Fantasist & Futurist
- Nov 23, 2002
After a quiet period, there have been a lot more space news stories this week:
1. ISS leak
The International Space Station suffered an air leak, apparently caused by a micrometeorite impact which formed a 2mm hole in one of the Soyuz modules: Astronauts tackle leak on space station
According to Andy Weir, it was fixed - albeit temporarily - with duct tape.
2. Lunar bricks
Continuing the theme of space exploration, the European Space Agency is mooting the possibility of using 3D printing to create bricks from moon dust, for the building of any future colony - and here's a picture of a 1.5 tonne proof of concept, designed around hollow tubes: Building bricks on the moon from lunar dust
3. Concerns for Opportunity
Moving on to Mars, and with the recent global dust storm now abating, there's a nervous wait to see if the Opportunity rover will fire up and send a signal back home.
NASA scientists have said that they will give it at least 45 days before they truly begin to worry: News | Martian Skies Clearing over Opportunity Rover
4. Titan mapped - again!
On now to Titan - which has already been mapped using radar - but now infra-red data from the Cassini Probe has been used to create a much more detailed map: https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/new-stunning-infrared-maps-see-through-titans-haze
Much of Titan remains featureless, but as Phil Plait points out, there are some interesting Earth-like features.
5. Asteroid landing update
The Japanese space agency ha announced that within the next few weeks the Hayabusa probe will release the first lander onto the Ryugu asteroid: Dates set for touchdown on an asteroid
The expectation is that any close analysis will help us better understand the origins of the solar system.
6. First protein?
Speaking of origins, a team of scientists have come up with what they think is the simplest protein necessary for developing life: Scientists identify protein that may have existed when life began
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the chemist Günter Wächtershäuser postulated that life began on iron- and sulfur-containing rocks in the ocean. Wächtershäuser and others predicted that short peptides would have bound metals and served as catalysts of life-producing chemistry,
Rutgers scientists have smashed and dissected nearly 10,000 proteins and pinpointed four "Legos of life—core chemical structures that can be stacked to form the innumerable proteins inside all organisms. The small primordial peptide may be a precursor to the longer Legos of life, and scientists can now run experiments on how such peptides may have functioned in early-life chemistry.
7. Water worlds good for life?
And where would life - as we know it - be best suited in the universe? So far scientists have preferred to look for planets similar to Earth, thinking that water worlds - already commonly observed - may not be able to sustain life. However, new computer modelling suggests that water worlds shouldn't have any problem at all sustaining life: Water worlds could support life: Analysis challenges idea that life requires 'Earth clone'
Somewhat related is the news that bacteria spreads more easily by riding on fog than just blowing on air currents: Microbes hitch a ride inland on coastal fog While that study applies specifically to Earth, I can't help but wonder how applicable it might be to life on other planets - or in space itself.
8. Changing the laws of physics - the names, anyway?
The International Astronomical Union may be about to vote on changing Hubble's Law to the Hubble-Lemaître Law - to honour Georges Lemaître who actually discovered, and modeled, the expansion of the universe in a paper published 2 years before Edwin Hubble did (and even explained the principle to him, in person): Game-changing resolution—whose name on the laws of physics for an expanding universe?
However, there is concern that if this goes through then a lot more re-naming may be required:
Related to that, here's an account of Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered the relationship between the brightness of variable stars and their absolute magnitude - which allowed astronomers to start measuring their distance from us - and for Hubble and Lemaître to postulate the expansion of the universe: https://www.aavso.org/henrietta-leavitt-–-celebrating-forgotten-astronomerScience is full of laws, effects, equations and constants that in many cases do not bear the name of their rightful discoverers. Some people worry that giving the due credit in all of such cases will cost a lot of effort and time.
BONUS NEWS! A species of fish has apparently passed the mirror-test for self-awareness: Researchers Discover This Tiny Fish Has An Odd Behavior In Front of a Mirror - Advocator