Space Oddities

by Matthew Harper

It seems that the lack of support and funding the President is providing NASA has resulted in some boredom. Either that, or those geniuses responsible for some of America’s most incredible achievements have been watching too many episodes of Mythbusters and just really want to make some things blow up.

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It has been announced that NASA has begun making a spacecraft by the name of DebriSat that won’t actually be going into space at all. Perhaps “spacecraft” isn’t the right word then, but hey, who are we to tell NASA how to name the things they build? DebriSat is a 110-pound satellite. According to Fox News, the idea is for the small land-locked satellite to undergo a “hypervelocity impact test,” essentially meaning that they’re going to hit it really hard and fast with another object.

The idea is that it will give NASA some information about what would happen if two satellites collided. It makes sense, of course, that they would like to know the potential risks that colliding pieces of metal moving at high rates of speed might have, seeing as there are hundreds of such objects orbiting this little old place we call Earth. The test should take place in 2014, so let’s hope that it’s all captured on video, because nothing is better than things blowing up.

In other space news, this time on the more hypothetical side, there has been some new information brought up about what possible impact manned missions to Mars could have. Cynthia Phillips, a member of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, which is apparently a thing, is concerned that humans landing on Mars would be dangerous to whatever life is there. This whole thing, remarkably, gets a little sillier though, when we bring up the fact that the only known life on the Red Planet comes in the form of tiny microbes.

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            “If you have human astronauts there, there’s no way to sterilize them. They’re spewing out thousands of microbes every second. So it’s a real problem,” Phillips said (Fox News). So, if you’re falling behind here, Phillips and the rest of SETI find themselves concerned that the microbes that would accompany our astronauts would hurt the microbes already on Mars.

Maybe it’s not such an outlandish notion, though, as the Committee on Space Research has already drawn up guidelines about four years ago on where people can go and what they can do if we were to ever reach Mars. The idea is that we don’t want our microbes adapting to the environment and proliferating, and we also don’t necessarily want the Mars microbes to, you know, endanger our astronauts, who have traveled millions of miles to be there. As Cassie Conley, NASA’s planetary protection officer puts it, “The humans are only able to go to places where we expect that the Mars environment will be quite lethal to any Earth organisms that get released.”

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  1. Your first sentence reveals much…lack of funding. Maybe I can get a job at NASA. Pretty sure I’m as qualified as Cynthia Phillips.


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