Jul 13, 2022 Episode 107
All about space – our special space capsule with over 45 minutes of the whippiest, wackiest, most factual and fun space news from the last two years on Newsy Pooloozi!
All about space – our special space capsule with over 45 minutes of the whippiest, wackiest, most factual and fun space news from the last two years on Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: This is the special Newsy Pooloozi space capsule – yes, we’re travelling to the stars with over half an hour’s worth of space news.
OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”
LEELA: Hello, I’m Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and for the month of July we have a very special bit of programming we’re doing.
MAMA: That’s right. I’m Lyndee Prickitt, Leela’s sidekick and Newsy Pooloozi producer.
LEELA: And my mama!
MAMA: Yes, that too. So, we realize we do a lotttttttttt of new stories about the same topics. So, we’re going to enter into capsule mode this month. As in – encapsulate – to put stories of a similar topic into a single episode or capsule.
LEELA: One is about a subject we LOVE – yes, we’re talking space stories!
MAMA: We have tons of space news and background stories all about the galaxy.
LEELA: So, we’re gonna put them all in one single place – a “space capsule” get it?
MAMA: Which we’re doing this week!
LEELA: But… we’ve also done quite a lot of stories about things we don’t necessarily looove, but that we… have… a…
MAMA: Let’s say a fearful fascination with.
LEELA: Yeah like… creepy crawlies! Why do we do so many stories about bugs and spiders, lizards and snakes?! Yiiiick!
MAMA: Like I say, sometimes we’re fascinated by the things that scare us the moost.
LEELA: Or that FREAK us out!
MAMA: Yes, that would be the other topic we have covered A LOT on Newsy Pooloozi.
LEELA: Poo! Yep, you heard me right. We cover a lot of poo news. Or excrement, if you prefer.
MAMA: So, we’ll be putting together a poo capsule too – for later this month.
MAMA: So – let’s dive deep into each one of these categories.
LEELA: This week – we have the… Space Capsule (dee-nee-nee-nee).
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: Episode- 17- Starman and space nugget
LEELA: Sit back and buckle up.
Yep, this is not a joke. But it’s also not a man. Or a woman. But a mannequin, of course.
Dressed in an astronaut’s suit and seated inside a red Tesla Roadster! It’s been cruising across the Milky Way since being blasted into space almost two years ago.
Starman’s snazzy vehicle actually belonged to Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, before it was repurposed for greater things. It’s traveled nearly 1.3 billion miles. Well, now Starman is near Mars. But that’s not the only weird thing in space…
Move over Starman… we’ve put mannequins, astronauts and even chimpanzees into orbit… But that’s nothing compared to the latest space traveler… The chicken nugget… reaching heights of more than 110-thousand feet above Earth! And if that wasn’t odd enough… How did it get there, you ask? Oh, no, not a rocket… but a balloon!
No ordinary birthday balloons. It was filled with hydrogen that’s lighter than air, so it could carry the little nugget up complete with satellite tracking and a camera. Really! Even chicken nuggets are obsessed with selfies! And what scientific endeavor prompted this hour-long cosmic journey, you may ask? A 50th anniversary… of the supermarket chain. I guess it was a birthday balloon after all.
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPIOSDE- 28-SPACE SOUND
LEELA: From space to sound… NASA’s new project turns up the volume on space’s most extreme happenings. Did you know you can’t hear a peep in space or an explosion for that matter?
MAMA: Space is vacuum it has no air and without air no sound, because what we call “sound” is actually vibrations in the air.
LEELA: But thanks to NASA’s new “data sonification” project, we can get a sense of the sounds from space…
MAMA: Researchers from Nasa’s Chandra X-ray center have taken three iconic events from their archives and translated different frequencies of light into different pitches of sound.
Like this, crab nebula…
LEELA: That’s a remnant of a supernova powered by a windy newton star! It’s a bit …. out there get it.
MAMA: (laughs) Yes, thank you I get it!
LEELA: But you have to admit… it’s super cool too!
MAMA: We’ll put a link to this on our Facebook page so you can see and hear the whole thing…
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPIOSDE- 33 SPACE TOURISM
MAMA: Step right up, step right up get your ticket to… space!
LEELA: Oh yeah, space tourism is here, ladies and gentlemen and, thanks to the generosity of a young American billionaire, a few ordinary citizens in other words people who aren’t astronauts or super-rich! are getting the chance to go… into the cosmos.
MAMA: Jared Isaac man is the 37-year-old founder and chief executive of a company called Shift4 Payments. He’s chartering a rocket and spacecraft from SpaceX for a three to four-day trip to space and is giving one of the seats to a health worker from the St. Jude cancer hospital, which treats children for free.
LEELA: And the other ticket will be raffled off to someone at random! OMG!! But I bet you have to be at least 18 though…
MAMA: And a US citizen. While the fourth ticket will go to the winner of an entrepreneur competition.
MAMA: An entrepreneur is someone who creates a new business, like Jared Isaac man. And just last week, SpaceX, which was started by entrepreneur Elon Musk, announced it would be working with Axiom, another private space firm, to take the three private citizens up for an 8-day stay on the International Space Station sometime next year.
LEELA: OMG can we go, Mama, please, please??
MAMA: Yeah, that’s for billionaires only, I’m afraid, the ticket up costs a cool $55 million dollars. Round trip though. Over the last twenty years, several wealthy private citizens have flown to the space station before the first was American billionaire Dennis Tito but always on the Russian Soyuz craft because NASA didn’t allow such trips until recently.
LEELA: Well, there is another way I can get to space…
MAMA: Oh, trying to be an astronaut?
LEELA: Yes ma’am. But in the meantime, what about the “Space Hero” reality TV show?!
MAMA: Yes, that’s right! This is in partnership with Axiom Space which is scouring the earth for contestants to take part in a reality TV show that aims to take one lucky winner into the final frontier… after extensive training and challenges to test their physical, mental and emotional strength of course.
LEELA: Again, though, I’m probably too young…
MAMA: Yes, you probably are, but a this it truly marks the dawn of a new era. Once upon a time, flying on an airplane was something only the super-rich could do and look now! And, by the way, Axiom also says it’s developing a space station of its own, one that NASA actually hopes may one day replace the International Space Station, which has been up in space for 22 years.
LEELA: Whoa… maybe that’s the one I’ll get to visit then…!
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPIOSDE- 35-ROVER ON MARS
MAMA: The entry, decent and landing of a rover on to the planet Mars has been called by astronauts “seven minutes of terror” and now there’s video and audio to prove it.
MAMA: Surprisingly the footage wasn’t captured by some special astrophysics’ camera but an ordinary action camera, which an athlete might put in a race car or on a skateboard to record their dazzling maneuvers.
LEELA: This time the dazzle was out-of-the-world – capturing the moment the “biggest supersonic parachute ever sent into space” opens up…
MAMA: And then swirl of Martian dust and grit being kicked up as the vehicle is lowered by its rocket backpack to the floor of the most challenging target ever landed upon n Mars.
LEELA: You just have to see these videos. Six cameras were used to capture the key events. Nasa says the video – and the landing, of course – is an example of the agency at its best.
MAMA: In case you haven’t we’ll put them on our Facebook Community page, of course. Now, as a reminder – the Perseverance Rover is a special vehicle designed to move across the harsh, freezing terrain of Mars. And it’s on a mission…
LEELA: To search for ancient life on the red planet!
MAMA: Yes – and, while we’re on the subject – bonus points if you can tell me what perseverance actually means?
LEELA: OK – I got this… Ummmm… tenacity! Never giving up, despite difficulties or failing – to just keep going.
MAMA: Yes, ma’am. And guess what? You can tune in to hear what that “perseverance” on Mars sounds like, as the team has managed to get a microphone operating on-the-ground as well.
LEELA: Speaking of the team… we have to mention someone special.
MAMA: Yes, we do. India is quite proud of Indian-American Dr Swati Mohan, the voice you’ve been hearing from the mission… And the one who first confirmed that the rover landed.
MAMA: She’s been with the mission since the beginning and made history last week, when she calmly steered the controls and landing system of the rover, navigating the difficult touchdown, while the world watched.
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPISODE- 40- ASTER CANDY TO MARS (NASA’s BREATH BOX)
MAMA: So, Leela, random question for you.
MAMA: What do oceanographers need to study the ocean?
LEELA: Uhh, a swim suit?
MAMA: Well, yes, But I mean, if you want to explore underwater for hours, what do you need? Here’s a clue – (takes deep breath).
LEELA: Oh! Air! I mean, oxygen, scientifically speaking.
MAMA: Yes! Humans can’t live without air or oxygen. And it’s the same story for astronauts exploring space.
LEELA: Naturally. That’s why they have bulky space suits with oxygen tanks.
MAMA: Or cords pumping oxygen to them from their spaceship. But, what if… oxygen could be produced ON MARS.
LEELA: Whoaaaa. Is that even possible?
MAMA: Well, let’s find out from our correspondent and news podcaster in his own right, Ezra Graham.
LEELA: Over to you, Ezra.
EZRA: Thanks, Leela.
So, you might remember a few weeks ago when this happened…
SFX OF MARS ROVER LANDING
The Perseverance Rover landed on Mars to look for signs of ancient life.
But did you know what was also on board?
A special device, about the size of a breadbox, called: Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment – or MOXIE for short.
But I like to call it the “breath box.”
Because it’s about to start testing if it’s possible to make oxygen in situ, that means on site, using the local red planet resources.
Mars’s thin atmosphere is made up mostly of carbon dioxide, about 96 percent in fact.
Well, Moxie basically would act like a tree: inhaling carbon dioxide but exhaling oxygen.
How cool is that?
Instead of lugging the 100,000 pounds of oxygen needed from Earth to Mars, MOXIE would be able to produce oxygen directly on Mars.
Much more efficient.
That’s not all.
Moxie could also help to propel rockets.
Because when hydrogen and oxygen are mixed together, they create a powerful propellant used in many present-day spaceships.
Wouldn’t it be easier if the oxygen was available on Mars?
That’s what Moxie’s on a mission to find out.
From Montana, USA, I’m Ezra Graham reporting for Newsy Jacuzzi!
LEELA: Thank you so much, Ezra.
MAMA: Who is also, by the way, the host of his own weekly news podcast, called News Nerds – so check it out!
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPISODE- 43-NASA MAKES HISTORY
LEELA: Remember when NASA engineers called the landing of the Rover Perseverance on Mars, back in February, “seven minutes of terror” because it took that long for it to land safely?
MAMA: Oh, yeah.
LEELA: Well, imagine waiting three hours to know if your Martian mission was a success!
LEELA: That’s what just happened with a little-bitty helicopter, or really more like a drone, the size of a cat –
SFX OF MEOW
LEELA: Called Ingenuity, which just took off into the skies of Mars. It might have been just a 40 second trip, but it’s made history! Bahm-bahm-baaahm!
MAMA: It might have been a small trip for Ingenuity – but it was a giant leap for humankind!
LEELA: That sounds familiar…
SFX OF QUOTE
MAMA: Because while humans have been flying in machines around the earth for over a hundred years, it’s a totally different thing on Mars, where the gravity and air aren’t what we’re used to.
LEELA: The atmosphere on Mars is super thin, right?
MAMA: Yes, and that means the helicopter rotors had to spin much faster than on Earth –
2,500 rotations per minute, in fact – just to stay up.
LEELA: Meanwhile, good old Percy (you know the Perseverance Rover!) then took pictures of Ingenuity (who I like to call “Judy”) on its flight. And a satellite on Mars beamed that back to Earth, which took three hours.
MAMA: So, while Ingenuity –
MAMA: “Judy” – only went three meters high and just for 40 seconds –
LEELA: There are more trips planned!
MAMA: Yep, not only is this the first-time humans have achieved the miracle of flight on another planet, but having succeeded in the first test-flight there will be four more journeys. If they’re successful, then future Mars exploration could include aircrafts.
LEELA: So, these flying robots could be like scouts – going ahead of Rovers and astronauts, to see if the terrain is safe for them to explore?
LEELA: And, by the way, in case you’ve forgotten, ingenuity is a fancy word for being inventive and resourceful – in a creative, original way. Something ingenious people do. Get it?
MAMA: Or in the words of the Alabama high school student, Vaneeza Rupani, who suggested the name in a competition to NASA – “Ingenuity is what allows people to accomplish amazing things.”
LEELA: So, Ingenuity is a perfect name! (But Judy for short!)
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPISODE- 48-UFOs ARE OFFICIAL
LEELA: The US government has finally agreed to look into UFOs, which are in our skies!
LEELA: Well, it’s true in the real sense of the term: unidentified flying objects. “Unidentified” just means we don’t know what they are, right?
MAMA: OK. That’s true. Although you know the phrase has changed now, right?
LEELA: Yep – “UFO” was sooo last century.
MAMA: So are “flying saucers.”
LEELA: Oh, yeah! Exit flying saucers and UFO and enter:
SFX OF WHOOSH
LEELA: UAP – as in an “unidentified aerial phenomena.”
SFX OF METEOR WHOOSH
MAMA: That’s right. That’s what the US government wants to call it now. And phenomena mean?
LEELA: Remarkable things that don’t always have a clear explanation. So just because we call it a UAP doesn’t necessarily mean its an…
SFX SCI-FI NOISES
LEELA: Extra-terrestrial being, otherwise known as alien! Though it could be!
MAMA: It could be. But while UFOs, now UAPs, are often assumed to be “aliens” – especially in pop culture, they’re really just –as you said – any flying object that can’t be classified as a known aircraft. So, they could be new technology and-or spy-craft from foreign countries or maybe even an optical illusion.
LEELA: No fun.
MAMA: I’m just saying. We don’t know.
LEELA: But several US Navy pilots say they’ve seen the same thing flying in the sky repeatedly. So, it could be visitors from another world.
MAMA: Could be. Look, there’s no denying that whatever they are the US government is now – openly – taking them seriously. See, interest in UFO sightings by the military, which is in charge of national security, that isn’t new. But it’s always been secret.
LEELA: What’s called “classified information.” As in unavailable to the general public.
MAMA: Exactly. Then in April last year the US Department of Defense openly released three videos showing what it described as UAPS seen and filmed by some of its Navy fighter pilots. They were unusually shaped objects that flew at high speeds, often moving around in ways that baffled aeronautic experts and had no visible propulsion or propellers keeping it up.
LEELA: But that’s not all, right?
MAMA: Right. Two of the pilots said that as their jets approached the mysterious object to take a closer look, it began to mirror their jet’s movements. Then, when the pilot got to within a half-mile of the UAP, it suddenly vanished.
LEELA: That’s gotta be aliens!
MAMA: Well, these Navy videos that defy explanation have certainly sparked some questions and concern – whether the sightings are the from foreign spies or –
MAMA: Yes, either way the government should know. So, in December, US senators asked the Department of Defense to investigate the UAPs and deliver an unclassified report – that means open to the public – to Congress within six months, which is almost up…
LEELA: So, the report is due sometime in June?
MAMA: That’s right. LEELA: I can’t wait…!
MAMA: You and a lot of other people.
SFX OF SPACE NOISES
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPISODE- 49- TV SPACE RACE
LEELA: This a story where art meets science. Up in space, to be precise.
MAMA: Oh, OK.
LEELA: Get this, Russia is about to shoot a movie IN SPACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
SFX SCIFI MUSIC
MAMA: Whoa, you mean not like “on a set” that looks like space?
LEELA: Nope, according to Russia’s Ros cosmos space agency, it’s actually going to be on the International Space Station! Which, as I’m sure most of our listeners know, orbits our Earth 220 miles out in space.
MAMA: Astronauts are going to be actors IN space? Talk about moonlighting!
LEELA: No – real actors are going to go to space not astronauts acting like actors. And, by the way, astronauts in Russia are called cosmonauts, in case you didn’t know.
MAMA: But what if they don’t know anything about space?
LEELA: Well, they’ve already chosen the two actors, camera director and overall director who are going to be extensively trained. They’re about to start training flights on a zero-gravity plane and undergo parachute training, amongst other things. No fare – I wish I could go on a zero-gravity plane.
Anyway, they’ve also already titled the movie, which is going to be called Challenge. And the first bit of filming will happen as early as October.
MAMA: Whoa, so this is going to happen before that “Space Hero” reality TV show that the US company Axiom Space is hoping to produce in 2023, which we reported on in February?
LEELA: Right. And you know Axiom have also teamed up with the Discovery Channel for a series they’re calling the, “Who Wants to Be an Astronaut.” But while Axiom have signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA, it’s not clear if any of the winners will actually get to go up into space or just be trained for the mission.
MAMA: Huh, OK. But anyway, it still sounds like a new space race is brewing – which country will be first to put TV stars in space, Russia or America?!
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPIOSDE- 50- MEGA SPACE NEWS
LEELA: Space? You want more space? Here, let me move over then.
MAMA: No. Well, kinda. I mean, this week there’s so much space news, we could do the entire episode on it.
LEELA: Awesome! I love love love space….
MAMA: But we don’t have the, well, you now, space.
LEELA: Ha ha! I get ya now. Should we talk doubly fast, Alvin and Chipmunk style? Now there’s an idea. But maybe, well, an annoying one though.
MAMA: Let me just be as succinct – or compact and brief – as possible. OK.
LEELA: Alright. You got this. On your mark, get set… Go!
MAMA: First up, NASA has announced two new missions to study the “lost habitable” world of Venus, our nearest neighbor, sometimes called “Earth’s evil twin.”
LEELA: Yikes, why?
MAMA: Well, it’s now one of the hottest, most inhospitable places in our solar system. Yet it has so many characteristics similar to Earth. Scientists reckon it may have been the first habitable world in the solar system. The new billion-dollar missions could set out as early as 2028 to find out how Venus became an inferno.
LEELA: Awesome. What’s inferno?
MAMA: Ah – a big nasty fire!
LEELA: Ooh, geeze. Anyway, What’s next?
MAMA: Well NASA has a mission to Jupiter that’s under weigh with his Juno space craft recently zooming passed it icy moon, which also happens to be the biggest moon in our solar system and has its own magnetic field
LEELA: Like earth?
MAMA: Exactly that’s what makes this fly by so interesting… Next. NASA has just its 100 a worms and baby squid up into the space…
LEELA: Obviously! Wait but what? Why?
MAMA: To the international space station to be exact its a part of research in how to stop human muscles from becoming weaker in space. You see the worms known as see no have deist elegance share lot of characteristics with us humans
MAMA: Yep, so they’ll be monitored to see exactly what molecules cause muscle decline in space and whether targeting these with medicine or other interventions will help.
LEELA: Well, that makes sense. Anything else?
MAMA: Oh, yeah. It’s not just NASA news – the European Space Agency, known as “eesa,” also have big plans. First up – they’re sifting through hundreds of applicants with significant physical disabilities in a big drive to broaden its talent pool for space exploration.
LEELA: Oh, cool, like they’ll get to go up into space?
MAMA: Possibly. But no specific mission or launch date has been determined just yet.
LEELA: Whew. That’s a lot of space news.
MAMA: And we haven’t even gotten to the best one yet.
MAMA: Well, let’s cut to Jackson Hosking our tech correspondent in England, who’s closer to the story.
LEELA: OK, Jackson – what do the ESA have in mind?
JACKSON: Well, Leela, ESA, recently held a competition to explore ways to create renewable energy on Mars – because if astronauts were to ever set up a camp on Mars, they would need a constant energy source that wouldn’t run out, right? LEELA: Exactly.
JACKSON: So, scientists all over Europe got their thinking caps on. Since Mars is further from the sun than our planet Earth, solar energy is clearly not the best solution. These researchers banmediked on something else instead. Something that Mars has plenty of… and that is….
SFX OF WIND!
JACKSON: Gusts of wind. Yeah, apparently, it is very windy on the Red Planet! Who knew?!
LEELA: Ah, I got it Jackson! The solution would be. wind turbines on Mars!
JACKSON: Not a bad idea Leela – but they would be too heavy to transport on…
SFX OF ROCKET
JACKSON: … a rocket to Mars. Think about it. What’s relatively light in materials and great in the wind?
LEELA: Oooooh…. Sails, like on a yacht!
SFX OF OCEAN AND WIND
JACKSON: Very close!!! Now think of something even lighter. Something you may have flown on the beach…
LEELA: A kite…?
JACKSON: Yes! That’s it! The researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands came up with the idea of MASSIVE kites with a surface area of 50 square meters. That’s like the size of three-and-a-half parking spaces.
And here’s the really fun bit – these kites will be CONTROLLED BY ROBOTS!
They’ll have cables attached to spindles, or drums, and as they unspool, they turn, creating energy.
Teamed with other solar energy sources, could create enough energy for a small Martian base camp.
So, there you go, Leela. Proof that with a bit of clever thinking, and inspired by the things around us – there is no limit to what we can achieve – even beyond our own planet!
LEELA: Love it, Jackson. This proves that expression, “the sky’s the limit!”
MAMA: That’s true. Thanks a lot, Jackson.
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPISODE- 65–EVERYDAY ASTRAUNAUTS
MAMA: This is a story about the ordinary becoming extraordinary!
LEELA: Yep – everyday people, like you and me, being able to go up, up and away into space.
MAMA: Yes, four amateur astronauts have splashed down successfully in the Atlantic Ocean after a trip to space. Of course, this isn’t the first-time non-astronauts have headed up, up and away.
LEELA: Though it’s mostly been billionaires hopping on board rockets – or building their own – for little trips into space lately.
MAMA: Yes, and being billionaires they’re not exactly everyday people.
LEELA: But they’re not astronauts either.
MAMA: No. But that’s not all. When Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos went into space it was only for three minutes and Virgin Air’s CEO Richard Branson was at a slightly lower altitude but for 8 minutes.
LEELA: But this time private citizens – as in not astronauts – went into space for three days!
MAMA: And at a much a higher altitude than the billionaire-built rockets and even higher than the International Space Station. Of course, we must say this team of ordinary astronauts are actually pretty extraordinary people.
LEELA: So, for a start Inspiration4, as the mission was called, did include – surprise, surprise – a billionaire.
MAMA: Of course, it did – and one who’s long been interested in flying, having piloted several different kinds of airplanes. But Jared Isaac man isn’t just a rich space-nut who wants to open up the market to tourists. He’s also a pretty philanthropic guy.
MAMA: A philanthropist is someone who promotes the welfare of others, not just themselves, mostly by giving lots of money to good causes.
LEELA: Aha, but I thought this Issacman dude just bought himself and three friends’ tickets to space.
MAMA: Nope, the Shift4 Payments guy (that’s his company) gave two of the seats to a cancer hospital that treats children for free, St Jude’s, which held a massive fundraising raffle for one of the tickets and gave the other to one of its hospital workers. Then Issac man gave the fourth ticket to a winner of an entrepreneur competition – that’s people who create their own businesses – who happened to be a college professor who was nearly chosen as a NASA astronaut 11 years ago.
LEELA: That’s useful!
MAMA: Yeah, even the raffle ticket spot went to a US Air Force veteran. They might have been private citizens, but clearly, they’re all pretty sharp.
LEELA: And they went on an intense astronaut training course for six months to help prepare them.
MAMA: That’s right.
LEELA: And wasn’t the hospital worker – a childhood cancer survivor herself, with prosthetic bones in one leg (pretty cool)?
MAMA: Yep. And at 29 years old – she’s now the youngest American to go into orbit. And – get this – they went into space in the same SpaceX Dragon capsule that usually carries NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
LEELA: They might not have gone to the space station, but they did get to circle Earth 15 times a day! I mean, how cool is that?
MAMA: I know. And there’s more. The door that normally docks – or connects – the capsule to the space station was replaced with a window. In fact, the largest window ever built for space.
LEELA: What a view they must have had. Huh! Dreamy. Well, I might not have been old or lucky enough to go on that trip, but they sure are paving g the “Milky Way” for people like me to go one day.
MAMA: Yeah, I guess we should say thanks!
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPISODE- 67-MEGA COMET COMING
MAMA: One of the biggest comets ever seen is making its way from the edge of our solar system towards us.
LEELA: A huge ice body that orbits the sun with a fiery tale that looks like a coma is edging closer and closer!
MAMA: It’s so big astronomers thought it was a dwarf planet when they first identified it. But closer analysis revealed it was moving way too rapidly through the Oort cloud for that.
LEELA: The Oort Cloud – what’s that again?
MAMA: Ah, that’s a huge, distant region of space thought to hold trillions of icy bodies from the early solar system.
LEELA: Oh, yeah. Isn’t it also called a “scrap-yard of icy rocks?”
MAMA: Yeah, good one. So, this object appeared to be headed our way and it had a glowing tail.
LEELA: Right, that’s when the ice particles fly off the comet and turn into gas when it gets too close to the sun.
MAMA: Exactly. So, they realized it wasn’t a dwarf planet, but a comet – a massive oval-shaped comet at least 62 miles (or 100 kilometers) wide and over 100 miles long.
LEELA: What?! Most comets are like a mile or two long – you know – the size of a neighborhood. But that’s more like the size of the county.
MAMA: Or a small state even.
LEELA: But, uhhh, how many years till this mega-comet comes close to Earth? (Laughs nervously)
MAMA: Oh, about ten or so.
LEELA: What? Only ten? Like in my lifetime?
MAMA: Yeah, but don’t worry – even when the Berardinelli-Bernstein comet, named after the scientists who spotted it, gets as close to us as possible, it won’t pose a threat.
MAMA: Yes, it’ll make its closest approach in January 2031, when the massive icy body is expected to come within about a billion miles of the sun, that’s roughly as far as Saturn is from us on Earth.
LEELA: Oh. That’s far. So, we won’t even be able to see it with our eyes?
MAMA: Well, depending on how much gas the comet releases as its ices vaporizes in the glare of the sun, it could get as bright in the night sky as Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. If so, it should be visible with a decent backyard telescope. In 2031.
LEELA: Hmmmm. It’s interesting but, ummm. I mean, it’s not coming for ten years and then it’s so far away you can only see it with a telescope.
MAMA: Well, yes, it is a big deal – because as it gets closer astronomers, with their HUGE telescopes, will get a right and proper good look at it. And because it’s come from the Oort Cloud
LEELA: The icy scrap-yard from the beginning of the solar system.
MAMA: Right, so imagine what a rich source of information that will be for our understanding of the world and the early solar system.
LEELA: Alright, you’ve convinced me!
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPISODE-73-FLORIDA SPACE LAUNCH
LEELA: Ever wondered what it was like to see a rocket take off for outer-space?
MAMA: Astronauts headed for the International Space Station, to be precise.
LEELA: I sure have. And I’m totally jealous of our Florida correspondent, Lani Power, who got to witness this herself…
MAMA: But… She didn’t waste such a privilege.
LEELA: Oh, no. Like a good reporter, she took her equipment and recorded the whole thing.
MAMA: On a very windy evening.
Leilani: It’s dark so it’s hard to see just how many people there are, but quite a few came to watch the rocket launch on the beach in Florida!
Just about 16 miles away, that’s 26 kilometers, four astronauts are preparing to leave the Earth and go to the International Space Station.
Three of the astronauts are from the U.S., but the fourth is from Germany! This is actually my first time seeing a crewed launch, so I’m really excited and a little nervous!
When they blast off shortly, they’ll be starting a 22-hour flight to the ISS! The longest flight I’ve ever taken was about 15 hours, and that felt like forever!
Their brand-new Endurance spacecraft is carrying with it a bunch of cool experiments!
One of which is Bio Print First Aid technology!
So basically, they are using a bio 3D printer to make glowing band-aids, that’s sticking plaster for those of you out of the United States, to see if it will help speed up skin growth for minor injuries.
If that works, the idea will be to print the patient’s own skin cells!!! That’s so awesome!!
Whatever happens on this flight, the results are sure to be out of this world!!!
This is Leilani Power reporting from Cape Canaveral for Newsy Pooloozi!
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPISODE- 84-SPACE JUNK LUNAR CRASH
LEELA: It’s not every day that a rocket crashes into the moon!
MAMA: Oh, gosh, that doesn’t sound good.
LEELA: Well, believe it or not, it’s not as unusual as you might think. Cue the music, Mama.
LEELA: Once upon a time, in 2015, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted into outer-space. It was carrying none other than the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite that tracks solar storms.
MAMA: Well, we definitely need some climate observation, but who knew we’d be doing it from deep space!
LEELA: Well, the second-stage part of the rocket didn’t have enough fuel to return to Earth. So, it’s been chaotically looping around the Earth and the Moon ever since. And, apparently, it’s pretty common to abandon space junk in deep orbit.
Luckily, an asteroid-hunter kept tabs on the 4-tonne booster and realized it’s gonna slam into the lunar surface on March 4.
Yes, that means a new crater for our lunar-love.
Sadly, for space watchers, it’s most likely going to crash into the “dark side of the moon,” so it won’t be visible from Earth.
MAMA: By the way – did you know the dark side of the moon isn’t really dark, it’s just that we can’t see it from Earth. But, is this crash, well, dangerous for the moon?
LEELA: Nope. According to astronomers, the moon is pretty routinely hit with larger objects moving 10-20 kilometers per second! And the SpaceX rocket-part will be traveling three times slower. Phew.
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPIOSDE- 85-ISS SPLASHDOWN
MAMA: So, folks, it’s official – the International Space Station is set for retirement.
LEELA: It’s gonna go out with, maybe not a bang, but definitely with a splash!
MAMA: Yep, after nearly 25 years circling the Earth –
LEELA: Zipping along FIVE miles every single second!
MAMA: And already circumnavigating the Earth 100,000 times!
LEELA: Circumnavigating is a fancy word for going around something, by the way.
MAMA: Thank you. Well, NASA is calling it a day.
LEELA: Well, not today. In 2031 – so it’s got nearly nine years left of being our laboratory in the sky.
MAMA: True. And it’s been quite the cosmic crash pad for astronomers studying our skies – exceedingly almost everyone’s expectations by doubling its expected lifespan! And it’s not going to take it easy, waiting out retirement. Oh, no. NASA says it’s entering its most productive decade, staying busy with experiments undertaken both on behalf of researchers and private contractors.
LEELA: Speaking of everyday astronauts and the private sector space race, Mama…
MAMA: Yes – it’ll be private companies, which have the money and the know-how, that’ll most likely build the next generation space stations – with the assistance of national space agencies, like NASA, ESA and ISRO.
LEELA: You’re talking about the European and Indian space agencies.
MAMA: Yes. That way those agencies can save a lot of money to spend on other missions.
LEELA: Like heading back to the Moon. Or Mars!
MAMA: Quite possibly.
LEELA: So how do they de-orbit a huge space capsule – with massive solar panels spread out as wide as a football field – anyway?
MAMA: Well, the plan is for the space station to leave the Earth’s orbit, causing it to fall back home and safely crash into the Pacific Ocean.
MAMA: Well, splash, technically.
SFX OF MASSIVE CAPSULE SPLASHING INTO THE OCEAN
LEELA: Right – a splash-landing sounds better to me. Hope they get all the boats and ships out of the way.
MAMA: Well, it’s actually an area in the South Pacific Ocean called Point Nemo – nemo which is Latin for no one. It’s also known as the “oceanic pole of inaccessibility,” which is a fancy way of saying there’s no human activity there for miles and miles and miles. In fact, it’s not unusual for deorbited satellites to splash-land there.
LEELA: So, it’s like the space-junk cemetery – the “oceanic graveyard of inaccessibility”– for satellites. Get it, sad-a-lites?
MAMA: (laughs) Very good…
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPISODE- 93-SATURN LOSSES THE RING
MAMA: If I say Saturn what is the first thing that pops into your head?
LEELA: That big planet in our solar system… Pretty far from Earth with those super-sleek rings that make it stand out as the coolest looking planet in the Milky Way with sunglasses
MAMA: Yes! And those rings might look sleek from afar, but they’re actually rings or belts of ice, rock and dust which are… slowly breaking apart and disappearing!
LEELA: (sings) Tragedy!
MAMA: Yeah… maybe not that tune okay…. Luckily, it’s a tragedy that won’t happen for a while.
LEELA: Not in our lifetime, huh?
MAMA: Certainly not. But now scientists now have a good idea when – we’re talking about one hundred million years from now.
MAMA: But what’s really interesting is just why, or how, these rings are vanishing.
LEELA: Are they being sucked up by a distant black hole?
SFX OF SUCKING
MAMA: Uh, no. Thank goodness – cos, you know, that wouldn’t be good for us here on Earth, either. So, let’s back up a second. Scientists don’t actually know why Saturn’s rings formed at all. The prevailing theory is that one of Saturn’s older moons got too close to the planet and it started to shred into pieces.
SFX OF SHREDDING-SUCKING-WHOOSHING
LEELA: But that’s just a hypothesis – an educated guess.
MAMA: Right. What astronomers do know is that these rocky rings won’t last forever because of something called “ring rain.”
LEELA: Ring rain?
MAMA: Yep. It’s a destructive process by which parts of the belt are being sucked into Saturn by gravity, and then – vaporized.
SFX OF WHOOSH
LEELA: Vaporized – as in something solid, like the ring rocks, or even liquid for that matter being turned into gas or vapor.
MAMA: Bingo – and it’s estimated that 10 tons of so-called “ring matter” is falling into Saturn every single second.
LEELA: Wait a minute. So basically, Saturn is eating up its own rings?!
MAMA: You could put it that way, I guess…
LEELA: Naughty Saturn! Sorry, but this is a tragedy.
MAMA: (Sings) Tragedy – when you lose control and you got no soul, tragedy.
LEELA: Thought you didn’t like that song!
MAMA: Ah! The things I do for this podcast…
SFX OF BELL AND WHISTLE: EPISODE- 101 Sprouting moon soil
LEELA: So, you know how clever scientists are constantly looking at ways we humans can live in outer space – like for years and years?
MAMA: Yep, I have heard something about this once or twice…
LEELA: Well, one way is finding out how to grow food in outer space.
MAMA: Oh, like on the space station?
LEELA: Like on the moon!
MAMA: That barren hunk of rock? What could possibly grow there.
LEELA: Space plants! Well, ok, not quite yet. But seeds that were put into soil brought back from the moon have sprouted! Let’s call them space sprouts.
LEELA: Yep, serious woa wow. Lani Power in Florida has the full report.
LANI: We grow a lot of plants day to day, from home gardens to big farms!
What would you say, though, about growing them on the moon?
Two scientists from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences set out to find the answer!
11 years and 3 different Apollo trips to the moon later, they got some regolith – that’s the fancy word for moon soil. Twelve grams to be exact.
Now that’s just about a tablespoon’s worth of moon soil, which isn’t much when you’re trying to sustain life. But they made it work! How?
Well, they divided up the soil, putting just one gram of the precious soil into its own little plastic cup.
They planted seeds from the small flowering weed Arabidopsis Thaliana, a relative of cabbage and mustard, since we know its DNA completely and can track any changes that happen to it.
They also planted seeds in a recreation of lunar soil made here on earth to see the difference.
While the Arabidopsis did sprout in moon soil, it grew slightly smaller and slower than its artificial lunar soil counterpart, most likely because some of the dirt from the moon was exposed to cosmic winds, changing its makeup.
They realized that these places weren’t as good for plants as the spots with less exposure.
Nevertheless, this is one small step for colonizing the moon, but one giant space agriculture!
With that, I’m Lani Power for Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: Thanks a lot, Lani. There’s nothing like a good space story to fire me up!
LEELA: And that brings us to the end of this special Newsy Pooloozi capsule. Alrighty then – we’ll see you next week in the splishy-splashy news pool for kids – Newsy Pooloozi!
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