I have committed a space nerd fail in that I have yet to see The Martian despite rave reviews and a fascination with both space and Matt Damon. I’m the kind of loser that prefers watching movies at home, but I will have to make an exception for The Martian and Star Wars, obviously since I already bought my tickets for the latter one. However, I have read about the real life science that went into creating The Martian and is currently in use by NASA today. The basic necessities come straight from NASA technology including the spacesuits, rovers, solar panels and ion propulsion systems. The Martian gets a little more creative with some of its technology in the movie, here is a little run down of the science in the science-fiction. The main character, Watney, spends a significant amount of time in The Habitation module on Mars because exposure on a dusty planet isn’t suitable for anyone, they need a place to live and conduct experiments in safety. NASA has its own version of The Hab called the Human Exploration Research Analog or HERA, while the name isn’t as cool, it is used for training future astronauts for space conditions while still on terra firma.
Food is an obvious necessity in space and NASA has recently started experimenting with growing crops on the International Space Station (ISS) with the Veggie module where lettuce is grown in small pillow packets. Watney plants his own potato crop on Mars while he awaits his yearlong rescue. The Hab also includes a water reclaimer to make sure no drop of water is wasted. NASA uses something very similar called the Water Recovery System (WRS) on ISS to make sure they can recycle all the water in the station, including water from hand washing, urine and oral hygiene.
Trick or Treat
We received an astronomical trick and treat on Halloween this year. The 1,450 foot-wide asteroid TB145 passed within 300,000 miles of Earth. The football stadium sized asteroid is close but not dangerously so as it sling shots past us, goes around the sun then back out into space where it will invariable head back our way in a century or so. You can check out its oddly tilted trajectory here and thank your lucky stars that it was just a treat.
Fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee, at least when it comes to this new lightweight material developed by Boeing. Called Microlattice, it is comprised of thin metal tubes crisscrossed together creating a mesh material that is 99.99% air. The wall thickness is 1,000 times thinner than a strand of hair at 100 nanometers. The material can be compressed, manipulated and completely recover while absorbing the energy placed upon the structure.
Pluto in 3D
If you have a pair of blue/green stereo glasses handy, suit up and take a look at these newly downlinked stereo images of Pluto. New Horizons is now sending back multi-angle images of Pluto to create topographic maps of the dwarf planet’s surface. Accurate depth measurements of craters and fractures give researchers insight into Pluto’s geological history and let us see the surface in three dimensions for the first time.