Category Archives: Science articles

Galactic Suite Space Resort on Target

space suit

The Galactic Suite Project is a unique combination of commercialization and exploration. Directors Xavier Claramunt and Marsal Gifra have combined the expertise of three Spanish firms and one American company to bring this project to fruition. The Spanish firms are Equip XCL, Aerospace Research and Technology Center, and Global Business Technologies. The American firm, 4 Frontiers Corporation, brings with it the technology they are developing for the exploration of Mars. Headquarters of Galactic Suite is in Barcelona.

There are three phases which must be completed. First is the development of a spaceport on a yet-to-be-named Caribbean Island. The spaceport will feature a magnetic catapult to provide the initial supersonic boost to the spacecraft. There will be a runway for landing the spacecraft as the Space Shuttle does. Also on the island is a luxury hotel which will house the space travelers and their guests during the 18 week training period.

The spacecraft will be powered by hybrid rocket engines in two stages. After the catapult launch to supersonic speed, the rockets will accelerate the craft to its orbital speed of 18,000 miles per hour. The spacecraft will then maneuver to an orbital height of 300 miles, where the Galactic Suite module will be waiting. Crew on the ship will be four guests and two pilot/astronauts.

The Galactic Suite orbital hotel will have four modules joined to a central common area. Each “bedroom” module will feature a large window providing fantastic views of the earth and the stars. Floating in weightless conditions, the guests will enjoy 15 sunsets on each of the trip’s four days. At the end of the trip the crew and guests will board the spacecraft for the return to earth. The spacecraft will remain docked to the orbital hotel during the entire stay to provide an additional measure of safety and security.

The Galactic Suite Project’s initial goal of first flight in 2012 has been pushed back to 2015. The ownership continues to remain optimistic, though, and the bulk of the financing is already in place. A three billion euro initial investment by an undisclosed space enthusiast has the whole organization moving briskly toward success. Prices are expected to hold steady at four million dollars per guest, which includes the luxury accommodations at the spaceport and the training. The future of commercial space tourism has never looked brighter than it does today.

Decision sparks dissent on donor debate

Half a century ago, the very idea of transplanting an organ from one person into another was considered by many as somewhat ghastly. Whispers of head transplants and Frankenstein-style monsters could be heard as people feared what might possibly come from such new technology. Today, countless people owe their lives to this relatively common form of surgery.
But are we prepared to use animals for their body parts instead? That is the question being asked as we look for new ways to meet the need for organ transplants.
The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has recently announced it would permit trials on ‘xenotransplantation’ – the process of replacing a person’s organs with those from another species. Given animals such as pigs have organs that are rather similar to our own, it could provide a way of saving the lives of those who would otherwise never find a compatible donor. Continue reading Decision sparks dissent on donor debate

DNA thief goes green to feed

If you had a pair of boxes labelled ‘plant’ and ‘animal’, how challenging would it be to find items to put in each of them? Easy, you’d say! A frog could go into ‘animal’ because it chases and eats flies. You could put a daisy into the ‘plant’ box because it gets energy by absorbing light and not other organisms.

Where would you put the aquatic slug, Elysia chlorotica? Well, it’s a slug, so you’d assume it would get its energy by eating algae or plant material. Obviously it’s an animal. Yet its dusky green colouration reveals quite an interesting trick – this slippery gastropod can also soak up the sun to feed itself. Continue reading DNA thief goes green to feed

How the emu got grounded

Old man emu isn’t well known for his swimming ability, nor is his cassowary cousin. The flightless African rhea can’t operate small aircraft, ostriches aren’t very good at teleportation and as large as the extinct New Zealand moa was, it’s unlikely it got there by jumping across the Tasman.

They are all related as a group of birds called ‘ratites’. Biologists from the Australian National University wondered just how it was that these birds managed to spread to different parts of the globe if they couldn’t fly. Yet the DNA of the moa revealed an interesting secret – its closest ancestor is a small South American bird called a ‘tinamous’. Continue reading How the emu got grounded

Better pipes made flowers a blooming success

Flowering plants aren’t just pretty to look at; if they had never evolved, the human species probably wouldn’t have either. The brains of our primate ancestors grew large on a diet of fruit and flowers provided by a group of plants known as ‘angiosperms’.

But over 140 million years ago there was no such thing as a flower – plants such as conifers and ferns used other methods other than flowers to reproduce. A few million years after the last dinosaur walked the planet, flowering plants took over conifers as the most common type of tree. Today there are thought to be between 250 000 and 400 000 species of flowering plant. Continue reading Better pipes made flowers a blooming success

Fleck specks keep track

Pinching the mug of the Science by Email editor should be considered a crime. Fortunately, it has been returned, and no harm was done. But if it could only talk! What adventures did it have? Where did it go? Who stole it in the first place?

If it had have been armed with a small device called a FLECK nano, such questions might have been answered.

A few years ago, CSIRO developed a wireless device called a FLECK, consisting of a central processing unit, flash memory and a radio transceiver. FLECKs could be outfitted with a range of different sensors to record conditions in their surroundings, such as the temperature or moisture. Continue reading Fleck specks keep track

What’s the buzz about lasers?

Watch any science fiction movie and you’ll quickly get the impression that weapon of choice in the future will be little more than a flash of light. Whether it’s a tiny pistol or a cannon capable of bringing down entire spaceships, lasers seem to define war in centuries yet to come.
We mightn’t have spacecraft shooting bolts of light at each other quite yet, but going on a recent demonstration in California we might be blasting slightly smaller enemies from the sky. The mosquito is set to be the first real-life victim of the laser gun.
Microsoft’s billionaire founder, Bill Gates, and his wife Melinda, set scientists a challenge to find cost-efficient ways of reducing the number of deaths from the parasitic disease malaria. The research company ‘Intellectual Ventures Laboratory’ took up the challenge and began work on a device that used a tiny laser to quickly zap any mosquito unlucky enough to get too close. Continue reading What’s the buzz about lasers?

There’s a zoo in my belly

If a cyclone tore through a book shop, how would you react if you were told it was your job to glue all of the books back together again? With ripped-up pages scattered all over the place, where would you start? A team of French microbiologists faced a similar dilemma when studying the diversity of bacteria in the human gut.
The long tube that is your digestive system is home to an immense zoo of microscopic organisms. Researchers from the National Institute of Agricultural Research in France wanted to know if we all shared similar zoos, or if the ‘animals’ in each of us varied.
Telling the difference between animals in a real life zoo is easy. Lions don’t look much like chimpanzees, and penguins are easy to pick out from the seals. Bacteria, on the other hand, can often be hard to categorise. So the microbiologists ripped them up and looked at a soup of their genes. Continue reading There’s a zoo in my belly

Winning sperm a glowing success

Competitions can be found everywhere in nature. Even the tiniest cells often need to fight, play hide and seek or run marathons, where winning can mean the difference between life and death. Most animals’ lives even begin with a race between competing cells, where the winner is literally awarded with the opportunity of a lifetime.
Every single sperm cell produced by a male animal holds a random selection of his genes, resulting in a multitude of cells containing different combinations of DNA. Some will have groups of genes that will help the animal survive in its environment, while others won’t work as well. A race is a good way to make sure only functional sperm have a chance at fertilising the egg at the end and creating a new life. Continue reading Winning sperm a glowing success

Busy bees quick on colours

Seeing a colour happens in a blink of an eye. Although for us humans, that’s pretty slow, at least compared with the bumblebee. The speed at which your eyes process colour images might seem pretty quick, but researchers at the University of London have found the bee is hard to beat.
Vision relies on special cells that line the inside of the back of your eyeball. One type of these cells – referred to as ‘rods’ – detects how bright light is, while the other – shaped a little more like cones – responds to different wavelengths of light to allow us to see colours. ssage to the brain, which takes about a tenth of a second in humans. This might not seem very long, but for bees this could mean the difference between finding food or being food. Their cellular chemistry is therefore five times faster than ours. Continue reading Busy bees quick on colours

Eyjafjallajökull, it's not over till it's over

Last week we saw a picture on the Internet that showed that the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced ?ay-uh-fee-at-luh-yo-koot-luh/span>?) was emitting less carbon dioxide than would have been emitted by the thousands of planes that usually fly in Europe each day. So in the short term the volcano?s eruption saved the skies from tonnes of carbon dioxide because so many flights were grounded due to the volcano?s ash. Science by Email decided to investigate. Continue reading Eyjafjallajökull, it’s not over till it’s over

CSIRO harbours new jellyfish

A spectacular new jellyfish has recently been found off the CSIRO wharf at Battery Point in Hobart, Tasmania, and has been given the name Csiromedusa medeopolis. This newly discovered life form is full of surprises, as it represents not only a new species but also a new family.
The jellyfish was discovered by researchers from the Queen Victoria Museum and Gallery in Launceston and the South Australian Museum. They used a specially-designed plankton net to catch the jellyfish off the CSIRO wharf. When they pulled up the net and looked at what they had caught under a microscope they found an amazing and unique jellyfish that had never been seen before. Continue reading CSIRO harbours new jellyfish