Space For Europe IS the ESA


With ESA Astronaut Tim Peake performing a spacewalk this week on the International Space Station, the gringa thinks it’s only fitting to turn the limelight toward Europe’s space agency and their long history of achievement. The European Space Agency (ESA) is to Europe what NASA is to the United States, JAXA is to Japan and Rocosmos is to Russia. ESA is comprised of 22 member states who collaborate with their financial resources and intellectual talents to provide a gateway to the stars for all of Europe. Members are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Canada, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia all make their own contributions as well through contractual agreements of cooperation.

The goals of the ESA are to discover more about Earth and its surrounding Solar System, as well as the entire Universe. These goals are met while at the same time promoting development of European technologies and sharing these with the world’s other space agencies.

Paris is the location of ESA headquarters. Germany is where ESA’s Astronaut Centre and Space Operations Centre are located. Astronomy Centres are found in Canada and Spain with the Earth Observation centre in Italy. The UK houses the centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications and launch bases are scattered throughout Belgium, the U.S.A., Russia and French Guiana. It can be rather dizzying with all of these operational centres spread all over the world. So, to keep things simple, because the gringa likes simple, for more information about ESA, simply go to their website, www.esa.int, or drop them a line or pick up the phone:

Communication Department
European Space Agency
8-10 rue Mario Nikis
75738 Paris
Cedex 15
France

Tel: + 33 1 5369 7155
Fax: + 33 1 5369 7690

ESA desires to explore space for peaceful purposes. While doing this it wants Europeans to benefit economic growth from the support services required to travel to the stars. Since its conception over thirty years ago, ESA has focused on long-term goals that are adaptable to a world that changes rapidly. The gringa wishes to highlight just a smattering of successful ESA missions:

  • ESRO-4, 1972: The ESRO-4 (European Space Research Organisation) satellite carried five experiments concentrating on Earth’s ionosphere, atmosphere, radiation belts and penetration of solar particle radiation into the magnetosphere. It was launched on 22 November 1972, on a NASA Scout rocket from the Western Test Range in California, and reentered Earth’s atmosphere after a successful mission on 15 April 1974.
  • 1977-2002 Mission Meteosat: launched multiple weather satellites
  • 1979 Mission Ariane: first launch of commercial launcher to secure Europe’s independent space access
  • 1983 Mission Spacelab: launched laboratory module for NASA’s Space Shuttle
  • 1985 Mission Giotto: intercept of Halley’s Comet and Comet Grigg-Skjellerup
  • 1990 Mission Hubble Space Telescope: ESA contribution of solar arrays and Faint Object Camera for Hubble Space Telescope
  • 1998 Mission ARD: launch of first European experimental re-entry vehicle
  • 2003 Mission Mars Express: launch of Europe’s first Red Planet orbiter
  • 2005 Mission Venus Express: launch of Europe’s first Venus orbiter
  • 2008-2012 Mission ATV: launch space truck for ISS re-supply
  • 2015 Mission Lisa Pathfinder: launch of technology to detect gravitational waves

Which brings the gringa to the current ESA Mission, “Principia”.  This six month mission is named after Isaac Newton’s book on physics, “Naturalis Principia Mathematica”. Peake’s mission objectives are to maintain the weightless research laboratory, conduct over thirty scientific experiments, and perform a spacewalk with fellow crewman Astronaut Tim Kopra, working together to replace a Solar Shunt Unit.

Preparing for the spacewalk involves breathing pure oxygen for two hours (to purge nitrogen) before embarking. Once spacesuits are donned, the astronauts enter an airlock where air pressure is gradually reduced until they can safely exit the ISS.

Upon successful completion of Mission Principia, ESA will then turn its attention and efforts to the next scheduled mission, Mission Exomars. Later on this year ESA will launch a Mars orbiter, rover and surface platform to the Red Planet. The gringa is so excited! To Mars! To Mars!

 

Source and Photo Credit:  www.esa.int

 

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Improving The World Has Gone Glam… GEOGlam That Is


Food security in the world is critical to the security of the world in general. When populations become vulnerable due to famine and food shortages, terrible things can happen. Things like wars, massive migrations, malnutrition related disease epidemics, etc. With climate change posing a real threat to the future of food security worldwide, what the heck is being done about this problem?

The international community has come together to go “glam”. No, there is nothing glamorous about hunger. Rather, a group of government leaders, as well as NGO leaders, have formed and call themselves the Group on Earth Observation’s Global Agricultural Monitoring, or, to avoid saying that mouthful, GEOGLAM. They plan to take full advantage of Earth images provided by NASA’s satellites, along with data provided by the space agencies of other nations, to monitor weather and how it will affect the security of crops.

Satellites are not the only hi-tech hardware being put to use. While out in the field, GEOGLAM workers collect data on smartphones and relay it via the internet to GEOGLAM partners. This makes data collection much more efficient and stream lined. No more need to do all that pesky paperwork. The gringa likes that. The gringa likes even better the name for this mobile system of data collection, “MAGIS”. The gringa looks at her smartphone, smiles, and says, “It’s MAGIS!”

Rice is first on the list of crops GEOGLAM monitors. It is the staple grain for not only the largest portion of Earth’s population, but also it’s most vulnerable populations. And it is no easy grain to cultivate. Flood or drought could cause a worldwide starvation catastrophe. Other key crops being monitored are wheat, corn (maize), cotton and sugarcane.

Orbiting satellites provide thermal images of crops that enable GEOGLAM agricultural experts to determine if crop stress is occurring. These hi-tech images can relay such details as moisture and temperature levels of the surface of the land the crop is planted in. This can help create models to protect the viability of critical crops.

Images also provide data that help scientists predict weather patterns. This enables measures to be taken to protect crops in the event of the approach of severe weather. Although it is fine to love your local weatherman who reminds you to take an umbrella with you to work, GEOGLAM’s weathermen are the weathermen that are helping to save the world. The gringa holds them high upon the meteorological pedestal.

GEOGLAM’s eyes in the skies have begun their rice monitoring projects in the nations of Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Java. In the U.S., Arkansas, and agricultural areas such as Sacramento Valley in California, are also being watched because their water resources are rapidly being depleted. Data processed by GEOGLAM is used to create growing season plans as well as help farmers in these areas manage their local resources, primarily the precious resource of water that is used to irrigate the crops.

A visit to GEOGLAM’s website puts a smile on the gringa’s face. There’s nothing the gringa likes more than solutions. The gringa’s a fixer, a problem-solver, a get ‘er done kind of gal. It’s okay to complain but then you’ve got to get off your bum and FIX IT!

GEOGLAM officially launched in Paris, 2011, with the participation of 20 Agricultural Ministers from the world community. This group is setting out to monitor regions that “… are responsible for over 80% of global crop production…”. As data is gathered regarding these areas, GEOGLAM uses proven scientific methods to analyze weather and other evidence to create consensus based models that work toward the most favorable outcome of crop production and yield.

Although many countries have their own agricultural monitoring systems, GEOGLAM aims to lead the way into the global era. This is the future. Nations no longer live as islands but, rather, as part of a world community. Data is shared. Technologies are shared. Standardized methods are being implemented. It is the recognition that one nation’s food security is the concern of every other nation. The gringa loves this philosophy.

Never before has the world needed scientists and agricultural experts like it does today. These are the fields philanthropic, young students should be encouraged to pursue. If your child wants to change the world, encourage them to be a farmer or meteorologist!

 

Sources: www.nasa.gov and  www.geoglam-crop-monitor.org

Photo credit:  www.en.wikipedia.org

 

 

There’s A Reason It’s Called The INTERNATIONAL Space Station


In December, NASA astronaut Tim Kopra will be on his way to the International Space Station. He will launch from Russia on a Soyuz spacecraft Tuesday morning, December 15, 2015, at 6:03 am EST from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Joining him will be Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko (Russian Federal Space Agency) and Tim Peak (European Space Agency).  Kopra has been training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center that is located at Star City, Russia. Next Tuesday, November 24, from 7-8 am EST, live satellite interviews will be held with Kopra at the training center. Information on satellite tuning to watch the live interview can be found at http://go.nasa.gov/1pOWUhR

Kopra, who is a West Point graduate and holds multiple master’s degrees, is no rookie. On his first mission in 2009  he served as flight engineer. During that sixty day mission he performed a five and a half hour spacewalk. Throughout his military and aerospace career he has earned multiple awards such as the Silver and Bronze Order of Saint Michael, Army Aviation award, the Legion of Merit award, a Bronze Star, a NASA Space Flight medal and a NASA Distinguished Service medal, just to name a handful of his many medals. He has served as an aviator in the Army as well as an aeroscout platoon leader, troop executive officer and squadron adjutant. These are just a few of his military leadership accomplishments. He became an astronaut in 2000 and performed his first mission in 2009. Kopra has completed training in Russia, Japan, Germany and Canada at their respective space agency’s training facilities. He has completed multiple previous missions and on this one he will serve under Scott Kelly who is active commander. However, the next mission, Expedition 47, Kopra will serve as commander.

Malenchenko was born in Ukraine in 1961. He is a graduate of Kharkov Military Aviation School and Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy. During his service in the Soviet Armed Forces some of the distinctions he earned were the Hero of the Russian Federation medal, National Hero of Kazakhstan medal, Military award of excellence, three Meritorious Service medals, a Commendation medal, Achievement medal, and the “70 years of the Soviet Armed Forces” medal. He has worked as a pilot and flight leader and became a cosmonaut in 1987. After rigorous years of training he completed his first spaceflight mission in 1994. He performed two spacewalks and performed the first manual docking of the Mir station with the Progress M-24 vehicle. As during his military career, he has continued to serve Russia’s space agency, making his country proud as an accomplished cosmonaut on the numerous missions he has led. His accomplishments are simply too numerous to recount all.

Peake was born in England in 1972. He is married and the father of two sons. A graduate of the Royal Military Academy, he served as an officer in the British Army Air Corps. He has been a test pilot and was awarded the Westland Trophy in his performance as a rotary wing pilot student. In 2006 he also was awarded the Commander-in-Chief’s Certificate for Meritorious Service for exemplary and dedicated service to the British Army. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in flight dynamics in 2006 and puts his knowledge to good use as an astronaut now.  In the past he has also participated in environmental projects in Alaska, served as a Platoon Commander, an instructor in Combat Survival and Rescue, a helicopter flight instructor, and is a Flight Safety Officer, just to list a few of his accomplishments. He became an astronaut in 2009. His participation in Expedition 46 will mark not only his first off-world mission but also the first British astronaut at the ISS. This will, indeed, be an historic moment for the United Kingdom as well as the International Space Station.

When Kopra and the rest of the crew arrive at the ISS in December, they will be joining NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Roscosmos cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov who will be, at that time, nine months into their twelve month mission.  And, if the dear reader is as curious as the gringa, you’ll want to know what the heck Rocosmos is. Well that’s what the Russian Federal Space Agency is commonly called. The gringa thinks it’s a cool name. I think I’ll name one of my birds Rocosmos. But, I digress…

The arrival of Kopra, Malenchenko  and Peake will create an entire complement of a six man crew for Expedition 46. Their mission is to continue the hundreds of experiments that are underway at the ISS. The ISS is mankind’s only orbiting laboratory. It conducts research and experiments in biotechnology, biology, Earth science and physical science.  Their mission will be completed in June after Kopra, Malenchenko and Peake begin their return trip to Earth in May. The progress of Expedition 46 can be followed on Instagram at http://instagram.com/iss.

The gringa cannot help but be impressed with the leadership abilities of these astronauts and cosmonauts. I am equally impressed and proud of international cooperation that has been going on for years and is strong, growing, and becoming ever more inclusive. When we nations start bickering, we really need to step back and consider that there is an international group of men and women working their tails off and enduring the sacrifice of months and years without their loved ones as they float around this earth. As they conduct their missions trying to develop technologies to save mankind from disease and the self-destructive path we are on destroying our home world, we really should respect their example and get along better.

Source: http://www.nasa.gov

Photo credit:  www.space.com

 

The ISS Just Keeps Bringin’ It


The International Space Station is important for the critical research that is ongoing and will help us eventually get to Mars. However, there are even greater benefits that the people of earth enjoy right now from the work the astronauts are doing.

In a world where the major economies have been experiencing terrible recessions, growth and opportunity in new markets are vital for recovery. One such economy can be found in what is called the “low-Earth orbit” economy. NASA and the ISS make a pathway to this economy accessible. Companies such as NanoRacks hardware are forging new territory exploring the profitability of doing business in low-Earth orbit. NanoRacks provides laboratory space. One of their creative ideas are CubeSats that were recently deployed from the space station and will help the research going on in the cosmos be more efficient and affordable. Private sector models like this are a part of the world economy’s future that could very well bring about profitable competition that will benefit the entire planet.

One of the gringa’s favorite things NASA and the ISS regularly contribute to are global efforts to provide clean drinking water to disadvantaged people. Commercialization of the technology used by space agencies to provide drinkable water for astronauts has resulted in organizations collaborating together to put this technology to humanitarian uses. Thirsty people in sub-Sahara Africa need only look to the stars and say “thank you”.

We’ve all heard about the disease muscular dystrophy. What we may not have all heard of is the important research going on within the space station that could very well result in a better designed drug that could successfully treat this disease. Because of muscular issues long-term deep space deployment creates, NASA is always on the look out for a breakthrough that will keep astronauts strong and healthy. Part of this ongoing research has resulted in growing and cultivating high-quality protein crystals. Microgravity is the perfect place to grow these crystals. By better understanding the structure of these proteins and how they affect the human body, more effective treatments can be designed.

How many of us have had a loved one receive an ultrasound to determine the health of a pregnancy and, perhaps, the gender of the baby? This technology is something most of us take for granted. Well, sometimes an astronaut can benefit from an ultrasound in space if immediate medical attention is required. However, because of the nature of the space station, new technology had to be developed to shrink down the typical monstrosity of an ultrasound scanner. Now, NASA didn’t play stingy with its new pint-sized ultrasound device that was developed for the health security of astronauts. Medical care worldwide, especially in remote areas, has been improved because NASA shared this technology.

A couple of decades ago when Lasik eye surgery was in it infancy and was then called radial keratotamy (RK), the gringa had that corrective surgery on both of her near-sighted eyes. The laser surgery was originally developed to be used in the space program. That shared surgical technique has, over the past decades, refined and perfected to the point that it is a simple, everyday outpatient treatment which rarely even results in missing a day of work. It’s just incredible.

Thanks to NASA and its willingness to share such wonderful technology, the phrase “inoperable tumor” may become a phrase of the past. Robots are going to play such an important part of getting us to Mars that it is only logical that there will most certainly be some sharing of robotics technology with medicine. The neuroArm is a robotic arm that has already successfully removed supposedly “inoperable” tumors. The technology of this robotic arm is based on the Canadarm that was developed by multiple agencies for the space program. The robots of Canada’s space agency perform heavy lifting and maintenance tasks on the ISS. But, the gringa believes that nothing weighs heavier than a tumor that has been deemed “inoperable”. If anything at all makes the crazy dreams of exploring outer space valid, I think it has to be the lives of the thirty-five patients who had their “inoperable” tumors removed.

One thing that is going to affect all of us at some point will be the effects of old age. One thing old timers have to try to prevent is osteosporosis. Because space missions always result in the loss of bone and muscle mass because of the lack of gravity, some of the most groundbreaking discoveries on osteosporosis take place among the scientists of our space agencies. Already humans are benefitting from the development of a drug as a direct result of outer space research.

However, one benefit that warms the heart of the gringa is how the work at the ISS inspires our youth of today. I am so thankful that NASA regularly engages students of all ages and levels to participate in challenges and programs. The gringa cannot think of a better way for the world to become a better place where political factions and border wars can be relegated to the meaningless backburner and we can all recognize one another as fellow human beings who are sharing and exploring an incredible universe together. Truly our youth are not only our hope to save our physical planet, but surely they will be the generation that can socially and politically evolve to a higher level and get our planet one step closer to eradicating factious war.

Asteroid Ahead! Redirect! Redirect!


I am a sci-fi fan. I love to read science fiction books, watch science fiction movies and even indulge in trolling some of the latest conspiracy theory sites on the future Armageddon triggered by an apocalyptical asteroid-Earth collision event. One thing I have learned throughout my many years of science fiction madness is that there is usually an itsy-bitsy kernel of truth within the fantastical story. The gringa has found such a tidbit of truth within the asteroid-Earth collision story and it comes straight from NASA.

A one of a kind robot mission is being planned at NASA regarding an asteroid near Earth. The robot’s job within the next decade is to gather a mega-ton boulder from an asteroid and redirect it into an orbit around the Moon. This asteroid sample would be explored about five years later and samples returned to Earth from its surface.  This mission, begun in 2013, is called “Asteroid Redirect Mission” (ARM) and is all part of the plan for getting humans to Mars in the 2030’s. This little information nugget is what is fueling the preppers and conspiracists who think all of mankind is doomed sometime this September by an asteroid-Earth catastrophe. As these folks hunker down in their bunkers, the gringa asks the dear reader to simply read on and amuse yourself.

Out of the thousand-plus asteroids astronauts have to select from, they have four that are favorites. A bit more research on their orbit, velocity, spin and size will be conducted for a few more years before a final decision is made. To speed things along, NASA also has created an initiative called the “Asteroid Grand Challenge”. Its purpose is to identify asteroids that pose a potential hazard not just through NASA’s efforts but through collaboration with other cosmic partners. For the astronaut hopeful, physicist, hobbyist astronomer and such in my reading audience, who knows, perhaps you could lend a hand and be a part of something fantastic. Since the plan to launch ARM is scheduled for some time in the 2020 decade, you’ve got plenty of time to get to work.

Now, considering my insatiable curiosity, the gringa has to ask, “Why should we spend so much taxpayer money and risk the lives of astronauts to collect some kazillion years old space rocks?” The answer? Asteroids are considered to be the remnants of the Big Bang. They are the left overs. By having access to an asteroid as near as our Moon, scientists can study more samples than ever before. This helps to satisfy their insatiable curiosity as to how our solar system was formed and life on Earth began. In other words, the discoveries could lead to mankind saving the planet and figuring out how to colonize another planet. There are also possibilities of finding frozen water sources which could hold all sorts of interesting things within to study under a microscope, maybe even a frozen bubble of breathable air. That would indicate the possibility of a sister planet that a human could survive on without a protective suit or artificial environment. And, of course, there are always “those” people who hope to find another energy and fuel source. You know, the ones who don’t look at outer space with curiosity and wonder but with dollar signs in their eyes.

The mission will develop a planetary defense technique that could be used to deflect an asteroid that posed a dangerous threat to Earth. Now, if you’re already questioning whether it’s even a good idea to nudge an asteroid over to the Moon and ask the sort of questions the gringa asks, like, “Um, guys, could it just be THAT could become the asteroid that ends up threatening all civilization?” Rest assured, NASA has thought of that as well. That is the reason for the studies on size, mass, velocity and speed. They want to capture an asteroid large enough to provide great research opportunity but small enough to burn up in the atmosphere if it did go rogue and plummet towards Earth.

The gringa also considers, “This all sounds fascinating but, exactly how does this get us closer to Mars?” Well, ever since mankind has begun to climb into rockets and physically explore the cosmos, astronauts have been dependent upon supplies and support from Earth. This has limited the amount of time astronauts can remain in space and how far they can travel. Such missions are labeled “Earth Reliant”. The “Proving Ground” of the deep space environment surrounding the moon is closer to what space travelers will experience on a trip to Mars. For example, solar and cosmic radiation is stronger outside low-Earth orbit and closer to the Moon.

Presently, a typical astronaut mission on the International Space Station (ISS) can last up to six months (about 180 days).  A manned mission to Mars could take 500 days or more. Most of that time is simply in transit back and forth (about six months each way). To become completely Earth independent journeys,  new technologies and methods will be tested on the asteroid.

One such technology to test is Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP). This would do away with chemical dependent propulsion allowing larger on-board payloads in place of the weight that would have otherwise been dedicated to fuel. A larger payload means more on board supplies. More on board supplies means a longer mission capability. Solar propulsion also means energy independence. Energy independence means limitless distance capability of travel within our solar system. By having the asteroid, NASA can test the SEP system as a robotic system that can simulate sending cargo to Mars well before habitants arrive.

Once a robotic spacecraft has successfully landed on Mars, the next phase would then be to launch a crew to Mars. This crew will need to have the skills and technology to maneuver and dock with the Martian robotic spacecraft. This can be practiced on the asteroid delivered to Moon orbit.

Now, a trip to Mars is not a hot-shot, non-stop flight. The plan is actually to have a staged journey. Between Earth and Mars would be multiple ports of call similar in nature to the current ISS. The Orion is NASA’s current exploration craft that will be used in future solar system exploration.  All astronauts slated for Martian missions would then need to know how to dock the Orion with these stations.

What about the protective suits astronauts wore on the Moon landing and currently wear when conducting maintenance and repairs in space at  the ISS? Are these suits sufficient for a Mars mission or do astronauts require new technology there as well? Spacesuits, also known as Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), will need upgrades to the primary life support system (PLSS) due to the carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars. Engineers are also working on upgrades that will provide better oxygen regulation and humidity control. The gringa thinks, “Dear God, please have decent humidity control. We don’t want to see leather skinned astronaut faces with crazy, frizzy hair.” The EMUs also have cooling systems and atmospheric pressure regulators that will be upgraded to accommodate holding more fluids for longer periods of time. Durability will also be a factor. Astronauts traveling to Mars will need these babies to last a long time and be easy to maintain and repair. The new designs will be tested on the asteroid missions before actually going to Mars. It would really suck to be 10 days out on a 500 day mission only to find out your spacesuit was not going to be able to hold 17 months worth of pee. At least on the asteroid you can turn around and go home and change your pants.

Within the next five years, the world can expect to see a new object floating around the moon and regular travel back and forth to study, research and rehearse for even greater events in the future. Within the gringa’s lifetime, I may just witness humans arriving on Mars. Who knows, by the time I’m old and ornery enough that my kids and grandkids have stolen my driver’s license, hidden my car keys and put my car up on blocks, I may just buy a damn ticket.

Sources:

http://www.nasa.gov/content/what-is-nasa-s-asteroid-redirect-mission

http://www.nasa.gov/content/how-will-nasas-asteroid-redirect-mission-help-humans-reach-mars

Photo credit: spectrum.mit.edu

Astronauts In The Pool


Astronauts and swimming. The two don’t seem to go together, huh? Big surprise, they do! Just about any day of the week astronauts enter NASA’s Johnson Space Center, don a spacesuit and go for a swim in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL). The “laboratory” is actually a six million gallon swimming pool warmed to a constant 86 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are susceptible to vertigo, then for heaven’s sake, if you take a tour, don’t climb up on one of the cranes and look down into what is the largest indoor pool in the world.

Astronauts train for space walks in this 200 feet x 100 feet wide x 40 feet deep state of the art aquatics facility. However, they are not diving in to get their swim on. They first descend to an elevated deck that sits at a depth of twenty feet. Stage two is another twenty foot descent to the floor of the pool. This submerged laboratory contains life-size models of some of the most important components of the International Space Station (ISS). In an underwater environment that simulates microgravity, astronauts do some very serious training.

If you have ever watched NASA videos of tethered astronauts floating around in space repairing one of the eleven trusses that support the ISS’s radiator or solar arrays, this pool is where they did the training for such work. By rehearsing spacewalks in this way, astronauts become familiar with the effects microgravity will have not only upon the movements of their bodies, but also how it will affect the objects and tools they may use.

After a crew is briefed on their mission, they enter the pool and do not return until the mission is complete. This could mean remaining submerged for up to six hours. When they have received the order, and the team is assembled on deck, they are lowered into the pool by cranes. They quickly get to work practicing such routine maintenance tasks as re-routing the cables that connect the modules of the space station or repairing the solar arrays.

Now this all sounds very impressive, but, the gringa has to ask, “Is this super expensive aquatic laboratory and space station worth all of those taxpayer’s dimes? I mean, what’s the point of it all?” The gringa has an insatiable curiosity. I just have to know. Fortunately, because NASA is funded by taxpayers, their work is an open book.

Many of the ongoing biological experiments at ISS study the long term effects being in space has upon human and animal physiology. This helps prepare astronauts for their trips as well as anticipate and manage any health complications when they return home. Such research also will help to determine if it is ever possible for humans to colonize space and live out a normal life span there.

Such things as the human reproductive system are studied. I mean, what’s the point of colonizing outer space if the colonists can’t reproduce? The seed of civilization in some far off galaxy would just die out within one generation. Effects of long term exposure to microgravity upon the human immune system must also be understood. Eventually a colonist is bound to get sick or break a bone or receive a nasty cut. Which, then, leads to cosmic scientists exploring the possibilities of developing the basic building blocks that would allow self-sufficient medicine development in outer space.

Pharmaceuticals often have their origins in organic material, such as plants. ISS experiments also study the development of enclosed ecosystems. If humans are to ever live in space, they will need to find a way to successfully farm in artificial environments. These studies are not just about the future space farming of tomato crops. Astronaut scientists also explore the possibility of raising protein livestock such as fish and quail.

So, astronauts are not just up there having the most expensive camp out of their lives. They are developing the science and methods that will be needed if mankind is ever to inhabit another place as “home” other than Earth.

Does the gringa think it’s all worth it? I suppose so. I suppose I have to consider the possibility that some knucklehead leader of a country may go totally off the rails one day and trigger a catastrophe that may have a widespread impact on our world. That may be the time to just pack up and leave this world behind and head for the stars. I just hope that if that day does ever come, I’m able to bring my little dog along.

Source:  http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments_category.html

Photo credit: www.nasa.gov