There should be no boundaries to human endeavor, said renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, and biotech company SpaceLife Origin is taking its cue from this quote. In this week’s “Did you know?” column, we are presenting news about SpaceLife Origin’s bold initiatives to colonize other planets, results of the world’s first study into dog’s ability to detect malaria, and NASA retiring Kepler after nine illustrious years.
Life Beyond Earth
Seeking to usher in a new era towards sustainable life beyond Earth, a biotech company SpaceLife Origin is planning to make human birth feasible in space by 2024.
As a first step towards its goal, the Company has developed Ark, which contains 1.000 protected tubes to store human reproduction cells, harvested in approved and supervised IVF clinics worldwide. The tubes will be carried by a satellite, put in orbit in space, and monitored realtime. This part of the mission, dubbed “Missions Ark – Safeguard human ‘seeds of life’ in space” is expected to be achieved by 2020.
The second step, dubbed Missions Lotus, involves developing a new “Space-Embryo-Incubator” to conceive the embryos in the space. Once the embryos are formed, the incubator is returned to Earth where they will grow further inside their mothers. This part of the mission, conception in space, birth on earth, is expected to be achieved by 2021.
The final step, dubbed Missions Cradle, will see the actual birth of the first human baby in space. A trained, world-class medical team will oversee the delivery of a pregnant woman in outer space. SpaceLife Origin expects to achieve this mission by 2024.
As rightly said by SpaceLife Origins CEO and Founder, Kees Mulder, if humanity wants to become a multi-planetary species, we also need to learn how to reproduce in space.
Wuff, Wuff – What’s That Smell?
Dogs have a stronger sense of smell than us, thanks to their 300 million olfactory receptors compared to our measly 6 million.
A new study conducted by Durham University, UK, has found that dogs could be trained to sniff out malaria in people and help prevent the spread of the deadly disease.
As part of the study, dogs at Medical Detection Dogs, a registered charity in the UK that trains dogs to detect the odor of human disease, were made to identify malaria-infected samples from a total of 175 sock samples worn for 24 hours by children in The Gambia, a country in Africa where malaria is endemic.
The dogs were able to correctly identify 70 per cent of the malaria-infected samples and 90 per cent of the samples without malaria parasites.
Medical Detection Dogs Chief Executive, Claire Guest, said, “this is the first time we have trained dogs to detect a parasite infection and we have had very positive results.”
Commenting on the findings, lead investigator of the study, Professor Steve Lindsay, said, “This could provide a non-invasive way of screening for the disease at ports of entry in a similar way to how sniffer dogs are routinely used to detect fruit and vegetables or drugs at airports. This could help prevent the spread of malaria to countries that have been declared malaria free and also ensure that people, many of whom might be unaware that they are infected with the malaria parasite, receive antimalarial drug treatment for the disease.”
Kepler Calls It Quits
The Kepler Space Telescope, launched by NASA on March 6, 2009 as part of its mission of searching Earth-like planets, is being retired as it has run out of fuel. It is being retired within its current and safe orbit, away from Earth.
Over the course of its nine years, Kepler, with 12 kilograms, or a little over 3 gallons of fuel onboard, has revealed more than 4,500 confirmed planets and planet candidates.
According to a recent press release from NASA, the most recent analysis of Kepler’s discoveries concludes that 20 to 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky are likely to have small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth, and located within the habitable zone of their parent stars. That means they’re located at distances from their parent stars where liquid water – a vital ingredient to life as we know it – might pool on the planet surface.
With Kepler now having reached the finish line, the baton in search for planets outside of our solar system passes on to Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, which was launched in April of this year.
TESS will complete an all-sky survey of 200,000 of the brightest nearby stars, covering areas that Kepler did not.
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