NASA extracts oxygen from thin Mars air - Shepparton News
NASA has logged another extraterrestrial first on its latest mission to Mars: converting carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into pure, breathable oxygen, the US space agency says.The unprecedented extraction of oxygen, literally out of thin air on Mars, was achieved Tuesday by an experimental device aboard Perseverance, a six-wheeled science rover that landed on the Red Planet on February 18 after a seven-month journey from earth. In its first activation, the toaster-sized instrument dubbed MOXIE, short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilisation Experiment, produced about five grams of oxygen, equivalent to roughly 10 minutes worth of breathing for an astronaut, NASA said. Although the initial output was modest, the feat marked the first experimental extraction of a natural resources from the environment of another planet for direct use by humans. "MOXIE isn't just the first instrument to produce oxygen on another world," Trudy Kortes, director of technology demonstrations within NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement on Wednesday. She called it the first technology of its kind to help future missions "live off the land" of another planet. The instrument works through electrolysis, which uses extreme heat to separate oxygen atoms from molecules of carbon dioxide, which accounts for about 95 per cent of the atmosphere on Mars. The remaining five per cent of Mars' atmosphere, which is only about one per cent as dense earth's, consists primarily of molecular nitrogen and argon. Oxygen exists on Mars in negligible trace amounts. But an abundant supply is considered critical to eventual human exploration of the Red Planet, both as a sustainable source of breathable air for astronauts and as a necessary ingredient for rocket fuel to fly them home. According to NASA, getting four astronauts off the Martian surface would take about seven tonnes of rocket fuel, combined with 25 tonnes of oxygen. Transporting a one-ton oxygen-conversion machine to Mars is more practical than trying to haul 25 tonnes of oxygen in tanks from earth, MOXIE principal investigator Michael Hecht, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said. Astronauts living and working on Mars would require perhaps one tonne of oxygen between them to last an entire year, Hecht said.
UAE-Japan project to send rover to moon - Shepparton News
Lunar exploration company iSpace will transport a United Arab Emirates rover to the moon in 2022, the company says, as the UAE pushes for rapid expansion in the space exploration business to diversify its economy.The UAE is using its space program to develop its scientific and technological capabilities and reduce its reliance on oil. The Gulf state's, and the Arab world's, first interplanetary probe entered Mars' orbit in February. It is now sending data about the Martian atmosphere and climate. The Rashid lunar rover will be designed entirely by Emiratis. The UAE had originally intended to send it into space by 2024. Japanese company iSpace, founded in 2010, aims to provide commercial transportation to the moon with a wider mission to ultimately incorporate the moon into the earth's economy. The 2022 launch will be iSpace's first mission of this kind and will use a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk's SpaceX, to be launched from Florida. Dubai's Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) will build the Rashid lunar rover. It will remain on the moon after data collection is completed, said Emirates Lunar Mission manager Hamad al-Marzooqi. The SpaceX rocket will deliver an iSpace lander to the moon's orbit. The lander will propel itself to the moon's surface and the UAE rover will then emerge from the lander and drive off to explore, said iSpace Founder and CEO Takeshi Hakamada. The lander will also be carrying a solid-state battery designed by Japanese company NGK Spark Plug to be tested in the lunar environment. The lunar mission is part of the Gulf state's broader vision for a Mars settlement by 2117. Under the agreement, iSpace said it would also provide the Emirates Lunar Mission with wired communication and power during the cruise phase and wireless communication on the moon. Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Emirati in space in 2019 when he flew to the International Space Station. This week the UAE selected the first Arab woman to train as an astronaut.
Vic AstraZeneca shots paused for under 50s - Shepparton News
Victorians aged under 50 booked to have the coronavirus jab in the next three days are being advised to delay unless it's the Pfizer vaccine.Health officials say anyone booked for an AstraZeneca shot between Friday and next Monday should reschedule, and the vaccine should not be administered to under-50s until more information and updated consent forms are available from federal authorities. The AstraZeneca doses are the backbone of Australia's vaccine rollout but have been linked to an extremely rare blood clot side effect. Victoia's Health Department says the AstraZeneca shot can be administered in certain cases if federal information can be provided and if the benefits of the COVID-19 shots outweigh the risks. "Appointments should not proceed until these resources are provided," its daily COVID-19 update states. It adds people who have already had one AstraZeneca dose with no adverse reaction should still receive their second dose as planned. "This is a dynamic situation and advice can change based on new information," the update says. Just over 6000 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered in Victoria on Thursday, making about 137,000 for the state so far. Also on Friday, the state government announced it will allow sports and entertainment events to run at full capacity from midnight. It's the first time in about a year venues have been allowed to run at full capacity. Venues with a capacity of less than 1000 can fill every seat, while bigger venues must apply for consideration under the state's rules for public events. The new rules apply to theatres, cinemas, music halls, concert halls, auditoriums, galleries, museums and sports facilities. But a "density quotient" of one person for every two square metres will still apply in areas such as lobbies and people will still have to "check in". "Designated empty chairs at these venues can now be filled - and that's a big moment for operators who will be able to run at 100 per cent seated capacity," health minister Martin Foley said. Meanwhile, virus fragments have been detected in sewerage in Melbourne's southeast. Anyone with symptoms is urged to get tested if they were in Clayton, Clayton South, Dingley Village, Glen Waverley, Mount Waverley, Mulgrave, Notting Hill, Springvale, Springvale South and Wheelers Hill between April 4 and 6. "Fragments of the virus detected in wastewater may be due to a person with COVID-19 being in the early active infectious phase or it could be because someone is continuing to shed the virus after the infectious period," the health department says. Victoria's hotel quarantine program restarted on Thursday for a third time. The state hasn't accepted returned travellers since February 13 after workers contracted the UK COVID strain from guests at the Holiday Inn, triggering a statewide five-day lockdown. Victoria's deadly second wave last year also leaked from hotel quarantine and led to a judicial review and overhaul of the program. Victoria is aiming to administer 300,000 vaccination doses by May 16.
Lightning may have sparked life on earth - Shepparton News
The emergence of the earth's first living organisms billions of years ago may have been facilitated by a bolt out of the blue - or perhaps a quintillion of them.Researchers said on Tuesday that lightning strikes during the first billion years after the planet's formation roughly 4.5 billion years ago may have freed up phosphorus required for the formation of biomolecules essential to life. The study may offer insight into the origins of earth's earliest microbial life - and potential extraterrestrial life on similar rocky planets. Phosphorus is a crucial part of the recipe for life. It makes up the phosphate backbone of DNA and RNA, hereditary material in living organisms, and represents an important component of cell membranes. On early earth, this chemical element was locked inside insoluble minerals. Until now, it was widely thought that meteorites that bombarded early earth were primarily responsible for the presence of "bioavailable" phosphorus. Some meteorites contain the phosphorus mineral called schreibersite, which is soluble in water, where life is thought to have formed. When a bolt of lightning strikes the ground, it can create glassy rocks called fulgurites by super-heating and sometimes vaporising surface rock, freeing phosphorus locked inside. As a result, these fulgurites can contain schreibersite. The researchers estimated the number of lightning strikes spanning between 4.5 billion and 3.5 billion years ago based on atmospheric composition at the time and calculated how much schreibersite could result. The upper range was about a quintillion lightning strikes and the formation of upwards of 1 billion fulgurites annually. Phosphorus minerals arising from lightning strikes eventually exceeded the amount from meteorites by about 3.5 billion years ago, roughly the age of the earliest-known fossils widely accepted to be those of microbes, they concluded. "Lightning strikes, therefore, may have been a significant part of the emergence of life on earth," said Benjamin Hess, a Yale University graduate student in earth and planetary sciences and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications. "Unlike meteorite impacts which decrease exponentially through time, lightning strikes can occur at a sustained rate over a planet's history. This means that lightning strikes also may be a very important mechanism for providing the phosphorus needed for the emergence of life on other earth-like planets after meteorite impacts have become rare," Hess added. The researchers examined an unusually large and pristine fulgurite sample formed when lightning struck the backyard of a US home in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, outside Chicago. This sample illustrated that fulgurites harbour significant amounts of schreibersite. "Our research shows that the production of bioavailable phosphorus by lightning strikes may have been underestimated and that this mechanism provides an ongoing supply of material capable of supplying phosphorous in a form appropriate for the initiation of life," said study co-author Jason Harvey, a University of Leeds associate professor of geochemistry.
No new cases of COVID-19 in Victoria for fourth day in a row - Shepparton News
Victoria recorded zero new cases of COVID-19 for the fourth day in a row on Tuesday, after more than 13,500 tests were received.This comes after viral fragments were detected in wastewater at Werribee, Tarneit and Hoppers Crossing. Anyone who has been to these locations since February 23 and has any symptoms should get tested. “People who have or have recently had COVID-19 may shed fragments of the virus,” a Department of Health spokesperson said. “These fragments can enter wastewater through toilet bowls, sinks and drains. “This may last beyond a person's infectious period.” There are now just 10 active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria.
WA hails early COVID-19 vaccine program - Shepparton News
About 4000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in Western Australia with officials hailing the first week of the program a "great result".Health Minister Roger Cook said more than 2800 frontline workers had so far received the Pfizer jab with the federal government also vaccinating more than 1000 people across the aged care network. Mr Cook said there had been no reports of any vaccine doses being wasted. "It's gone extremely well. We haven't had any hitches," he told reporters on Sunday. The minister said another 5000 doses were expected to arrive in WA in the coming days with the government planning to extend the program to Bunbury, south of Perth, on Tuesday. With the arrival of the first 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia, Mr Cook said the state government was still waiting to hear from the commonwealth on the distribution process in March. He said that was expected to include a large shipment to bolster the government's program, but also the provision of the vaccine directly to the GP network. His comments came after a survey of Australian Medical Association members in WA expressed concern over the state's ability to cope with a major outbreak of COVID-19. AMA president Andrew Miller said, the virus aside, the government needed to open more hospital beds, including an extra 100 in emergency wards. But Mr Cook said the AMA survey came before the state's recent COVID-19 lockdown, which showed how well its testing and contact tracing systems could operate and how hospitals were ready to act. "Our system has demonstrated that it is battled-hardened and it is match fit and it would deal with any crisis that befell our community," the minister said. WA reported no new coronavirus infections on Sunday.