Video: Interview with SETI pioneer Frank Drake

Today the SETI Institute posted this interview of Frank Drake conducted during the June 2012 SETIcon by astronomy educator Andrew Fraknoi.

 The discussion ranged widely over Dr. Drake’s career and current thinking, and included reminiscences of Project OZMA, the very first experiment searching for signals from civilizations among the stars, and his current view of the Drake Equation (estimating the chances of intelligent life out there). He also reflects on a number of modern developments, including the discovery of numerous planets orbiting other stars and new ways of searching for extra-terrestrial civilizations.

Also from the caption:

Special Note: The audience at this special event received a reprint of Frank Drake’s personal history of the Drake Equation, published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in a series edited by Andrew Fraknoi. Because of its historical importance, this article is now available freely on the web at:…

ISS astronaut Mike Hopkins space work out demo

Speaking of exercise and diet to prevent bone loss in space, here is a video showing how astronaut Mike Hopkins goes about exercising during his stay on the International Space Station:


Astronaut Mike Hopkins, a lifelong athlete, worked closely with his strength and conditioning coach Mark Guilliams to develop these specially-designed workouts in orbit. Shown here, Hopkins is using the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device to perform this challenging workout. (100 Pull Ups, Push Ups, Sit Ups and Air Squats each.)

As part of his mission, Hopkins is a participant in a number of going medical studies and research experiments.

Pro K is one area of research Mike is helping with. For this study, the astronauts eat a low protein diet in an effort to minimize bone mineral loss. This will not only help future astronauts on long duration missions, but given the dietary trends in the U.S., this research will have direct public health significance helping us better understand protein-rich diets. Learn more about Pro K:…

Numerous benefits are already being realized from space station science such as vaccine development research, imagery that aids disaster relief and farming, and education programs that inspire future scientists, and engineers are just some examples. To learn more about benefits from ISS, visit:

Staying healthy is important for all astronauts going to space, but lifelong fitness is particularly important to Mike. To follow along with his workouts and other Astronaut workouts and activities, check out:

You can follow Astronaut Mike Hopkins on Twitter at: @AstroIllini

Sci-Tech: Totipotent stem cells derived from adult cells in new simple technique

I don’t post many items about biology but this developments sounds quite significant if it holds up:

The research will now be subject to yet more scrutiny as other teams try to replicate it. Cracks may yet appear. But right now it looks like that rarity: an actual breakthrough.

If so, the implications are huge. First and foremost, it promises an almost ridiculously simple route to regenerative medicine. There is a lot of work still to do, and many potential pitfalls before it could be applied to human patients, but in principle almost any illness caused by damaged or ageing tissue – heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and dozens of others – could be fixed this way.

That’s an exciting prospect, but as so often with stem cells, ethical concerns are lurking.

Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) activity underway on the ISS

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is described as follows:

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) was launched in June 2010 by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in strategic partnership with NanoRacks, LLC. Designed as a model U.S. national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education initiative, the program gives typically 300+ students across a participating community the ability to design and propose real microgravity experiments to fly in low Earth orbit, first aboard the final flights of the Space Shuttle, and then on the International Space Station (ISS) – America’s newest National Laboratory. SSEP is suitable for students in pre-college grades 5-12, 2-year community colleges, and 4-year colleges and universities. SSEP also affords a participating community a high level of media exposure at a time when STEM education is of national strategic importance.

In 2012, SSEP was extended to international communities through the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education, NCESSE’s new international arm.

SSEP is about immersing and engaging students and their teachers in every facet of real science—on the high frontier—so that students are given the chance to be scientists—and experience science firsthand.

This report includes videos  showing ISS astronaut  Koichi Wakata starting and stopping SSEP experiments  recently delivered to the station : VIDEOS: Astronaut Koichi Wakata Activating SSEP Mission 3b/4 Experiments on ISS – SSEP

These are video records of on-orbit activations, de-activations and other interactions associated with the SSEP Mission 3b and Mission 4 experiments by assigned astronaut Koichi Wakata (Japan). The videos were taken on the two (of six) scheduled SSEP Crew Interaction Days that have thus far taken place since the Cygnus spacecraft berthed at ISS on January 12, 2014, with the SSEP Mission 3b Falcon II and Mission 4 Orion experiment payloads.

Koichi’s activities are reported to all student flight teams via the SSEP Mission 4 and 3b to ISS: Experiments Log page, so that flight teams can mirror all activities in their vital ground truth experiments.

The next scheduled crew interaction with the experiment payloads is to take place on the third scheduled Crew Interaction Day, January 30, 2014 (Crew Interaction Day A+17). You can see the list of all expected January 30 crew interactions on the Experiment Log page.

Beings are making space liviable

This title is quite misleading: Beings Not Made for Space –

Human beings are also not made for living on the sea but we’ve learned how to do it for indefinite periods. We are learning how to live in space as well. For example, the degradation of bone density has long been a serious problem but has indicated in the article is now largely preventable with improved exercise and nutrition regimes.

The eye issue mentioned in the article has only recently started to receive serious research attention and already there are signs that it might be solvable with simple nutritional anti-oxidants: Orbital Samples With Sight-Saving Potential – NASA.

Note that living in space and living in microgravity are not synonymous.  I don’t know of any space settlement advocate who has promoted long term residency in microgravity.  As the article hints at, habitats in space can rotate to provide spin gravity, which can reduce or eliminate the effects of microgravity. The large wheel-shaped space station  seen in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey is the iconic  approach to this.

2001: A Space Odyssey Poster
2001: A Space Odyssey film poster

For long distance transports, a centrifuge could be added to provide some fraction of a G, which should be sufficient to prevent or ameliorate microgravity problems. A recent version of such a vehicle is the Nautilus-X concept, which was designed by Mark Holderman and Edward Henderson of NASA Johnson Space Center. If NASA was not wasting vast amounts of money on SLS/Orion,  in-space infrastructure systems like this could be under development today.

NautilusX_ExtendedDuration_425x365Nautilus-X concept for in-space transport.

Radiation protection requires shielding, not magic. Habitats on the Moon or Mars are easily shielded with regolith. In-space transports may not get radiation levels down to that of the earth at sea level but a lot can be done by surrounding living areas with all the water, foodstuffs, equipment, propellants, waste, etc that are coming along on the trip as well. Space transports should be designed from the start with radiation exposure reduction has a key goal. Eventually, material shielding may  be supplemented with magnetic shielding as well.

People are almost certainly going to live in space permanently at some point. The human spaceflight programs of today are learning how to make that happen.


See the HobbySpace Living in Space section for lots of resources on the microgravity health effects, radiation shielding, etc.

Update Jan.31.14: Some comments about this post: Beings Making Space Livable – Transterrestrial Musings