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Over here, I post a ton of astronomy / math / general science in an attempt to make your brain feel good. My aim is to be as informative as possible, while posting fascinating things that hopefully enlighten us both a little to the mysteries of our truly wondrous universe(s?). Plus, how would you know if the blog exists or not unless you observe it?

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3-D Printers Could Make Food for Astronauts

Several decades from now, an astronaut in a Mars colony might feel a bit hungry. Rather than reach for a vacuum-sealed food packet or cook up some simple greenhouse vegetables in a tiny kitchen, the astronaut would visit a microwave-sized box, punch a few settings, and receive a delicious and nutritious meal tailored to his or her exact tastes.

This is the promise of the rapidly maturing field of 3-D food printing, an offshoot of the revolution that uses machines to build bespoke items out of metal, plastic, and even living cells. Sooner than you think, 3-D printed designer meals may be coming to a rocketship, or a restaurant, near you.

“Right now, astronauts on the space station are eating the same seven days of food on rotations of two or three weeks,” said astronautical engineer Michelle Terfansky, who studied the potential and challenges of making 3-D printed food in space for a master’s thesis at the University of Southern California.

With 3-D printers coming of age, engineers are starting to expand the possible list of materials they might work with. The Fab@Home team at Cornell University has developed gel-like substances called hydrocolloids that can be extruded and built up into different shapes. By mixing in flavoring agents, they can produce a range of tastes and textures.

A 3-D printer could mix vitamins and amino acids into a meal to provide nutrients and boost productivity. There are limitations to the types of fresh foods that can be grown in space – NASA says some of the best crops for a Mars mission are lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes. With that you could make a salad, but a 3-D printer could manufacture croutons or protein-dense supplements. The device could take up less space than a supply of packets of food and, because each item is custom built, would help cut down on waste.

But 3-D food printing systems still have a long way to go, with most of the current limitations involving the printer’s extruding system. Some items, like frosting or processed cheese, are easy to make printable. A chocolate treat, for instance, is created using a syringe filled with melted chocolate to build up a shape specified by a computer layer by layer. But other materials – fruits, vegetables, and meats – are much more of a challenge. 

In the earliest tests of the hydrocolloid 3-D food printer, the Cornell team produced different fake items — bananas, mushrooms, mozzarella – all with the appropriate texture and flavor. Because no one wants to eat something that looks and tastes bad, Terfansky said the best thing would be to focus on making sure things are delicious and then improving the visual aesthetics.

Within five to 10 years, she said the technology might get to the point where a single printer could produce lots of different food items that are both flavorful and look like what they’re supposed to be. Terfansky sees a day further in the future when most home kitchens include a 3-D printer simple enough for a child to go up and press the “hamburger” button in order to receive a meal. Such plans may seem like the food machine from The Jetsons but other researchers say they’re not out of the realm of possibility.

Source: Wired Science

The Family that Went to the Moon
Well, the family photo, anyway.
On April 23, 1972, Apollo 16 astronauts Charlie Duke and John Young embarked on the third and final EVA of the mission,exploring the Descartes Highlands via Lunar Roving Vehicle. During the EVA, before setting up a Solar Wind Collector, Duke placed a small family photo he had brought along onto the lunar surface and snapped a few photos of  it with his Hasselblad film camera. This is one of the photos.
The portrait shows Charlie, his wife Dorothy, and their two sons Charles and Thomas. It looks like they are sitting on a bench in the summertime.
The family photo, gingerly wrapped in clear plastic and slightly crumpled from being stashed in the pocket of a space suit, was left on the Moon. It presumably still sits there today, use inches away from Charlie’s boot print — which, presumably, is also there. At the time of this writing it’s been exactly 40 years to the day that this photo was taken.

The Family that Went to the Moon

Well, the family photo, anyway.

On April 23, 1972, Apollo 16 astronauts Charlie Duke and John Young embarked on the third and final EVA of the mission,exploring the Descartes Highlands via Lunar Roving Vehicle. During the EVA, before setting up a Solar Wind Collector, Duke placed a small family photo he had brought along onto the lunar surface and snapped a few photos of  it with his Hasselblad film camera. This is one of the photos.

The portrait shows Charlie, his wife Dorothy, and their two sons Charles and Thomas. It looks like they are sitting on a bench in the summertime.

The family photo, gingerly wrapped in clear plastic and slightly crumpled from being stashed in the pocket of a space suit, was left on the Moon. It presumably still sits there today, use inches away from Charlie’s boot print — which, presumably, is also there. At the time of this writing it’s been exactly 40 years to the day that this photo was taken.

Space Poetry
Hailing from the International Space Station, astronaut Don Pettit has taken the opportunity of April being ‘National Poetry Month’ to provide us Earthlings with some beautiful space musings. Check them out! 

I Wonder Why
I wonder why the sky is up, and why the stars abound?And why the Sun comes up each morn, and why the Earth goes ’round?I wonder what the Sun on Mars, would bring at dusk and dawn?I wonder what two moons would say, from Earth lit sky when Sun is goneI wonder if Mars mountain crags would be a sight to hold?I wonder if I’d dare to climb, how could I be so bold!I wonder when Man’s mind will grow, and cease to be so smallI wonder when we’ll venture forth, I hope before we fallI wonder if we’ll never dare, to reach up through the skyForever doomed to live on Earth, and this, I wonder why?


Space is My Mistress
Space is my Mistress,and she beckons my return.Since our departure I think of youand yearn to fly across the heavens arm in arm.I marvel at your figure,defined by the edges of continents.You gaze at me with turquoise eyes,perhaps mistaken for ocean atolls.You tease me to fall into your bosom,sculptured by tectonic rifts,only to move away as if playing some tantalizing game.Time and time we turn together,through day, and night, and day,repeating encounters every 90 minutes with a freshness,as if we have never seen our faces before.We stroll outside together,enveloped by naked cosmos,filled with desire to be one.So close,you sense my every breath,which masks your stare through visor haze.We dance on the swirls of cloud tops,while skirting the islands of blue.You know my heart beats fast for you.Oh, Space is my mistress,and when our orbits coincide,we will once again make streaks of aurora across the sky.

Space Poetry

Hailing from the International Space Station, astronaut Don Pettit has taken the opportunity of April being ‘National Poetry Month’ to provide us Earthlings with some beautiful space musings. Check them out! 

I Wonder Why

I wonder why the sky is up, and why the stars abound?
And why the Sun comes up each morn, and why the Earth goes ’round?
I wonder what the Sun on Mars, would bring at dusk and dawn?
I wonder what two moons would say, from Earth lit sky when Sun is gone
I wonder if Mars mountain crags would be a sight to hold?
I wonder if I’d dare to climb, how could I be so bold!
I wonder when Man’s mind will grow, and cease to be so small
I wonder when we’ll venture forth, I hope before we fall
I wonder if we’ll never dare, to reach up through the sky
Forever doomed to live on Earth, and this, I wonder why?

Space is My Mistress

Space is my Mistress,
and she beckons my return.
Since our departure I think of you
and yearn to fly across the heavens arm in arm.
I marvel at your figure,
defined by the edges of continents.
You gaze at me with turquoise eyes,
perhaps mistaken for ocean atolls.
You tease me to fall into your bosom,
sculptured by tectonic rifts,
only to move away as if playing some tantalizing game.
Time and time we turn together,
through day, and night, and day,
repeating encounters every 90 minutes with a freshness,
as if we have never seen our faces before.
We stroll outside together,
enveloped by naked cosmos,
filled with desire to be one.
So close,
you sense my every breath,
which masks your stare through visor haze.
We dance on the swirls of cloud tops,
while skirting the islands of blue.
You know my heart beats fast for you.
Oh, Space is my mistress,
and when our orbits coincide,
we will once again make streaks of aurora across the sky.

Incredible Photos from Space

On September 22, 2010, following the departure of the Expedition 23 crew, Colonel Douglas H. Wheelock assumed command of the Expedition 25 crew and the International Space Station itself. Wheelock, @Astro_Wheels on twitter, has been tweeting space photos to his followers ever since he arrived. 

(Source: triggerpit.com)