Six scientists isolated from the world for 365 days, sheltered in a geodesic dome half loss of Mauna Loa, one of the five volcanoes of Hawaii. With this experience, which sought to simulate the conditions of a stay on Mars, is expected to establish guidelines for future trips to the red planet.
The team consisted of experts in medicine or physics of various nationalities. The six have had to live in a small with limited resources and recognize that feigned stay on Mars has been very real space for them.
Mauna Loa was chosen because its soil is similar to that of Mars. Because of the altitude, the environment does not grow any plants. They have been living there completely isolated, within a cabin of 11 meters wide and 6 high that fed by solar energy. Possessed of a communications system that relayed messages with 20 minutes late, the same time it would take to get a communication if there was a real connection Mars-Earth. Every time they wanted to go outside, it had to do with special costumes.
Participants were able to get water in a dry climate and feed. But in addition to technical and physical issues, the mission proved the psychological capacity of individuals. They have been twelve months of isolation from the outside world and twelve months of intense coexistence in a confined space.
Simulation which have passed has been the longest second carried out by man so far. The first was a 520-day project conducted Russia. NASA will begin its next simulated mission in January next year and is expected to last eight months.
The experience leaves valuable information for future space travel, but also reveals the physical and psychological cruelty involved
The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun.
Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called “habitable zone” of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world.
Named Proxima b, the new planet has sparked a flurry of excitement among astrophysicists, with the tantalising possibility that it might be similar in crucial respects to Earth.
Proxima b may be the closest of the thousands of exoplanets – which are planets orbiting stars outside our solar system – discovered to date, but at 4.2 light years away the prospect of a quick visit to find any Proximese aliens is still remote. Based on spacecraft today, a probe launched now would take around 70,000 years to reach the new planet.
The planet has other characteristics that could affect its potential to host life.
The research reveals that if the planet’s temperature were down to its sun alone, its surface would be, on average, a chilly -40C. “It seems cold, but then if you look at the same numbers for Earth you would get minus 20, minus 30C,” says Anglada-Escudé. “What keeps Earth warm is basically that it has an atmosphere and an ocean,” he adds, pointing out that should the newly discovered world also boast an atmosphere, its temperature would likewise be higher.
What is the Zika virus?
The Zika virus is a mosquito-transmitted infection related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus. Although it was discovered in the Zika forest in Uganda in 1947 and is believed to be common across Africa and Asia, it did not begin spreading widely in the Western Hemisphere until recently — perhaps sometime in 2013, although its presence was not confirmed until May 2015, when it was identified as the “mystery disease” sweeping across northeast Brazil.
How does a mosquito transmit Zika?
Only female mosquitoes bite people: they need blood to lay eggs, while males drink plant nectar. In the female, the virus travels from the gut to the salivary glands and is injected into the next human victim. When a mosquito bites, it first injects an anti-coagulant saliva so blood does not clog its strawlike proboscis.
What areas is Zika likely to reach?
Zika is spread by mosquitoes of the Aedes genus, which can breed in a pool of water as small as a bottle cap and usually bite in daytime. The yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, takes several bites for each blood meal and prefers biting people; it accounts for most Zika infections. This mosquito is common in the United States typically only in Florida and along the Gulf Coast, although it has been found as far north as Connecticut in hot weather.
The Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, also can transmit the virus, but not as effectively. It bites many kinds of animals and is found as far north as Maine and Minnesota in summer, and also in Hawaii.
Can the Zika virus be sexually transmitted?
Yes. Although experts believe that the vast majority of Zika infections are transmitted by mosquitoes, sexual transmission has been reported in 10 countries, including the United States, France, Germany, Italy and New Zealand.
In all known cases as of late June, transmission has been from a man to a woman or to another man, not from a woman to anyone else. The Zika virus has clearly been transmitted by vaginal and anal sex, and possibly by oral sex.
Viral RNA has been found in semen more than two months after symptoms disappeared. Scientists believe the prostate or testes serve as a reservoir, sheltering the Zika virus from the immune system. In at least one case, a man who never had Zika symptoms transmitted it sexually.
Health authorities now recommend that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant avoid contact with semen from men who have visited areas where the virus is transmitted. Pregnant women should abstain until they give birth, or should have sex only with partners using a condom.
To reduce the risk of sexual transmission, health authorities recommend that men who have visited areas in which the Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitos and who have had symptoms avoid unprotected sex for six months. Men who have had no symptoms should wait eight weeks.
How might Zika cause brain damage in infants?
Experts aren’t yet certain. Although it is known that the virus causes brain damage, the mechanism is still being studied. The virus can cross the placenta and attack fetal nerve cells, including some that develop into the brain. The radial glial cells, which form the initial “scaffolding” that guides other fetal brain cells into place, appear particularly vulnerable.
What is microcephaly?
An unusually small head, often accompanied by brain damage.
Babies with microcephaly have unusually small heads. Normally, some degree of microcephaly occurs in 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 10,000 of all births. In roughly 15 percent of cases, a small head is just a small head, with no effect on the infant.
But infection with the Zika virus causes a severe form of microcephaly. The brain may stop growing and be small and smooth, lacking the normal indentations. The long nerves connecting the eyes and ears to the brain may be damaged. Children may suffer from constant seizures or be born with permanently rigid limbs.
Microcephaly can also be caused by other infections of the fetus, including German measles (also known as rubella), toxoplasmosis (a disease caused by a parasite found in undercooked meat and cat feces) and cytomegalovirus.
Microcephaly may also result from alcoholism, drug use or some industrial toxins during pregnancy, or from severe malnutrition of the mother. It can be caused by complications of diabetes and by the genes like those that cause Down syndrome.
There is no treatment for the brain damage.
Is there a treatment?
No. The C.D.C. does not recommend a particular antiviral medication for people infected with the Zika virus. The symptoms are mild – when they appear at all – and usually require only rest, nourishment and other supportive care.
IN A PRESS CONFERENCE ON climate change, President Obama stated that: “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does – 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.” And while the internet fought over the semantics of that statement, now that we’re living in 2015 we’re experiencing the beginning of what scientists and ecologists are viewing as the oncoming climate change apocalypse.
1. Record-melting heat waves are actually cooking our planet.
It’s hard to refute the idea of “global warming” when our planet is getting certifiably warmer, with record heat waves breaking across Pakistan, Iran, India, Europe, and Japan that have melted sidewalks, and already literally killed thousands of people.
2. Severe droughts and falling water levels around the country and around the world are taking a serious toll.
We know that California is in the midst of the worst drought in the history of California, but what’s getting remarkably little press is the fact that Washington is also in the midst of one of the worst droughts experienced in recorded history, that Puerto Rico is actually rationing water (in what, frankly, sounds like the closest to Mad Max reality has ever been), falling sea levels have affected cargo shipments and boat-traffic on the Danube, and in Brazil, South Africa, and North Korea droughts are having palpable and devastating repercussions on reservoirs and food production.
3. Carbon is becoming a very real problem with far-reaching consequences.
As a factor of the drought, the world’s forests are no longer able to capture and process as much carbon as they would under normal climate conditions, which we know already barely puts a dent in the human-related carbon impact as-is. And believe it or not, the jeopardy of our “clean breathing air” is not the worst bi-product of this problem. It turns out the majority of our CO2 is subsequently left to dissolve into our oceans, producing carbonic acid that is literally changing the pH and acidity of the waters, wiping out devastating amounts of plankton (a keystone species in virtually all marine ecosystems), and even dissolving the shells of small aquatic snails.
4. The majority of the Earth’s oceans have never been this hot, for this long, and it’s changing everything from marine life to the weather.
Several months ago the tragic photo of Alaska went viral, capturing the largest ever mass migration of walruses south in search of Arctic ice, but what was demonstrated in that photo was just the tip of the rapidly-dwindling iceberg. In the North Pacific, a new and inexplicable mass of warmer waters between Hawaii, Baja California, and Alaska have all-but-cooked keystone species, wreaking havoc on those renowned biodiverse marine ecosystems and driving native species further and further (sometimes thousands of miles in the case of the blue marlin) in search of more habitable waters. It’s also lead to one of the largest widespread declines in reefs in recent history, with estimates of possible permanent loss at upwards of 6% by the end of the end of the decade.
As the oceans continue to warm and ice shelves continue to melt, large pockets of hotter and cooler waters are continuing to form scattered across the oceans, shifting the temperatures and patterns of the prevailing winds and jet streams that have, according to some scientists, directly impacted weather diversity and contributed to the long, dry spells of California’s drought, and the harsh and extreme winters we’ve seen across the country the last few years. And this is exactly why climate scientists are extra worried about the oncoming El Niño that’s formed out in the Pacific.
5. And it’s all coming to a head with the salmon.
I know, it seems outrageous to think that the impact on salmon could possibly be on-par with the thousands of people dying under the oppressive heat waves or the collapse of whole marine ecosystems, but follow me for a minute. Another keystone species, salmon are responsible for the nontrivial contribution of nitrogen to the coastal environments they habitat and spawn from. Nitrogen, being the main nutrient for protein production in plants as well as a key ingredient of photosynthesis, is essential for helping along all of those trees who aren’t drawing enough CO2 out of the air. And as the water across the West Coast of the US continues to heat up and water-levels continue to lower, the salmon now literally require teams of conservationists to physically truck them out to waters deep and cool enough to give them even a halfway-decent shot at survival. But in the effort to keep the salmon from going completely extinct, they’re also being transplanted into completely new and different environments and out of the ecosystems that depend on them.
So rapidly dwindling salmon means less coastal nitrogen in places like California. Less nitrogen, coupled with the low waters that are killing off the salmon are affecting forests’ abilities to remove carbon from the air. Increases in CO2 have a certifiable impact on atmospheric insulation (contributing to the overall heat of the planet), and are promoting the acidification of our oceans. As the oceans continue to heat up and the ice shelves continue to melt, those hot-cold pockets will continue to form, wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems and pushing weather patterns to the extremes, including (but not limited to) widespread droughts.
And that brings us back to the dwindling salmon.
I couldn’t begin to propose how we’d go about fixing climate change, or halting what already seems like rapidly falling dominos aimed at the eventual collapse of a habitable planet for all living things. But what I can say is that whether or not 2014 was the “hottest year in recorded history,” 2015 is well on its way to breaking all the records, and who knows where we’ll be in 2016. And if by now somehow you’ve still managed to convince yourself that climate change isn’t really happening, then the only thing I know of that pairs well with your blissful ignorance is an extra-tall glass of water and a nice big salmon fillet.