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Happy Birthday Curiosity!   13 comments

ūüöÄIt’s Mars Rover Curiosity’s Birthday Today!!ūüéĀūüöÄūüćį

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Image Credit: Space Exploration – Science Website (Facebook)

Curiosity’s all alone on it’s birthday WordPress friends! ūüė•ūüćįLet’s all get together and sing happy birthday to it ūüé∂ūüéāūüėÉ No-one should be alone on their birthday so let’s show Curiosity some love!ūüėćūü§ó In the spirit of WordPress! ūüĎ©‚ÄćūüöÄūüĎ®‚ÄćūüíĽ

ūüé∂ūüéĀ”Happy Birthday Curiosity!!”ūüôÉūüéČūüéąūüéĀūüéĶūüöÄūüõįūüėÉ

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Global Martian Dust Storm   12 comments

The View from Insight! ūüôā

It’s pretty packed here on the Mars Insight Probe and there’s nothing much to see outside right now… so we’ve been watching live streams of the dust storm taking over Mars to pass the time…Not very impressed with the view there right now either! ūüėČ

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The Martian dust storm that has been engulfing the red planet for the last two weeks or so has now ballooned into full-blown global dust event magnitudes (officially known as a “planet-encircling” dust event.) as of 20th June. The atmospheric dust-haze now surrounding Mars and blocking out the sunlight as it covers the sky, is in the region of six to eight times greater than its seasonally normal density. In the absence of sunlight dusty red Mars has taken on a weirdly spooky-shadowless appearance.

Mars 2Poor little ‚ÄúOppy‚ÄĚ (NASA‚Äôs Opportunity rover)¬†has been somewhat swamped, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the Martian dust storm has diminished the sunlight it relies on for power, to such an extent (like completely obliterated it) that ‚ÄúOppy‚ÄĚ has been compelled to postpone all of its science activities until further notice. Without enough available power from its solar panels Oppy could not even ‚Äúcall home,‚ÄĚ and NASA and Oppy lost contact altogether on 12th June 2018.

Mars 3Over on a different part of the planet at the infamous Gale Crater, Curiosity (NASA‚Äôs Curiosity rover), which has been hard at work studying the Martian soil in the region, has fared considerably better and it isn‚Äôt anticipated to be unduly bothered by the dust. Despite the antics of the Martian dust storm diminishing both sunlight and visibility in Gale Crater, Curiosity, who arrived on Mars five years after the last Martian dust storm of this nature, in 2007, has the edge over ‚ÄúOppy‚ÄĚ because it sports a nuclear-powered battery running 24/7 and doesn‚Äôt therefore have power issues to sweat over, unlike ‚ÄúOppy‚ÄĚ.

MarsThe offending dusty haze floating around the Martian atmosphere, resulting from the storm which is blocking out the sunlight, is known as “tau.” This tau level is at an all-time high rising tau level 8.0 at Curiosity‚Äôs location in Gale Crater. No higher tau has ever been recorded by the mission. The area close to Oppy‚Äôs location last measured a tau of almost level 11, and at such a high dust intensity it rendered impossible the job of Oppy – the longest working Mars rover, to provide any kind of precise measurements. ¬†

Of course we experience dust storms of our own here on Earth. They occur  in the desert regions of, for example, the Middle East, North Africa and some southwest regions of the USA . However, thanks to our thicker atmosphere and its structural design along with the stronger gravity of Earth than on Mars, the dust is compelled to settle rather than floating around the atmosphere, as on Mars.  Our planet also benefits from the presence of land-growing vegetation.

Mars 4Usually dust storms occurring on Mars are confined locally.  This current storm is distinctive in that it covers an area the equivalent of the combination of Earth’s N America and Russia.  On a positive note it is a great opportunity to gain a more advanced knowledge of the way in which these Martian storms occur, progress and ultimately influence the red planet.

In the meantime Wolfie is passing the time chomping through stray pieces of liver cake floating past, posing for selfies and eyeing up the strange Manor-like building drifting randomly past the windows…. ūüôā

Sources:

www.nasa.gov

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

www.space.com

www.astronomy.com

InSight is GO!!   12 comments

InSight launched successfully and Wolfie is GO for Mars! ūüöÄūüõįūüėÄ

LEGO Safari Hunt – Easter 2018   11 comments

The Great Brick Safari LEGO Hunt 

Lego Bricks Safari Tour was a fun interactive family event held over Easter at the Festival Place shopping Centre in Basingstoke, North Hampshire by the UK’s sole¬†LEGO-certified building company ‚Äď Bright¬†Bricks, based in Bordon, Hampshire.¬†¬†

I chanced on this fun jungle trail quite by accident and consequently didn’t know what it was and therefore, only discovered the animals inside the shopping centre. So! Not too many photos got taken! But I have included a selection of the ones I did have the good fortune to encounter along the way. I was a touch disappointed to learn there were no LEGO Icewolves on display but still ūüėȬ†

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The aim was to find as many animals as possible to win prizes, and there were also creative workshops for the children, of which there were many! Here they had the opportunity to build either their own LEGO tiger or lion face, which they could¬†then take home with them. Wolfie considered this idea but decided an Icewolf was unlikely to be allowed access! However, the LEGO Safari jeep where selfie-lovers could indulge themselves with endless selfies was a tempting proposition ūüôā¬†

 

 

 

 

 

There were in total, 20+ sculptures of LEGO zoo and jungle animals on display which had natural appeal to all age groups, and they were built to impressive life-size proportions. Shame Wolfie didn’t realise they¬†were also to be found in a variety of different spots¬†outside Festival Place Shopping Centre as well as inside it, but hey ho! Such is the life of an Icewolf!¬†ūüėČ

Sculptures included crocodile, which I did manage to find, an ostrich, gorilla, warthog, and lion, which I assume were outside somewhere, and apparently there were¬†parrots and spiders on show…somewhere! No problem missing the spiders but I would have liked to see the parrot. The pictures of it all appear to be copyrighted so are not here (the photos on show are my own) but it was very bright and parrotish!! 1 million+ LEGO bricks were used to construct the safari sculptures, and an eye-watering total of¬†6,241 building hours spent doing so, by a specialist team. Pretty awesome job done, in the eyes of Wolfie¬†ūüôā

(Photos: ¬©Europa’s Icewolf 2018)¬†

 

What if There was Life on Other Worlds?   19 comments

The UN Outer Space Treaty and Planetary Protection

What is Planetary Protection?

Planetary protection refers to¬†‚Äėinterplanetary contamination‚Äô¬†– protecting¬†solar system bodies (i.e., planets, moons, comets, and asteroids) from¬†‚Äėbiological contamination‚Äô¬†by Earth¬†organisms, (Forward contamination –¬†the transfer of‚ÄĮ‚Äėviable‚ÄĮorganisms‚Äô¬†from¬†Earth to another¬†interplanetary¬†body),¬†and protecting Earth from the¬†transmission¬†of‚ÄĮalien‚ÄĮorganisms, to Earth’s‚ÄĮbiosphere¬†e.g.¬†as a result of ‚Äėextra-terrestrial¬†sample-return missions.‚Äô¬†(Back contamination)

 

The Outer Space Treaty

Why is Planetary Protection Important?

Planetary protection is a directive code in the blueprint of an interplanetary assignment, and is critical for several important reasons:  

  • mirrors¬†the unknown nature of the space environment¬†
  • to¬†safeguard¬†our ability to study other worlds¬†in detail,¬†in their natural¬†conditions¬†
  • to¬†prevent¬†contamination that would¬†make it¬†difficult/impossible¬†to find¬†potential¬†life¬†on another world¬†¬†
  • to ensure that we take¬†judicious¬†safety measures¬†to¬†shield¬†Earth‚Äôs biosphere in case it does.¬†¬†

The UN Outer Space Treaty and Planetary Protection

The legal basis for planetary protection is located¬†in Article IX of¬†the United Nations‚ÄĮOuter Space Treaty¬†ratified in 1967¬†by¬†the US, USSR, and UK.

“Article IX: … States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them¬†so as to¬†avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of¬†extra-terrestrial¬†matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.”

Requirements for Protecting Life on Other Bodies

heres-why-scientists-think-a-tiny-moon-of-jupiter-is-the-most-likely-place-to-find-alien-life

Planetary protection‚ÄĮprerequisites‚ÄĮfor each mission and¬†interplanetary¬†body¬†in focus¬†are¬†ascertained¬†based¬†on the scientific advice of the Space Studies Board,‚ÄĮNASA‚ÄĮor international policy guidelines.

Each mission is‚ÄĮcategorized‚ÄĮaccording to:

  • Type of mission (e.g.¬†flyby, orbiter, or lander)
  • Nature of its destination (e.g. a planet, moon, comet, or asteroid)
  • And the planetary bodies that may be discovered over the course of the mission (e.g.¬†Mars and Europa).

Proposal to Increase Time-Scale for Planetary Protection

In the case of‚ÄĮ Europa,¬†the majority opinion was,¬†that not only should Europa be kept it¬†is¬†not¬†contamination-free¬†during current times of exploration, but that it could well be¬†scientifically¬†important¬†enough to warrant being kept in an un-touched and un-contaminated condition for future¬†generations¬†to benefit from studying too.¬†

“One consequence of this view is that Europa must be protected from contamination for an open-ended period, until it can be demonstrated that no ocean exists or that no organisms are present. Thus, we need to be concerned that over a time scale on the order of 10 million to 100 million years (an approximate age for the surface of Europa), any contaminating material is likely to be carried into the deep ice crust or into the underlying ocean.”¬†

(The minority opinion was that these protection measures are unnecessarily strong.)

But What About the Natives??!!

Europa and Alien Life

It is natural that we should want to explore worlds with the potential for life, and even to exploit them, but what if these worlds, such as Europa, do prove to have natives? There are different views on this subject. For example:

  • If the life is only microbial then there is no cause to worry about it. We should not let microbes interfere with potential colonisation.
  • It has its own¬†ecosystem,¬†and this should be left alone. However, if the long-term aim was to terraform Europa it¬†would change the climate¬†of the¬†moon along¬†with¬†the rest of¬†Europa.

Will we as egotistical humans decide, that despite knowing that this is a world that we have had no hand in creating, none-the-less that we should take measures to change it anyway? Or will we recognise our boundaries and appreciate that we have a unique standing in the cosmos, and therefore put aside our arrogance and leave untouched, a world, and possibly an eco-system, that we have had no hand in creating?

Europa’s Icewolf’s Personal Howl!

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My personal howl on this subject is that absolutely Europa needs to be protected from Earth contamination! We do not know the consequences of any potential contamination. And precautions should be taken so that accurate observations can be made regarding any life found on Europa. If we find life there, it will have its own ecosystem and we should leave it alone and allow it to be a nature reserve moon. We may even be able to find ways to improve its habitat to help its life to thrive in ways not yet possible for it on icy Europa. It may be possible to ring fence the inhabited areas to reduce human contact, but it seems to me that such action would serve only to damage Europa, and ultimately this moon needs to be left alone! 

As mentioned earlier, backward contamination by micro-organisms (e.g. bacteria, certain algae and fungi) from other worlds are also a risk, when carried back to Earth on probes. which could have catastrophic upshots for Earth dwellers. Our immune systems will not have any resistance to extra-terrestrial micro-organisms. Not only would our bodies be totally unable to fight them it is pretty much guaranteed that we would have no time and no opportunity to research the creation of the necessary vaccine. Therefore, it will be essential to have high-level, cutting-edge systems for filtering and highly advanced procedures in place.

What do YOU think?!!

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Discovering beyond all doubt that alien life does exist would have big impacts on Earth.

  • Inevitably there would be changes to terrestrial science, technology, religion, politics and ecosystems¬†as a result of¬†contact with extra-terrestrial life, whether it be microbial or a technologically advanced civilisation.

Consequences for Society and Cultural Back-Lashes

Nobody will avoid the impact from the¬†culture shock that would occur if we were to discover extra-terrestrial life, whatever form it might take. We would be forced to face the sudden¬†reality that we were not a unique exception in the universe, which could cause a very serious back-lash in society as we know it. A culture shock of this nature could last for decades, possibly centuries. It would not only be ourselves¬†affected in the deepest and most profound of ways but also our children and our¬†children’s¬†children. As we reach out to new, unexplored worlds with no real knowledge of what we might find there, exactly how the potential¬†revelation¬†of¬†extra-terrestrial¬†life and¬†the impact on future generations is an issue that requires our consideration…

…NOW!!¬†¬†

Sources: 

https://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov/overview 

https://www.state.gov/t/isn/5181.htm 

http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/publications/STSPACE11E.pdf   (SpaceTreaty PDF) 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_protection 

www.space.com  (What Finding Alien Life Could Mean for Earth) 

www.wikipedia.com  (Potential Cultural Impact) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Join IceWolf’s Holiday in the Sun!   4 comments

ūüėÉSend Your Name to the Sun ūüėÉūüõįūüöÄ

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So! That’s Icewolf’s summer holiday sorted! And a sun tan the like of which has never been seen before!!¬†

Launch Site: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center:¬†¬†July 31 – Aug 19, 2018

Join the Mission – Send Your Name to the Sun

Follow the Mission at Facebook: NASASunScience

Follow the Mission at Twitter: NASASun

Additional Information about the Parker Solar Probe Mission

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Happy New Year 2018   5 comments

 

And now we welcome the New Year. Full of things that have never been. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering “It will be happier.” (Alfred Lord Tennyson)