August 15, 2013

Mars Food On The Astronaut Menu – The Daily Orbit

What’s on the menu for Mars?

Grasshopper’s making smooth moves.

Insulin treatment may soon be in for a revolution.

And it just keeps getting hotter and hotter on the Daily Orbit!

Hi and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.

I’ll take the Martian meatloaf with a side of Red Planet Pasta and a Phobus float to drink. As we look at a manned mission to Mars, one of the big questions is—what will space travelers eat? So a team of researchers conducted a food study in which they spent four months in isolation to simulate a planetary mission. They compared two different types of food systems: crew-cooked and pre-prepared. They wanted to ensure that astronauts can get the nutrition they need during long space travel. During the study, they were provided meats and fish, grain, and condiments—not just Tang and food in a tube. And the study even had an online recipe contest. A couple of the winners: Moroccan Beef Tangine for dinner and Dark Matter Cake for dessert—ha how appropriate. Once the food is figured out, finding how to return from a mission is Mars is a whole other can of worms…

Maybe SpaceX’s Elon Musk can figure out a return trip to Mars. His Grasshopper reusable rocket is showing promise completing its first “divert test.” The vehicle shot up 250 meters in the air then executed a 100-meter lateral move. It stepped aside you could say. This move is important for ensuring that it can return back into Earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic velocity and precisely land back on its original launch pad. The maneuver was made possible thanks to a new navigation sensor installed on the Grasshopper that provides additional detail about the ground below. Grasshopper be hopping!

And here is promising news for those who suffer from diabetes. Hopefully soon you can toss the shots! MannKind Corp. announced that its inhaled insulin device was shown to be more effective than injected and oral treatments in two late stage clinical tests. Called Afrezza, it consists of a fast-acting insulin powder delivered via a lightweight inhaler. Afrezza is to be administered at the start of a meal and within 12 to 14 minutes mimics the release of mealtime insulin observed in healthy individuals. It could potentially one day be revolutionary in insulin treatment. However, Afrezza has yet to receive FDA approval.

And things are heating up and it’s only gonna get hotter. New research says that severe heat waves like we saw last year in the U.S. and in Russia in 2010, are going to become common thanks to—you guessed it—climate change. A few decades ago, such events were practically non-existent, but man-made climate change has already resulted in monthly heat extremes in summer over 5% of the land. By 2020, that percentage is projected to more than double, and more than quadruple by 2040. That means that by the end of the century even the coldest summer months will be hotter than the hottest experienced today. Even worse news? There’s really nothing we can do about it now. The damage has already been done. But good news? If we work on mitigating climate change now we can positively impact the occurrence of such events in the second half of the century.

And the vicious cycle of global warming continues. As we experience more of the heat waves, violent storms, and lengthy droughts we just talked about, we’re going to see an even higher increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Roll that beautiful global warming b-roll! Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have investigated the effect of extremes on the carbon cycle from the terrestrial ecosystem for the first time. They found that extreme weather events—especially droughts—hinder the carbon dioxide uptake by forests and croplands. Researchers say global vegetation absorbs about 11 billion tons less carbon dioxide per year than it would in normal weather conditions. Plant-life is extremely important in the fight against global warming, as it absorbs up to 30% of the carbon dioxide that humans have set free, primarily from fossil fuels. So in short, carbon dioxide causes temperatures to rise, which then hinders a plant’s ability to convert carbon dioxide, and the problem just keeps getting worse!

And that’s all for the Daily Orbit. See you tomorrow Orbiters!

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