NASA reveals the latest winning ideas for buildings on Mars
NASA announced the five winners of the latest phase of its 3D-Printing Habitat Competition for designing the structures to be used by humans on Mars.
Living on Mars is a dream long-held by science fiction writers and many would-be space explorers. Of course, we have to get there first. NASA’s plans remain robotic for now, with new rovers (and a Mars Helicopter) starting in 2020. The White House has asked NASA to return to the moon in order to, among other things, develop a launch facility for a human Mars mission. NASA’s own suspicion is that we’ll eventually travel to Mars aboard their Space Launch System rocket platform. Yet, assuming we do someday send people to populate the red planet, what kind of Mars-friendly structures will they need?
NASA has been looking for an answer to this question and has been running, along with Bradley University and other partners, a three-stage, multimillion-dollar 3D-Printed Habitat Competition to find it. The space agency has just announced five winning teams for the third stage’s first construction level in which they designed innovative Mars habitats and created virtual models of the structures.
The winners will share the level’s $100,000 prize:
- Team Zopherus of Rogers, Arkansas — $20,957.95
- AI. SpaceFactory of New York — $20,957.24
- Kahn-Yates of Jackson, Mississippi — $20,622.74
- SEArch+/Apis Cor of New York — $19,580.97
- Northwestern University of Evanston, Illinois — $17,881.10
Creativity, architectural know-how, and a grasp of the Martian environment are required to meet a Mars mission’s unique challenges. For one thing, the planet is inhospitable — extremely hot and cold, for example — and completely lacks any supporting infrastructure for the buildings, so they need to be hardy and self-sufficient. In addition, getting traditional building materials all the way to Mars is impractical at best and maybe impossible — this is why NASA is betting on 3D-printing as the most practical means of fabricating Martian structures.
First Place: Team Zopherus
2nd Place: AI. SpaceFactory
3rd Place: Kahn-Yates
4th Place: SEArch+/Apis Cor
5th Place: Northwestern University
Who knows when humans will actually get to Mars. Maybe by then, we’ll simply be able to replicate our structures a la Star Trek. Still, it’s not unlikely that all this advance planning and thinking will ultimately illuminate the underlying architectural solutions that will be required for life on the red planet. Meanwhile, we can use our imaginations to picture what living in each of these dazzling structure might be like after a hard day in the searing Martian sun, or during a bone-chilling red-planet night.
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Great ideas in philosophy often come in dense packages. Then there is where the work of Marcus Aurelius.
- Meditations is a collection of the philosophical ideas of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
- Written as a series of notes to himself, the book is much more readable than the dry philosophy most people are used to.
- The advice he gave to himself 2,000 years ago is increasingly applicable in our hectic, stressed-out lives.
Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.
- New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
- Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
- The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.
Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.
The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.
The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.
Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.
"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."
University of Colorado Boulder
This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.
Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.
The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.
Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.
What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.
"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."
Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
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