Grind for December 2nd, 2018
“To have great poets, there must be great audiences.”
– Walt Whitman
NASA spacecraft lands on Mars
NASA’s “InSight” Mars Lander touched down Monday after a journey of more than 300 million miles.
The lander used heat-absorbing shields, a supersonic parachute, and a variety of thrusters to slow its speed from 12,000mph to 5mph in just 7 minutes.
InSight will use a variety of solar powered instruments to collect information as it explores a large area of Mars known as the Elysium Planitia plain.
— A seismometer to measure seismic activity and map the planet’s interior
— A heat probe to measure the planet’s internal temperature
— A special radio to measure how much Mars wobbles on its axis
NASA hopes that studying the interior of Mars will help the agency learn more about the processes that helped shape the solar system.
Before experiments can begin, scientists will attempt to recreate the patch of soil on which the lander now sits in order to practice deploying the lander’s instruments in a laboratory setting.
The rehearsal will “take us about two months,” says NASA engineer Jaime Singer. “I wish it was 5 minutes.”
Monday’s landing was the eighth successful Mars landing for NASA. More than 50% of all attempts to land a craft on the surface of Mars have failed.
InSight was launched May 5th from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The lander weighs 850 pounds and cost more than $800 million to build.
Expect to see more gene-edited products in stores in 2019
As the world becomes ever more concerned with sustainability, scientists are starting to use gene-editing tools like CRISPR and TALEN to modify animals and crops.
Like genetic modification, gene-editing allows us to alter an organism’s DNA for benefits like faster growth and improved nutritional content.
According to the US National Academy of Sciences, these improvements are necessary if we expect to feed the world amid a changing climate.
The first gene-edited food (canola) went on the market this year, and more will be introduced in early 2019. As of now, these products don’t have to be labeled like GMOs because they do not contain foreign DNA.
GMOs are plants and animals whose DNA has been mixed with that of another species.
By comparison, gene-editing allows us to make similar changes to plants and animals without adding foreign DNA. Gene-editing is also faster and cheaper than genetic modification.
Using gene-editing, New York scientist Zachary Lippman was able to create tomato plants that produce twice the number of tomatoes. “There’s a long way to go, but what we have been able to do in the last four or five years is unbelievable,” says Lippman. “It’s science fiction.”
Other projects in the works include:
— Coffee that grows without caffeine
— Rice that won’t absorb pollution
— Wheat with low gluten content
“We are still working with everything that nature has provided,” says Lippman. “With traditional breeding, whatever traits nature has kicked out of the DNA, that’s the hand you have been played…With gene editing, now you are playing poker with aces up your sleeve.”
Roughly 20 gene-edited products are expected to hit the US market by 2020. In the meantime, geneticists are looking at ways they can improve the nutritional content of crops grown in developing countries.
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… According to a 2011 poll, 32% of Russians believe that the Sun orbits Earth.