Archive for the ‘space mission’ Category

China’s Shenzhou-7 spacecraft, its melamine-contaminated milk & RP’s incapacity to do lab tests

September 27, 2008

The Beijing Space Command and Control Center announced the successful space walk of astronaut Zhai Zhigang who carried a Chinese flag outside the orbit module. The proud news of being the third country to ever do such a feat in space is bogged by the worsening embarrassment from the sale of melamine-tainted milk which sickened more than 53,000 children (mostly in China,) and blamed for the death of at least 4 people. Melamine-related illnesses had been reported in Taiwan, Shanghai, and Hong Kong.

The Chinese adulterated milk has crept into other dairy and food products including the popular “white rabbit” candies, chocolates, ice-cream, yoghurt, pastries and confectioner’s biscuits. This food safety scandal has been on-going since last year when China has been under criticism for improperly selling pet food, toys, toothpaste laced with industrial toxins. The European Union, Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are among countries which banned the Chinese imported milk.

Amid outrage versus greed and corruption, Prime Minster Wen Jiabao promised food safety and ethical standards in Chinese products. This year, the Philippines bought 2 million kilograms of milk from China. Monitoring by the Department of Health (DOH) for illnesses that may be ascribed to melamine-contamination in milk and dairy products is on-going.

The Philippines has meager laboratory capacity to undertake testing for melamine and other poisons. Authorities mull on sending specimens out to neighboring countries the way they did with the endosulfan scare and fatality identification during the sinking of Princess of the Stars three months ago. To avoid future embarrassments, a self-respecting country must put up a decent laboratory of its own. The government must not rely on its neighbors to do its laboratory work. (Photo Credits: AP; Annasea; brutaldolltx) =0=

Update: On September 29, 2008, the popular Cadbury cholocate has been recalled from sale in Great Britain in the wake of melamine-contamination scare. The recall doesn’t cover the Cadbury chocolates being sold in United States.

Water Is Detected in Mars!

August 1, 2008

Phoenix Mars Lander confirms the presence of water in the red planet. University of Arizona scientists say the vital and limiting factor of life as we know water to be on Earth is detected for the first time near the polar north of the intriguing planet on July 30, 2008.

The definitive confirmation of water away from Earth offers scientists clues on the origin, formation, evolution, and outcome of planetary systems. It brings new postulates regarding the habitability of heavenly bodies. The significant discovery of the Lander’s sophisticated instruments also strengthens the possibility of life in the solar system and in the outer reaches of space. Photo Credit: H2O on Earth/Toriaj

Mars Exploration: Inching Its Way To Find The Ultimate Proof Of Life

July 18, 2008

Space exploration is moving ahead to prove what we’ve long suspected. After years of myth and lore on what goes on in our solar system, a quintessential find might be in the offing. We’re at the brink of finding the most compelling evidence of life in Mars which could alter the way we look at ourselves and the space around us.

Not long after the Martian Phoenix Lander successfully landed on the red planet, the instruments discovered solid ice. Water, its liquid form, had been regarded as a vital ingredient for life to thrive. This week, scientists showed us new photos of the Martian landscape’s interior: brown rocky plains, meandering riverbeds, and red dunes against a dry mysterious horizon.

In astonishing detail which delighted geologists, Mars revealed more lakes, pools, towering cliffs, stone-covered plains, sandy basins, and dendritic gulleys reminiscent of the Arizona’s Grand Canyon carved over eons by what might be the work of water torrents.

Though the landscape looks sere, the awesome footprints of once flowing rivers are there. It’s said, the presence of clay-like substances called phyllosilicates, suggests liquid water percolated into the stony planet’s surface during the Noachian period, about 4.6 billion to 3.8 billion years ago.

“The big surprise from these new results is how pervasive and long-lasting Mars’ water was, and how diverse the wet environments were,” said Scott Murchie, Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM’s) principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

“Water must have been creating minerals at depth to get the signatures we see…What does this mean for habitability?…. It was a benign, water-rich environment for a long period of time,” said John Mustard of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who worked on the study. ScienceNews/Reuters (07/16/08, Fox, M.)

At the heart of our excitement, old controversies of space exploration roil. People of religion are wondering if finding life away from earth contravenes the teachings of faith. Those concerned with the economy think whether space travel is a waste of money which could benefit the millions of starving people on earth. Nations mull on what use we have with the mineral-rich real estate in Mars that will benefit mankind (Photo Credits: NASA, FUBerlin, DLR, AP, Reuters.)

The bottom line: We’re getting the fruits of the hardwork, ingenuity, vision, and will-power of men who want to advance the frontiers of human endeavor. With new discoveries at hand, old theories must go for better understanding of the secrets which lurks in the ink blackness of space. =0=

What’s up in Mars?

May 27, 2008

Amber sky, phantom vapor rising
Over a stretch of land, away from home
Ruddy-brown rocks,
Marbles polished by time
Furrowed river covered by sand
Jigsaw puzzles abound
Parched relics of ages
One must understand

AFM, 02/03/04

After the successful Martian travels of Viking in 1976 and the two rovers Spirit and Opportunity in 2004, Phoenix Mars Lander arrives on Sunday, May 25, 2008 on the north pole of the red planet—an intrepid odyssey of a spacecraft, 171 million miles from its earth launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida on August 4, 2007.

With a scaled price of $420 million and powered by solar panels and lithium batteries, the 3 month mission led by scientists from University of Arizona, aims to unravel more of the planet’s secrets whose polar latitudes might harbor clues of life or carry its building ingredients.

The Phoenix will dig down to the icy layer. It will examine soil in place at the surface, at the icy layer and in between. It will scoop up samples for analysis by its onboard instruments….Has Mars ever had life? How should humans prepare for exploring the planet? What can Mars teach us about climate change? (Phoenix Landing, Mission to the Martian Polar North, NASA, 5/08).

There are many questions to answer. The mission ignites fresh hopes and old controversies—- Will it find evidence of habitability in the Martian surface? Is money poured to fund the space program better spent in solving some of the world’s serious problems? What will the military do with the enormous potentials of outer space? Who’ll gain ownership of space and determine the property rights of celestial bodies? Is robotic exploration better than sending humans to the cosmos? For God believers, agnostics, and atheists, what does it mean if life is discovered away from planet earth?

A minor radio problem hinders the smooth operation of the lander two days after the successful landing, but Gary Napier of the Lockheed Martin Space Systems which built the spacecraft assured, “Phoenix has performed extremely well, beyond our expectations. Currently it is in great shape.” AFP (05/27/08.) ==0==