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Former Apollo Astronaut Pushes for International Commitment to Protect Earth from Killer Asteroids

There are few astronauts more respected and remembered than those who served on the Apollo missions – thirty-two military jet and test pilots who made or died training for the three-man Apollo missions that eventually sent humans to the Moon and back. When they have spoken – about space travel, the Moon, future missions, UFOs and other subjects – the world has listened. Rusty Schweickart, the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 9, spoke recently about the need for an international commitment to protect Earth from killer asteroids. As usual, his comments are worth listening to.

“During the Apollo 9 mission we were dark-adapted for an experiment, looking at the spectacular night-time Earth, watching weather fronts, thunder storms and lightning, a really great sight out of the window. Then, who knows who said it first, but one of us said they saw a little flash down there and someone else says ‘yeah, I saw it too,’ but you wouldn’t have mentioned it if the first person hadn’t said it. And then we realized: that was a meteor, burning up below us. Wow, below us – which meant it came down through our altitude!”

A close encounter of the worst kind – an asteroid impact in space – instead became an experience that forever influenced Russell “Rusty” Schweickart. When he was selected in 1963, Rusty Schweickart was a unique member of NASA Astronaut Group 3 – the fourteen astronauts selected by NASA to succeed the two-man Gemini missions in the three-man Apollo flights that would eventually lead to a walk on the Moon. Those names are well-known to the public today — Collins, Cunningham, Gordon, Aldrin, Cernan, Chaffee to list a few – but back then they were better known in the military as fighter pilots and test pilots. Schweickart was an experienced Air Force pilot, but he was also a research scientist at the Experimental Astronomy Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fields of upper atmospheric physics, star tracking and stabilization of stellar images.

Astronaut Group Three announced on October 18, 1963. They are (seated, left to right) Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., William A. Anders, Charles A. Bassett II, Alan L. Bean, Eugene A. Cernan, and Roger B. Chaffee. Standing (left to right) are Michael Collins, R. Walter Cunningham, Donn F. Eisele, Theodore C. Freeman, Richard F. Gordon Jr., Russell L. Schweickart, David R. Scott and Clifton C. Williams Jr. (Credit: NASA)

The 1969 flight of Apollo 9 was the first flight of the lunar module, piloted by Schweickart, and the first spacewalk of the Apollo missions, also by Schweickart. During a recent ESA Open Day at the European Space Agency’s ESTEC technical center in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, the former astronaut heard about the latest plans to stop asteroids like the one the Apollo 9 crew encountered before they destructively impact Earth. In 2022, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirect Test will hit the smaller member of the Didymos binary asteroids. Then, if approved this month by Europe’s space ministers, the ESA’s Hera mission will perform a close-up survey of the asteroid and crater after impact. Schweickart says he likes the idea of a multi-spacecraft mission rather than a single asteroid-seeking rocket.

“And one of the key unknowns of the kinetic impactor technique is a term we call ‘beta’ – when we hit the asteroid, how much stuff is going to come flying off? If it’s moving at greater than escape velocity, then that adds to the momentum shifting the orbit, boosting the technique’s effectiveness. That factor depends on the asteroid’s composition and structure, and we need a close-up look to find out what that is.”

In 2002, Schweickart helped found the B612 Foundation (named for the planetoid in The Little Prince), whose primary mission is “protecting the Earth from asteroid impacts and informing and forwarding world-wide decision-making on planetary defense issues.” Since asteroids can hit anywhere on Earth, Schweickart has long advocated international cooperation in both deflecting space rocks and in determining which ones to hit. He sees the NASA/ESA tandem as the first example of this cooperation. Unfortunately, we’re barely into asteroid defection business and have no idea what an impact will do – it could actually push the space rock into a higher likelihood of impact.

“In that case the observer spacecraft would have another job to do – to switch to gravity tractor mode, using altimeters and ion engines to stay just away from the asteroid, and nudge its orbit enough to miss the keyhole as well as the planet.”

Astronaut Rusty Schweickart (Credit: NASA)

Rusty Schweickart makes it sound so easy and doable, but the former Apollo and Skylab astronaut knows the dangers of space. He was the backup pilot for Roger B. Chaffee on Apollo 1, which ended in the tragic deaths of the crew members in a ground test accident. He also knows how expensive a worldwide asteroid deflection system would be and how difficult it is to get nations to agree on anything, let alone unseen dangers from outer space. That’s why he stays involved in both the technology and the politics of space.

At 84, Rusty Schweickart is still influenced by that near-impact experience on Apollo 9. For that, we should all be grateful.

Source: Mysterious Universe

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Planet Earth

Latimeria found, lived on our planet long before the dinosaurs

The unique fish Latimeria chalumnae, also called “Coelacanth”, lived on our planet long before the dinosaurs. They were long thought to have disappeared around the same time, about 65 million years ago.

However, after 1938, when the first Latimeria was officially discovered by chance, it turns out that the Latimerians did not die, but live in the deep waters off the east and south coasts of Africa.

Later, a second type of Latimeria was discovered in Indonesia.

The oldest fossils of Latimeria are 360 ​​million years old, and the “freshest” are 80 million years old. At the same time, it should be known that there were a huge number of Latimerians, at least 90 different species. They have been distributed worldwide, in sea and fresh waters.

Latimeria stand out against the modern fishes with their unusual fins, more like limbs, and a wedge-shaped tail. Their bodies are covered with solid scales, similar to armor.

Latimeria are pretty big fish. They can reach up to 2 meters in length and weigh up to 90 kg. At the same time, the fact that no one has found them for so long is amazing.

Even after this species has been officially recognized as being extant, the Latimeria is still rare and can only be found through specific monitoring in the waters where it has been observed.

Latimeria swim slowly and feed on cephalopods and deep-sea fishes. Often, they were discovered in groups in underwater caves. They live to about 48 years. Females give birth to live individuals after a long pregnancy of 13 months.

The first discovered Latimeria

The history of the Coelacanth is the cornerstone that supports the belief of many cryptozoologists that the mysterious Yeti, sea monsters, Chupacabra and other cryptids, actually exist, but simply have not yet been found.

At least two species of Latimeria, and perhaps more, have survived to this day without hiding at all. In addition, as mentioned above, Latimeria’s “freshest” fossils date back to 80 million years.

Just imagine this huge period of time during which archeologists have not found a single skeleton of Latimeria, even though they existed all this time.

According to some reports, there are populations of 300-400 individuals near the coasts of Africa and Indonesia. This comes after several years of increased illegal fishing. In the 1980s, the Latimerians were hunted (supposedly) because of the healing properties of their meat, and before that there were probably several thousand of them.

But if they were initially much smaller, they would probably never have been discovered at all, still considered extinct.

And the rare stories of local fishermen about “fish with a foot and a shell ” would be considered the same fiction as the stories of Africans about living dinosaurs.

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Planet Earth

Humpback Whales Have Made a Stunning Recovery After Coming Close to Extinction

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed

After coming dangerously close to the brink of extinction, the humpback whale population in the South Atlantic Ocean has made a stunning rebound, according to scientists.

Around 60 years ago, it was estimated that the western South Atlantic (WSA) humpback whale population had been thinned out to less than 500.

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Planet Earth

The heartbeat of a blue whale is recorded for the first time

Blue Whales can survive with two beats per minute in the ocean depths and now for the first time heartbeat of a blue whale is recorded.

heartbeat of a blue whale is recorded

When a blue whale feeds, it skips several heartbeats, sometimes up to 30. this is what a team of marine biologists has discovered after being able to record the heartbeat of a blue whale, on the coast near California. To do this, a suction pulse monitor was placed on his back.

The researchers watched as the marine giant emerged and submerged again for a period of almost 9 hours, alternately filling its lungs with air and its stomach with appetizing schools of fish hundreds of meters below the surface.

During the dives, the whale’s heart has brutal ups and downs, pumping from 34 times per minute on the sea surface to only 2 per minute at the deepest depths – between 30 and 50% slower than expected to be recorded.

According to the new study published in PNAS, the simple act of opening the mouth to eat takes the heart of the cetacean to its physical limits, something that could explain why there are no creatures larger than the blue whale on the planet.

“Animals that function at physiological extremes can help us understand the biological limits of size,” said lead author Jeremy Goldbogen, an assistant professor at Stanford University in California. “In other words: if the heart of a whale is not able to pump faster during the effort required in the search for food, how could it support the heart of an older animal and provide the required energy?”

The largest animal in the world Blue Whale

Blue whales are the largest creatures that have ever inhabited the oceans (the Patagotitan mayorum dinosaur was consecrated as the largest terrestrial creature that has stepped on the planet, after its study and classification in 2014 ).

Upon reaching adulthood, the blue whale can be more than 30 meters long, more or less the length of two school buses parked one after the other. It takes a big heart to drive a beast of such size; and while this organ is not so large that a human can swim inside one of its arteries, as an urban myth says, the truth is that stranded whales have allowed hearts to recover up to 200 kilograms and the size of a golf cart .

Blue whale heart. With a weight of 200 kg, it was extracted from a specimen that found its final destination on the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, in 2014. heartbeat of a blue whale is recorded
Blue whale heart.
With a weight of 200 kg, it was extracted from a specimen that found its final destination on the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, in 2014.

Scientists already knew that the pulse of these cetaceans decreased in the aquatic environment. When mammals submerge, their bodies automatically begin to redistribute oxygen; The heart and brain are the ones that most demand oxygen, while your muscles, skin and other organs receive less. This allows animals to stay underwater for longer with a single inhalation, resulting in a lower than normal heart rate. This is so true for humans who like diving as for blue whales, however, given the enormous size of the whale and its ability to reach 300 meters below the surface, their hearts are pushed to limits beyond our own. .

Change in the heartbeat of a blue whale with change in depth

In the creature studied, its maximum immersion lasted 16.5 minutes, reaching a depth of 184 meters. On the other hand, he never spent more than 4 minutes on the surface to fill his lungs with air.

The sensor set by the scientists showed that in the deepest dives, the heart of the whale beat at an average rate of 4 to 8 times per minute, with a minimum of only 2 beats per minute. “During these beats that were so temporarily separated, the flexible aortic artery of the animal contracted to maintain a slowed movement of the oxygenated blood through the body,” the researchers write.

Back on the surface, the heart rate accelerated rapidly to 25 to 37 beats per minute, charging the bloodstream with enough oxygen to support the next dive. “At that time the heart of the whale was working near its physical limit,” the authors add. “It is unlikely that your heart can beat faster than that.”

Source: Live Science

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