NASA

NASA Chief: Humanity’s Future Depends On Mission To Mars

NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden says it's vital we become a "multi-planet species"

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NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden grabbed the public’s attention at the Humans 2 Mars Summit laying out a multi-billion dollar plan to get humans on the surface of Mars by 2030.

“If this species is to survive indefinitely, we need to become a multi-planet species,” Bolden said.

The public doesn’t think that’s unlikely. A poll funded by Explore Mars and Boeing showed that 75% believe that people will land on the moon by 2033. Chris Carberry, executive director of Explore Mars, said “The survey results suggest Americans are ready for a renewed dedication to exploring the solar system.”

 

T100

Can a Thermostat Save the Planet?

Tony Fadell and Nest are planning to build a more eco-friendly tomorrow

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Forget your old home appliances, the new home is all about smart tech. From Bluetooth key locks to app-controlled light bulbs, the new home is undergoing a smart-tech revolution. Tony Fadell, designer of the first iPod, threw his hat into the ring of the smart-tech competition in 2010 with his company Nest. In 2011, Nest announced a high-tech remote controlled thermostat that is constantly learning about your energy use. Fadell’s company was recently bought by Google for 3.2 billion dollars.

When I looked at the environment in 2010 people were working on [renewable energy sources and grid changes]. When you looked at the thermostat and it hadn’t changed in 30 years, you were like, ‘wait a second.’ This is ripe for innovation, this is ripe for disruption … lets go fix that problem,” Fadell said.

Nest is slowly sliding to the forefront of green tech. Its smart thermostat is marketed to the average consumer worried about their wallet, but their underlying mission is to reduce the planet’s total energy consumption. Tony Fadell has been chosen as one of TIME’s top 100 most influential people for 2014.

MORE: Nest Protect Smoke Detector

energy

Fetal Tissue Used To Power Oregon Homes

(PORTLAND, Ore.) — An Oregon county commission has ordered an incinerator to stop accepting boxed medical waste to generate electricity after learning the waste it’s been burning may include tissue from aborted fetuses from British Columbia.

Sam Brentano, chairman of the Marion County board of commissioners, said late Wednesday the board is taking immediate action to prohibit human tissue from future deliveries at the plant that has been turning waste into energy since 1987.

“We provide an important service to the people of this state and it would be a travesty if this program is jeopardized due to this finding,” he said in a statement. “We thought our ordinance excluded this type of material at the waste-to-energy facility. We will take immediate action to ensure a process is developed to prohibit human tissue from future deliveries.”

Kristy Anderson, a British Columbia Health Ministry spokeswoman, told The Associated Press that regional health authorities there have a contract with a company that sends biomedical waste, such as fetal tissue, cancerous tissue and amputated limbs, to Oregon, where it’s incinerated in the waste-energy plant.

The B.C. Catholic, a Vancouver-based newspaper, identified the plant as Covanta Marion, based in Brooks, Ore. When contacted by The AP on Wednesday, a Covanta Marion representative said he did not know if fetal tissue was included in shipments from Canada or elsewhere.

The facility is owned and operated by Covanta in a partnership with Marion County. According to its website, it processes 550 tons per day of municipal solid waste, generating up to 13 megawatts of energy sold to Portland General Electric.

Marion County estimates that the facility processes about 700 tons of in-county medical waste each year and about 1,200 tons from elsewhere, making it a small percentage of the total waste burned. Out-of-town medical waste is charged a higher fee.

County spokeswoman Jolene Kelley said medical waste has been included in the program for some time, but the commissioners never had any indication that fetal tissue might be included.

“We learned that today,” she said.

Commissioners did not say why they believe medical waste shipped to the plant should be free of fetal tissue.

Since they have no idea what’s been arriving in the sealed shipments, the commissioners decided to temporarily suspend all medical waste, Kelley said. They’ve scheduled an emergency hearing for Thursday and might rewrite an ordinance to clarify what type of material can be accepted.

Covanta Marion is believed to be the only plant generating energy from waste in Oregon.

The Environmental Protection Agency says medical waste from hospitals is generally excluded from the municipal solid waste used to generate electricity.

VIDEO: Obama Met a Robot on His Tokyo Trip

The revolution has begun

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It’s finally happened: The President has gone head-to-head with a robot.

President Barack Obama played soccer against a ASIMO, a very lifelike robot created by Honda, at the Natural Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo on Thursday.

Despite sharing some friendly conversation and bowing to one other out of respect, Obama later confessed to the Associated Press that “the robots were a little scary. They were too life-like.”

MORE: Smooth Moves: The History and Evolution of Honda’s ASIMO Robot

 

TIME 100

Bill and Melinda Gates Applaud the Good Works of 2 Very Good People

Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates The Washington Post; Washington Post/Getty Images

This year, the TIME 100 honors Aliko Dangote and Christy Turlington Burns—and the co-chairs of the Gates Foundation explain why that was a very good idea

When you’re busy saving the world—you know, reducing childhood mortality, improving maternal health, getting schools built and getting the water flowing in rural communities—you don’t have a lot of time to brag about what you’re doing. That’s why it was so gratifying that both Bill and Melinda Gates volunteered to contribute stories to this year’s TIME 100 issue. But make no mistake, they were writing not to celebrate themselves for the good works of their Foundation, but to applaud instead two unlikely people—Aliko Dangote and Christy Turlington Burns—neither of whom is usually associated with the business of saving lives.

Dangote is Africa’s richest man, with interests in a diverse range of enterprises including shipping, food processing and construction materials. Burns is, of course, a supermodel. And there the descriptions of the two TIME 100 honorees used to end. But Dangote has turned his considerable attention, wealth and energy to increasing access to health care for all people—especially children—across Africa, and is guiding his multiple businesses so they grow in ways that can increase wealth across class lines. The rising tide that too often lifts only selected boats in developed countries like the U.S. and elsewhere will, if Dangote has anything to say about it, lift them all in Africa.

Burns, for her part, is working to improve maternal health and reduce maternal mortality around the world. That’s a mission she embraced after suffering a hemorrhage during childbirth — she realized that while such an incident is a manageable emergency in the West, it is often a death sentence for mother and baby in other places. She has since founded the advocacy and fundraising group “Every Mother Counts,” which provides supplies, transportation and health education to women in the developing world as well as here in the U.S.

Taking a page from the way the Gates Foundation does its work, Burns is a demon when it comes to efficiency and accountability. Every $1 raised by her group must translate into $1 in the hands of the people in the field directly providing aid—none of this thirty cents on the dollar business with the rest going to overhead and staff salaries.

Efforts like hers and Dangotes’ and, of course, the Gateses’, are paying off. Childhood mortality has been slashed by about 40% since 2007, polio has been pushed to the brink of eradication, mothers and families are getting a fighting chance that they never would have had in the past. A problem as vast as global health requires solutions that are just as broad. It’s not just about doctors and nurses and community clinics. It’s about smart, compassionate people like Aliko Dangote and Christy Turlington Burns who could easily be spending their time on less challenging, more indulgent things, but instead leverage their particular skills to give back to others.

That’s why both Bill and Melinda Gates took the time to write about Dangote and Burns. And that’s why TIME made sure to honor work that easily places them among the 100 most influential people in the world.

TIME 100

The Green Heroes of the TIME 100

Tom Steyer is on the TIME 100
Steyer is one of several TIME 100 honorees fighting for the planet Harry E. Walker/MCT via Getty Images

Energy, climate, food and the environment—a number of selections from the TIME 100 are fighting for the planet

It’s that time of year again. The TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world is officially out, and while boldface names like Beyoncé, Pope Francis and Robert Redford will get most of the attention, there’s also a surprising number of figures whose influence extends to the environment. A quick rundown:

  • Tom Steyer: Steyer became a billionaire as a bold hedge-fund trader. Now the San Francisco financier is betting some of his fortune on climate change, spending tens of millions of dollars to support candidates who are willing to act on global warming—and punishing those that won’t. Suddenly the Koch Brothers have competition.
  • Katharine Hayhoe: The bubbly Texas Tech climatologist has been doing work on climate change for years, but she came to the country’s attention earlier this month when she was featured in the premiere episode of Showtime’s global warming documentary Years of Living Dangerously. What sets Hayhoe apart from most climatologists is her faith: She’s an evangelical Christian, and proud of it. She’s made it her mission to bring the facts of climate change to her fellow believers.
  • Alice Waters: Waters all but kicked off the locavore revolution when she opened her Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse in 1971. But in recent years she’s turned her focus to children, using her pioneering Edible Schoolyard Project to push the idea that kids should be able to learn about food and farming in schools. Waters continues to change the way Americans eat—from the ground up.
  • Yao Chen: Every Chinese knows the air quality in their country is bad and getting worse. But not every Chinese is willing to say that out loud. Yao is the exception. The beloved movie star has more than 66 million followers on Weibo, China’s microblogging network, and she uses that platform to raise concerns about the country’s poisoned air and water.
  • Jack Ma: The founder of the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, Ma has become one of China’s richest businessmen. But last year he stepped back from his business to become the chairman of the Nature Conservancy’s China program, taking on his country’s catastrophic pollution.
  • Kathryn Sullivan: NASA may get all the glory, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forms the backbone of U.S. climate and weather research. NOAA is led now by Sullivan, part of the first class of female astronauts and a veteran of three space shuttle flights—including the one that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope.

 

TIME 100

TIME 100: The People in Health You Need to Know

The 2014 TIME 100 list–the annual determination of people who influenced the world in the past year for better or worse–is here, and we highlight the leaders making a difference in health.

This year, TIME recognizes innovators who tackled issues from hunger and maternal health to marijuana and aging.

  • Christy Turlington Burns, an ambassador for maternal health. Burns founded Every Mother Counts, which provides poor countries with health education, medicine and emergency care.

“When [mothers] are healthy, everyone thrives. Christy is helping make that happen.” –Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Ertharin Cousin, a Chicagoan who helps feed the world. As head of the U.N.’s World Food Program, Cousin is responsible for feeding over 100 million people each year.

“Her goal is nothing short of eradicating global hunger in our lifetimes, creating a world where no child or adult knows the feeling of an empty stomach” –Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, served in the Clinton and Obama administrations

  • Aliko Dangote, doing well and doing good for Africa. Dangote is one of the richest men in Africa who also dedicates his time to ridding countries of infectious diseases.

“This year, Nigeria is on pace for its lowest number of polio cases ever. Aliko is a big reason why” –Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Robert Lanza, in the vanguard of stem-cell research. Dr. Lanza is the chief scientific officer at the biotech firm Advanced Cell Technology, and found a way to turn adult cells into stem cells that may soon be turned into new treatments, or cures, for diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

“The controversies may continue, but thanks to Lanza the science will too.” –Alice Park, health and medicine writer for TIME and author of The Stem Cell Hope

  • José Mujica, the revolutionary who legalized pot. As Uruguay’s president, José “Pepe” Mujica signed a law making the country the first to legalize the production and sale of marijuana.

“Uruguay has embarked on a bold and fascinating experiment that will be closely watched by supporters of legalization in other countries–including myself” –Meghan McCain, co-host of Pivot’s TakePart Live

  • Arunachalam Muruganantham, an unlikely health crusader. Muruganantham designed a simple machine to make sanitary napkins after seeing how hard it was for his wife to get access to affordable ones.

“The invention has sparked interest around the world. It’s a truism for a reason: Empathy is the most revolutionary emotion” –Ruchira Gupta, founder of Apne Aap, an Indian anti-sex-trafficking organization

  • David Sinclair, bringing us closer to reversing aging. Sinclair is a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School who discovered a compound that makes old cells act young again.

“Immortality is out of reach, but living more years with a body that’s robust enough to make the most of them is a real possibility” –Dr. David Agus, professor of medicine and author of A Short Guide to a Long Life

  • Alice Waters, pioneer of good food for all. As a respected chef, Waters promotes accessible produce for everyone, including for the youngest eaters, with the Edible Schoolyard Project.

“She proved the power of a chef, showing an entire generation that one passionate person can reshape the eating habits of a nation” --Ruth Reichl, a food writer whose first novel, Delicious!, will be published in May

TIME 100

The Space Sorority

The NOAA head, former NASA astronaut, and TIME 100 honoree is one of 57 women who have been to space. See some of the other members of the great space sorority.

The first man on the moon was a character in popular culture decades—even centuries, perhaps—before Neil Armstrong actually filled the role. The assumption was that humanity would reach the moon someday, and it was simply a given that the first historic step would indeed be taken by a man. “This country should commit itself, before this decade is out,” President Kennedy declared in 1961, “to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” There was no need for the gender-neutral “landing a person on the moon,” no clumsy “and returning him or her safely to the Earth.” Astronauts were supposed to be men and they jolly well would be.

But only until they weren’t. The boys-only rule ended fast, just two years later, when the Soviet Union sent Valentina Tereshkova (slide 18) into orbit for a flight that lasted just minutes shy of three full days. In the half century since Tereshkova’s flight, 57 other women have strapped in and blasted off, representing nine different countries—most recently China. The U.S. did not join the space sorority until 1983, when Sally Ride flew, but America made up for that dallying, sending a total of 45 women into space since then. 2014 TIME 100 honoree Kathryn Sullivan (slide 1) was the first American woman to space walk. Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, a crew member on five space shuttle missions and a former resident of the International Space Station, is now a three-star lieutenant general in the United States Air Force. They have faced the same challenges as the men, experienced the same thrills as the men and, on occasion, paid the same price as the men. Four women—Christa McAulliffe, Judith Resnik, Laurel Clark, and Kalpana Chawla—died in the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

The U.S. space program is now in a state of drift, with no American vehicle currently capable of carrying human beings to space, and NASA thus dependent on the Russians to ferry our crews up to the International Space Station—at a cost of $70 million per seat. But China—as in so many other things—is a rising power in space and on June 11, sent its second female astronaut, Wang Yaping, into orbit on what is just the country’s fifth crewed mission. She was preceded last year by Liu Yang.

There was less global hoopla when Yang flew than when Ride did, and much less than when Tereshkova did. The fact that human beings travel in space continues to be—and should be—something that delights and even surprises us. The fact that women are among those explorers is, at last, becoming routine.

NASA

Astronaut’s Selfie Is Out of This World

It is terrifying

NASA astronaut Rich Mastracchio aboard the International Space Station took a seriously impressive selfie Wednesday during an EVA—short for Extra-Vehicular Activity. That’s astronaut-ese for spacewalk.

As one might imagine, the confines of a spacesuit make it difficult to snap a proper selfie, but he was able to pull it off after a few tries.

Mastracchio may win for coolest selfie ever with this one. At least we can say it’s not the coolest selfie on earth.

asteroids

No, We’re Not All Gonna Die From An Asteroid

Bullseye: A hole left in a frozen lake in Chelyabinsk, thought to have been punched out by a fragment of the meteor that struck in 2013.
Bullseye: A hole left in a frozen lake in Chelyabinsk, thought to have been punched out by a fragment of the meteor that struck in 2013. The Asahi Shimbun

A new report spreads fear about the Earth getting clobbered by a killer rock. But the fact is we get hit all the time and we just don't know it. Move on, nothing to see here (at least for now)

Tell the truth: Did you stay inside today? If you did, was any of it due to the sky-is-falling (literally), Earth-shaking (again, literally) reports that at any moment we could be hit by a city-killing meteor? According to research by Peter Brown of the Meteor Physics Group at the University of Western Ontario, since 2000, there have been 26 meteors that exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere and released the equivalent of at least 1,000 tons of TNT (1 kiloton); four of those packed a bigger punch than the 16-kiloton bomb that leveled Hiroshima.

So scary news, right? Well, not necessarily.

First of all, remember that “exploded in the Earth’s atmosphere” part? That’s no small thing. The atmosphere has been pretty effectively protecting us from harm for a long, long time. Picture the surface of the moon; now picture the surface of the Earth. That’s the difference between a world that stands exposed to the shooting gallery of space and a world that, in effect, wears a bullet-proof vest (OK, plate tectonics and volcanoes resurface the Earth and cover up craters, but not nearly enough to fix the kind of damage that’s been done on the moon).

What’s more, those 26 space rocks over the past 14 years are just the tiniest fraction of the amount of space rubble that rains down on us harmlessly all the time. According to Don Yeomans of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Near Earth Object Program Office—the NASA outfit that tracks the sky for dangerous space ordnance—about 100 tons of rocks and dust enter the atmosphere every day. Most of it is the size of a pea or even a sand grain, he says. But there’s at least one basketball-sized object each day and one as big as a Volkswagen each month—and none of them hurt us.

If the only damage a bigger space rock could do was drill a hole in the ground no larger than itself, there wouldn’t be much to worry about. But the faster an asteroid moves the more energy it’s carrying, and when that energy is released—either in the atmosphere or on the ground—it is indeed like a bomb going off. The asteroid that exploded over the Tunguska region in Russia in 1908 measured only about as far across as a football field and yet unleashed a 40-megaton (or 40 million tons of TNT) blast, wiping out trees across an 825 sq. mi. (2,136 sq. km) footprint of forest. The 2013 Chelyabinsk asteroid that also exploded over Russia, injuring 1,000 people, measured just 66 ft. (20 m) across

Yeomans calculates that his office has now has now found 95% of the asteroids 1 kilometer (.6 mi.) or larger that could do damage on a global scale—say, causing the kind of climate disruption that wiped out the dinosaurs—and 30% of the ones 140 meters (460 ft.) across that could do local or regional damage. Knowing the rocks’ trajectory gives us a chance either to deflect them or at least evacuate the area they’d hit in the unlikely event they were on a collision course with Earth. So is he worried about what Brown and his colleagues in Canada have discovered?

“They’ve taken their data and plotted it up and made it look interesting,” he says. “But there’s only one meteor [Chelyabinsk] that could have done—and did do—any damage.”

The rest? Well, we kind of knew they were there all along. It’s a little like knowing there’s only one burglary in your neighborhood every 10 years, and then learning that three would-be burglars in the vicinity are arrested every week. That’s scary, but all it means is that the police are doing their job—just like the atmosphere is doing its. What’s more, the Canadian findings were publicized in part by an independent group called the B612 Foundation that is trying to raise money for an infrared space telescope that would also hunt for dangerous objects. The people behind B612 are legitimate scientists and include two former astronauts, and NASA plans to use their data if they ever get their instrument launched, but the fact remains that they’re currently seeking backers and it never hurts to play up the stakes.

“They’re in a sales mode,” Yeomans says bluntly.

Even if the B612 group has something important to sell, that doesn’t mean the end is imminent. The Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years; we’ve probably got a pretty good run left.

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