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NASA Wants To Do A Little Lunar Farming – On Science

December 2, 2013

What seed is NASA planting for a future lunar experiment?

Having FITS over fireballs.

The sweet sound of warming.

And Santa’s unlikely new helpers… Coming up today… On Science!

Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.

What’s the future in farming? Antarctica? The desert? Try the moon! NASA is planning to do a little lunar farming. The space agency plans to send Arabidopsis, basil, and turnip seeds to the moon by 2015 to see how they grow. The seeds will hopefully hitch a ride aboard a commercial spacecraft—possibly one developed for the Google Lunar X-Prize. The seeds will be held in a module. Once arriving on the lunar surface, water will be released into the module chamber to initiate germination. Conditions should allow for five days of growth with sunlight being provided by, well, the sun! They will be monitored for 10 days and compared to Earth-based controls. Scientists say “if we send plants and they thrive, then we probably can. Thriving plants are needed for life support for colonists.” That’s turnin’ up the research!

And a contaminant is thriving in typhoons. New research from France’s Climate and Environmental Science Laboratory and Tsukuba University in Japan show that high winds and rain wash away soil contaminated by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. Cesium and other contaminates lace the soil, which is deposited into streams and rivers as a result of typhoons. So those communities that were lucky enough to escape the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami now face a different danger. The yearly typhoons strongly contribute to soil dispersal, putting these communities at risk of cesium-134 and cesium-137 particles entering their water. Could we please get some good news for these people?

What’s next, a fireball? Fortunately, there’s a new app to keep track of those. The Desert Fireball Network is calling all armchair astronomers. Contribute to the fight against fireballs, or the tracking of them anyway. The new software called Fireballs in the Sky, or FITS, allows both IOS and Android users to track the paths of meteors and other fireballs. When you see a meteorite, simply hold your smartphone up to the sky. A map of the stars will appear so you can indicate where the fireball started and ended. And if enough observations of the fireball are made to determine a trajectory, you might get some information back. You might find out that your fireball came from the outer asteroid belt or that it was a chunk of a comet. The project has a matrix of cameras throughout Australia to help capture fireballs on camera while they soar through the skies in order to calculate origins and orbit of meteors. How cool is that?

[ soundbyte ] Know what that is? It’s the sound of global warming. Scientists at the University of Alaska have identified and recorded the sizzle of glacial ice as it melts into the sea. As the ice melts, trapped air bubbles squirting under the disappearing ice create a noise that could provide clues at the rate of glacier melt. The sound is even more prominent underneath the water. They confirmed this sound/melting relationship in a controlled lab experiment where they recorded sounds around 1-3 kilohertz in frequency, making it audible to humans. They say that the can use the intensity of bubble squirts to measure the ice melt rate in order to use sound to compliment other ice melt measurements. Researchers said “images carry a stronger emotional impact than the symphony of melting ice, [but] sound still has its own story to tell.”

Santa’s sleigh may be getting replaced. Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is testing drones for its holiday deliveries. With the name Octocopters, they might not sound very Christmas-y but the company says Santa’s new little helpers could deliver packages weighing up to 2.3kg to customers within 30 minutes of putting in the order. That’s faster than takeout! Amazon just makes it too easy. But don’t expect to hear the buzz of the Octocopter while you’re all snug in your bed this Christmas. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says it could take up to five years for the service to get underway. The US Federal Aviation Administration has to sign off and they haven’t done so yet. The service will be called Prime Air and Bezos says it might look like science fiction but it’s not! So Grandma will have to worry about getting run over by drones instead of reindeer on Christmas Eve’s in the future.

And that’s what’s happening today On Science. Catch you back here tomorrow Science elves.