Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

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Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

Each week we find the most interesting and informative articles we can and along the way we uncover amazing and cool images. Here you’ll discover 10 incredible photos and the stories behind them.

Giant ice crack:

A starkly beautiful aerial image shows a 70-mile-long crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf.

[Full Story: 70-Mile-Long Crack Opens Up in Antarctica]

Blob beauty:

A mysterious giant sea blob whose very existence was questioned has been rediscovered a century after its first sighting.

[Full Story: ‘Mythical’ Sea Blob Finally Spotted a Century After Its Discovery]

Cosmic dust:

Microscopic particles from space have been collecting in the gutters of Paris, Oslo and Berlin, revealing incredible insights to the mysteries of our solar system.

[Full Story: Ancient Space Dust Washes Up in Rooftop Gutters]

Goggle-wearing parrot:

A parrot wears tiny, red-tinted goggles and flaps through laser-lit airborne particles to test computer models that explain how animals fly — and shows that there’s room for improvement.

[Full Story: How Lasers and a Goggle-Wearing Parrot Could Aid Flying Robot Designs]

Galactic tangles:

A striking new image from the Hubble Space Telescope captures an extremely detailed view of the galaxy NGC 4696 and the tangled, thread-like filaments stretching from its bright galactic core.

[Full Story: What Tangled Web: Galaxy’s Messy ‘Threads’ Star in New Pic]

Aru glacier:

An avalanche of ice that killed nine in western Tibet may be a sign that climate change has come to the region, a new study finds.

[Full Story: Culprit of Deadly Tibet Avalanche: Climate Change]

Dino tail:

About 99 million years ago, an unlucky juvenile dinosaur wandered into a sticky trap and sacrificed a chunk of its tail.

[Full Story: Feathered Dinosaur Lost Its Tail in Sticky Trap 99 Million Years Ago]

Giraffes in trouble:

Giraffe populations have taken a nose dive, leading to their new designation as “threatened with extinction,” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

[Full Story: Giraffes Are Threatened with Extinction]

Ancient tumor:

A tiny tumor likely caused a big toothache 255 million years ago for an animal called a gorgonopsian.

[Full Story: 255-Million-Year-Old Tumor Is Oldest of its Kind]

Greenland melting:

Greenland’s ice shrank dramatically in the past — and could disappear again.

[Full Story: Unfrozen: Greenland Was Once Ice-Free for 280,000 Years]

These Dinosaur Feathers Trapped in Amber Are Ridiculously Cool

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These Dinosaur Feathers Trapped in Amber Are Ridiculously Cool

Thursday 12:00pm

Image: Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM/ R.C. McKellar)

Scientists have discovered a dinosaur tail with its feathers still intact trapped inside a piece of amber. It’s absolutely incredible.

These aren’t the first feathers to be found encased in amber, but they’re in such pristine condition that scientists can say they most definitely come from a dinosaur and not some kind of prehistoric bird. These feathers could very well be the first non-avian (i.e. non-bird) dino fragments found preserved in amber. This discovery, the details of which now appear in the journal Current Biology, is shedding new light on the finer details of dino feathers and how they evolved—details that can’t be inferred from conventional fossils alone.

Image: Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM/ R.C. McKellar)

Incredibly, the lead author of the new study, Lida Xing from the China University of Geosciences in Beijing, found the remarkable specimen at a market in Myanmar last year. The people selling the chunk of amber figured it contained some kind of plant matter, and that it would make for a nice piece of jewelry or a cool curiosity piece. Xing immediately recognized its scientific potential and recruited Ryan McKellar of the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Canada to aid in the analysis.

Artistic impression of a young coelurosaur. (Image: Chung-tat Cheung)

Using a CT scanner and a microscope, the researchers were able to analyze the amber piece in detail. They say the feathered tail belongs to a young coelurosaur, a family of bird-like carnivorous dinosaurs that lived during the Cretaceous era about 99 million years ago.

Image: Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM/ R.C. McKellar)

“The [amber] material preserves a tail consisting of eight vertebrae from a juvenile; these are surrounded by feathers that are preserved in 3D and with microscopic detail,” noted McKellar in a statement.

Image: Royal Saskatchewan Museum (RSM/ R.C. McKellar)

Analysis shows that the upper surface of the tail was colored a chestnut-brown, and the underside a pale white. The feathers’ structure lacked a well-developed central shaft, or rachis, a feature found in modern bird feathers. But the feathers did have barbs and barbules—a pattern of branching found in modern feathers—suggesting that this feature arose quite early in the evolution of feathers.

The researchers are hoping to find more such artifacts in the future. “Amber pieces preserve tiny snapshots of ancient ecosystems, but they record microscopic details, three-dimensional arrangements, and…tissues that are difficult to study in other settings,” noted McKellar. “This is a new source of information that is worth researching with intensity and protecting as a fossil resource.”

[Current Biology]

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Israel’s Submarines Acquisition – Strategy or Greed?

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Israel’s Submarines Acquisition – Strategy or Greed?

INS Rahav undergoing sea trials in the Baltics, 2015. Photo via Israel Navy

Stretched along the eastern Mediterranean Sea and linked to the Indian Ocean through the Gulf of Eilat and the Red-Sea, Israel has always strived to maintain a naval force to protect its maritime border and sea lines of communications. Since the 1970s, following repeated terror attacks from the sea, the Israeli Navy assumed the responsibility to combat terror at sea and along the coast. Since the late 2000s, after major discoveries of natural gas reserves offshore, the Navy also added a new role – the security of the country’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) and protection of offshore marine infrastructures.

Since the induction of the Dolphin class submarines in the 2000s, the Israeli Navy also assumed a strategic Deterrent role. According to unconfirmed foreign reports, Israel’s Dolphinclass submarines are equipped with oversized tubes capable of launching nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that can provide the country a retaliatory second strike capability, in case Israel is attacked and its first line of strategic assets – ballistic missiles and attack aircraft – are destroyed by surprise, nuclear attack.

These added responsibilities come with a growing piece of Israel’s defense pie, a larger share of the acquisition budget and more attention at the highest levels in the Ministry of Defense and Prime Minister office. In recent years, senior naval officers were selected for prominent positions in the MOD R&D department (DR&DD), Defense Export Agency (SIBAT), Intelligence agencies (Mossad), the National Security Council (Malal) and major government operated defense companies, to name only a few.

Unlike the air and land forces, that rely heavily on US Foreign Military Sales (FMS), the Navy maintained independent procurement sources in Israel and Europe. Since the 1960s Israel’s Navy surface ships were all constructed in Israel by the Israel Shipyards and IAI. The exception were two Shimrit class hydrofoils built in the USA in the 1980s (and scrapped a few years later), and three Saar V corvettes, constructed in the 1990s in the USA and are in service today.

As for the submarine force, since the late 1960s Israel maintains a fleet of three submarines (which allows the Navy to keep at least two operational subs at any time). The loss of INS Dakar in 1968 left the Navy with only two subs for eight years, until the first Type 209 Gal class submarine 1976 was launched. Type 209 were the first subs designed and built specifically for the Israeli requirements by the German submarine designer Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), although these boats were built in the UK.

The Israel Navy maintained close relations with HDW in the following years, with the design and construction of a larger class subs – the Dolphin. These submarines were built in Kiel in Germany and provided a significant boost strengthening the German shipyard.

The acquisition cycles of Israeli submarines accelerated over time. From 20 years between the Gal and Dolphin generation, the period reduced to 12-16 years between Dolphin I and Dolphin II (AIP). The reduced cycle means the Israel Navy can now operate several submarines simultaneously, while the other are undergoing heavy maintenance. The recent decision to buy three additional, yet unnamed submarines in the next ten years sets the next cycle at only 10-13 years, from the current buy, maintaining Israel’s capability to operate four submarines simultaneously through the 2030s.

What is the rush? Why does Israel require such increased capability?

The simple answer: increased operational tempo that evolved with the growing operations of naval forces in the area; however, this argument is weak. The ongoing peace with Egypt, the Syrian Civil War and crippled state of Libya all mean reduced threat to Israel’s security, at least from the symmetric, naval side.

However, the Iranian threat is growing. The reasonable need to maintain long-range deterrence patrols added new missions to Israel’s submarine force. According to foreign sources, Israel’s submarines carry cruise missiles that can attack targets at ranges beyond 1,000 miles. While such missiles could hit targets in western Iran, when launched from the Eastern Mediterranean, the Israeli subs could hold the entire territory of Iran at risk, from positions in the Indian Ocean or inside the Persian Gulf.

Israel would likely keep these patrols secret and avoid sailing in the Suez Canal, thus sending its subs on voyages that would take weeks, through the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Once one operational submarine is committed to such extended patrols, the Navy would likely require two boats for missions in the Mediterranean.

Such arguments would likely be part of the rhetoric used by Israel’s leadership, arguing for the increase of the nation’s submarine force to six, even nine boats. However, this recommendation faced stiff opposition from the Ministry of Defense, due to the high acquisition and operational cost (€500 – 650 million per boat) competing with other priorities. The resignation of Defense Minister Ya’alon from office paved the way for the submarine deal to continue.

But there is another side of the coin – the German side. As explained above, the Israeli Navy has been a loyal and regular client of the HDW shipyard in Kiel, which is now part of the ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) industrial conglomerate. These close relations are likely to continue – despite the revelations that Iranian and UAE corporations have minority holding in it. Notwithstanding these ties, Israel and Germany have signed a contract worth €430 million to build four Saar VI Magen stealth corvettes, based on the German Blohm & Voss designed Classe 130. Soon to be launched third Dolphin II class submarine – Dakar is also a major undertaking soon expected in Kiel.

But the workload at the shipyards has diminished dramatically in recent years. As Type 212 deliveries to the German and Italian Navies completed and construction of Type 214 designs moved overseas, the shipyard will be under pressure to lay off part of its workforce. These hands are critical to maintaining the skills and know-how for the two Type 218SG submarines on contract for the Singapore Navy (the first slated for delivery in three years). Earlier in 2016 TKMS management still hoped to win an A$36 Billion mega-deal in Australia, but after losing this opportunity, the submarine shipyards are striving for a sustainable business for the remaining of the next decade. The prospects for the near term are slim – a future submarine support program in Peru and shortlisting as one of two bidders in Norway. Hence, reaffirming Israel’s commitment to buy three submarines in the future would be a life saver for the crippled shipyard, even if it means a long term prospect.

The decision to proceed with a memorandum of agreement between the Governments of Israel and Germany at this stage is understandable and serves the interests of both sides. But the attempts on both sides to cover the deal are wrong.

Prime Minister Netanyahu claim that the decision is a matter of national security is true but, setting all strategic arguments aside, these moves should be managed by Government officials and diplomats, not by sales agents or private counselors. Furthermore, the investigation of the former deputy of Israel’s National Security Council, who was an active supporter of the submarine deal, adds an unpleasant odor of corruption to the top of Israel’s national security pyramid.

In space, John Glenn saw the face of God: ‘It just strengthens my faith’

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In space, John Glenn saw the face of God: ‘It just strengthens my faith’

First Published 3 hours ago      Updated 3 hours ago
Image result for Image of John Glenn
Image result for Image of John Glenn

John Glenn, who died Thursday at age 95, was an American hero: a trailblazer in science and a devoted public servant on Earth as well as in the heavens. He was also a man of deep faith, with a vantage point on God’s handiwork that few humans experience.

“To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible,” Glenn told reporters in 1998, just after returning from his final trip to space at age 77. “It just strengthens my faith.”

On his spaceflights, he said, he prayed every day. On solid ground, he was a devout Presbyterian who attended National Presbyterian Church in Washington while he was in the U.S. Congress

As the first American to orbit the Earth, Glenn was an example to those who came after him not just for his bravery and scientific acumen but also for his faith, Mark Shelhamer said Thursday.

“John Glenn is always used as that paradigmatic example of somebody who had a strong faith before becoming an astronaut, and for him it was reinforced by his experience in space,” said Shelhamer, a Johns Hopkins University medical professor who recently served as the chief scientist for human research at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

There have been many astronauts who followed Glenn who found their experiences in space to be singular moments that deepened their faith in God. James Irwin came back from walking on the moon convinced that he should dedicate his life to his religion and founded the evangelizing High Flight Foundation. He died in 1991 at age 61.

Buzz Aldrin, who was an elder at his Presbyterian church, decided as one of his first acts during man’s first landing on the moon to serve himself Communion. “In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup,” he said later, describing the moment.

“You will hear this from astronauts not infrequently – that they have felt the kind of oneness of humanity,” Shelhamer said.

In an interview last year, Glenn advocated for lessons on evolution in public schools. He told The Associated Press, “I don’t see that I’m any less religious by the fact that I can appreciate the fact that science just records that we change with evolution and time, and that’s a fact. It doesn’t mean it’s less wondrous and it doesn’t mean that there can’t be some power greater than any of us that has been behind and is behind whatever is going on.”

Science and faith could coexist at the very highest levels, he insisted – just as they had in his life.


Israel readies for ‘super-tech’ stealth fighters

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Mike Smith,AFP Fri, Dec 9 6:27 PM PST

Jerusalem (AFP) – Israel will on Monday receive its first F-35 stealth fighter jets, hailed as technological marvels whose helmets alone cost more than most people’s homes but criticised for their price and initial flaws.

Built by US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, the first two planes’ arrival in Israel is being welcomed as a major event for the country’s military as it seeks to maintain dominance in the turbulent Middle East.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter is to attend the arrival along with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman at the Nevatim air base in the country’s south.

The delivery of the first two of 50 F-35s to be purchased by Israel comes as the years-long development of the most expensive plane in history reaches a critical stage.

While a list of countries have ordered the planes, Israel, which receives more than $3 billion a year in US defence aid, will be the first with an operational F-35 squadron outside the United States.

“I think we don’t fully understand the big advantage of the F-35,” an Israeli air force official said.

“I think it’s going to be learned in the next few months, maybe years. I think it’s a very super-tech airplane.”

Israel has given it the name “Adir” — which means “mighty” in Hebrew. Its first planes are expected to be operational within a year after delivery.

It will be receiving the F-35A model for standard takeoff and landings. The B and C models are for short takeoffs and aircraft carriers.

Among their main features are advanced stealth capabilities to help pilots evade sophisticated missile systems.

The single-pilot jets can carry an array of weapons and travel at a supersonic speed of Mach 1.6, or around 1,200 miles per hour (around 1,900 kilometres per hour).

It is unclear if Israel’s planes will be able to deliver nuclear bombs. Israel is believed to be the Middle East’s sole nuclear-armed power, though it has never acknowledged it.

– High-tech helmet –

The ultra-high-tech helmet, at a cost of some $400,000 each, sounds like something out of a science-fiction film.

It includes its own operating system, with data that appears on the helmet visor and is also shared elsewhere.

Thermal and night vision as well as 360-degree views are possible with cameras mounted on the plane.

Israeli firm Elbit Systems has been involved in the helmet’s production.

In Israel, the planes, designed for multiple combat situations, will initially replace a group of ageing F-16s.

They are seen as helping the country maintain its edge in the Middle East, particularly as its main enemy Iran seeks further influence in the region.

“The F-35 has been designed to deal with the most advanced threat systems now being fielded in the Middle East,” Lockheed Martin’s Steve Over told AFP by email.

Israel is especially concerned over whether Iran will seek to develop nuclear weapons by violating the international accord it has signed with world powers aimed at preventing it.

The country is also keeping an eye on Lebanon’s powerful Shiite militant group Hezbollah, with which Israel fought a devastating war in 2006.

Beyond that, in neighbouring Syria, Russia has deployed the sophisticated S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft systems as it conducts an air campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

– ‘Only game in town’ –

Israel is buying its first 33 jets at an average price of about $110 million (103.5 million euros) each.

The government last month approved the purchase of the remaining 17.

As a comparison, in 2001, Israel agreed to buy 52 additional F-16s from Lockheed Martin at a total cost of $1.3 billion.

While the technology can seem dazzling, there have been questions over whether the plane will be worth the cost.

A list of flaws have been uncovered, including one where pilots who weighed less than 136 pounds (62 kilos) risked being killed by its eject system.

There have also been software bugs and technical glitches, though Lockheed Martin assures such issues have been overcome.

Some in Israel have also said the price of the planes will limit the number that can ultimately be purchased, while losing any in combat will be particularly costly.

There have also been questions over whether upgrades to the air force’s existing fleet could have sufficed.

But the F-35 was “the only game in town” since Israel relies so heavily on US defence aid, said Yiftah Shapir of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

“We couldn’t go and buy French or British or Russian,” he said. “When you have an ally like the United States, the United States would not have allowed that.”

In the United States, the air force declared an initial squadron of F-35As ready for combat in August, without giving a timeline for actual combat.

The US Marine Corps in 2015 announced that a first group of F-35Bs had attained initial operational capability, though these too have not yet been used in combat.

One of Saturn’s moons may be our best option for life after Earth

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One of Saturn’s moons may be our best option for life after Earth
One of Saturn’s moons may be our best option for life after Earth
Artist’s rendition of a methane rainstorm on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.Photo: NASA

It’s several hundred years into the future. You live in a cold climate, but thick clothing keeps you warm. You eat food from the community greenhouse. Sometimes you even go boating, spending tranquil days under the orange sky. Life is similar in some ways to how it is now. In other ways, it’s very different.

For one thing, you can fly.

Also — your body is now permanently incapable of adapting to Earth’s atmosphere, and you can never return.

This is life on Titan, the largest of Saturn’s more than 50 moons.

The scenario isn’t as outlandish as you think. According to Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R. Hendrix, Ph.D., the authors of “Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets” (Pantheon Books), Titan will be the most natural place for Earthlings in the future, rather than the more commonly known alternative, Mars.

Science, they say, has found that Mars will likely remain uninhabitable. Titan, however, could be surprisingly adaptive for humans fleeing planet Earth because of a global war, natural disaster, decimation of our resources or other unseen event.

The authors note that Mars once had “large bodies of water” and a rain-producing atmosphere. But that’s gone now, replaced by “peroxide-like chemicals toxic enough to sterilize the surface of any life similar to what we know on Earth,” most likely due to electrons from the Sun that destroyed its atmosphere.

Other planets have been investigated as well. For a time, scientists were optimistic about Venus, a heavenly body sometimes referred to as “Earth’s twin.” But information gathered by the Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962 found the planet’s surface to be “hotter than a baking oven,” with an average surface temperature of 870 degrees Fahrenheit.

“[The planet’s] atmosphere is much too thick, much too hot, and contains corrosive sulfuric acid, and the winds at high altitudes are ferocious. At the surface, the atmosphere is as heavy as the deep sea on Earth. Human beings couldn’t go there.”

The planet Mercury, meanwhile, is the “weirdest and least appealing to visit” of the “four rocky inner planets” (along with Earth, Venus and Mars), as it’s “tiny, lacks an atmosphere, and is dominated by its close proximity to the Sun.”

But while the closest planets hold little hope for colonization, Titan — which is seven years away from Earth — has many factors that could more easily sustain human life.

When NASA’s Cassini probe, which arrived at Saturn in 2004 and will continue sending information throughout next year, flew over Titan, it found “something that looked smooth, like a lake,” with “branching shapes that looked exactly like the channels, bays, and coves of a shoreline on Earth.” At certain points, the sunlight glinting off the lake “looked exactly like afternoon light reflecting off lake waters on Earth.”

While Titan has “the only surface liquids in the solar system other than Earth,” there are, of course, significant differences as well.

“Its enormous lakes hold many more hydrocarbons than have ever been discovered on our planet,” the authors write. “Cassini’s gravitational measurements suggest that a slushy ocean of water lies within Titan, but the clouds, rain, rivers and lakes on the surface are liquid ethane and methane, like the contents of liquefied natural gas tankers. Titan has weather, beaches, and tides, but it is colder than a deep freeze.”
Titan is seen orbiting around Saturn.Photo: Handout

Given our familiarity with ethane and methane, “Titan’s landscape is buried in fuel we could harvest and burn with technology hardly more advanced than the gas furnace found in a typical American house.”

Titan’s atmosphere is “mostly nitrogen, like Earth’s but without oxygen,” the lack of which would make both burning fuels and breathing impossible.

But beneath the surface, Titan’s mass is made up of “water ice or slush,” which contains plenty of oxygen. Its water ice can be run through an electrical field, powered by a small nuclear reactor, to release the water. This process, called electrolysis, is how astronauts breathe aboard the International Space Station.

“The colonists [on Titan] could also breathe it,” the authors write, “and could use it to burn methane, which would provide plenty of energy.”

The power unleashed by burning the methane and oxygen, therefore, could power all life on Titan, including farming.

“With Titan power plants running on hydrocarbon fuels, colonists could build large, lighted greenhouses to grow food and process the carbon dioxide exhaust from fuel combustion back to oxygen.” They could create plastic with the resources on hand, and mine nearby asteroids for metals.

The authors cite Ralph Lorenz of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, who has written several books about Titan, as saying that it’s a place where “human beings could survive without space suits, walking around in warm clothes and oxygen masks, and could live in nonpressurized buildings.”

While the temperature is excessively cold — around -290 degrees Fahrenheit — “clothing with thick insulation or heating elements would keep you comfortable.”

One odd effect of Titan’s atmosphere, which is 50 percent greater than Earth’s with air four times as dense, is that “people can fly with very little difficulty in Titan’s low-gravity environment.”

‘The body changes shape as organs float upward in the chest cavity to new positions, and weight releases from joints.’

Titan, which is 50 percent larger in diameter than our own moon, has less gravity than it — in fact, it has just “14 percent of the gravity of the Earth.” Winged suits would allow people to “effortlessly glide great distances,” and even the smallest bit of propulsion, from “flapping wings attached to your arms” to “an electric-powered prop,” would enable full-on human flight.

Of course, this is all a long way off. For one thing, no human has ever traveled that far, and current signs show that even if we devise a way for people to do so, spaceflights of that length could have devastating consequences.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), for example, experience physical changes to their bodies.

“The body changes shape as organs float upward in the chest cavity to new positions, and weight releases from joints,” the authors write.

“Astronauts get taller, their waists contract and their chests expand. The brain is the most flexible of all, reprogramming itself to create its own frame of reference in a three-dimensional world without up or down.”

But while astronauts physically adapt in a way that caused astronaut Mike Barratt to comment, “We kind of turn into extraterrestrials,” the further into space we go, the more those changes will be unhealthy.

Sixty percent of astronauts who have endured long space flights have developed sometimes irreversible vision issues including “reduction of vision sharpness or blind spots,” thought to be caused by “constantly increased fluid pressure in the brain caused by weightlessness.” The authors note that while most ISS astronauts only fly six months at a time, longer missions, such as a proposed three-year mission to Mars, could cause “partial blindness.”

There are also concerns about possible effects of space on the human brain that haven’t been discovered yet, including increased risks of cancer or dementia.

From a practical standpoint, life in deep space would create other challenges. For one, weightlessness and diminished gravity would affect both sex in space, and the development of any children born there.

“Beyond Earth” authors Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R. Hendrix, Ph.D.Photo: Handout

While no studies on sex in space have been officially conducted, we do know it has happened, according to “insiders at the Johnson Space Center.” Apparently, “the fluid shift of weightlessness produced unwanted and even painful erections for some astronauts.” This weightlessness would also make copulation a challenge, as “without gravity, it would be difficult to create the right forces for penetration and thrusting.”

Assuming this problem was solved, weaker gravity could have dire consequences for children born in this atmosphere.

“Human reproduction may not work without full Earth-strength gravity,” the authors write.

“Environmental influences on developing brains and bodies can be permanent. Weak gravitational forces or weightlessness could shape children in drastically different ways … conception may require gravity. The placenta might not attach correctly.”

Even if ways are found to solve all these problems, children raised in a low-gravity environment would have bones and hearts too weak to handle Earth’s atmosphere — they could most likely never travel to our planet.

Given the number of variables, any consideration of a permanent human colony in space — which would certainly require procreation to advance the new civilization — is a long way off.

Cassini is scheduled to crash into Saturn, vaporizing the craft, late next year, and no follow-up mission is currently scheduled.

Still, even if you, your children, and possibly your grandchildren are doomed to spend your lives Earth-bound, your descendants will “go boating on lakes of liquid methane and fly like birds in the cold, dense atmosphere [of Titan], with wings on their backs.”


10 Prominent Early Astronauts Carrying on US Space History

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10 Prominent Early Astronauts Carrying on US Space History

Surviving AstronautsThe Associated Press
FILE – In this April 7, 2006, file photo, former Space Shuttle STS-1 miission pilot Robert Crippen, left, and commander John Young stand in front of a mock-up of a space shuttle before a news conference at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Fla. With the death of John Glenn, the last of the Mercury 7 astronauts, and the 2012 death of Neil Armstrong, more of early U.S. space history is fading. But many veteran Apollo and Gemini fliers still carry the rocket flame of those pioneering space exploration days. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)more +

Early U.S. space history is fading with the death of John Glenn, the last of the Mercury 7 astronauts, and the 2012 passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. But others survive, veterans of a time when Americans were glued to their television sets to watch their heroics, from fiery Saturn V launches to ocean splashdowns.

More than half of the first 30 astronauts NASA hired have died; 19 Apollo astronauts are still with us, including seven of the dozen men who walked on the moon. “There’s going to come a time and it’s probably going to be in the next decade or so when none of the moonwalkers are going to be left,” said National Air and Space Museum associate director Roger Launius.

“As this history recedes into the background and fewer and fewer people remember it, the more mythological it becomes,” he said. “The majority of the human race has been born since we’ve left the moon so they don’t have knowledge of it.”

Here are 10 U.S. pioneering astronauts who are part of living space history:



Image result for image of BUZZ ALDRIN

Image result for image of BUZZ ALDRIN

The second man to walk on the moon is still active promoting space travel, especially to Mars. The 86-year-old veteran of Apollo 11 and Gemini 12 made news recently when he fell ill while visiting Antarctica to study conditions similar to Mars. A Florida resident, he was released from a hospital in New Zealand on Friday.



Image result for image of MICHAEL COLLINS

Collins, 86, circled the moon while Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon during Apollo 11 in 1969, then went on to work for the U.S. State Department and become the first director of the National Air and Space Museum. Now living in Florida, Collins, who also flew on Gemini 10, makes a few public appearances; he has painted and written books.



Image result for Image of JAMES LOVELL

Image result for Image of JAMES LOVELL

Lovell, 88, was one of NASA’s most frequent early fliers, best known as the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, which teetered on catastrophe. Their ordeal later inspired a hit movie, in which Lovell was played by Tom Hanks (the real Lovell makes a brief appearance as a ship captain). He also flew on Gemini 7, Gemini 12 and the Apollo 8 mission that circled the moon for the first time. He lives in Illinois and makes public appearances, sometimes with Aldrin.



Fred HaiseThe Associated Press
Fred Haise

Haise, 83, was also on that aborted Apollo 13 mission. He was scheduled to command a flight to land on the moon, but it was cancelled. He served as a test pilot for the space shuttle prototype Enterprise and worked in the aerospace industry. Like many of the others on this list, he is the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and now lives in Texas.



Image result for Image of EUGENE CERNAN

Image result for Image of EUGENE CERNAN

Surviving AstronautsThe Associated Press
Surviving Astronauts

Cernan, 82, was the last man to walk on the moon as commander of Apollo 17 in 1972, offering a message of peace as he left the lunar landscape. Living in Texas, he has been active in trying to get NASA to return astronauts to the moon. He barely survived a harrowing experience in NASA’s second space spacewalk as part of Gemini 9. His story was recently told in the documentary “The Last Man On The Moon.”



Image result for Image of JOHN YOUNG

Image result for Image of JOHN YOUNG

Young, 86, was the first person to fly in space six times, including a stint commanding the first space shuttle flight in 1981. Before that he flew two Gemini missions and on Apollo 10 and 16. As commander of Apollo 16, he walked on the moon. He later became NASA’s chief astronaut and a tireless advocate of astronaut safety. He lives in Texas.



Image result for Image of FRANK BORMAN

Image result for Image of FRANK BORMAN

Borman, 88, commanded Apollo 8, the first flight in which humans circled the moon. It is a crew remembered today for their Christmas Eve broadcast, in which they read from Genesis and Borman signed off wishing blessings to “all of you on the good Earth” — a serene ending to the tumultuous year of 1968. He had previously flown in Gemini 7. He later became chief executive of the now-defunct Eastern Air Lines.



Photograph of Harrison Schmitt

Image result for image HARRISON "JACK" SCHMITT

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Schmitt, 81, was the first scientist astronaut, a geologist who got to walk on the moon on Apollo 17 and was the next to last person on the moon, getting in the lander before Cernan. He later was elected to the U.S. Senate from New Mexico. He teaches a bit at the University of Wisconsin and is a prominent scientist who rejects the mainstream view of man-made global warming.



Image result for Image of ALAN BEAN

Image result for Image of ALAN BEAN

Bean, 84, was the fourth man to walk on the moon in Apollo 12 and later turned from space toart , especially painting. His paintings often have a space theme. He lives in Texas.



Image result for Image of TOM STAFFORD

Image result for Image of TOM STAFFORD

Image result for Image of TOM STAFFORD

Stafford, 86, commanded Apollo 10, the second flight around the moon, which preceded Apollo 11’s moon landing. Stafford, who also flew on two Gemini flights, later commanded the Apollo-Soyuz test program, which paved the way for U.S.-Soviet cooperation. A Florida resident, he would go in to a career in NASA management and was often consulted as an outside expert for the space agency after he retired.


This story has been corrected to show the number of living Apollo astronauts is 19, not 17.