from the world's big
The changes in brain structure aren't the only bodily changes caused by zero gravity.
- A new study finds that long term weightlessness can cause changes in brain structure, with an increase in white matter lasting a year after returning to Earth.
- The researchers believe it to be caused by an increase in fluid pressure on the brain.
- Potential solutions include creating artificial gravity.
I think my desire to go to space just declined a bit.<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="zLgT2QZy" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f9a7ab1cc3f27bb7d881581432778482"> <div id="botr_zLgT2QZy_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/zLgT2QZy-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/zLgT2QZy-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/zLgT2QZy-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Eleven astronauts, ten men and one woman, were given MRI tests before they went for extended stays on the International Space Station. They were then given follow up scans the day after their return and at several points during the year <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-04/rson-lsa040720.php" target="_blank">after</a>.</p><p>Not only did the researchers find that long-term exposure to zero-gravity increased the amount of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, but that the amount of white matter in the brain increased as well. Several of the astronauts also had deformed pituitary glands, the gland that tells all the others what to do, as a result of the increased pressure on it. <br> <br> These changes lasted for some time, just as other astronauts' vision problems have continued for years after returning to Earth. This suggests that some of the effects, particularly the increased amount of fluid, might be permanent. The higher amount of fluid also flowed through the cerebral aqueduct at an increased velocity. </p><p>The researchers hypothesized that these changes, like the previously mentioned vision problems, were caused by increased pressure in the head itself caused by an increased amount of fluid present, including blood. While Earth's gravity causes fluid to flow out of the head and pool towards the lower part of the body, weightlessness removes this tendency, and fluids begin to shift their locations. This effect <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/spaceodyssey/healtheffects.shtml" target="_blank">has been known</a> for a while and is also why many astronauts look like they skipped leg day or have puffy faces when they take pictures in space.</p>
What does this mean? Are astronauts in danger?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="4H6l2xhL" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="fd2eb2a69a1aed4b82241b02ed13feb5"> <div id="botr_4H6l2xhL_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/4H6l2xhL-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/4H6l2xhL-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/4H6l2xhL-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>It is too early to say what these changes to the brain mean. While some of the changes are associated with other symptoms, none of those have been seen in any of the astronauts yet.</p><p>However, ideas for how to reduce the build-up of fluids in the head are already being put forward. One suggestion is to create artificial gravity through the rotation of a centrifuge, like <a href="https://www.wired.com/2013/06/artificial-gravity-in-the-spinning-discovery-one/" target="_blank">the spaceship in "2001: A Space Odyssey"</a> has, or to create negative pressure around the lower parts of the body to draw fluid to them. Either of these mechanisms would cause less fluid to remain in the head.</p><p>The human body evolved to function decently in an environment where gravity is always a factor. As humanity ventures out towards the stars, the problem of how to keep that body working in such an alien environment will be a substantial obstacle. However, if we can solve the problem of getting into space in the first place, the issue of keeping fluid out of our heads seems comparatively simple. </p>
The dream of space travel has been usurped by superficiality.
- Recent survey of 3,000 kids showed that more kids aspire to be a YouTube star than an astronaut.
- Children in the U.S. and U.K. were three times more likely to want to become vloggers than kids in China.
- The survey also indicated that kids in America were less knowledgeable about space travel than their global counterparts.
Results of the survey<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDUxNjA3Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MjgzNTIxNX0.TMwqZFBqzqFwSxmtQrGgUz2BBc_zvuXQasMfzqIOYWA/img.jpg?width=980" id="16297" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e4af639fff2c2f2ef02f83f6d043fdd2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Harris Poll / LEGO<p>According to the study, children were three times as likely to aspire towards a YouTube career than an astronaut. That is, creating videos on the internet in order to become famous. Kids in the study were between the ages of 8 and 12. On average only 11 percent said they wanted to be an astronaut.</p><p>The only place this trend was reversed was in China. A majority of children in China, at 56 percent, would rather be an astronaut over other professions. Their other answers to space questions showed that Chinese children were also more interested in the prospect of not only going to space, but creating settlements there as well. </p><p>Three out of four children, in general, believed that humans would eventually live in space or on another planet. About 96 percent of Chinese children prescribed to this answer, compared to 68 percent in the United States and 63 percent in the U.K. </p><p>On the subject of whether they'd like to go to space, 95 percent of Chinese children said yes, compared to 70 percent from the U.S. and 63 percent from the U.K. </p><p>The survey didn't delve into why children in the West were less interested in space than their Chinese counterparts. We can only begin to speculate. Perhaps it's the fact that we've been in a rut since the 1970s and haven't set foot on another celestial body since then. It could be a lapse in good space PR combined with apathy spurred from our continual failings to rile up enough support for another grand initiative. </p><p>China currently places a greater emphasis on long-term goals, as well as a higher value on the tangible applications of space exploration. They're both educated and united under the primal banner of human curiosity and a nationalistic organizational efficiency. </p><p>It also comes down to just plain ignorance. Western kids are barraged at a young age with frivolous "internet stars," whose only claim to fame is commercialized parroting. This is a great waste of intellectual capital as children seek to emulate these people. The survey also found that kids truly don't understand the impact and importance that space travel has imparted to their daily lives. </p><p>For instance, only 18 percent of Western children knew they used something that was invented because of space travel, compared to 43 percent in China. </p><p>Like many things in life, knowledge and inspiration can help reverse these concerning trends.</p>
Inspiring kids for space exploration<p>Bettina Inclán, NASA associate administrator for communications, is optimistic about what to do next to inspire future generations of America:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"For nearly 20 years, NASA and LEGO Group have collaborated on projects to inspire the next generation to imagine and build their future in space. Our latest efforts celebrate the incredible feats we achieved during Apollo 50 years ago, and now with our accelerated plans to go forward to the moon, we will continue to inspire children to dream about what's possible and to grow up to pursue STEM careers." </p><p>There is a lot to be inspired about. The future of humanity lies beyond the atmosphere. If we're going to travel there and stay there, we'll need our best and brightest to <a href="https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/inventions-space-colonization" target="_self">invent some incredible new technology. </a></p><p>If we're going to make space exploration possible, we first have to pass down our dreams to the future custodians of the stars.</p>
- NASA's new plan will span the next 10 to 20 years.
- First, the Moon, and things around the Moon. Then, Mars.
- One of the primary goals? To privatize and get industry to eventually fund all of it.
NASA's five-part plan<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODY3Nzk2OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODc3Nzg3Mn0.y2iScshRMbVK8VWb5rgFLMyzks6775Ul3fAR_lx0NUo/img.png?width=980" id="e14e5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="49d80fb95068dfbea8fbcef8b4c9fb42" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: NASA<p>In a <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/nationalspaceexplorationcampaign.pdf" target="_blank">press release</a> and <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/nationalspaceexplorationcampaign.pdf" target="_blank">more in-depth document</a> released by the space agency, it lists the primary objectives:</p><p>"The Exploration Campaign has five strategic goals:</p><ol><li>Transition U.S. human spaceflight activities in low-Earth orbit to commercial operations that support NASA and the needs of an emerging private sector market.</li><li>Lead the emplacement of capabilities that support lunar surface operations and facilitate missions beyond cislunar space.</li><li>Foster scientific discovery and characterization of lunar resources through a series of robotic missions.</li><li>Return U.S. astronauts to the surface of the Moon for a sustained campaign of exploration and use.</li><li>Demonstrate the capabilities required for human missions to Mars and other destinations."</li></ol><p>These certainly mean more dollars headed toward research and development; while the original Apollo and other missions were government-funded and ultimately fell under the purview of the military (indeed, one of the primary stated goals of the Gemini and Apollo programs was to <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/27552538?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents" target="_blank">lessen the</a> "Missile gap" between the United States and the Soviet Union), this new concept relies heavily on private investment, corporate involvement and funding, and the eventual mining and financial rewards of "exploration and use" of the lunar and Mars surfaces. </p><p>While it's not the driving, all-encompassing effort that the first missions to the Moon were (and, really, how could it be?), it's much better than letting NASA and other space entities languish and die. </p><p>More from NASA's <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-unveils-sustainable-campaign-to-return-to-moon-on-to-mars" target="_blank">announcement</a>:</p><p>"Based on inputs from current partners, commercial and other stakeholders, NASA will shape the plan for the transition of low-Earth orbit activities from direct government funding to commercial services and partnerships, with new, independent commercial platforms or a non-NASA operating model for some form or elements of the International Space Station by 2025. In addition, NASA will expand public-private partnerships to develop and demonstrate technologies and capabilities to enable new commercial space products and services."</p>
An outpost near the Moon<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODY3Nzk5NS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjk2NTU0MH0.xkTPZEuQ9WF95hsWcw2b4m_jGWaeQ2fGxOjqk6R8HGM/img.png?width=980" id="f247d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0dd89b606c7ed46b4e51c99c9363a7c7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Credit: NASA<p>This dovetails with the <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/iss_transition_report_180330.pdf" target="_blank">plan to privatize</a> the International Space Station. Indeed, a part of this long-term plan is to replace it with a station orbiting the Moon that can then travel to planets such as Mars much more easily than overcoming Earth's gravity and atmosphere. As NASA <a href="https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/a25872/nasa-cis-lunar-orbit/" target="_blank">told <em>Popular Mechanics</em></a>, "Because the station [will be] in an egg-shaped orbit, stretching anywhere from 1,500 km to 70,000 km (930 to 44,000 miles) from the Moon, it would need only a little push to be sent flying to a yet-to-be-chosen destination.</p><p>With private companies beginning to have success in sending various <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/10-years-spacex-launched-falcon-1-private-space-travel-viable-1142103" target="_blank">things and even people</a> into space, sometimes for financial reward, perhaps this is a sustainable way to fund future space development.</p><p>It would be nice, however, if there were a way to guarantee that new discoveries and resources would benefit the public good as well as private profit.</p><p>Hey, I can dream, can't I?</p>
Trash on earth is pretty bad. But space trash is at a whole other level.
Trash on earth is pretty bad. But space trash is at a whole other level. Imagine how much damage just a single screw can make when it's hurtling right at you at 17,500mph. You can follow Michelle Thaller on Twitter at @mlthaller.
Sending a tiny spaceship to the nearest habitable planet at 20% of the speed of light? No problem, says theoretical physicist Michio Kaku.
Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku doesn't just hope that humanity finds its way onto other planets... he's even picked out the ones we should be moving to — Proxima Centauri B, in the Alpha Centauri triple star system. He's even suggested that the next great space exploration could happen on a spaceship the size of a postage stamp, traveling 20% the speed of light, sent by using high-powered lasers. It sounds like a wild theory, but if anyone's wild theories could come true in the next 100 years, it's probably Michio Kaku. His latest book is The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth.