Swimsuits On Mars


NASA’s big news this week: Water On Mars!!! The surface of Mars is streaked with brine! This means water existed at some point in the past on the Red Planet in order for this salty substance to be created and still exists today! Should the gringa be prepared to pack a beach umbrella if added to the list of future Martian colonists? How about a bikini and fishing pole? Ummm, well, nope. Well, then, if not, what’s the big, darn deal? I mean, I have salty streaks down my face after a big cry. What’s it all good for other than skin irritation?

Well, wide-spread “perchlorate” salts are what the NASA scientists are actually so excited about. Well, what the heck are they? The gringa read the report that these salts were present because humidity and temperatures were just right on Mars. Mmm hmm. And? Because these salts are so absorbent, the freezing point of water is further lowered so it can remain liquid in colder than “normal” temperatures. Yes, I see. And your point is? This could theoretically “almost” prove… WHAT?! WHAT?! Proof of liquid on Mars. Aaaaargh! But the gringa wants to know WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT?!

Curiosly enough, one of the main uses of perchlorates on Earth is the production of propellants in rockets! Crazy, huh? It’s as if Mars is inviting us to come and is offering to pay for the gas!

It is also used to create “oxygen candles”. These items are used on spacecrafts, submarines and airplanes as an emergency oxygen supply. When these “candles” are burned, they produce oxygen. Is this not amazing to find an abundant supply of such a thing on a planet we would like to set up camp on and two things preventing this from happening are fuel and oxygen supplies! THIS IS AMAZING!

In order for perchlorates to be created, there had to be bacteria. This means that at one time life could be supported on Mars. This discovery is so significant not just for what it tells us of the history of the Red Planet but of its potential future!

If liquid water was once abundant on the surface of Mars, it is then possible that there is still frozen water underground and… this is important because… this could become a resource to assist the survival of long-duration space missions to Mars. Hurrah!

NASA reported earlier in 2015 that the northern hemisphere had probably been an ocean with a maximum depth of over one mile but that most of this precious resource had been lost to the effects of deep space. That discouraging news has now been overshadowed by this new revelation of the possibility of underground frozen water resources. And, that is not all!

The different colors of the striations in the satellite images indicate that salty water is only frozen some of the time. It is possible that Mars experiences a warm season that would thaw this frozen brine and salt water would then be flowing freely down the mountainsides of Mars. This would occur when temperatures would rise to a “toasty” range just above 10 degrees Fahrenheit. So, the gringa won’t pack the fishing pole and beach umbrella, but, rather, a ski bunny outfit and river raft!

Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov

Read With The Gringa “Colors Of Horses”


This short, 5 minute read is perfect to introduce to toddlers some words for colors in English and Spanish. Gather the kids and join the gringa as she reads “The Colors of Horses”.

Pass The Galaxy Greens, Please


Truly, the gringa enjoys a fresh salad of spinach, arugula, romaine lettuce, with some walnuts tossed in, crumbled feta on top, and any assortment of chunky raw vegetables like zucchini, red bell pepper, asparagus, and onion. As a space gringa could I get my salad fix satisfied? Well, that’s exactly what the NASA engineers and scientists based in Huntsville, Alabama’s Marshall Space Flight Center have been working on for decades.

These galactic gardeners have created a space agricultural system for the International Space Station (ISS). The astronauts on ISS have been testing this technology which will ultimately find its way to Mars where it will create the food of the future. The ISS system is called the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS). It features a water recovery system and an oxygen generation system, the two basic necessities not only for human life, but also for plant life.

In order to sustain a long duration mission such as a Mars mission, astronauts will need to be able to supplement the food supplies they transport with them. One experiment called “Lada Validating Vegetable Production Unit” (boy is that a mouthful!) involves using a small greenhouse type contraption that has automated water and light controls. Lada’s goals are: to determine if space greens are safely edible; will space microorganisms grow on the space greens and if so, how can this risk be minimized; how can space greens be safely sanitized after harvest; discover methods for optimal production.

The most recent space greens to be harvested are a Japanese lettuce variety called “Mizuna”. The shuttle Discovery made a salad delivery to Earth in April. Along with the salad delivery was a report on findings based on the cultivation of the lettuce by two different methods, the “old” method versus the “new improved” method. The funny thing is that a sensor malfunction that went undetected resulted in a higher yield of lettuce. A mistake produced more. So much for the painstaking methods of a science experiment!

What happened after the sensor went on the blink was that the “root” module (no pot of dirt!) received much more water than it was supposed to. When cultivation “on the ground” determined that it would be better to minimize water and salt accumulations on the roots, this was the plan up on ISS. They’ve discovered the “actual” growing of the plant compared to the “land based” simulation did not result in identical scenarios.

It seems by overwatering the roots nutrients moved faster throughout the plant which resulted in faster fertilization release. Considering the plants are moving water and nutrients in micro-gravity, it makes sense to the gringa that more water would then be better. Water is kind of like a “vehicle” which facilitates the transport of the nutrition.

The gringa asks, “What does all this mean? I know that this will help Martian colonists get their fiber, but how does this help the rest of mankind that gets left behind?” Well, as climate change progresses, agriculture will become more of a challenge. We simply cannot continue producing crops according to the same old tried and true methods. Climate controlled greenhouses will need to be advanced to the point of sustaining a world population on the produce and vegetables it produces. The data from these experiments is critical to develop the type of technology that will save the Earth’s population from hunger.

These agricultural experiments have been taking place cooperatively between the United States and Russia for twenty years. Together, the scientists of two nations who have had an often hostile, cold, cantankerous relationship have ignored politics to quietly work together to solve the world’s problems. The gringa really likes that, even more than the space lettuce.

Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov

Read With The Gringa “The Magician’s Nephew” Chapter 4


Featuring book one of “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, the gringa is now reading chapter 4. Please join me as the adventures of Digory and Polly continue. I read aloud, discovering just where the magic rings have taken Digory and Polly. If you would like to know yourself, watch me on YouTube!

Read With The Gringa “Good Night, Wonder Pets!”


This six minute bedtime story is the perfect story to help little ones settle down for the night and have sweet dreams until morning. Enjoy sweet bedtime adventures with the gringa reading in English and Spanish.

Maaahhhvelous MAVEN!


Yesterday was an important anniversary at NASA. Celebrations were in order to mark a successful year of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet fulfilling its mission of understanding the upper and lower atmospheres of Mars. Scientists want to know how Martian atmospheric gases that escape into space change the climate of the planet. The ultimate question is whether or not the pattern of atmospheric evolution can trace back to an ancient history where life could once have been supported there.

MAVEN inserted itself into a Mars orbit in September, 2014 and had a dangerous encounter with Comet Siding Spring within its first month in action. Over the past twelve months, MAVEN has carried out and recorded atmospheric observations for ten of those months.

It has detected a pattern of particles at both poles that create a “Mohawk” effect as they escape the atmosphere in plumes. Mars also has a metallic particle layer high in the atmosphere which lights up when affected by solar storms. These particles are leftovers from space rubbish left behind by comets and meteorites. The gringa thinks Mars would be the perfect place for some rock-n-roll concerts.

The violent atmosphere of Mars is punctuated by solar and space radiation, magnetically and electrically charged solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections that strip the upper atmosphere of Mars of electrically and magnetically charged ions. The data collected on MAVEN can be analyzed to hopefully answer the question if this is the reason for atmospheric loss on the Red Planet and if so, scientists will then attempt to establish a time frame for the continued erosion of the Martian atmosphere.

NASA is very proud of the teamwork that has produced such a successful Martian mission as the MAVEN project. Engineers designed and built a sturdy spaceship that remains in excellent working order despite the extreme conditions it functions within. Although mission completion date is only months away, it is expected that the mission will be extended. The rich amount of data for a hungry science community is too valuable to give up as long as MAVEN is still operational. NASA will be giving the green light for this little workhorse to stay on the job at least one more year.

Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov

 

Read With The Gringa “The Magician’s Nephew” Chapter 3


Join the gringa as I read aloud chapter three in “The Magician’s Nephew”, book one of “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis. Polly and Digory met and explored the attic. They had a run-in with Digory’s crazy Uncle Andrew and now Polly has disappeared! Join me now to find out if Digory searches for Polly and find out about the mysterious Wood Between The Worlds.