Source: This article was published phys.org - Contributed by Member: Logan Hochstetler

As scientific datasets increase in both size and complexity, the ability to label, filter and search this deluge of information has become a laborious, time-consuming and sometimes impossible task, without the help of automated tools.

With this in mind, a team of researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley is developing innovative machine learning tools to pull contextual information from scientific datasets and automatically generate metadata tags for each file. Scientists can then search these files via a web-based search engine for scientific , called Science Search, that the Berkeley team is building.

As a proof-of-concept, the team is working with staff at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Molecular Foundry, located at Berkeley Lab, to demonstrate the concepts of Science Search on the images captured by the facility's instruments. A beta version of the platform has been made available to Foundry researchers.

"A tool like Science Search has the potential to revolutionize our research," says Colin Ophus, a Molecular Foundry research scientist within the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM) and Science Search Collaborator. "We are a taxpayer-funded National User Facility, and we would like to make all of the data widely available, rather than the small number of images chosen for publication. However, today, most of the data that is collected here only really gets looked at by a handful of people—the data producers, including the PI (principal investigator), their postdocs or graduate students—because there is currently no easy way to sift through and share the data. By making this raw data easily searchable and shareable, via the Internet, Science Search could open this reservoir of 'dark data' to all scientists and maximize our facility's scientific impact."

The Challenges of Searching Science Data

Today, search engines are ubiquitously used to find information on the Internet but searching  data presents a different set of challenges. For example, Google's algorithm relies on more than 200 clues to achieve an effective search. These clues can come in the form of keywords on a webpage, metadata in images or audience feedback from billions of people when they click on the information they are looking for. In contrast, scientific data comes in many forms that are radically different than an average web page, requires context that is specific to the science and often also lacks the metadata to provide context that is required for effective searches.

At National User Facilities like the Molecular Foundry, researchers from all over the world apply for time and then travel to Berkeley to use extremely specialized instruments free of charge. Ophus notes that the current cameras on microscopes at the Foundry can collect up to a terabyte of data in under 10 minutes. Users then need to manually sift through this data to find quality images with "good resolution" and save that information on a secure shared file system, like Dropbox, or on an external hard drive that they eventually take home with them to analyze.

Oftentimes, the researchers that come to the Molecular Foundry only have a couple of days to collect their data. Because it is very tedious and time-consuming to manually add notes to terabytes of scientific data and there is no standard for doing it, most researchers just type shorthand descriptions in the filename. This might make sense to the person saving the file but often doesn't make much sense to anyone else.

"The lack of real metadata labels eventually causes problems when the scientist tries to find the data later or attempts to share it with others," says Lavanya Ramakrishnan, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division (CRD) and co-principal investigator of the Science Search project. "But with machine-learning techniques, we can have computers help with what is laborious for the users, including adding tags to the data. Then we can use those tags to effectively search the data."

To address the metadata issue, the Berkeley Lab team uses machine-learning techniques to mine the "science ecosystem"—including instrument timestamps, facility user logs, scientific proposals, publications and file system structures—for contextual information. The collective information from these sources including the timestamp of the experiment, notes about the resolution and filter used and the user's request for time, all provide critical contextual information. The Berkeley lab team has put together an innovative software stack that uses machine-learning techniques including natural language processing pull contextual keywords about the scientific experiment and automatically create metadata tags for the data.

For the proof-of-concept, Ophus shared data from the Molecular Foundry's TEAM 1 electron microscope at NCEM that was recently collected by the facility staff, with the Science Search Team. He also volunteered to label a few thousand images to give the machine-learning tools some labels from which to start learning. While this is a good start, Science Search co-principal investigator Gunther Weber notes that most successful machine-learning applications typically require significantly more data and feedback to deliver better results. For example, in the case of search engines like Google, Weber notes that training datasets are created and machine-learning techniques are validated when billions of people around the world verify their identity by clicking on all the images with street signs or storefronts after typing in their passwords, or on Facebook when they're tagging their friends in an image.

Berkeley Lab researchers use machine learning to search science data
This screen capture of the Science Search interface shows how users can easily validate metadata tags that have been generated via machine learning or add information that hasn't already been captured. Credit: Gonzalo Rodrigo, Berkeley Lab

"In the case of science data only a handful of domain experts can create training sets and validate machine-learning techniques, so one of the big ongoing problems we face is an extremely small number of training sets," says Weber, who is also a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab's CRD.

To overcome this challenge, the Berkeley Lab researchers used to transfer learning to limit the degrees of freedom, or parameter counts, on their convolutional neural networks (CNNs). Transfer learning is a machine learning method in which a model developed for a task is reused as the starting point for a model on a second task, which allows the user to get more accurate results from a smaller training set. In the case of the TEAM I microscope, the data produced contains information about which operation mode the instrument was in at the time of collection. With that information, Weber was able to train the neural network on that classification so it could generate that mode of operation label automatically. He then froze that convolutional layer of the network, which meant he'd only have to retrain the densely connected layers. This approach effectively reduces the number of parameters on the CNN, allowing the team to get some meaningful results from their limited training data.

Machine Learning to Mine the Scientific Ecosystem

In addition to generating metadata tags through training datasets, the Berkeley Lab team also developed tools that use machine-learning techniques for mining the science ecosystem for data context. For example, the data ingest module can look at a multitude of information sources from the scientific ecosystem—including instrument timestamps, user logs, proposals, and publications—and identify commonalities. Tools developed at Berkeley Lab that uses natural language-processing methods can then identify and rank words that give context to the data and facilitate meaningful results for users later on. The user will see something similar to the results page of an Internet search, where content with the most text matching the user's search words will appear higher on the page. The system also learns from user queries and the search results they click on.

Because scientific instruments are generating an ever-growing body of data, all aspects of the Berkeley team's science search engine needed to be scalable to keep pace with the rate and scale of the data volumes being produced. The team achieved this by setting up their system in a Spin instance on the Cori supercomputer at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC). Spin is a Docker-based edge-services technology developed at NERSC that can access the facility's high-performance computing systems and storage on the back end.

"One of the reasons it is possible for us to build a tool like Science Search is our access to resources at NERSC," says Gonzalo Rodrigo, a Berkeley Lab postdoctoral researcher who is working on the natural language processing and infrastructure challenges in Science Search. "We have to store, analyze and retrieve really large datasets, and it is useful to have access to a supercomputing facility to do the heavy lifting for these tasks. NERSC's Spin is a great platform to run our search engine that is a user-facing application that requires access to large datasets and analytical data that can only be stored on large supercomputing storage systems."

An Interface for Validating and Searching Data

When the Berkeley Lab team developed the interface for users to interact with their system, they knew that it would have to accomplish a couple of objectives, including effective search and allowing human input to the machine learning models. Because the system relies on domain experts to help generate the training data and validate the machine-learning model output, the interface needed to facilitate that.

"The tagging interface that we developed displays the original data and metadata available, as well as any machine-generated tags we have so far. Expert users then can browse the data and create new tags and review any machine-generated tags for accuracy," says Matt Henderson, who is a Computer Systems Engineer in CRD and leads the user interface development effort.

To facilitate an effective search for users based on available information, the team's search interface provides a query mechanism for available files, proposals and papers that the Berkeley-developed machine-learning tools have parsed and extracted tags from. Each listed search result item represents a summary of that data, with a more detailed secondary view available, including information on tags that matched this item. The team is currently exploring how to best incorporate user feedback to improve the models and tags.

"Having the ability to explore datasets is important for scientific breakthroughs, and this is the first time that anything like Science Search has been attempted," says Ramakrishnan. "Our ultimate vision is to build the foundation that will eventually support a 'Google' for scientific data, where researchers can even  distributed datasets. Our current work provides the foundation needed to get to that ambitious vision."

"Berkeley Lab is really an ideal place to build a tool like Science Search because we have a number of user facilities, like the Molecular Foundry, that has decades worth of data that would provide even more value to the scientific community if the data could be searched and shared," adds Katie Antypas, who is the principal investigator of Science Search and head of NERSC's Data Department. "Plus we have great access to machine-learning expertise in the Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences Area as well as HPC resources at NERSC in order to build these capabilities."

Categorized in Online Research

LAST UPDATED May 31: These dates are subject to change, and will be updated throughout the year as firmer dates arise. Please DO NOT schedule travel based on a date you see here. Launch dates collected from NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, Spaceflight Now and others. Please send any corrections, updates or suggested calendar additions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Watch NASA webcasts and other live launch coverage on our Watch Live page, and see our night sky webcasts here. (You can also watch NASA TV live via nasa.gov or YouTube.)

Find out what's up in the night sky this month with our visible planets guide and skywatching forecast. Spot the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope and other satellites in the sky above with this satellite tracker.  

May 30 - June 4: 10th annual World Science Festival in New York City.

May 31: NASA will make an announcement about the agency's first mission to fly directly into our sun's atmosphere during a live event on NASA TV at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT). Watch Live

May 31: NASA TV will host a televised news conference for Reuters and "O, the Oprah Magazine" with ISS Commander Peggy Whitson of NASA starting at 11:10 a.m. EDT (1510 GMT) on NTV-3 (Media).

May 31: A Japanese H-2A rocket will launch the Michibiki 2 navigation spacecraft from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 8:20 p.m. EDT (0020 GMT on June 1).

June

June 1: In a Change of Command Ceremony at the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will hand over command to Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin.

June 1: SpaceX will launch the 13th Dragon spacecraft on the 11th operational cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station (CRS-11) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:55 p.m. EDT (2155 GMT). 

June 1: Arianespace will launch an Ariane 5 rocket (VA237) carrying ViaSat-2 and Eutelsat-172B communications satellites from Kourou, French Guiana. Launch window: 7:45-8:45p.m. EDT (2345-0045 GMT).

June 2: Expedition 50/51 crewmembers, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, will undock their Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft from the International Space Station's Rassvet module and return to Earth. (Their third crewmember, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, will stay at the ISS for three additional months.) Closing of the hatch is scheduled for 3:30 a.m. EDT (0730 GMT). The spacecraft will undock at 6:47 a.m. EDT (1047 GMT) and land at 10:09 a.m. EDT (1409 GMT) near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

June 2: 8th annual Astronomy Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. — See the sun, moon, Saturn, and Jupiter at the largest astronomy event on the National Mall. The free stargazing event is open to the public and runs from 6 to 11 p.m. local time.

June 3: The 10th annual World Science Festival will host a free, public stargazing event in Brooklyn Bridge Park. (7-11 p.m. EDT) 

June 4: The arrival of SpaceX's Dragon CRS-11 cargo craft at the International Space Station will air live on NASA TV starting at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). Capture is scheduled for 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT).

June 4-8: 230th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) (Austin, Texas)

June 5: India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV Mk.3) mission will launch its first orbital test flight with the GSAT-19E experimental communications satellite from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in India.

June 9: The full moon of June occurs at 9:09 a.m. EDT (1309 GMT). [How to See the Strawberry Minimoon]

June 13: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

June 13: Russia's Progress 66 cargo ship will undock from the International Space Station's Pirs docking module and fall back toward Earth, burning up in the atmosphere along the way. 

June 14: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the Progress 67 cargo ship to the International Space Station from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:20 a.m. EDT (0920 GMT).

June 15: Saturn will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This will be the best time to view Saturn and its moons.

June 15: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the BulgariaSat-1 communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

June 16: Russia's Progress 67 cargo ship will arrive at the International Space Station at 7:41 a.m. EDT (1141 GMT) 

June 20: The Cygnus cargo spacecraft OA-7 will undock from the International Space Station, stuffed with non-recyclable waste, and burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

June 20-24: First Annual Spaceport America Cup - The international intercollegiate rocket engineering competition takes place at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

June 25: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch 10 satellites for the Iridium NEXT (11-20) mobile communications fleet from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 4:24 p.m. EDT (2024 GMT).

June 27-29: NewSpace 2017 Conference in San Francisco. Private and commercial space industry experts will converge on San Francisco, California for the annual NewSpace conference.

June 28: Arianespace will launch an Ariane 5 rocket (VA238) with the Inmarsat S-band/Hellas-Sat 3 and GSAT-17 communications satellites from Kourou, French Guiana. Launch window: 5:45-6:30 p.m. EDT (2145-2230 GMT)

Also slated to launch in June (from Spaceflight Now):

  • An International Launch Services Proton rocket will deploy the EchoStar 21 communications satellite (formerly known as TerreStar 2) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
  • A Eurockot Rockot launch vehicle with the Sentinel-5 Precursor Earth observation satellite will launch from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia.
  • Chinese Long March 5 rocket will launch the Shijian 18 communications satellite from Wenchang, China. 
  • India will launch its Cartosat 2E high-resolution Earth observation satellite and a collection of smaller secondary payloads on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-38) from the Satish Dhawan Space Center.

July

July 1: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Intelsat 35e communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at approximately 7:30 p.m. EDT (2330 GMT).

July 3: Happy Aphelion Day! Earth is farthest from the sun for the year today at a distance of 94,505,901 miles (152,092,505 km).

July 9: The full moon of July, known as the Full Buck Moon, will occur at 12:07 a.m. EDT (1707 GMT). This full moon is also called the Thunder Moon.

July 14: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the Kanopus-V-IK infrared Earth observation satellite along with Russia's Zond solar research satellite and multiple small spacecraft from U.S. companies from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:36 a.m. EDT (0636 GMT).

July 15: Orbital ATK will launch a Minotaur IV rocket on a historic mission for the U.S. military's Operationally Responsive Space program (ORS-5) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at approximately 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT). 

July 17-20: International Space Station Research & Development Conference (Washington, D.C.)

July 21: The new sci-fi film, "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets" will be released in movie theaters worldwide.

July 25: An Arianespace Vega rocket will launch with the Optsat-3000 high-resolution reconnaissance satellite from Kourou, French Guiana.

July 28: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft to the International Space Station with members of the Expedition 52/53 crew, including Randy Bresnik of NASA, Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. Liftoff is scheduled for 11:41 a.m. EDT (1541 GMT).

July 28-29: The Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaks overnight on Friday, July 28. Delta Aquarid meteors will be visible from July 12 to Aug. 23.

Also slated to launch in July (from Spaceflight Now):

  • SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the SES-11/EchoStar 105 hybrid communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
  • SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Koreasat 5A communications satellite for KTsat based in South Korea from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 
  • Sometime this quarter (July–Sept.) SpaceX will launch the Falcon Heavy rocket for its first demonstration flight. 

August

Aug. 1: SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft on the 12th cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station (CRS-12) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 

Aug. 2: Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin and Sergey Ryazansky will go for a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS Russian EVA-43). 

Aug. 3: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch NASA's TDRS-M communications and data relay satellite at 8:40 a.m. EDT (1240 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 

Aug. 7: The full moon of August, also known at the Full Sturgeon Moon, will occur on Monday, Aug. 7 at 2:11 p.m. EDT (1911 GMT). A partial lunar eclipse will coincide with this full moon and can be seen from Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. 

Aug. 7-9: National Astronomy Teaching Summit Conference (Ft. Meyers, Florida)

Aug. 12-13: One of the brightest meteor showers of the year, the Perseid meteor shower peaks on the night of Saturday, Aug. 12 and the early morning hours of Sunday, Aug. 13. A waning gibbous moon may hamper the view of the meteor shower's peak this year. Perseid meteors will appear in the sky from July 17 to Aug. 24. [When, Where & How to See It]

Aug. 14: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch a classified spacecraft payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NROL-42) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Aug. 21: The "Great American Total Solar Eclipse" will sweep across the United States on Monday, Aug. 21. The moon will pass before the sun, first casting its shadow over Oregon that will move across the country all the way to South Carolina. Viewers across the continental U.S. who are outside the path of totality will still be able to see the eclipse in its partial form. [Total Solar Eclipse 2017: Path, Viewing Maps and Photo Guide]

Aug. 31: A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket will launch a classified spacecraft payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NROL-52) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Also slated to launch in August (from Spaceflight Now): 

  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch 10 satellites for the Iridium NEXT (21-30) mobile communications fleet from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

September

Sept. 6: The full moon of September will occur on Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 3:03 a.m. EDT (0803 GMT). September's full moon is known as the Full Harvest Moon.

Sept. 13: Expedition 53/54 crewmembers Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Alexander Misurkin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos will launch atop a Russian Soyuz rocket on a mission to the International Space Station. 

Sept. 15: NASA's Cassini orbiter will plunge into Saturn, ending a nearly 20-year mission.

Sept. 17-22: European Planetary Science Congress 2017 (Riga, Latvia)

Sept. 21: A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket will launch the first spacecraft in the Joint Polar Satellite System, NOAA's next-generation series of polar-orbiting weather observatories. Launch window: 5:47:03-5:48:06 a.m. EDT (0947:03-0948:06 GMT)

Sept. 23: A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket will launch the first spacecraft in the Joint Polar Satellite System, NOAA's next-generation series of polar-orbiting weather observatories. 

Also slated to launch in September (from Spaceflight Now): 

  • An Orbital ATK Minotaur-C rocket will launch six SkySat Earth observation satellites for Google/Skybox Imaging.

October

Oct. 1: An Orbital ATK Antares rocket will launch the Cygnus cargo spacecraft (OA-8) to the International Space Station from Wallops Island, Virginia. 

Oct. 5: The full moon of October occurs on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 2:40 p.m. EDT (1940 GMT). It is also known as the Full Hunter's Moon.

Oct.: The Draconid meteor shower will peak on Sunday, Oct. 8. Draconid meteors will appear Oct. 6-10 and are best viewed in the early evening hours.

Oct.: The U.S. military will launch its fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite aboard an Atlas 5 rocket provided by the United Launch Alliance. It will launch from pad SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. 

Oct. 12: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch the 68th Progress cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. 

Oct. 15: Occultation of Regulus – The brightest star in the constellation Leo will be covered by a crescent moon in the early morning of Sunday, Oct. 15. The occultation will be visible from the United States and the Caribbean. 

Oct. 18: A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket will launch a classified spacecraft payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 

Oct. 19: Uranus will be at opposition in its closest approach to Earth, and the planet's face will be fully illuminated by the sun. This the best time to observe Uranus, though a telescope is required to do so.

Oct. 21-22: The Orionid meteor shower peaks on the night of Friday, Oct. 20 and the early morning of Saturday, Oct. 21. Orionid meteors will be visible from Oct. 2 to Nov. 7.

Oct. 26: A Russian Soyuz rocket will launch a crewed Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station with members of the Expedition 54/55 crew: Scott Tingle of NASA, Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos. 

Oct. 27: An Atlas 5 rocket provided by the United Launch Alliance will launch the U.S. military's fourth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite (SBIRS GEO 4) for missile early-warning detection.

Also slated to launch in October (from Spaceflight Now):

  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the 15th Dragon spacecraft on the 13th operational cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station (CRS-13) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

November

Nov. 4: The full moon of November will occur on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12:23 a.m. EDT (0523 GMT). It is also known as the Full Beaver Moon.

Nov. 4-5: The Taurid meteor shower will peak on the night of Saturday, Nov. 4 and the early morning of Sunday, Nov. 5. Taurid meteors will be visible from Sep. 7 to Dec. 10. This is a minor meteor shower with 5-10 meteors per hour, and light from the full moon may obstruct the view during the meteor shower's peak.

Nov. 5: Occultation of Aldebaran. For the second time this year, the moon crosses in front of the bright star Aldebaran on Nov. 5. This time the waning gibbous moon will be nearly full. The occultation will be visible from most of North America in the early evening. [Watch the Moon Play 'Peekaboo' with Bright Star Aldebaran

Nov. 13: A spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. The two bright planets will be extremely close, appearing only 0.3 degrees apart. Look for this impressive pairing in the Eastern sky just before sunrise.

Nov. 14: An air-launched Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket will send NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite into orbit from Kwajalein, Marshall Islands. 

Nov. 17-18: The Leonid meteor shower peaks between Thursday, Nov. 17 and Friday, Nov. 18. But Leonid meteors will be visible in the sky throughout the month of November.

Nov. 17: An Orbital ATK Antares rocket will launch a Cygnus cargo spacecraft (OA-9) to the International Space Station from Wallops Island, Virginia.

Also slated to launch in November (from Spaceflight Now):

  • SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station.
  • A Chinese Long March 5 rocket will launch the Chang'e 5 mission to return samples from the moon
  • Arianespace will use an Ariane 5 rocket to launch four Galileo full operational capability satellites for Europe's Galileo navigation constellation from the Guiana Space Center.
  • A United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket will launch NASA's ICESat-2 satellite to measure ice sheet elevation and ice sheet thickness changes linked to climate change, along with measurements of Earth's vegetation biomass.
  • An Arianespace Vega rocket, designated VV11, will launch with the ADM-Aeolus satellite for the European Space Agency. ADM-Aeolus will be the first ever satellite to deliver wind profiles on a global scale and on a daily basis.

December

Dec. 3: The full moon of December, also known as the Full Cold Moon, occurs at 10:47 a.m. EDT (1547 GMT) on Monday, Dec. 3. This will also be the only "supermoon" of 2017. [How to Photograph the Supermoon: NASA Pro Shares His Tips

Dec. 5-7: SpaceCom 2017 (Space Commerce Conference and Exposition) in Houston, Texas.

Dec. 13-14: The Geminid meteor shower peaks on the night of Wednesday, Dec. 13 and the early morning hours of Thursday, Dec. 14. Geminid meteors will be visible Dec. 7-16.

Dec. 20: A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket will launch a classified spacecraft payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. 

Dec. 21-22: The Ursid meteor shower peaks on the night of Thursday, Dec. 21 and the early morning hours of Friday, Dec. 22. Ursid meteors will appear in the sky Dec. 17-25.

Follow Space.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Source: This article was published on space.com by SPACE.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

DEATH FROM THE SKIES  Computer simulations reveal that most of the lethality of an earthbound asteroid (illustrated) comes from gusting winds and shock waves.

Winds and shock waves are most deadly, computer simulations of 1.2 million hits suggest

It won’t be a tsunami. Nor an earthquake. Not even the crushing impact of the space rock. No, if an asteroid kills you, gusting winds and shock waves from falling and exploding space rocks will most likely be to blame. That’s one of the conclusions of a recent computer simulation effort that investigated the fatality risks of more than a million possible asteroid impacts.

In one extreme scenario, a simulated 200-meter-wide space rock whizzing 20 kilometers per second whacked London, killing more than 8.7 million people. Nearly three-quarters of that doomsday scenario’s lethality came from winds and shock waves, planetary scientist Clemens Rumpf and colleagues report online March 27 in Meteoritics & Planetary Science.

In a separate report, the researchers looked at 1.2 million potential impactors up to 400 meters across striking around the globe. Winds and shock waves caused about 60 percent of the total deaths from all the asteroids, the team’s simulations showed. Impact-generated tsunamis, which many previous studies suggested would be the top killer, accounted for only around one-fifth of the deaths, Rumpf and colleagues report online April 19 in Geophysical Research Letters.

“These asteroids aren’t an everyday concern, but the consequences can be severe,” says Rumpf, of the University of Southampton in England. Even asteroids that explode before reaching Earth’s surface can generate high-speed wind gusts, shock waves of pressure in the atmosphere and intense heat. Those rocks big enough to survive the descent pose even more hazards, spawning earthquakes, tsunamis, flying debris and, of course, gaping craters.

While previous studies typically considered each of these mechanisms individually, Rumpf and colleagues assembled the first assessment of the relative deadliness of the various effects of such impacts. The estimated hazard posed by each effect could one day help leaders make one of the hardest calls imaginable: whether to deflect an asteroid or let it hit, says Steve Chesley, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who was not involved with either study.

The 1.2 million simulated impactors each fell into one of 50,000 scenarios, which varied in location, speed and angle of strike. Each scenario was run with 24 different asteroid sizes, ranging from 15 to 400 meters across. Asteroids in nearly 36,000 of the scenarios, or around 72 percent, descended over water.

The deadliness assessment began with a map of human populations and numerical simulations of the energies unleashed by falling asteroids. Those energies were then used alongside existing casualty data from studies of extreme weather and nuclear blasts to calculate the deadliness of the asteroids’ effects at different distances. Rumpf and his team focused on short-term impact effects, rather than long-term consequences such as climate change triggered by dust blown into the atmosphere.

(The kill count of each effect was calculated independently of the other effects, meaning people who could have died of multiple causes were counted multiple times. This double counting allows for a better comparison across effects, Rumpf says, but it does give deaths near the impact site more weight in calculations.)

Story continues after interactive graphic



Death from the skies 

A new project simulating 1.2 million asteroid strikes estimates how many deaths could result from each effect of a falling space rock (averages for three classes of asteroid simulated are shown in the interactive below). People who could have died from two or more effects are included in multiple columns. 

Click the graphic to explore the asteroid simulation data. 

potential-image


While the most deadly impact killed around 117 million people, many asteroids posed no threat at all, the simulations revealed. More than half of asteroids smaller than 60 meters across — and all asteroids smaller than 18 meters across — caused zero deaths. Rocks smaller than 56 meters wide didn’t even make it to Earth’s surface before exploding in an airburst. Those explosions could still be deadly, though, generating intense heat that burns skin, high-speed winds that hurl debris and pressure waves that rupture internal organs, the team found.

Tsunamis became the dominant killer for water impacts, accounting for around 70 to 80 percent of the total deaths from each impact. Even with the tsunamis, though, water impacts were only a fraction as deadly on average as land-hitting counterparts. That’s because impact-generated tsunamis are relatively small and quickly lose steam as they traverse the ocean, the researchers found.

Land impacts, on the other hand, cause considerable fatalities through heat, wind and shock waves and are more likely to hit near large population centers. For all asteroids big enough to hit the land or water surface, heat, wind and shock waves continued to cause the most casualties overall. Land-based effects, such as earthquakes and blast debris, resulted in less than 2 percent of total deaths.

Deadly asteroid impacts are rare, though, Rumpf says. Most space rocks bombarding Earth are tiny and harmlessly burn up in the atmosphere. Bigger meteors such as the 20-meter-wide rock that lit up the sky and shattered windows around the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013 only frequent Earth about once a century (SN Online: 2/15/13). Impacts capable of inducing extinctions, like the at least 10-kilometer-wide impactor blamed for the end of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago (SN: 2/4/17, p. 16), are even rarer, striking Earth roughly every 100 million years.

Story continues after image

Large asteroid impacts are rare. Space rocks as big as the 20-meter-wide meteor that left behind a smoky trail across the sky above Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013, for instance, strike about once every 100 years. But to best prepare for such events when they do occur, a research group is assessing the relative deadliness of various effects.

OLEG KARGOPOLOV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES


But asteroid impacts are scary enough that today’s astronomers scan the sky with automated telescopes scouting for potential impactors. So far, they’ve cataloged 27 percent of space rocks 140 meters or larger estimated to be whizzing through the solar system. Other scientists are crunching the numbers on ways to divert an earthbound asteroid. Proposals include whacking the asteroid like a billiard ball with a high-speed spacecraft or frying part of the asteroid’s surface with a nearby nuclear blast so that the vaporized material propels the asteroid away like a jet engine.

The recent research could offer guidance on how people should react to an oncoming impactor: whether to evacuate or shelter in place, or to scramble to divert the asteroid. “If the asteroid’s in a size range where the damage will be from shock waves or wind, you can easily shelter in place a large population,” Chesley says. But if the heat generated as the asteroid falls, impacts or explodes “becomes a bigger threat, and you run the risk of fires, then that changes the response of emergency planners,” he says.

These asteroids aren’t an everyday concern, but the consequences can be severe.

— Clemens Rumpf

Making those tough decisions will require more information about compositions and structures of the asteroids themselves, says Lindley Johnson, who serves as the planetary defense officer for NASA in Washington, D.C. Those properties in part determine an asteroid’s potential devastation, and the team didn’t consider how those characteristics might vary, Johnson says. Several asteroid-bound missions are planned to answer such questions, though the recent White House budget proposal would defund a NASA project to reroute an asteroid into the moon’s orbit and send astronauts to study it (SN Online: 3/16/17).

In the case of a potential impact, making decisions based on the average deaths presented in the new study could be misleading, warns Gareth Collins, a planetary scientist at Imperial College London. A 60-meter-wide impactor, for instance, caused on average about 6,300 deaths in the simulations. Just a handful of high-fatality events inflated that average, though, including one scenario that resulted in more than 12 million casualties. In fact, most impactors of that size struck away from population centers and killed no one. “You have to put it in perspective,” Collins says.

Source: This article was published on sciencenews.org by THOMAS SUMNER

Categorized in Science & Tech

While 2016 saw its share of chaos, it also produced some outstanding brain science and psych research. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive (and it's not in any particular order), but is rather a curation of great studies covered here at Neuropsyched. It's also a preview of things to come in the new year for several topics—depression, sleep, pot, stress and memory among them.

Marijuana Compounds Show Promise Against Alzheimer’s   

Researchers at the Salk Institute discovered in 2016 that the main psychoactive compound in marijuana—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—and a few other active compounds remove amyloid beta proteins from lab-grown neurons. Amyloid is the toxic protein known to accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The compounds also significantly reduced cellular inflammation in the brain, an underlying factor in the disease's progression. While preliminary, the research is an example of what may be gained by studying potential effects of marijuana compounds, and why it's vital we keep the research door open. Definitely more to come on this in 2017.

Your Brain’s Capacity Is 10 Times Greater Than Anyone Realized

We credit our brains with a lot of storage capacity and processing power, but research from 2016 hinted that we’ve been nowhere close to estimating their actual capacity. The study showed that the human brain has at least as much capacity as the entire World Wide Web (that's about ten times as much as previously thought), and it could turn out to be more. It’s all about the amazing computing power packed into synapses, the juncture points between neurons, which change in size and shape with more frequency and variation than anyone realized before now, and it’s that uncanny flexibility that holds the key to our vast neural resources. Quoting study co-senior author Terry Sejnowski, “This is a real bombshell in the field of neuroscience.”

Painkillers May Make Chronic Pain Worse

In the unintended consequences category, a study showed that just five days of morphine treatment in rats caused chronic pain that continued for several months by triggering the release of pain signals from cells in the brain and spinal cord. If the findings hold true in humans, they’d help explain the vicious cycle of prescription opioid use. The drugs numb pain at the surface level, but below the surface they may be drawing out how long a patient experiences pain, thereby extending how long the drugs are taken. Since opioid addiction can begin after a relatively short period of time, it’s easy to see how this effect could be contributing to the epidemic of painkiller addiction that's been building for the last 15 years.

Why Sugar Dependency Is Such A Hard Habit To Break

Research in 2016 deconstructed how habits rewire the brain, with one in particular showing that neural “stop” and “go” signals are reversed by habitual exposure to sugar. Not unlike drug addiction, sugar dependency changes how the brain controls electrical signals linked to either pursuing a reward or putting the brakes on the pursuit. The implication is that sugar cravings aren’t just a matter of appetite, but the result of brain changes brought about by habitual exposure to a potently addictive chemical. This is yet more evidence that we’ve been underestimating the effects of sugar for too long. (Another study from the year showed how fructose damages genes underlying memory.)

Finding Genetic Links To Happiness And Depression

One of the largest studies to date seeking genetic links to mood found convincing evidence that how we psychologically experience the world has roots in the genome. More than 190 researchers in 17 countries analyzed genomic data from nearly 300,000 people. The results zeroed in on a handful of genetic variants linked to subjective well-being—the thoughts and feelings we have about the quality of our lives, which psychologists define as a central component of happiness. Other variants were found with links to depression and neuroticism. The next big questions include how these variants interact with our environments, and if depression can be genetically revealed before developing into a full-blown disorder.

First Step Toward A Preventative Alzheimer's Pill

Research in 2016 opened the door to an eventual preventative medication against Alzheimer's, and potentially also other neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson's. Scientists from the Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine targeted ways of reducing the amount of toxic proteins that accumulate over years in the brains of those who subsequently develop these diseases, specifically the tau protein that's been strongly linked to the development of Alzheimer's. The research is a shift in focus, as most Alzheimer’s studies have concentrated on the later stages of the disease. But in the last several years mounting evidence has pointed to Alzheimer’s developing over the course of decades, which opens the possibility of slowing its progression before irreversible damage is done to a patient’s brain later in life. This study marks a definitive step forward in the treatment of a disease that affects one in every nine people over the age of 65.

How Sleep Apnea Changes The Brain

While it’s difficult to choose a single sleep research study from the year, one in particular stands out to me because it uncovered more precisely the effects of sleep apnea on the brain. Apnea is a growing concern for several reasons, its link to stroke, depression and traffic accidents among them. This study showed how restless nights of interrupted breathing trigger a chemical rollercoaster in the brain by throwing off the neurotransmitters GABA and glutamate. The results, common to apnea sufferers, include a heightened response to stress, lack of concentration and feeling like emotions are teetering on the proverbial cliff. More to come on this as sleep research continues its ascent.

Walking Is Deceptively Simple Brain Medicine

In the practical science category, research reinforced the importance of simply taking a walk for a positive brain boost. Among a stack of studies supporting the argument, one from 2016 focused on how walking improves mood even when we’re not expecting any effect. Researchers conducted three experiments on hundreds of people to find out if they’d experience a positive mood boost while walking, without knowing that walking could be the reason. They found that just 12 minutes of walking resulted in an increase in joviality, vigor, attentiveness and self-confidence versus the same time spent sitting. The importance here is to underscore a basic point: some of the best brain tools available to us don’t require money, special training or seeing a doctor. They just require moving.

Facebook's Effect On How The Brain Manages Relationships

Much of the psych research about Facebook has focused on whether it’s a mood enhancer or depression trigger, and you can find studies from 2016 supporting both arguments. The study I’m more interested in asked whether Facebook is changing how we manage relationships. Theoretically, a social media tool that allows us to expand our reach to thousands of people could enable us to turn a corner, cognitively speaking, and go beyond the constraints that have kept human social groups relatively small for centuries. Or not. Maybe a few decades from now we’ll have a different answer, but for the moment it seems that despite big social media numbers, our brains are still calibrated to handle right around 150 overall relationships, and a much smaller number of close relationships. Dunbar's Number holds.

Old-Time Memory Hacks Are Still The Best

Finally, in the rage-against-the-digital-machine category, I really liked a study from 2016 showing why “reminders through association” (or “cue-based reminders”) work so well. It’s all about simple time and place proximity, according to the researchers, and none of the memory hacks require a computer of any sort to work. Crumpled paper, paperclips and well-placed envelopes do the trick darn near flawlessly. As our lives become more complex and stressful, practical science like this becomes more essential.

Source: This article was forbes.com By David DiSalvo

Categorized in Science & Tech

Nobody likes layovers, but the first astronauts heading to Mars will get to experience one of the longest such experiences of their lives. They’ll have to spend one year going around the moon, which will probably be a very annoying wait for the first people heading to the red planet. It’s not all bad news, however, as they won’t just wait for time to pass by. NASA actually wants to make sure that the round trip to Mars, a 1,000-day endeavor, is carefully planned during the time. 

NASA’s Greg Williams, revealed that the agency’s Phase 2 of its plan to send humans to Mars includes a one-year layover in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s, Space reports..

Williams, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, revealed that NASA wants to build a “deep-space gateway” around the moon that would serve as the testing ground for the first Mars missions.

The moon orbit base would also serve as the staging point for the mission, and the spacecraft that will carry humans to Mars for the first time eve will be launched from the moon.

“If we could conduct a yearlong crewed mission on this Deep Space Transport in cislunar space, we believe we will know enough that we could then send this thing, crewed, on a 1,000-day mission to the Mars system and back,” Williams said.

Considering the length of the Mars trip, spending a year around the moon to make sure everything works correctly makes plenty of sense.

NASA will kick off its Mars mission with Phase 1, between 2018 and 2026. During this time, the agency will send four missions to the moon that would deliver various components needed for the mission. Phase 2 will begin in 2027, with an uncrewed mission that would deliver the Deep Space Transport vehicle to the cislunar space.

The actual trip to Mars will take place in the 2030s, as shown in the following infographic.

Image Source: NASA/The Humans to Mars Summit

Source: This article was published BGR News By Chris Smith

Categorized in Science & Tech

Earth is a pretty nifty place. I mean, I’ve spent my entire life here and I’m guessing you have, too, and there’s plenty to see and do, but why is it here at all? For a long time, researchers have tried to answer that question with varying degrees of success, but a new theory of how Earth formed is gaining traction, and it might be the explanation we’ve been looking for.

The most widely-accepted explanation for how Earth and most terrestrial plants formed hinges on materials orbiting a newborn star — in this case, our sun — which bunched up and formed planets. It’s a fine theory, but some researchers have grown increasingly skeptical that the materials that make up our planet, which is rocky and iron-rich, could have stuck together on their own.

A new idea, introduced by Alexander Hubbard, a Ph.D. in Astronomy who now works with the American Museum of Natural History, turns to the sun for an explanation. Hubbard has proposed that the sun went through a period of intense volatility in which essentially roasted much of the material in its immediate vicinity, stretching as far as Mars. The softened materials would have been the right consistency to bunch up and form planets, and would explain why the rocky worlds of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars sprung up.

Hubbard’s theory isn’t just a random guess; He’s basing the idea on observed behavior of an infant star which went through a phase just like the one he’s proposing of our own sun. FU Orionis was first observed rapidly brightening in 1936 and at present it shines over 100 times brighter than it did when originally observed. If our own sun pulled the same trick in its early life it could have been exactly what was needed to form our planet.

Source: This article was published on bgr.com by Mike Wehner


Categorized in Science & Tech

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is currently conducting a series of elaborate dives in which it repeatedly comes closer to Saturn than ever before. But during its slower periods, NASA is still using the craft’s fantastic photography equipment to grab images of Saturn’s nearby bodies, such as the moon Titan. The latest photo from the agency shows Titan in all its glory, complete with some very volatile cloud cover.

The new images, which were captured by Cassini on May 7th but not released immediately, show Titan in impressive detail, with long, feathery streaks of clouds obscuring portions of the landscape. But unlike the clouds we’re used to here on Earth — which are made of extremely tiny water droplets or bits of crystalized ice — the clouds you see in the Titan photos are actually made of methane.

In addition to Titan’s wealth of atmospheric methane, the planet also has vast lakes thought to be primarily made up of liquid ethane and methane, along with nitrogen. That’s an extremely hostile combination, at least in terms of Earth-like life. However, NASA isn’t ruling out the possibility that there may actually be methane-based life on the large moon, and even has some theories as to how it might survive.

According to NASA, these new photos were snapped at a distance of about 316,000 miles, which means that each pixel of the image equals roughly 2 miles. With that scale in mind, take a look at the dark splotches dotting the top of the image. Those are the huge methane-filled seas, which may or may not be home to huge, methane-filled whales.

Source : This article was published bgr news By Mike Wehner

Categorized in Science & Tech

Humans must leave Earth within 100 years in order to survive, warns renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.

In his new documentary Expedition New Earth as part of BBC's science season Tomorrow's World, Hawking will claim time is running out for Earth, and humans need to leave the planet to survive situations like climate change, asteroid strikes, epidemics and overpopulation.

In the series, Hawking and his former student Christophe Galfard will travel the world seeking ways on how humans can live in outer space.

"The original Tomorrow's World inspired a generation – it certainly inspired me back in the 1970s, but that was a single TV programme," TV presenter Brian Cox was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.

"The 21st century Tomorrow's World represents so much more – it represents the institutions of Britain coming together to inspire current and future generations, to convince them to embrace the opportunities that science brings, to foster a spirit of curiosity and tolerance, and to embrace the unknown not in fear but in wonder."

After airing for 38 years, BBC cancelled Tomorrow's World 14 years ago. But those who are a part of the series claim the new season would be better.

"We've come together behind a simple, and very bold ambition — to equip all of us with the knowledge and understanding we need to make sense of our lives and the future," according to Tony Hall, director-general of BBC.

"Whether it's the rise of robotics or the demise of antibiotics, travelling to Mars or the arrival of 3D printed food, science is changing the world at an extraordinary pace," Hall was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.

The new season will aim to find Britain's greatest invention, by asking people to vote on the innovation that is considered to be the most influential in their lives.

This is not the first time Hawking is warning about the need to move out to a new planet. In November 2016 at the Oxford Union, Oxford University's debating society, Hawking said humans would have to leave Earth and move to a new planet if we are to survive as a species beyond 1,000 years.

This article was published on ibtimes.co.uk by Sarmistha Acharya

Categorized in Science & Tech

Breaking a 10-year monopoly by United Launch Alliance (ULA), SpaceX will launch a satellite into orbit on a classified mission tomorrow morning (April 30) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the company will attempt to land the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage again after use.

You can watch the historic launch live here on Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX. The launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) and closes at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT). The Falcon 9 rocket will carry a payload from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), designated as NROL-76. SpaceX's webcast will begin about 20 minutes for launch, and also be streamed live: http://www.spacex.com/webcast.

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) tweeted this mission patch for its NROL-76 satellite, showing Lewis and Clark setting out to explore the Louisiana Territory.

After the launch, SpaceX's webcast is expected to follow the landing of the rocket's first stage on a nearby designated landing pad about 8 minutes after launch, where it would become the fourth to land successfully at that location. Based on the agency's past requests for similar missions, public announcements of the classified satellite may stop a few minutes after launch.

ULA has launched every dedicated U.S. military and national security satellite for the past 10 years; SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket was certified to launch military satellites in 2015, giving it the ability to bid on military launches. SpaceX and NRO have not revealed the contents of the NROL-76 mission or the precise launch time within the window.

SpaceX's official NROL-76 mission patch.

According to SpaceNews, this might not be the first classified cargo to fly on a SpaceX rocket — a small NRO cubesat flew in 2010 on a Falcon 9 during a demonstration flight — but it is the first dedicated spy-satellite launch. SpaceX has two upcoming launch contracts with the U.S. Air Force to launch GPS-3 satellites into orbit.

The rocket will launch from Pad 39A, the historic launchpad used by several Apollo moon missions and space shuttle flights. The company's first launch from that location, which SpaceX recently leased and refurbished, was a space station resupply mission, which lifted off in February. Also from Pad 39A, in March, SpaceX relaunched a previously used rocket stage for the first time, lofting a communications satellite into orbit.

Author: Sarah Lewin
Source: space.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

The “incredibly brave” people who make the first journey to Mar will need somewhere to live.

And an engineer has discovered a way to make bricks from the planet’s red soil without a kiln or any other ingredients.

Instead, the bricks could be made be simply pounding the soil with a hammer, according to tests carried out in California.

In March, Donald Trump signed an order directing Nasa to send astronauts to Mars in 2033, confirming plans drawn up under Barack Obama in 2010. However Mr Trump then decided he wanted the mission to take place before the end of his four-year term of office, although it was unclear if he was joking.

Nasa has already begun work on how to overcome the considerable obstacles to making the perilous journey.

Yu Qiao, a professor of structural engineering at University of California San Diego, said: “The people who will go to Mars will be incredibly brave. They will be pioneers. 

“And I would be honoured to be their brick maker.”

Funded by Nasa, Professor Qiao and a team of engineers were tasked with coming up with a way to make buildings on Mars.

Their research led to a way to make buildings with only minimal resources – a key issue given the limit to the amount of materials and equipment the colonists will be able to take.

One previous suggestion was to build a nuclear-powered brick kiln.

Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the engineers described how they discovered a simulated version of Martian soil could be turned into a useable brick.

Donald Trump to Nasa astronauts: Get to Mars during my first term

Their technique involves encasing the soil in a rubber tube, then exerting pressure equivalent to someone dropping a 5kg hammer from about a metre.

It is believed iron oxide in the soil – which gives Mars its red colour – acts as a binding agent.

The resulting bricks, which are only about 2.5cm high, were found to be stronger than steel-reinforced concrete.

It is thought the colonist could lay down a layer of soil, compact it, then add another layer.

The engineers may also look into increasing the size of the bricks.

Before sending astronauts to Mars, Nasa plans to send a team to an asteroid with an extraordinary mission expected to take place by 2025.

“Nasa will send a robotic mission to capture and redirect an asteroid to orbit the moon,” its website says.

“Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft will explore the asteroid in the 2020s, returning to Earth with samples. 

“This experience in human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit will help Nasa test new systems and capabilities, such as solar electric propulsion, which we’ll need to send cargo as part of human missions to Mars. 

“Beginning in 2018, Nasa’s powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket will enable these ‘proving ground’ missions to test new capabilities. 

“Human missions to Mars will rely on Orion and an evolved version of SLS that will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever flown.”

The idea is to send people to Mars and then bring them back to Earth.

“Engineers and scientists around the country are working hard to develop the technologies astronauts will use to one day live and work on Mars, and safely return home from the next giant leap for humanity,” Nasa said.

Author: Ian Johnston
Source: independent.co.uk

Categorized in Science & Tech
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