May 13, 2013
NASA Honors Skylab’s 40th Anniversary – The Daily Orbit
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Skylab.
An unlikely treatment for lower back pain.
And the Navy’s new pet “Tiger.”
All that and more coming up on the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the US space station that helped to pave the way for the International Space Station. Skylab first launched on May 14, 1973 with the first 3 astronauts spending 28 days in orbit followed by two other missions. The Skylab served as a solar observatory, a microgravity lab, a medical lab, an Earth-observing facility, and home for the astronauts. It led to new technologies like special showers, sleeping bags, and kitchen equipment to function in microgravity. But its work was cut short when the Skylab reentered the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated on July 11, 1979. NASA commemorated the event today with a televised roundtable discussion at the James Webb Auditorium of NASA Headquarters in D.C.
And the US Naval Research Laboratory has bested themselves! They broke their own endurance record with their fuel cell powered Ion Tiger Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The UAV flew for 48 hours and one minute using liquid hydrogen fuel in a new cryogenic fuel storage tank and delivery system. Their previous record was 26 hours and two minutes set in 2009 using the same vehicle. The team said they were able to complete a longer duration flight with the liquid hydrogen because it is three times denser than 5000-psi hydrogen. Using liquid hydrogen to power unmanned aircraft is more efficient and reliable than hydrocarbon-fuel systems and provides longer flight than battery-powered systems. This aircraft could be used in providing forest fire information and to ensure unaffected communication between soldiers in mountainous terrain. And my personal favorite—to track pirates off the Horn of Africa. Arrrgghhhh!
Do you suffer from lower back pain? You might be surprised by what the doctor could soon prescribe for that. A new study found that 40% of chronic lower back pain is actually caused by bacteria and antibiotics resulted in a significant amount of relief and increased quality of life for sufferers. The study is ground-breaking but researchers say more research needs to be done to verify the effects. But one neurologist is already pretty excited and said, “It is the stuff of Nobel prizes.” That’s a big statement!
And in slightly less exciting news, NOAA has announced that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have reached an all-time high in human history. NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii is reading levels surpassing 400 parts per million, which experts say hasn’t happened on Earth for about 3 million years. To get some perspective, levels of CO2 were around 280 parts per million during the Industrial Revolution, when we started releasing sizable amounts of the pollutant into the atmosphere. This news comes on the heels of an effort by a group of scientists to track the carbon footprints of some of the world’s largest cities to make sure they’re meeting emissions standards. They will utilize data from pre-existing sensors in major cities like Los Angeles and Paris, as well as install their own gas analyzers. While scientists say this milestone level of carbon dioxide wasn’t unexpected, they hope this serves as a red flag to “jolt governments into action.”
And as if that news wasn’t scary enough, scientists are saying that if global temperatures rise an additional 2 degrees Celsius, there will be a major impact on our ecosystems. Studying just under 50,000 common plant and animal species, scientists found that a 2 degree rise would result in the loss of half of the habitat for 34 percent of all animal species and 57 percent of plant species. Not only would this greatly reduce the biodiversity of even the most common species, but scientists say “there will also be a knock-on effect for humans because these species are important for things like water and air purification, flood control, nutrient cycling, and eco-tourism.” But not all is lost. They say by preventing the rise in temperature within the next three years, we can curb this habitat loss by as much as 60 percent. Ok, I think we’re running out of excuses not to act!
Well that’s all for the Daily Orbit. See you tomorrow Orbiters!