The Case for Protecting the Apollo Landing Areas as Heritage Sites

By Michelle L.D. Hanlon, University of Mississippi | February 19, 2019 4:15 pm

Neil Armstrong took this photograph of Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

Neil Armstrong took this photograph of Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

Why did the hominin cross the plain? We may never know. But anthropologists are pretty sure that a smattering of bare footprints preserved in volcanic ash in Laetoli, Tanzania bear witness to an evolutionary milestone. These small steps, taken roughly 3.5 million years ago, mark an early successful attempt by our common human ancestor to stand upright and stride on two feet, instead of four.

Nearly 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong also took a few small steps. On the moon. His bootprints, along with those of fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, are preserved in the lunar soil, called regolith, on what Aldrin described as the “magnificent desolation” of the moon’s surface. These prints, too, bear witness to an evolutionary milestone, as well as humankind’s greatest technological achievement. What’s more, they memorialize the work of the many individuals who worked to unlock the secrets of space and send humans there. And those small steps pay homage to the daring men and women who have dedicated – and those who lost – their lives to space exploration.

The evidence left by our bipedal ancestors are recognized by the international community and protected as human heritage. But the evidence of humanity’s first off-world exploits on the moon are not. These events, separated by 3.5 million years, demonstrate the same uniquely human desire to achieve, explore and triumph. They are a manifestation of our common human history. And they should be treated with equal respect and deference.

I’m a professor of aviation and space law and an associate director of the Air and Space Law Program at the University of Mississippi School of Law. My work focuses on the development of laws and guidelines that will assist and promote the successful and sustainable use of space and our transition into a multi-planet species. During the course of my research, I was shocked to discover that the bootprints left on the moon, and all they memorialize and represent, are not recognized as human heritage and may be accidentally or intentionally damaged or defaced without penalty.

One of Buzz Aldrin’s first bootprints from his Apollo 11 moonwalk on July 20, 1969. (Credit: NASA)

One of Buzz Aldrin’s first bootprints from his Apollo 11 moonwalk on July 20, 1969. (Credit: NASA)

Heritage Gets No Respect

On Earth, we see evidence of this type of insensitivity all the time. The Islamic State has destroyed countless cultural artifacts, but it’s not just terrorists. People steal pieces of the Pyramids in Gaza and sell them to willing tourists. Tourists themselves see no harm in grabbing cobblestones that mark roads built by ancient Romans or snapping the thumbs off terra cotta warriors crafted centuries ago to honor a Chinese emperor.

And, just last year, Sotheby’s auctioned off a bag – the first bag that Neil Armstrong used to collect the first moon rocks and dust ever returned to Earth. The sale was entirely legal. This “first bag” ended up in the hands of a private individual after the U.S. government erroneously allowed it to be included in a public auction. Rather than return the bag to NASA, its new owner sold it to the highest bidder for US$1.8 million. That’s a hefty price tag and a terrible message. Imagine how much a private collector would pay for remnants of the first flag planted on the moon? Or even just some dust from Mare Tranquilitatis?

The fact is if people don’t think sites are important, there is no way to guarantee their safety – or the security of the artifacts they host. Had the first bag been recognized as an artifact, its trade would have been illegal.

Introducing ‘For All Moonkind’

That’s why I co-founded the nonprofit For All Moonkind, the only organization in the world committed to making sure these sites are protected. Our mission is to ensure the Apollo 11 landing and similar sites in outer space are recognized for their outstanding value to humanity and protected, like those small steps in Laetoli, for posterity by the international community as part of our common human heritage.

Our group of nearly 100 volunteers – space lawyers, archaeologists, scientists, engineers, educators and communicators from five continents – is working together to build the framework that will assure a sustainable balance between protection and development in space.

Here on Earth, the international community identifies important sites by placing them on the World Heritage List, created by a convention signed by 193 nations. In this way, the international community has agreed to protect things like the cave paintings in Lascaux, France and Stonehenge, a ring of standing stones in Wiltshire, England.

There are no equivalent laws or internationally recognized regulations or even principles that protect the Apollo 11 landing site, known as Tranquility Base, or any other sites on the moon or in space. There is no law against running over the first bootprints imprinted on the moon. Or erasing them. Or carving them out of the moon’s regolith and selling them to the highest bidder.

Between 1957 and 1975, the international community did dedicate a tremendous amount of time and effort to negotiating a set of treaties and conventions that would, it was hoped, prevent the militarization of space and ensure freedom of access and exploration for all nations. At the time, cultural heritage in outer space did not exist and was not a concern. As such, it is not surprising that the Outer Space Treaty, which entered into force in 1967, doesn’t address the protection of human heritage. Today, this omission is perilous.

Because, sadly, humans are capable of reprehensible acts.

Back to the Moon

Currently there are a comparative trickle of companies and nations with their sights on returning to the moon. China landed a rover on the far side in January. An Israeli company hopes to reach the moon in March. At least three more private companies have plans to send rovers in 2020. The U.S., Russia and China are all planning human missions to the moon. The European Space Agency has its sights on an entire Moon Village.

But as history shows, this trickle of explorers could soon become a rush. As we straddle the threshold of true space-faring capability, we have an extraordinary opportunity. We have time to protect our common heritage, humanity’s first steps, on the moon before it is vandalized or destroyed.

If our hominin ancestor had a name, it is lost to history. Conversely, English novelist J.G. Ballard suggested that Neil Armstrong may well be the only human being of our time remembered 50,000 years from now.

If we do this right, 3.5 million years from now, not only will his name be remembered, his bootprint will remain preserved and the story of how Tranquility Base became the cradle of our space-faring future will be remembered forever, along with the lessons of tumultuous history that got us to the moon. These lessons will help us come together as a human community and ultimately advance forward as a species.

To allow anything else to happen would be a giant mistake.The Conversation

Michelle L.D. Hanlon, Professor of Air and Space Law, University of Mississippi

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics
MORE ABOUT: space exploration

The Fight to Return An Iconic Skull to Zambia

By Michael Balter | February 19, 2019 12:24 pm
Kabwe Skull

The Kabwe skull. (Credit: Copyright of the Trustees of the NHM)

The town of Kabwe sits about 70 miles north of Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, as the crow flies. Just over 200,000 people live in this major transportation crossroads. Like most of this south-central African nation, Kabwe is perched on a high and vast plateau, a land of red soils dotted with shrubby legumes and canopies of small, spindly miombo trees.

Kabwe’s story is defined in part by a mine that opened in the early 1900s after rich deposits of lead and zinc were discovered on the edge of the town. Kabwe—then called Broken Hill—became a major mining center, producing profits for British interests and, later, important metals for the Allies in both world wars. At that time, Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia, after British mining magnate Cecil Rhodes, whose name has come to symbolize the worst evils of his nation’s colonialism. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Top Posts

Why Do We Forget Things? It May Make The Mind More Efficient

By Tom Siegfried | February 18, 2019 2:15 pm
man forgets

The mind may purge memories in an effort to be more efficient. (Credit: GaudiLab/shutterstock)

In the quest to fend off forgetfulness, some people build a palace of memory. It’s a method for memorizing invented in ancient times by (legend has it) the Greek poet Simonides of Ceos, more recently made popular by multiple best-selling books (and the “mind palace” of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes).

Memory palaces provide imaginary architectural repositories for storing and retrieving anything you would like to remember. Sixteen centuries ago, St. Augustine spoke of “treasures of innumerable images” stored in his “spacious palaces of memory.” But twenty-first century scientists who study memory have identified an important point to remember: Even the most luxurious palace of memory needs trash cans.

Far from signifying failure, forgetting may be the brain’s frontline strategy in processing incoming information.

“There are memories that we don’t want and we don’t need,” says neuroscientist Maria Wimber. “Forgetting is good and an adaptive thing.”
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Top Posts

Think You Love Your Partner? It’s Complicated

By Vivian Zayas and Yuichi Shoda | February 18, 2019 1:54 pm
romantic bikers

Research is beginning to reveal the complexity of nonconscious feelings we hold toward partners. (Credit: Gpointstudio / Shutterstock)

Valentine cards are filled with expressions of unequivocal adoration and appreciation. That’s fitting for the holiday set aside to express love and reaffirm commitment to one’s romantic partner.

But what if there’s more going on below the surface of these adoring declarations? How might thoughts and feelings that people are not even aware of shape their romantic relationships?

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mind & Brain, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: psychology

NASA’s Opportunity Rover is Dead. We Asked Scientists to Write Eulogies For the Robot

By John Wenz | February 13, 2019 1:00 pm
NASA Mars Opportunity Rover

In late March 2016, on its 4,332nd Martian day, the rover looked back on the tracks it made while climbing Knudsen Ridge and spotted a distant dust devil. During its drive up the hill, the rover tilted up to 32 degrees from horizontal, the steepest terrain for any rover on Mars. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

After some 15 prolific years on the Martian surface, NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover has gone silent. And after an all out effort to re-establish contact, the space agency says it’s given up hopes of ever hearing back from the rover. We talked to the NASA engineers and scientists whose lives have been touched by the Opportunity rover about their experiences and what the craft meant to them. For some researchers, the mission has encompassed their entire career. For others, the spacecraft team was like a tight-knit family that will soon go its separate ways.

Their eulogies for the lost rover are below. Some have been condensed for space and clarity. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: Mars

NASA Scientist Searched For ‘A Couple Hours’ Before Spotting Second Greenland Impact Crater

By Anna Groves | February 12, 2019 5:45 pm
Elevation map of Greenland, with elevated crater rim (red lines) and central uplift peaks (orange triangles) noted.

Researchers have identified a second possible impact crater in northwest Greenland, just over 100 miles from the Hiawatha crater announced in November 2018.

Last November, scientists’ minds were blown by the discovery of a 19-mile-wide crater under Greenland. The crater had been hiding in plain sight just 150 miles from a major air force base. Scientists flying airborne surveys with NASA’s Operation IceBridge found it serendipitously while testing their equipment while en route to collect Arctic data. And, on Monday, the same group announced they’ve found another potential impact crater that’s even larger, and it sits just over 100 miles from the first.

This time, they were looking for it.

NASA scientist Joe MacGregor was on the team that found the first crater beneath the Hiawatha glacier in northwest Greenland. He says that after the Hiawatha results were in, he wondered if there could be more craters on the ice sheet that had been overlooked. It only took “a couple hours” of scanning a map of Greenland before he spotted a suspiciously-circular geologic feature nearby the newly-discovered Hiawatha crater.  

Under the Ice

Ice sheets are fairly rough on landscapes. They’re the reason why the U.S. Midwest is so flat — anything in a glacier’s way gets pulverized. That’s why scientists had long assumed that geologic features like craters, even if they once existed, would smooth out over time if they were under the ice.

MacGregor, glaciologist and NASA IceBridge project scientist, explains that he spotted the new crater on a topographic map NASA made a few years ago of Greenland’s landscape under the ice.

“When you look at that map, in northwest Greenland, you can see a depression — that isn’t Hiawatha (crater),” MacGregor explains. He says he consulted a few other maps, and “it was pretty clear that there was a circular surface expression of this depression. And that was pretty exciting. I sort of got up from my desk and went down the hallway pacing to myself, like, whoa, there’s another crater?”

Then came the hard work, says MacGregor. Impact craters, unlike other roundish holes in the ground, say from ancient collapsed volcanoes, will often cause specific anomalies in magnetic and gravitational fields. Conveniently, researchers had already been doing geophysical surveys of that area — meaning, they already had the data they needed to study the potential crater.

Volcano remnants and impact craters leave different geophysical signatures on the landscape — anomalies in the magnetic and gravitational fields. The latter has to do with the way Earth’s crust settles after an impact — it becomes less dense than it was before. And, in this case, the crater’s signature hints that it really is an impact crater.

Two topographic maps showing the proximity of the Hiawatha crater and the newly found structure under Greenland's ice sheet.

Left, Hillshaded ArcticDEM surface elevation across northwestern Greenland, showing both the Hiawatha impact crater along the ice margin and the presently identified structure farther inland to the southeast. Right, subglacial topography across northwestern Greenland. (Credit: MacGregor et al. 2019, Geophysical Research Letters)

Ice, Ice, Baby

It’s too soon to put a real date on this crater, but there are some initial clues. Ice near the crater is at least 79,000 years old, but that could mean a lot of things — for instance, the ice near the crater now may have moved there from farther inland over the millennia.

Ice questions are MacGregor’s specialty. “What we can say with certainty is that the layering of the ice over the second crater looks very different from what we saw at Hiawatha. The layering at Hiawatha was part of what motivated us to suspect the young age. At the second potential crater, the layering is quite a bit older, and it’s smooth with no clear unconformities; it looks like a good chunk of Greenland in that regard. So from that alone, one might reasonably suspect that it’s probably older,” he says.

The other big age hint is its depth — the crater is fairly shallow for having such a wide diameter, which spans 22.7 miles. The scientists estimate that an impact that would form a crater of that size would’ve also created a crater nearly half a mile deep, which means the structure has been worn away quite a bit. It’s about twice as eroded as its Hiawatha neighbor. Based on how much wear-and-tear an ice sheet is expected to have on a crater and how quickly, age estimates for the new crater might be more like a hundred thousand to a hundred million years old.

What are the Odds, Though

If you’re reading this thinking, “what are the odds,” don’t worry, that seriously bothered the scientists, too. If both structures are officially confirmed as impact craters and confirmed as being different ages, as initial evidence suggests… what are the odds that two unrelated impacts would happen just 100 miles from each other?

Thankfully scientists are scientists, so they actually calculated the odds.

Just last month, Sara Mazrouei from the University of Toronto and colleagues published in Science updated estimates for the rate of impacts on Earth, based on data from both known impact craters on Earth as well as our crater-faced neighbor, the moon.

MacGregor and his team used these estimates to calculate the likelihood that two unrelated craters would ever occur so close together. Given the size of the projectiles required to make such a crater, the size of the Earth, and common sizes of near-Earth objects, they estimate an unrelated pair of big craters should spring up about once every seven billion years. Or, in other words, not very likely.

But they looked at it another way, too, though — in a way that reflects the “birthday paradox” you may be familiar with. The birthday paradox deals with the odds that two people share a birthday; mathematically, it’s more common than you might think. In any random group of 23 people, the odds that two will share a birthday is about 50/50. In a group of 70, it’s nearly 99.9 percent certain.

So how many craters need to be blasted into Earth before two of them are near each other without, erm, sharing a birthday? The team again used estimates from Mazrouei: about 355 impacts have probably occurred in the last 650 million years, though only about 10 percent of the Earth’s surface is stable enough to still possess such craters today. The team ran simulations that randomly distributed 355 meteor hits across the planet, and found there would be an average of 13 crater pairs throughout history that would be unrelated, but near each other. Cut that to the 10 percent of craters surviving to today, and you’ve got one, maybe two crater pairs.

Two such crater pairs have already been discovered: one in Quebec, and one in the Ukraine. But that doesn’t mean a third pair is outside the realm of possibility — sometimes three coin flips all come up “heads” even when you’d expect at least one “tails.”

More to Learn; Expect Skeptics

“Both Hiawatha and this second possible crater fall into an unusual category of impact craters,” says MacGregor. “They are on Earth, but they’re covered by ice, which makes them relatively hard to sample in all the ways that one would like to.”

To truly confirm a crater as an impact crater, MacGregor explains, the terrestrial impact geology community is going to need a lot more than a gravity anomaly. But the info they need is under a mile of ice.

“Maybe a different way to think about it is that it takes about 10 seconds to convince a planetary scientist that these are impact craters,” jokes MacGregor, “but it’ll probably take 10 years to convince the terrestrial impact geologists.”

MacGregor says there’s talk of the type of laborious expedition that would be required to study the craters, but no firm plans yet. For now, he’s not quitting his day job with Operation IceBridge, despite his new track record studying craters.

“It’s a lot of fun, but I’ll remain a glaciologist,” says MacGregor. “For hopefully clearly many good reasons, we still want to know a lot more about what ice is going to be doing in the future.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Top Posts

Where Do New Languages Come From?

By Elizabeth Svoboda | February 12, 2019 12:05 pm
Listening to traditional Koro song

As part of the Enduring Voices project, Abamu Degio (left) listens to a recording of herself singing a traditional Koro song, with linguist David Harrison (right). (Credit: Jeremy Fahringer, Living Tongues Institute)

In the desert town of Lajamanu, Australia, at the bend of a narrow dirt road, Carmel O’Shannessy worked at a school as a teacher-linguist in the early 2000s. Lajamanu’s Indigenous Warlpiri people, who live in the country’s Northern Territory, were skilled at drawing sustenance from the landscape’s parched red soil, and O’Shannessy soon discovered hidden cultural riches the Warlpiri had stored up.

As she got to know the children in the community, O’Shannessy noticed they had a different way of expressing themselves than their elders. People in Lajamanu generally spoke English, Warlpiri (an established local Aboriginal tongue), and some Kriol (a blend of English and Aboriginal languages). But O’Shannessy, who speaks both English and Warlpiri, grew convinced that the kids joking in the schoolyard were communicating in an unusual way. “When I listened more closely to how the children were speaking, they seemed to be using two languages in every sentence,” remembers O’Shannessy, now a lecturer at the Australian National University in Canberra. “I thought, This is really interesting. This is something worth investigating.” Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology

With Ancient Human DNA, Africa’s Deep History Is Coming to Light

By Bridget Alex | February 8, 2019 3:00 pm
ancient african dna

Ancient DNA can reveal much about the genetic history of Africa because it predate major events like slavery and colonialism, which upended African populations and territories. (Credit: Zita/shutterstock)

In 2010, extraordinary circumstances allowed geneticists to reconstruct the first full genome of an ancient human: the DNA came from a hairball, frozen 4,000 years in Greenland soil. Since then, methods have improved so much in cost and efficiency that individual papers now report genomic data from hundreds of dead people (here, here, here). Ancient DNA (aDNA) has now been published from well over 2,000 human ancestors, stretching as far back as 430,000 years ago.

But around 70 percent of those sequences are from Eurasia, where cold temperatures favor DNA preservation and considerable archaeological research has occurred. For researchers interested in the genetic history of Europe and Asia, there are plenty of excavated skeletons, sitting in museums and other collections, and there’s a good chance those bones hold appreciable DNA.

The situation is different in Africa — the place where Homo sapiens originated some 300,000 years ago and has continued diversifying ever since. Despite Africa’s prominence in the human story, so far only 30 ancient genomes between 300 and 15,000 years old have been published from the continent.

Part of the reason is methodological and environmental: Hot, humid conditions destroy DNA in human remains, long before geneticists attempt to extract it. However, in 2015 scientists showed that aDNA preservation can be 100-fold higher in the petrous — dense bone surrounding the inner ear — than other skeletal parts. In 2018, researchers used this bone to recover the oldest African genomes yet, from 15,000-year-old skeletons excavated from a cave in Morocco.

It’s unlikely geneticists will capture much older African DNA than that. So, the petrous find is a “game changer,” not a miracle maker. But bones between 5,000 and 15,000 years old — surrounding the start of the Holocene, our current geologic epoch — can reveal much about the genetic history of Africa. That’s because they predate major events that upended African populations and territories. These include the slave trade and colonialism. Earlier still, there were major migrations within Africa linked to the spread of herders and farmers, starting around 5,000 years ago.

“What we see is this huge amount of noise from the past 5,000 years,” says Elizabeth Sawchuk, an archaeologist who works in East Africa.

DNA from Holocene remains would allow researchers to peer beyond this noise, to glimpse the genetic map of Africa prior to agriculture and historical migrations. And now, it’s technologically possible.

Yet there’s reason to pause, as ancient DNA studies receive criticism. Archaeologists and historians accuse geneticists of making sweeping claims based solely on DNA data, without considering the centuries of evidence and scholarship accumulated by other fields. Ethical concerns have also been raised about taking skeletal samples out of Africa and into Western laboratories for the destructive process of genetic sequencing. Moreover, the results may fuel ancestry claims over territories or cultural heritage, and therefore affect living people who did not consent to the research.

In this context, some scientists are proceeding with caution, and a number of African aDNA projects are underway. One of the largest is led by Sawchuk, archaeologist Mary Prendergast and geneticist David Reich, who runs the aDNA laboratory at Harvard Medical School.

Discover talked to Sawchuk, a post-doctoral researcher at Stony Brook University, about the potential risks and rewards of African aDNA.

Why is African aDNA important?

It’s where our species evolved, where we’ve been the longest. And as a consequence, Africa has the highest genetic diversity of anywhere else on the planet. It potentially is going to tell us the most about our species, but it’s an area that we know the least about.

Why is that?

Largely because of underfunded research. Africa is very expensive to go to. The continent is humongous. Areas are inaccessible for geographical, environmental and political reasons. As a result there are fewer skeletons and archaeological sites identified for this huge area and huge period of time. [Also aDNA] preservation is bad because high heat, humidity and water destroy the organic content of bones. Getting aDNA out of this continent was regarded to be something we would all love to do, but nobody could do.

Now that it’s technologically feasible, why should researchers be cautious?

Human remains are the only direct link we have to the past. We have far fewer skeletons in Africa than other parts of the world, so every skeleton is incredibly precious. That puts a really big burden on these genetics projects in terms of how much material they’re sampling, how many sites they’re sampling, if they’re sampling all of the sites.

There’s a fundamental tension: You don’t know which skeletons and sites will have aDNA preserved, so you just have to try them all. But if we try them all now, in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 50 years, the science might be completely different, and we may have limited ourselves in the future. So it’s a tight line to walk.

What are some concerns of present-day Africans?

Across a continent as big of Africa, [countries] with individual, imposed colonial histories have very different ways of approaching their own national heritage. Transporting material outside of Africa to a clean room — so we can minimize contamination and maximize the chance of getting a sequence — that kind of parallels a lot of the colonial justifications for removing artifacts out of their countries of origin to better funded European or American institutions. So there needs to be a lot of sensitivity about how human remains are approached, sampled, processed, and eventually returned.

How has your project been responsive to these concerns and other criticisms of aDNA research?

It’s taken a lot longer compared to other genetic projects to start — to get the permissions, to really get everybody on board, and to do this right. It just takes time, face-time. People who can go there, propose this research, bring on African collaborators in a senior role, and then do this project going forward together.

Many of the criticisms of other DNA projects are that it’s DNA first, Anthropology second. This was really an Anthropology first project. It’s driven by questions that myself and many other anthropologists have been asking for decades, but integrating this new line of evidence, DNA.

It’s absolutely really exciting that we might have this new line of evidence, but DNA will not be the magic key to all of these answers. It’s not to the exclusion of decades and hundreds of years of pottery studies, ancient tool studies, landscape archaeology, ethnographies. These are all just pieces of a puzzle that we need to put together. This is always going to have to be an interdisciplinary effort, where we work with other types of scientists and we work with local communities.

This is so exciting. We just have to make sure that we do it right, right now.

What have you found so far?

We’ve sampled from institutions in Tanzania and Zambia and Kenya. This will be one of the largest African DNA studies to date when it comes out. It’s blown my mind. I hope it will blow many other peoples’ minds.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, Top Posts

How Scientists Actually Dismantle a Nuclear Bomb

By Benjamin Plackett | February 8, 2019 2:30 pm
nuclear warhead

A Mark 28 thermo-nuclear bomb is unloaded from a U.S. Air Force Boeing B-52H Stratofortress aircraft. Credit: TSgt. Boyd Belcher, USAF)

(Inside Science) — There are enough nuclear weapons in the world to cause atomic Armageddon many times over, according to scientists, who estimate that no country could fire more than 100 nuclear warheads without wreaking such devastation that their own citizens back home would be killed.

Most nuclear nations recognized by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — namely, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — have set about reducing their arsenals. China is a notable exception. The exact number of the country’s warheads is unknown, but many analysts say its cache is slowly growing in size. North Korea, on the other hand, while notoriously difficult to predict, could eventually scale back its nuclear program if its diplomatic rapprochement with the West continues.

Negotiations on nuclear disarmament are politically tricky. But when agreements are reached, scientists and engineers can provide a variety of tools to take apart some of humanity’s most deadly weapons and store or repurpose the dangerous nuclear material. It’s a long and complex procedure, but experts say it’s one worth doing. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: weapons & security

This Steam-Powered Robot Could Someday Hop Between Asteroids

By Jake Parks | February 4, 2019 5:30 pm
asteroid spacecraft

The World is Not Enough (WINE) is a prototype spacecraft that will harvest water from targets and use that water to create steam that it will use as fuel.
(Credit: University of Central Florida/Video Blocks/Victor Tangermann)

Thanks to a mashup of science and industry, researchers have developed a prototype spacecraft that can mine water from an asteroid, use that water to generate steam, then use that steam as fuel to hop across the surface of an asteroid — or even jump to an entirely different world altogether.

The prototype spacecraft — named The World Is Not Enough (WINE) — was largely developed by Honeybee Robotics in Pasadena, California, with plenty of help from planetary scientist Philip Metzger of the University of Central Florida.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, Technology, Top Posts
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