As cliche as it may sound, outer space is the final frontier. It is vast and uncharted, we barely know anything about it, and only a few people have ever been there. But scientists around the world have been working incredibly hard to make it just a little less mysterious. Here are five recent space innovations that have scientists going wild:
1. An efficient way to get rid of space junk:
Space junk, or debris orbiting the earth, is a major problem for NASA. There are currently millions of pieces of space junk in our orbit, ranging from the size of sand grains (which erode our space technology) to the size of softballs (which pose a physical threat). So far, NASA has modified systems in rockets and space stations to avoid junk, but the sheer amount of debris has now made that near impossible. The only proposed solution, a space mission to manually remove objects, is wildly expensive. However, scientists at Texas A&M are working on a new idea: a robot that would catch debris, eject it towards earth (where it would burn up in the atmosphere), and use that momentum to move on to the next object. This would require very little fuel, making it cost-effective while saving our satellites.
2. The first phone call from space:
Taking the Android-versus-iPhone debate to a new level, Google recently launched a smartphone into outer space and dialed home. This is the first phone call ever from space to earth, and its success means a potential new level of communication between space stations and home base. Plus, the phone carried multiple apps for different purposes; if you want to request certain pictures of earth from space, there's actually an app for that. This round definitely goes to Android.
3. A new spacesuit to combat zero gravity:
When you first think of space, many people imagine astronauts floating in zero gravity. Thanks to the new V2Suit from NASA, that image might soon become outdated. This new spacesuit is designed to counterbalance zero gravity, allowing astronauts to maintain a sense of "down" and movement similar to that under Earth's gravity. Not only does the suit improve astronauts' health and performance in space, but scientists are hoping the technology can be modified to help the elderly with motor skills or rehabilitate individuals who have suffered physical injuries.
4. Watching the birth of a new planet:
Scientists at Chile's Very Large Telescope believe that, for the first time ever, they have caught the formation of a planet in a photo. Though various planet formation theories have been tested using computer simulations in the past, witnessing a real planet form would provide proof of the exact process once and for all. Interestingly, because the said planet is 335 light-years away, the photos we are capturing are actually photos of an event that occurred 335 years ago, lending a new meaning to "learning from history."
5. Insta-cities on the moon:
The idea of cities on the moon isn't just a relic of the Cold War anymore. Scientists at the University of Southern California are integrating robotic systems to create a singular one that can rapidly build entire lunar cities after landing on the moon. These cities would be protected from space radiation and are even aesthetically pleasing, and they are also being modified to be viable on Mars. Aside from housing astronauts during space missions, this technology could provide shelter for a future where human colonies exist on other planets and outer space is no longer an unknown frontier.