Archive for September, 2014

An Elevator into Space

When Arthur C Clarke wrote about four towers extending from the base of the earth right up into space it was pure science fiction. However a Japanese company is now hoping to take the first step towards constructing such a building. The construction company Obayashi  wants to build an elevator that will reach out into space for 96,000 km.

What’s more the Japanese construction giant hopes to achieve this feat by 2050. So there is a very good likelihood of the elevator being constructed in our lifetime. Robotic Cars powered by magnetic linear motors will be able to carry both people and cargo up through the elevator into a newly constructed space station.

The journey into space on the elevator will take seven days, so its not going to as fast as moving through Arthur C Clare’s elevator. This feat is now possible due to the development of carbon nano technology which has the tensile strength about hundred times that of steel’s.

The three cm long carbon nano tubes that will be used in the construction will be ready by 2030. Then the actual construction of this science project will begin. The elevator will seek to replace the current shuttle transport system employed to take people and stuff to the international space station.

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India successfully launched its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) and will now share information with US scientists as they reciprocate by sharing data from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft. India is the fourth country in the world to have successfully sent a spacecraft into orbit around the red planet.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) used a 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) along with eight smaller liquid engines to position the spacecraft in orbit around Mars on 24 Sept 2014. The spacecraft is now circling Mars in an orbit whose nearest point to Mars (periapsis) is at 421.7 km and farthest point (apoapsis) at 76,993.6 km. The inclination of orbit with respect to the equatorial plane of Mars is 150 degree, and it takes 72 hours 51 minutes 51 seconds to go round the planets once.

In the coming weeks, the spacecraft will be thoroughly tested in Mars orbit and the systematic observation of the planet using the spacecraft’s five scientific instruments is expected to begin. New data will be available for analysis to the scientific community at large and collaborations between researchers from different space agencies is expected. This was a successful science project which should become more interesting to follow in the coming months.



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China’s Own Space Station Coming Up

The Chinese government is hoping to set up its own space station in orbit around the planet by 2022. An experimental module is already in orbit as per the state media. China has been revamping its space program in recent years to prove itself a major space power.

Last year three astronauts spent 15 days in orbit on the Tiangong 1 (Heavenly Palace). The Tiangong 1 is China’s experimental space laboratory. This is much smaller than the International Space Station.  Now the follow up to this will be with Tiangong 2 which is likely to be launched in 2016 and the core of the space station they intend to build will be launched in 2018.

Yang Liwei, the first Chinese man in space, and currently deputy head of China’s Manned Space agency said that the space station would be completed by 2022. So far individual nations have shared the International Space Station for space exploration and scientific experimentation as the cost of setting up a new station was not justified.

The Chinese seem keen to rush into space with their own infrastructure in place. It will be interesting to see how they use the experiences of the first space station and their own launched to improve upon the design for a space station. A science project worth watching out for.


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Lab Grown Kidneys

Adult human sized pig kidneys have been developed in the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center which seem to have overcome a past drawback. In the new science experiment regenerative medical researchers managed to keep blood vessels in the new organs open and flowing with blood for nearly four hours.

Previously not only were the kidneys built in the lab rodent sized, the blood flow time period was only one hour. So this science project has done ground breaking work in their proof of concept study. The cell removal process leaves behind an intact network of blood vessels that can potentially supply the new organ with oxygen.

The new method of keeping the blood vessels open and  the blood flowing depends on the coating in the vessels that allow the blood cells to keep flowing.  In order to do this they used a combination of cell seeding and antibodies. The breakthrough, once mastered will be useful in creating other complicated organs in the lab as well.

Needless to say that the repercussions of this will be far reaching in the medical world. The concept of organ regeneration artificially has given a lot of potential hope so far, but actual results have not be quite as promising in real life science projects undertaken. Maybe this new technique will change things.


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Breakthough Dengue Vaccine

An experimental vaccine is being developed by a French drug company Sanofi Pasteur which is proving quite effective against dengue. CEO of Sanofi Pasteur, Olivier Charmeil said that for the first time ever after 20 years of research and industrial commitment dengue is set to become a vaccine preventable disease.

In the second clinical trial involving 20,875 children in the ages between 9 to 16 the risk of contracting dengue reduced by 60.8%. The children were from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. The first trial which had been held in Southeast Asia on about 10,000 children and had been 56.5% effective.

The vaccine unfortunately is not very effective in younger children who are more prone to the disease. However it is able to prevent the disease in a majority of test subjects and can always be improved in efficiency. This is one science project that will prove useful in the eradication of a major disease worldwide.


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