Welcome once again to Science Saturday! This week: Space Shuttle Discovery blasts off for the last time (plus, Star Trek theme will play on board!), buy a 1961 Soviet space capsule, the man who survived a particle accelerator to the head, and how atomic oxygen can restore works of art. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: Neptunic’s super shark suit.
Space Shuttle Discovery Blasts Off for the Last Time + Star Trek Theme Played On Board
Last Thursday, Feb 24th, Space Shuttle Discovery and her crew, STS-133, blasted off into space for the last time. This will be the second to last flight of any NASA space shuttle. Discovery has been the first shuttle to venture into new territories several times in the past throughout her 352 days in space so far, and now she’ll be the first shuttle to retire. “We’re wrapping up the Space Shuttle Program,” said STS-133 Commander Steve Lindsey. “Besides the excitement of completing the International Space Station and all the things we do, I hope people get a sense of the history of what the shuttle is and what we’ve done and what’s ending. Because they’ll probably never see anything like it flying again.”
Thanks to all of your voting, the Star Trek theme song will be played aboard Discovery for one of the crew’s wake-up calls! A great way to finish off the fleet. Over 2.4 million votes were cast in NASA’s Space Rock competition (although I alone probably contributed 100s!), and 671,134 of those votes were for Star Trek. More at NASA’s Space Rock webpage.
The crew of STS-133: Steve Lindsey (center right) and Eric Boe (center left), commander and pilot, respectively; along with astronauts (from the left) Alvin Drew, Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt and Steve Bowen, all mission specialists. Photo credit: NASA
1961 Soviet Space Capsule Up for Auction
Ever wanted to own a real piece of human spaceflight history? Got a couple million dollars lying around? Well, get your pocketbooks ready, because here’s your chance! A test capsule, which sent a cosmonaut mannequin and a dog named Zvezdochka into space just weeks before Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight, is up for auction. The tiny test capsule, Vostok 3KA-2, still scorched from re-entry will be sold at Sotheby’s in New York on April 12th, the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s historic flight. Sotheby’s estimates that the piece will brin $2 million to $10 million at auction. It is currently privately owned by an anonymous millionaire who bought the capsule from Russia years ago. The capsule is spherical, made out of an aluminum alloy, and only about 2.5 meters (8 feet) in diameter. The identical Vostok 1 model that carried Gagarin is on permanent display in Russian rocket maker Rkk Energia’s Museum near Moscow.
Capsule Vostok 3KA-2
What Happens When You Stick Your Head Into a Particle Accelerator?
TodayIFoundOut recalls the amazing story of Anatoli Petrovich Bugorski, a Russian scientist who has the distinction of being the only person to ever stick their head in a running particle accelerator. Shockingly, he even survived the ordeal! On July 13, 1978, Bugorski was checking a malfunctioning piece of equipment at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino. As he was leaning over the piece of equipment he stuck his head through the part of the accelerator that the proton beam was running through. Supposedly, he saw a flash that was Òbrighter than a thousand sunsÓ at this point. Interestingly, he did not feel any pain when this happened. The laser, which went clear through Bugorski’s brain, has paralyzed one half of his face. Looking at Bugorski now, youÕd see the right half of his face looks like a normal wrinkled old man, but the left half of his face looks as if it was frozen in time 19 years ago.
Read the entire fascinating story at Today I Found Out.com.
Anatoli Bugorski takes a laser through the head
NASA Uses Atomic Oxygen to Restore Old Paintings
Over time, after paintings have been exposed to the air for too long they being to fade, sometimes to the point where they become unrecognizable. NASA has discovered a way to bring these old paintings back to life using a technique that utilizes atomic oxygen. NASA has noted degredation of space craft caused by the bombardment of atomic oxygen with their hulls. The high energy oxygen atoms hitting the surface of an object react to form oxide compounds leading to erosion of a spacecraft’s surface. Atomic oxygen seems to have the opposite effect on paintings. Because paint on old paintings is already oxidized, the atomic oxygen serves to remove everything else, leaving behind just the original, oxidized paint. The image below shows just how successful this oxygen treatment is. On the left is a painting after it had already been restored using acetone and alcohol. On the right is the painting after NASA’s atomic oxygen treatment. Not too shabby!
More on the effects of atomic oxygen on spacecraft at ESA.
Left: After acetone & alcohol treatment. Right: After NASA’s atomic oxygen treatment
Gadget of the Week: New Supermaterial Can Stop a Shark Bite
Jeremiah Sullivan of Naptunic Technologies has been designing materials to create super light-weight shark suits that can sustain an attack by a great white. Currently, shark suits are usually made from chain mail, which is heavy and cumbersome. Sullivan’s new top secret technology is a super strong and surprisingly thin cloth that does the same trick as that chain mail. This new fabric has applications to military, law enforcement, and extreme sports. Watch a demo below.
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth your time.
- How to make a laser from a gin and tonic
- The 10 technologies you’d need to build your own holodeck
- New stretchable solar cells will power artificial electronic super skin