Japan to develop wooden satellite in bid to curb space junk

December 31, 2020 by  
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Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry is collaborating with Kyoto University to develop the world’s first wooden satellite. The two entities have already started research to determine the possibility of using wood in space. This research will test tree growth and wood use in extreme environments on Earth. If these tests are successful, the project hopes to introduce the wood-inspired satellite by 2023. According to Sumitomo Forestry, wooden satellites provide an ideal solution for reducing space junk. Space experts have warned about increased space junk caused by satellites. The World Economic Forum estimates that about 6,000 satellites are circling Earth, of which 60% are defunct. Satellites often launch into space for different uses. Unfortunately, once the satellites serve their purpose, they remain in space. These satellites slowly disintegrate, leaving alumina particles or other metals in the upper atmosphere. These pieces may stay in the atmosphere for ages. Besides atmospheric pollution, the satellites themselves pose a potential risk should they fall to Earth. According to Kyoto University researchers, wood satellites can disintegrate in space without producing life-threatening junk. Once a satellite has served its purpose, it will slowly fall apart, thus avoiding the creation of additional space junk. Takao Doi, a professor at Kyoto University, says that if action is not taken about space junk now, it will eventually affect Earth’s environment. “We are very concerned with the fact that all the satellites which re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere burn and create tiny alumina particles which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years,” Professor Doi said in an interview. Regarding the project’s next steps, he added “The next stage will be developing the engineering model of the satellite, then we will manufacture the flight model.” Research firm Euroconsult predicts that if all factors remain constant, approximately 990 satellites will be launched into space each year throughout the next decade. This means that we could have about 15,000 satellites orbiting Earth by 2028. Today, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has already launched more than 900 Starlink satellites into space, and the company plans to deploy thousands more. Without sustainability plans, these endeavors will likely contribute to the space junk problem. + BBC Image via Pixabay

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Indigenous land defender Flix Vsquez murdered in Honduras

December 31, 2020 by  
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Honduran environmental hero Félix Vásquez was murdered on December 26 for his brave work defending the land. Vásquez, 60, a long-time leader of the  indigenous  Lenca people, was shot at his home in front of his family. He lived in the rural community of Santiago de Puringla in western Honduras. Four assailants also beat his adult children who were present, but they survived. Vásquez had defended indigenous land rights since the 1980s. He was known nationally for his work opposing megaprojects such as environmentally destructive  mines , logging, wind farms and hydroelectric dams. He also worked on reclaiming ancestral titles for dispossessed communities. Related: Environmental activist Berta Cáceres found murdered in her home It takes a lot of courage to be an environmentalist in  Honduras . A 2009 military coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya and used harsh measures, including beatings and media blackouts, to set a new tone of controlling the people. For the last 11 years, the Honduran government has been better known for electoral fraud, corruption and drug trafficking connections than for eco-friendliness. Hundreds of environmental defenders have disappeared and/or been murdered, and others are locked up on contrived criminal charges. In 2020, the Honduran government stepped up persecution of land defenders. In July, armed assailants wearing police uniforms disappeared a group of Black indigenous environmental defenders. Eight  water  activists from the Guapinol community have been detained this year for protesting against an iron oxide mine. On December 29, just days after Vásquez’s murder, indigenous farmer  Adán Mejía  was murdered on his way home from tending his corn.  “Every single community leader is threatened, without exception, as part of the intimidation campaign to silence us and stop our resistance to projects to exploit natural resources imposed on our territory without consultation,” said Marlen Corea, a leader of indigenous and campesino environmental groups in La Paz. Corea worked closely with Vásquez. “That’s why Félix was killed, but our struggle is just.” Via The Guardian and NPR Image via Trocaire

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Indigenous land defender Flix Vsquez murdered in Honduras

New study sheds light on Antarctic sea ice mystery

June 24, 2020 by  
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By now, most people have heard about polar ice melting due to  global warming . But the coming and going of the sea ice surrounding Antarctica still leaves scientists puzzled. Recent research has shed light on changes in sea ice. Antarctica is known for its dynamic  sea ice , which contracts and extends seasonally, yet unpredictably. The drop in sea ice from 2015 to 2016 was staggering — 463,322 square miles, about twice the size of France. The following year, a Netherlands-sized hole melted within the sea ice. Geologists call this unfrozen expanse of open water within ice a polynya. Related: New map exposes secrets of Antarctica’s green snow So, what is happening to Antarctica’s sea ice? Recently,  Geophysical Research Letters  published new satellite research paired with data collected from ocean-faring floats. This research suggests that extremely powerful  storms  in the Weddell Sea whipped up warm winds, which lashed the icepack and brought on the 2015-2016 France-size melt. Storms started in September 2015, and the heat continued, causing the region’s hottest November on record. This weather created Antarctica’s first polynya in almost forty years. The polynya’s dark water absorbed more solar heat, leading to more melting. Then, another storm struck in December, further shrinking the ice. On March 24, 2015,  Antarctica  experienced its then-highest ever recorded temperature of 63.5 degrees. This February, the icy continent broke that record when it hit 65 degrees. “Variability in Antarctic sea ice extent is very large, and detecting an anthropogenic signal is going to be difficult,” said John Turner, a climate expert with the British Antarctic Survey, as reported by  Earther . “The increase up to 2014 was a surprise, considering the ice loss in the Arctic, and the rapid drop in 2016 added to the long list of questions about Antarctic sea ice. It’s unclear whether the sea ice extent will recover to 2014 values or if this the start of the long-term decline expected as  greenhouse gas  concentrations increase.” + Earther Images via Pexels and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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Children hurt after Delta jet dumps fuel on schools

January 16, 2020 by  
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On January 14, a Delta jet malfunctioned and dumped jet fuel over Los Angeles-area schools. The incident injured more than 50 people, including students from Park Avenue Elementary, San Gabriel Elementary, Graham Elementary, Tweedy Elementary, 93rd Street Elementary and Jordan High School. Currently, injuries such as skin and eye irritation and breathing problems have been reported. As the Los Angeles Unified School District said, “Students and staff were on the playground at the time and may have been sprayed by fuel or inhaled fumes.” Several people affected by the fuel were treated on-site. A “reverse 911” text message was sent out to locals, informing them of the event, noting affected areas and advising residents on how to proceed. The L.A. County Fire Department also updated its Twitter with the number of patients affected at each school site. As of Tuesday evening, the patient count included 31 patients from Park Avenue Elementary, six patients from Tweedy Elementary, one patient from Graham Elementary and six patients from San Gabriel Elementary. The Delta flight in question was Flight 89 to Shanghai , which apparently experienced an engine malfunction after takeoff. According to Delta, safe landing procedures following such a malfunction required fuel release — though the Federal Aviation Administration commented that fuel-dumping procedures “call for fuel to be dumped over designated unpopulated areas, typically at higher altitudes so the fuel atomizes and disperses before it reaches the ground.” This event isn’t the first environmental issue Park Avenue Elementary has faced, either. For an eight-month period between 1989 and 1990, the school was closed due to a mysterious ooze appearing. Investigation then discovered that the school was formerly the site of a city dump . As Elizabeth Alcantar, recently appointed mayor of Cudahy, said, “The very same playground experienced another environmental injustice. For our residents, they’re rightfully upset, and there is concern over when this will truly be over.” Via L.A. Times and CNN Image via Pixabay

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5 Tips for a Plastic-Free Flight

June 1, 2018 by  
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The airline industry is infamous for its huge carbon footprint. When … The post 5 Tips for a Plastic-Free Flight appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Join the Wave: Wear Blue & March for the Ocean on June 9

June 1, 2018 by  
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June 9 could be a historic day for the Earth’s … The post Join the Wave: Wear Blue & March for the Ocean on June 9 appeared first on Earth911.com.

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NASA plans to send a helicopter to Mars

May 14, 2018 by  
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A small, autonomous helicopter could soon soar above the rusty rocks of Mars . Dubbed the Mars Helicopter, the rotorcraft is hitching a ride to the Red Planet as part of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission. The BBC said this could be the first test of “heavier-than-air aircraft on another planet.” “After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world,” NASA’s Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said . The technology demonstration has been many years in the making; it started in 2013 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The Mars Helicopter weighs just under four pounds, with a fuselage about as big as a softball. It has twin, counter-rotating blades that will slice the air at nearly 3,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), which, according to NASA , is “about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth.” Related: NASA unveils plan to make oxygen on Mars Solar cells will help the Mars Helicopter charge its lithium-ion batteries , and it’s equipped with a heating mechanism to survive frigid Martian nights. NASA is planning as many as five flights over a 30-day test campaign. The first flight could see the Mars Helicopter fly up to 10 feet and hover there for around 30 seconds. As it flies farther and longer in following tests, it could travel “up to a few hundred meters” and soar for around 90 seconds. JPL Mars Helicopter project manager Mimi Aung said in NASA’s statement, “The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up. To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and powerful as it can possibly be.” NASA describes the Mars Helicopter as a high-risk, high-reward project. The agency said in their statement if the technology demonstration doesn’t work, the Mars 2020 mission won’t be impacted — but if it does, “helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground level.” + NASA Via the BBC Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech

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AeroMobil reveals flying taxi that transforms from car to electric airplane

March 26, 2018 by  
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Designed for both the skies and the streets, the AeroMobil 5.0 is the latest futuristic creation from the Slovakia-based flying car company. Rather than taking off as a traditional airplane does, the AeroMobil 5.0 is able to gain altitude through vertical thrust from powerful rotors embedded in retractable wings that deploy when you are ready to hit the skies. A rear propeller provides the vehicle with midair thrust. Billed as the “first and only electric VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing vehicle) to also drive on the road,” the AeroMobil 5.0 could potentially someday be your taxi, offering convenient flights right at your doorstep. The AeroMobil 5.0 is designed to complement previous models of flying car from the company, including the AeroMobil 4.0. “The multi-product strategy means we can provide urban travel with the AeroMobil 5.0 VTOL and intra-city travel with the AeroMobil 4.0 STOL,” said Juraj Vaculik, co-founder and CEO of AeroMobil, in a statement . “Our strategy solves the limitations of alternative VTOL concepts which are tied to dedicated landing pods rather than also using the existing road infrastructure .” Related: Uber and NASA team up to launch flying taxis by 2020 The AeroMobil 5.0 is designed to seat four passengers, with each rider having access to a personalized experience thanks to a sophisticated advanced data, communications and media system onboard. The cumulative experience at AeroMobil and developed technologies upon which the new flying car is based has made the company quite confident in its ability to finally deliver on that long-held dream of owning, or at least riding in, a flying car. “AeroMobil 4.0 STOL uses several patented technologies, a highly innovative combustion engine and has the benefit of using existing aerospace and automotive technology, combined in a unique way, thus achieving far greater energy efficiency , speed and range than any electric VTOL,” said AeroMobil Chairman Patrick Hessel in a statement . “It is also designed within existing regulation , hence enabling much sooner go-to-market in 2020 than the electric VTOL category, which in general is being mooted as ready for shipment in 2025”. Via Carscoops Images via AeroMobil

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Uber and NASA team up to launch flying taxis by 2020

November 8, 2017 by  
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Although Uber has suffered some setbacks recently in Europe, having recently been banned from London’s streets , it seems to be clear skies in the United States for the ride-hailing/future self-driving car company. In a speech at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Jeff Holden, head of product at Uber, announced that the company has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA to design and enact an air traffic control system for its prospective flying taxi fleet as part of its Uber Elevate service. Uber hopes to get its taxis airborne by 2020, with three cities – Dallas-Fort Worth, Dubai, and now Los Angeles – serving as test sites. With its agreement to develop software with NASA, Uber has taken one step closer towards take-off. In a video shown at Uber’s NASA collaboration announcement, the public is offered a look into how Uber Elevate would function. Just as it is for its earthbound service, users would hail a cab using the app. After booking a flight , users would head towards a designated port, shown on top of a tall building in the video, where they would board their taxi. The video demonstrates the flying taxi’s traffic dodging ability by showing riders soaring over gridlock and highways-turned-parking-lots. The company claims that the flying taxi service could turn an hour and a half drive from LAX to the Staples Center in Los Angeles into a half hour pleasure cruise. “Closer than you think” is the tagline that concludes the video, hinting that the long-promised future featuring flying cars may finally be arriving. Related: Airbus’ flying electric taxi is on track to soar next year Uber’s flying taxis, and those of other companies hoping to get into the game, are known as vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft. By design, they are easier to land and take off because of their ability to hover in place. Uber is partnering with five companies, Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Mooney and Bell Helicopter, to procure its vehicles, all of which will be electric . Uber is similarly partnering with ChargePoint to enable its vehicles to quickly recharge at vehicleports. Perhaps most ambitiously, Uber intends for its Elevate service to be priced similar to its UberX service. With credible collaborators in tow and a globally established brand, the sky seems to be the limit for Uber . Via Engadget Images via Uber

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Groundbreaking quark fusion generates 10 time as much energy as nuclear fusion

November 8, 2017 by  
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Physicists at Tel Aviv University and University of Chicago have discovered that quark fusion, involving the tiny particles known as quarks of which protons and neutrons are made, is an even more potentially energy-packed reaction than much-touted nuclear fusion . Although the scientists were originally concerned about quark fusion’s potential destructive power and had considered keeping the discovery secret, they came to learn that the process, still theoretical, would most likely be safe for civilian use. The newly identified kind of reaction, which could yield up to ten times as much energy as nuclear fusion, could be the answer to endless clean energy someday. A fusion reaction, whether nuclear or quark, occurs when two or more atomic nuclei are close enough to each other to form at least one different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. In fusing, the involved reactants and products release an enormous amount of energy, which could theoretically be harvested as nearly-infinite clean energy , the holy grail of renewable technology. A quark reaction, which could yield up to ten times as much energy as nuclear fusion, involves the fusion of bottom quarks, subsequently resulting in a larger subatomic particle, a spare particle known as a nucleon, and an enormous output of energy.  It’s reaction is so potent that it is potentially more powerful than the reaction at the center of an exploding hydrogen bomb. Related: These mini spherical reactors could help scale fusion energy by 2030 “I must admit that when I first realized that such a reaction was possible, I was scared,” said Marek Karliner, quark fusion co-researcher at Tel Aviv University, “but, luckily, it is a one-trick pony.” Nuclear explosions in hydrogen bombs gain their destructive power from chain reactions. Quark fusion, it seems, could not possibly be dangerous because bottom quarks disappear only a picosecond (1/1,000,000,000,000 of a second) after they form. There simply is not enough time for these subatomic particles to form a chain reaction. “If I thought for a microsecond that this had any military applications , I would not have published it,” Karliner said, according to Live Science. Although quark fusion remains in the theoretical stage, the researchers state that it could be achieved at the Large Haldron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider located in France . Via Live Science / Engadget Images via CERN , lead image via Deposit Photos

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Groundbreaking quark fusion generates 10 time as much energy as nuclear fusion

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