Opinion – Rage Against the Light

The Dying Light?

Decisions made in haste yield pain.

Decisions made by the U.S. Administration to launch a space force are ill-conceived but are not ill-advised. Everyday, astronomers and their co-workers find reasons to continue the astronomical legacy started so long ago by ancient Greek, Chinese and Mayan civilizations. While the astronomers of long ago tied astronomical events to earthly happenings, I have to ask myself: what does the present Administration have to gain with a space force? One response to the posed question- the mining of asteroids and other planets for their resources. As the earth becomes depleted of its natural resources, it seems logical to look for resources elsewhere. Moreover, the mining of asteroids for resources could not have come at worse moment in history. The earth ecology is reeling from decades of over mining, abuse towards its living creatures, and a generalized misunderstanding of Earthly stewardship. Understanding the general principles of stewardship would have been optimal prior to launching the Space Force. I cite one overarching reason— the orbits of asteroids within the asteroid belt are governed by gravitational tugs and pushes from the Sun and the outer, gas giant planets. I caution it is speculative (while not wildly speculative).

— while carelessly blasting away (with explosives) at the asteroid belt —or removing or hollowing-out asteroids may disrupt disrupt their individual orbits— I am referring to a greater number than a small handful of asteroids. It could start a cascade of meteors or NEOs that may disrupt earthly routines. I regard the the announcement by the Trump administration as reckless— those are the words that I can say without hesitation.

Furthermore, the announcement comes as the present administration comes under increasing scrutiny. The formal launch of the program occurred the first seven months of 2019. It is the hallmark of the present administration to lie and obfuscate issues that are otherwise critical to the western governments and to the earthly populations.

 

As a US citizen, a writer, and concerned human being, I am dismayed and fearful of the potential damage this president can do to the earth.

Greener Mars – When We Become Martians?

The latest edition of the American Heritage English Dictionary defines terraform as: a verb that means to transform (a landscape) on another planet into one having the characteristics of landscapes on Earth. [Latin term, terra earth: see terrace + form]

Mars, the red planet with a mythology that speaks volumes, is daunting. While there are notable stories surrounding Martian lore, it is the realities faced by NASA and other space agencies . Mars seems like a littered graveyard of crashed probes. Up until 2014, a full third of any earth launched rockets headed to the planet never made soft landings.

Countless visionaries and entrepreneurs voiced their desires to terraform Mars. While no country or entrepreneur has attempted to send missions to Mars to terraform it, attempts may ensue before the end of the 21st century. However, success in terraforming Mars hinges on important priorities.

  1. Successful understanding of Martian soil and rock (regolith).
  2. Successful manipulation of plant genomes to be radiation-resistant and withstand Martian cold.
  3. Plants need adequate sources of water.
  4. Martian soil may need adequate amending to ensure proper minerals within the soil.
  5. Astronauts must stay on Mars for an extended period of time to successfully implement the endeavor.

Scientists across the world have experimented with simulated Martian soil and performed computations for the past 25 years in the hopes of unlocking the secrets of Martian soil. If you recall Andy Weir’s book, The Martian or its movie adaptation, the lead character is stranded on Mars and grows potatoes to sustain himself until rescued. While Martian farming may occur in the lives of our children, it is decades until it becomes practical.

So, let’s get to the point – how can we terraform Mars?

There are, at least, two methods by which we can farm Mars:

1. Oxygenate the atmosphere first and then proceed to utilize the resources of Martian regolith with genetically engineered plants.

2. Use Greenhouses to grow crops and resources – vegetables, fruits, and hemp. Other uses of synthetic plants center upon genetic manipulations of plant biology to produce medicinal alterations and other commodity-like stuffs.

While the first method seems daunting, it has a sense of a pioneering spirit to it. It will take multiple generations to implement according to published studies. According to Cyprien Verseux and co-workers the first step is to seed multiple acreage of the Martian surface with cyanobacteria to begin an oxygenation of the atmosphere. It is postulated that early Earth had little to no oxygen and cyanobacteria or a related species of bacteria oxygenated the earth’s atmosphere. Life as we know it sprung forth. Professor Verseux and co-workers published their study in the International Journal of Astrobiology in 2016. Their studies delve into greater details of how engineered cyanobacteria can generate hydrogen fuels and potentially greater undertakings to help a Martian colony. In this fashion, multiple missions from NASA, Jaxa, or ESA tend to the endeavor.

Putting greenhouses on the Martian surface to facilitate colonization appears simpler than attempting to turn the Martian planet from rust-colored to an appealing shade or blue-green. NASA utilized the moon to put boots upon it and successfully proved they can do it almost routinely in the 1970s. Furthermore–from the Space lab in the 1970s to the ISS of present times, the international community proved it can work cooperatively to nobler ends. Thus, we get a better sense of the issues in the journal, Genes in 2018. The group of three Australian scientists paint a fascinating look at synthetic plant biology, in the article titled, The Multiplanetary Future of Plant Synthetic Biology.

The present outlook of international cooperation for space ventures appears cloudy from chaotic, nationalistic policies. It behooves nations of the world to band together. Perhaps, in the next decade, the world will understand and re-commit to space exploration as a peaceful undertaking.

Science fiction writers love Mars. Ray Bradbury, Andy Weir, and H. G. Wells encouraged readers to dream and fantasize of Martian aliens or desolate landscapes. The truth of Martian colonization maybe stranger than what he have dreamed or thought we could anticipate –it is a destiny well worth achieving. It may well turn the world stage away from war and terrorism to cooperation and peace.

SOURCES TO EXPLORE
Briando Llorente, and co-workers. The Multi-planetary Future of Plant Synthetic Biology. 2018. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes9070348f

Cyprien Verseux, and co-workers. Sustainable Life Support on Mars–the potential roles of cyanobacteria. 2016. https://doi.org/10.1017/S147355041500021X

American Heritage Dictionary https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=terraform

NASA log of International Martian missions– https://mars.nasa.gov/mars-exploration/missions/historical-log/

It is in the Water — and Much More?

By John Antone Jaksich

Flint, Michigan has suffered without clean water for more than four years. Leaded water is the least of their worries? Image by John A. Jaksich

Water is crucial to life, it can be a vehicle that carries disease as well. A specific case is the agent known to cause a deadly form of pneumonia- legionella. The bacteria first gained notoriety in the late 1970s. In 1976, cases of an antibiotic resistant pneumonia struck in Philadelphia. Individuals attending an American Legion convention were struck ill. There were fatalities. The disease became known as legionnaire’s disease since it affected convention-goers at the American Legion convention.

While the above diseases are associated with Third World countries, they occur with greater frequency in the USA. Their occurrence is correlated with a neglect of social services and insufficient funding of infrastructure. However, there is a more hideous culprit; it is confluence of circumstances associated with an increasing temperatures, too. Copyright image by John A. Jaksich. All Rights Reserved.

While the cause of the pneumonia was mysterious, it took more than one year to pin down its mode of action — or how individuals were sickened. To this day, illnesses associated with legionella are not completely understood. [There are at least two known diseases associated with legionnaires’ bacteria: pneumonia and Pontiac fever.] However, through painstaking detective work, some common factors appeared: water and air conditioning units were involved. More mysteriously, the water was shown as plain tap water. Eventually, epidemiologists narrowed the causative factors as an aerosolization of bacteria-carrying water. Shockingly, chlorinated drinking water does not remove the bacterium in all cases. Normally, water is chlorinated to remove all traces of bacteria, but chlorination failed in this instance.

According to the U.S. EPA – “… if more prevalent bacteria and viruses are not present in the drinking water, then chlorination would have removed Legionella, as well …

So, we ruminate on potentially deadly diseases transmitted via a life-giving substance – water. The primary problems we face with water are poor infrastructure management. In fact, if we survey the potential number of diseases associated with water — the number and variety may astound us? From listeria to cholera to legionnaire’s to mosquitos infected with zika and west nile virus, it is a neglect of infrastructure coinciding with drastic climate change that proves problematic. It is no coincidence that rises in atmospheric and ocean temperatures trigger more cases of illnesses. To use an-oft quoted expression, we have a “perfect storm.”

While many individuals within the mainstream can not or don’t know how to accept that we are undergoing a drastic change, our fates appeared sealed with squabbling politicians whose only concern is money and wealth.

PARTS OF FLINT, MICHIGAN CONTINUE TO HAVE BAD WATER. IT HAS BEEN MORE THAT FOUR YEARS SINCE THE NEW WATER TREATMENT FACILITY HAS COME ON-LINE. DEATHS IN FLINT, FROM THE BAD WATER, CAME FROM LEGIONNAIRES’ DISEASE.

While Flint, Michigan continues to struggle with bad water, scientists and policy-makers continue to scratch their heads. The deaths in the poverty-stricken city are pushed to the back-pages of newspapers and not covered by the nightly news. The questions to ponder (according to this author), since Legionnaires’ is associated with higher temperatures, the likelihood of completely removing the bacterium from the water supply was not 100 percent.

Scientists now know that the legionnaires’ bacteria thrive in higher temperatures — even in chlorinated water.

Bibliography and sources

Water Purity and EPA standards: https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations#three Accessed October 7, 2019.

Frontline PBS: Flint’s Deadly Water. aired: September 10, 2019 https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/flints-deadly-water/

Aaron J. Prussin II, and others. Ten Questions Concerning the Aerosolization and Transmission of Legionella in Built Environment, Building Environment Journal 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29104349

Ronald S. Martin, and others. Isolation of Legionella pneumophila form hte blood of a patient with Legionnaires’ disease. Canadian Medical Association Journal 1984. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6388781