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Space Exploration is Taking Off

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Space Exploration is Taking Off

Space Exploration is Taking Off

Up until recent years, the momentum associated with space exploration had more or less fizzled. While it would seem that rapid innovation is occurring in every other technology field worldwide, the hardware and business models used in space exploration have remained static aside from small, incremental improvements.

It is mind boggling that the last time humans walked on the moon was over 40 years ago.

However, since the 2010 there have been signs of great ambition in space exploration. We catalogued many of these interesting developments from the private sector just months ago, covering the endeavours of future asteroid miners, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and many other big names.

This year is set to be one of the more exciting years on record for those interested in the last human frontier. Between SpaceX resupply missions to the ISS and Virgin Galactic test launches, there are also many other interesting events to stay tuned to in 2015.

The first high-res pictures of Pluto will be beamed back to us on July 14th and sometime later this year, NASA plans to finalize its mission to capture an asteroid. XCOR’s Mark I prototype for its commercial, sub-orbital Lynx plane will also be tested.

If all of those happenings are not exciting enough, don’t forget to check out whatever the latest controversy is with Mars One. There may be more to come.

Regardless, it is an exciting time for investors and enthusiasts to think about space exploration. Mankind is aiming to land on asteroids by 2025, visit Mars by 2030, and even fund deep space exploration in the near future.

In the coming decades, asteroids will be harvested for minerals and tourists will fly in space on regularly scheduled spaceflights. That said, finding ways for investors to profit off this last frontier will be the real undertaking.

Original graphic from: Kapitall

Space Wars: The Private Sector Strikes Back
Space Wars: The Private Sector Strikes Back
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North America’s Devastating Wildfires, Viewed From Space

These stunning images from NASA give a whole new perspective on the massive wildfires engulfing the west coast of North America.

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North America's Devastating Wildfires, Viewed From Space

North America’s Devastating Wildfires, Viewed From Space

If you live on the west coast of North America, it’s likely that you’ve felt a bit smoked out, lately.

Wildfires in British Columbia, Canada are already the worst in the province’s history, while California has had a particularly rough season with human deaths, evacuations, and billions of dollars of damage.

Oregon has one confirmed death from a wildfire in mid-July, and Washington hasn’t gotten off easy, either. On July 31, 2018 a state of emergency was declared in the Evergreen State.

Visualizing Wildfires From Space

Today’s image comes to us from NASA, and it shows aerosols around the world including those originating from volcanoes, desert dust, cloud cover, sea-salt – and of course, smoke.

Here’s the same image with labels, indicating black carbon on the west coast of the continent:

Wildfires, hurricanes, and slash and burning

The wildfires are just as visible as the massive slash-and-burning occurring in Central Africa, hurricanes and typhoons, and even the dust swirling up from the Sahara, the world’s largest desert.

Here’s a visualization of the fires in North America, with some extra zoom:

North America smoke

It’s clear from this image that smoke isn’t just affecting the coast – in fact, experts say it has been travelling as far as Ireland, in lesser concentrations of course.

Other Visuals

While we thought the visualization above was the most striking, there are countless of other examples from the last month that show the extent of wildfires and smoke on the west coast.

Here’s another shot from NASA from a few weeks ago, during peak wildfire season in California and Oregon:

And here’s an image of Seattle and Vancouver from mid-August, when smoke from Canadian fires was so bad in those cities that it was like “inhaling seven cigarettes” per day:

Air Quality

Future Forecast

As we roll into September, the worst of the wildfire season is over.

Unfortunately, it’s already been the worst in British Columbia’s history. Here are the 10 worst fire seasons graphed since 1950, based on square kilometers burned:

BC Wildfires
Data as of Aug 29, 2018, and from the BC Forest Service

While this year has been an anomaly, it may also be a preview of what’s to come. One recent report out of California said that the number of wildfires over 25,000 acres is likely to increase by 50% leading up to 2050.

Is this the new normal?

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Terraforming 101: How to Make Mars a Habitable Planet

This infographic highlights some of the major problems we’d need to solve to make other planets like Mars more hospitable to human life.

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Terraforming 101: How to Make Mars a Habitable Planet

Before we can journey to the stars, we must first go to Mars.

That’s Elon Musk’s philosophy, anyways – and just days ago he revealed new details on his ambitions to colonize the Red Planet, including sending two cargo rockets by 2022 and four rockets (two manned, two cargo) by 2024.

In 40 to 100 years, Musk suggested that up to a million people could live there.

Change of Seasons

As Elton John wisely noted, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids”.

Indeed, the average temperature on Mars is −55 °C (−67 °F), dust storms are frequent and potentially deadly, and the planet has extremely low atmospheric pressure (about 1% of Earth). Because of the atmosphere and temperature swings, meaningful occurrences of liquid water on the planet’s surface are almost impossible. And while Mars is thought to have plenty of frozen water at its poles and in underground deposits, the logistics of tapping into these resources could be quite difficult.

In other words, for any meaningful and long-lasting human presence on Mars, we would likely want to alter the planet and its atmosphere to make it more habitable for human life. And while the exact mechanisms we would use to accomplish this are still up for debate, the basics behind what’s needed to achieve Earth-like conditions are actually pretty straightforward.

Terraforming 101

Today’s infographic comes to us from Futurism, and it details what might need to happen on Mars to make it more accommodating to human life.

Here are two steps we could take to get Mars into the “Goldilocks Zone”, where water is liquid – and harmful ionizing radiation like x-rays, UV rays, and gamma rays are not problematic.

Greenhouse Gases
One way to ward off harmful ionizing radiation is to add a thicker layer of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere of Mars. Such an atmosphere would also allows less heat to escape, meaning warmer temperatures on the planet.

Magnetic Field
A strong magnetic field on Earth is something else that makes life easier. Earth’s solid inner core, composed primarily of iron, creates this field when the planet spins – and it deflects cosmic rays and other harmful types of radiation.

One interesting solution to solve this problem on Mars would to have a magnetic field generator in front of the planet at all times, deflecting any such rays coming from the sun.

The Realm of Possibility

While terraforming is still a mixture of theory and science fiction at this point, we do know some of the major problems that have to be solved for attaining a habitable environment – and it will be interesting to see how plans around Mars develop as the prospect of colonization becomes more real.

You need to live in a dome initially but over time you could terraform Mars to look like Earth and eventually walk around outside without anything on. … So it’s a fixer-upper of a planet.

– Elon Musk

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