Thursday, 31 October 2013

Houston, We Have A Space Pumpkin.

Happy Halloween folks!

Whether you're transforming into your favourite character,monster or celebrity tonight or staying in with candy corn and scary movies, I hope you have a wonderful Halloween.

 I must add that here in the UK, we aren't quite as festive with the October holiday compared to our friends across the pond, but we're getting there! I found these space-themed jack-o'-lanterns that would be great if you want to add a bit of cosmic creativity into your pumpkin carving this season. 

Space Shuttle STS-14 (Credit: Liz Warren)
Credit: Flickr
7 Minutes of Pumpkin Terror  (Credit: Universe Today)

Space-X's Dragon (Credit: Universe Today)

p.s I couldn't do a Halloween post without sharing these Halloween-inspired nails my talented friend painted for me! 


Monday, 21 October 2013

In Focus: Why Spaceflight is Becoming Blurrier Over Time

Scientists have long known that extended spaceflight leads to changes in the human body such as muscle atrophy, bone loss, and fluid shift. Increasing evidence has now been collected that suggests why astronauts may be experiencing visual problems as a result of spaceflight conditions.
Russian biological experiment Bion-M1 revealed further insight into the issue of astronaut eyesight deterioration in space. Launched into space on April 19th, Russia’s first biological research satellite since 2007 carried into orbit a 2,450 kg space zoo before returning to Earth 30 days later.
The extended length of the mission allowed researchers to gain a better understanding of the effects that long-term spaceflight exposure has on living organisms. With 45 mice, 8 Mongolian gerbils, 15 geckos, slugs, snails, and containers of microorganisms and plants on board, Bion-M1 orbited the Earth on a 30-day mission. The flight unfortunately proved fatal for all gerbils and 29 mice, however a key insight into the mechanisms behind the orbital visual problems was gained.
Deputy Director of Russia’s Institute of Medical and Biological Studies Vladimir Sychev explained:
We used to think that in zero-gravity, fluid travelled upward and that the quality of blood improved, but it turns out that it is the other way around. The arteries of the brain come under duress and their capacity is reduced by 40 percent.
The institute also gathered valuable data on the influence of space travel on the spinal cord, inner ear, and processes at the genetic level.
Christopher Cassidy, Pavel Vinogradov, and Alexander Misurkin rest after landing in a malfunctioning Soyuz TMA-08M (Credits: NASA).
Orhtostatic intolerance is one reason astronauts are always seen seated after returning from an ISS mission. Seen here: Christopher Cassidy, Pavel Vinogradov, and Alexander Misurkin (Credits: NASA).
Bion-M1 revealed that the capacity of the cerebral arteries decreases vastly in space, a symptom of orthostatic intolerance. Triggered by a disruption in blood flow, orthostatic intolerance is common in astronauts upon returning to Earth and readjusting to gravity.
Speaking to Space Safety Magazine, retired NASA food scientist Charles Bourland provides an insight into the link between space food research, orthostatic intolerance, and astronaut vision:
There’s a procedure to reduce the sodium [in space food] because there was some evidence that high sodium might contribute to vision problems that they’ve had on some of the missions.
recent study into the role of nutritional research in the success of human space flight has noted that prepackaged foods for the International Space Station were originally high in sodium at 5300 mg/d. This amount has now been substantially reduced to 3000 mg/g as a result of NASA reformulation of over ninety foods as a conscious effort to reduce astronaut sodium intake.
Bourland also stated that salt tablets are used as a method of counter-acting the reduction in arterial capacity before reentry:
They have a test called orthostatic tolerance… it basically says ‘can you stand up?’ and a lot of [the astronauts] were failing that, they couldn’t even stand up, and it was because they had low blood fluid levels. So they found out if they give them salt tablets or salt solution just before they come home, it improves their ability to stand up. If you take sodium you retain more fluids and build up your fluid volume.
The subject of astronaut visual quality has been investigated previously. Research from 2012 in the journal Radiology analyzed MRI scans of astronauts returning from at least one month in space and confirmed that fluid shift also contributes to visual disruption as a result of intracranial pressure.
ISS Commander Leroy Chiao performs an ultrasound scan on the eye of Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov during ISS Expedition 10 (Credits: NASA).
ISS Commander Leroy Chiao performs an ultrasound scan on the eye of Flight Engineer Salizhan Sharipov during ISS Expedition 10 (Credits: NASA).
Mercury astronaut John Glenn carried a pair of ‘space anticipation glasses’ on board his capsule in order to improve his visual acuity. As well as this, a NASA survey of 300 male and female astronauts found that 49 percent of long-flight and 23 percent of short-flight astronauts had experienced problems with both near and distance vision. In some cases these visual problems persisted for years after their time in space.
Currently, astronauts can live aboard the International Space Station for more than six months at a time. However, a mission to Mars may take years. Without dedicated further research into eye and vision abnormalities in space, there is a chance of astronauts developing serious vision damage or even blindness. Such research is therefore vital to ensure that humans become capable of travelling on longer-duration, interplanetary missions whilst maintaining their health.
Image caption: Research into astronaut eyesight deterioration is vital to the progression of human spaceflight (Credits: NASA).

Written for Space Safety Magazine by Nikita Marwaha

Monday, 14 October 2013

It's My Birthday!

It's the last hour of my birthday and of course I had to share it with the most important creative space that I have, my blog! However much fun Taylor Swift makes being 22 sound like it is (and it was), turning 23 has been a weekend full of my favourite people, food and places. The perfect combination :) 

I thought I'd share a few snippets of my birthday with you in this small insight into my life as a space graduate in London. Hope you've all enjoyed your weekend wherever in the world you may be. Can't wait to share more space, science and travel posts with you soon, here's to another year of space adventures to come.

- Nikita

Thursday, 10 October 2013

What Do Babies and Rockets Have in Common?

Scientist Marcus Chown has created a cute and informative video describing how babies and rockets are fuelled by the same chemical reaction. Don't believe me? Check out the animated video above to discover how the elements of Hydrogen and Oxygen are so very powerful in both biology and space travel. The rocket-fuelled baby is part of his book What a Wonderful World that delves into the science behind everyday life. 

- Nikita

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Credit: UN Women

I've just come across an amazing initiative called the Knowledge Gateway for Women's Economic Empowerment. Launched on 23rd September by UN Women and Canada, it aims to provide an online space where women have access to resources, innovation, collaborations and partnerships in order to advance women's economic empowerment. 

Their mission is to provide a tool whereby women can make connections with other like-minded females, leading to a  cross-collaboration network between young women and girls and experts and professionals. The ultimate goal of the Knowledge Gateway for Women's Economic Empowerment is to 'enhance  young women and girl's capacity to drive innovation for a better world'. This cause is one I feel very strongly about and I'm glad that such an initiative exists to make the world a more fruitful, innovative and fair place.

The powerful video below demonstrates the importance of female economic empowerment and the positive influence it has on the rest of the world.


Monday, 7 October 2013

Detecting Heartbeats : NASA Technology Used to Rescue Disaster Victims on Earth

A revolutionary radar device that can detect the heartbeats and breathing patterns of disaster victims trapped under rubble has been developed by NASA in conjunction with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Aptly named Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER), the radar technology has the ability to locate individuals buried as deep as 9 meters and from a distance of 30 meters, according to NASA.
The FINDER team unveiled the technology on September 25 at a demonstration for members of the media at the DHS Virginia Task Force 1 Training Facility in Lorton, Virginia.
Time is of the essence in the civilian response world, in which there is a limited time following a traumatic event when a victim’s odds of survival are highest. This time, called the Golden Hour, can range anywhere from minutes to a few hours. When finding the victims in need of rescue is its own challenge, FINDER can help.
“The ultimate goal of FINDER is to help emergency responders efficiently rescue victims of disasters,” said John Price, program manager for the First Responders Group in Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate in Washington.
The device works by sending out a continuous, low powered microwave radar signal into the rubble, through which reflection patterns are analyzed and human life is detected.
FINDER utilizes the space technology used in remote sensing of the Earth and spacecraft detection in order to ensure that those trapped in rubble have the greatest chance of survival following a disaster.
“Detecting small motions from the victim’s heartbeat and breathing from a distance uses the same kind of signal processing as detecting the small changes in motion of spacecraft like Cassini as it orbits the Sun” said James Lux, task manager for FINDER at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
An outgrowth of NASA’s remote sensing technology, FINDER analyzes radar signals using advanced data processing algorithms developed by JPL. Within the chaotic, post-disaster environment this technology can distinguish the tiny signals from a person’s moving chest from the surrounding signals such as moving trees and animals nearby.
This technology has potential applications in NASA’s future human space flight missions, reducing the need for wires when monitoring astronauts’ vital signs.
Weighing less than 20 pounds, the device looks like a plastic briefcase and fits in the overhead compartment of aircraft.  Testing has been in progress for a year and its predicted commercial release is as soon as the spring of 2014.
Future developmental phases of FINDER will focus on a more specific locater function that can detect not only the existence of a victim but more precisely where in the rubble the person is located.
John Price, program manager from the DHS’ First Responders Group called FINDER “probably the greatest advance in the last 30 years.”
Watch video from the FINDER test, below:

Written for Space Safety Magazine by Nikita Marwaha

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Nikita's News

We're well and truly into Autumn here in the UK and the time I usually spend starting a new academic year has now been replaced by time spent planning my time in 2014! Turning 23 next week, I'm now back in London with a few ideas up my sleeve for what the year ahead may hold. One of these is the newly released daily, online newspaper that goes by the name of Nikita's News (I'm a sucker for alliteration). It has a nifty way of sourcing my favourite online posts via twitter into one beautiful place for you to read easily and conveniently, allowing me to select and edit daily content as I please. Covering sources from my favourite astronaut Cmdr Chris Hadfield, to the life-changing International Space University and my favourite writer & comedian Mindy Kaling, Nikita's News has a range of information for everybody to enjoy. Whether you want an update from the European Space Agency (ESA), the magazine I've just begun writing for Space Safety Magazine, inspirational businesswoman and role model Sheryl Sandberg or even from little old me via my twitter account Nikita_, then Nikita's News is the place to be!

Take a look for yourself at:

Don't forget to hit that subscribe button :)


p.s I've been asked if I can really make apple pie from scratch. Find out soon whether I can invent the universe/my cooking skills and make Carl Sagan proud!

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