Grand plan for space travel, crops grown on Mars and space flight effects on the human body

160308-bezos-1240x999Jeff Bezos lays out grand plan for space travel that spans hundreds of years

“I think space is chock full of resources,” Bezos told reporters. “This is all my view, and I’ll be dead before I’m proved wrong, so it’s a very safe prediction to make. But my view is that there will be a ‘Great Inversion.’”

Today, huge industrial complexes on Earth build components that are sent into space, at a cost of thousands of dollars per pound. Bezos foresees an inversion in that flow of goods. “We’ll make the microprocessors in space, and then we’ll send the little tiny bits to Earth,” Bezos said. In the long term, Blue Origin could set the stage for moving heavy industries completely off Earth, leaving our planet zoned strictly for “residential and light industrial” use.

The trends pushing in that direction include the need for space-based energy generation to fill industrial demands, the need to reduce the pollution caused by industrial activity, the falling cost of access to space and the eventual ability to use asteroids and other space resources.

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Tomatoes, peas, and 8 other crops have been grown in Mars-equivalent soil

In an experiment testing how well we can grow crops in space, scientists have managed to harvest 10 crops, including tomatoes, peas, and rye, from soil that mimics the conditions on Mars. Although the Mars-equivalent soil produced slightly fewer crops than regular Earth soil, the difference wasn’t huge, suggesting that, in the right conditions, early settlers might be able to sustainably feed themselves with crops grown on the Red Planet. The dream of a Martian colony just got a little bit closer.

“The production of biomass on the Mars soil simulant was lower than on Earth control, but it was a minor difference and caused by one of the trays that showed less growth,” said lead researcher Wieger Wamelink from Wageningen University & Research centre in the Netherlands. “That was a real surprise to us. It shows that the Mars soil simulant has great potential when properly prepared and watered.”

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B.C. researcher studying effects of space flight on the human body

scott-kelly-0.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxA Simon Fraser University researcher is taking an upside-down approach to better understand the impact of long-term space flight on the human body. Andrew Blaber, who teaches kinesiology, and his team will monitor 20 test subjects who will spend the next two months completely bedridden with their heads below their feet at a slight inverted, six-degree angle— a state that is meant to mimic the effects of space flight.

“It’s a lot to ask, but it is a shorter period than Scott Kelly spent in weightless conditions,” Blaber said, referring to the NASA astronaut who returned to Earth last week after 340 days on the International Space Station. Blaber will be studying the link between the cardiovascular system and the system in charge of controlling the body’s posture, with the goal of helping astronauts become better prepared for spending extended periods in outer space.

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