Week 8 - Space by Jane Chen

With the dawn of the space exploration era, the fascination of objects beyond human reach has taken over many parts of the world.  The space race has resulted in many technological advances for zero-gravity experiments.  At the same time, many movies developed over the concept of space and its secrets.  One of the most recent and popular movies regarding the possibility of space colonization is Wall-E.  The movie depicted some of the consequences of human living, globalizaton, and industrialization (as evidenced by the completely uninhabitable planet), as well as the results of extensive space technology use: space trash.

With human imagination, there has also been increasing interest in the possibility of UFOs and aliens existing outside of planet Earth.  Besides Roswell, one region that many people question is the place known as Area 51, depicted in movies such as Independence Day and Tomb Raider 3.  Located in southern Nevada, Area 51 is a highly secretive military base that supports the development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems.  Due to its secretive nature, many people have formulated possible activities that go on beyond the high security borders.  In the 1950s and 60s, Lockheed used the area as a test site for the U2 spy plane as well as the blackbird prototypes.  In the proceeding years, some people have come forth claiming to have been former Area 51 researchers who worked with aliens (particularly one named J-Rod) as well as engineering on flying saucers and extraterrestrial aircraft that has landed in US government possession.

Although the idea of extraterrestrial life seems interesting, the actual possibility of life outside of earth remains questionable.  Continuous explorations of Mars prove to be unfruitful in terms of finding evidence of life (although there is now information regarding possible water sources on the planet).  The complex system of human life has been proven difficult to reproduce, as evidenced with the creation of Biosphere 2.  Biosphere 2 is a large 3 acre man-made, materially closed ecosystem in Arizona aimed at modeling the workings of the Earth’s atmosphere and biomes.  The first closed mission involved a group of 8 researchers.  They lived in the area for 2 years, growing their own food and conducting research in the closed environment.  Their experience proved that the workings of the Earth’s atmosphere proved far more complicated than putting all the ingredients together into a box.  Biosphere 2 suffered from large CO2 fluctuations that killed most of the vertebrae species and all pollinating insects.  Oxygen availbility also declined consistently, where the researchers eventually had to rely on oxygen injections to stay healthy.  A second mission was attempted in 1994 but was ended prematurely due to mangament and funding problems.

You can learn more about the current projects of Biosphere 2 here: http://www.b2science.org/


by Jane Chen

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