – RFI English

Posted: at 10:41 pm

Will Chinas Belt and Road Initiative include affordable space travel? - Sciences and Technology - RFI

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Will Chinas Belt and Road Initiative include affordable space travel? - RFI English

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Mission to Mars: The healthcare challenges facing NASA – MobiHealthNews

Posted: at 10:41 pm

Mars its the subject of countless science fiction novels and has long been a fascination amongst us earthlings. Today NASA is setting its sights on making a human Mars landing a reality within the next two decades. Located on average 140 million miles away from Earth, distance is just one obstacle in sending humans to the red planet.

Maintaining the health of the astronauts venturing to Mars is another major challenge scientists and researchers are grappling with today. However, the advancements and technologies that come from these challenges could have implications for future healthcare.

When you think about it, its really for humans exploring deep space on behalf of all of humanity. Everything that we do creates a new way to do healthcare, Dorit Donoviel, director at Translational Research Institute for Space Health, said at the Space Health Innovation Conference on Saturday.

Historically, space exploration has led to medical advances that impact the world in general. In particular, space travel has allowed researchers to look at the effects of aging on the human body.

What we learn about space health is relevant to you and I, especially as we age. So, aging on Earth is not that unlike going to space for a long period of time, former NASA astronaut and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC Davis Stephen Robinson told HIMSS Media. That gives us potential for insights that can really influence everyone here on Earth.

Robinson gave the example of osteoporosis. In space, astronauts are at a higher risk for losing mass in their bones in a process similar to osteoporosis.

If we can learn to counteract that in space for people who are experiencing that onset very rapidly, maybe we can take that back to Earth for the rest of us, he said.

Traveling to Mars poses a new set of health challenges for NASA. For one, the planet is further than any to which humans have traveled before. Unlike other missions, due to the orbital mechanics of the journey, astronauts wont be able to come home if there is a health emergency.

So, the round trip to mars is nearly three years, and maybe one of [the crew] will be a physician and they are going to have to contend over that long duration mission far away from Earth without any possibility of return or abort, or any ways of replacing broken parts with normal health concerns, Donoviel said.

Far away from Earth the stakes are high. Common conditions can have devastating impacts.

Having a simple kidney stone in space for example can be life threatening, Donoviel said. In addition to those regular concerns that could occur in that mission, we are going to have the extremely hostile environment of the space environment and the craft. So, we are going to have to contend with situations where they are going to have to provide their own healthcare.

The challenges arent just physical strain on the body, but psychological and social. The crew going to Mars will spend three years in a tight space with less than a handful of companions.

How do you relieve that concept of, I cant have those things I had before? I have no access to that, and maybe you havent even anticipated how that confinement was going to affect you, Jennifer Fogarty, chief scientist at the NASA Human Research Program, said during the conference. How do you give people self-awareness when they are going down a road where they are going to struggle, and then have tools available when it is actionable that can help them? It could be virtual reality, it could be augmented reality.

While crews generally have a physician on board during the mission, if the doctor needs care it will be the rest of the crew, predominantly engineers, who will have to step up.

We know we need something in the vehicle, and we know we need something on the ground, and we know it has to talk to each other. We know that [during the] Mars mission, we dont get to bring anyone back, Erik Antonsen, assistant director of human systems risk management at NASA and an emergency medicine physician, said at the conference. So all we have the option to do is to move knowledge, not people. We have to figure out how to enable those data systems to provide that knowledge or capability that support in an appropriate way if we want to enable something like a Mars mission.

But implementing technologies like telemedicine and remote monitoring is easier said than done. In Mars there is no cloud network or WiFi. There is a deep space network, but technologies will have to be built specifically to work within it.

Onboarding new technologies is also a risk for crews with limited space.

There is a lot of talk about 3D printing. Sure, its possible but again that is going to be measured against resources such as food and water, Fogarty said. You start seeing trade-offs.

NASA is also looking at a number of other niche issues that will likely impact the crew's health, including radiation, hostile closed environments and altered gravity fields.

While there are countless challenges that come with putting humans on Mars, NASA is partnering with innovation organizations and reaching out to entrepreneurs to problem solve.

So what kinds of solutions do we need? No doubt autonomous, light, lean, robust, Fogarty said.

One of the organizations that NASA is partnering with is the Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH), a consortium which includes the Baylor College of Medicine, California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The program is focused on translating biomedical research and technology into space health.

TRISH is designed to go do cutting-edge stuff. High risk fail fast, fail often, running it through, see[ing] what they need, Fogarty said.

Due to the limited space, by the time any technology makes it into a mission it needs to be heavily vetted.

When you go into a space flight vehicle, that is not where you need to be cutting edge. That is a very scary thing because you dont have the data to support it, Fogarty said. You may not be able to fix it, and now that thing you chose to take instead of more water gives you a zero. That is really a worst-case scenario from a NASA perspective for how you plan missions.

Fogarty said that in many ways NASA is looking at challenges that are similar to those facing home health.

We have a lot in common with home healthcare untrained people that arent going to have real-time communication to operate a device, Fogarty said. Can they do it? Are your instructions good enough and easy enough? Is your user interface friendly enough so that person could operate that without mission control and 40 people helping you with a procedure? So definitely we are continuing to push on it.

But unlike on Earth where room is plentiful, innovators need to consider space configurations.

It is really great that we can develop 50, 60, 100 point-of-care devices and they are all using different techniques and different reagents. Guess what somehow in space flight you got to bring that down to probably one item, Fogarty said.

There remains a lot of work to be done before the first person steps onto Mars. But the groundwork is rolling and the mission has the potential to change the future of humans.

We may need to leave this planet and how do we learn? This is one of the stepping stones, Fogarty said. It may not be Mars where we are going to go and colonize permanently well learn though. These are really amazing opportunities.

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