It’s easy to forget that the International Space Station isn’t just a place for astronauts to hang out and take epic selfies. Because of its unique microgravity environment, the station is actually a valuable hub for research and development, housing hundreds of ongoing experiments that involve everything from human tissue growth to protein crystal formation. Except there’s one little snag when it comes to conducting experiments on the ISS: It’s kind of far away. Getting critical samples from the station to Earth can be a lengthy process, and researchers usually have to wait anywhere from six months to a year before samples can make the trip to laboratories on the ground. These long waits can be risky, as live biological samples have a perishable lifespan and often need to be reviewed quickly before they degrade.
It sounds practically perfect in every way, but there’s still a considerable amount of time and research that needs to happen before we send astronauts off to Mars via the shores of sleep. The technology that SpaceWorks is looking at is a form of therapeutic hypothermia that will drop the temperature of the astronauts’ bodies by just 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, reducing their metabolism and putting them in a kind of hibernation. “It doesn’t take much to get the body to start slowing down,” says John Bradford, President of SpaceWorks Enterprises.
Human eyes can't (or at least shouldn't) look directly at the sun, but NASA's IRIS can. The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph mission is the latest to fly into space to observe the solar atmosphere. Now, a little more than a year after it launched, the satellite has sent back a complex picture of a special region of the sun, just below its corona.
Our cold, lifeless Moon just turned the corner into pretty hot and tempting. It turns out Earth’s satellite was once rife with volcanic activity, and some of its eruptions occurred within the past 100 million years – perhaps even within the past 50 million years. That’s about a billion years earlier than what researchers had originally assumed.