Earth is overdue an ‘extinction-level’ event, Nasa scientist warns.


meteor.jpg

Earth is due an “extinction-level” event we’re currently powerless to defend ourselves against.

This is according to Nasa scientist Dr Joseph Nuth, of the Goddard Space Flight Center, speaking on Monday at a meeting in San Francisco.

Large asteroids and comets of the variety that could lead to extinctions have tended to hit the earth around 50 to 60 million years apart.

The last major comet extinction is thought to have been around 65 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs towards the end of the cretaceous period.

Most large life on earth is thought to have been wiped out while small mammals thrived, able to scavenge and burrow unlike larger life which starved after the extinction event.

Nuth cited a close encounter in 2014, when a comet passed perilously close to Mars, spotted only 22 months prior to the fly-by.

Had a similar comet been spotted coming towards earth, it wouldn’t have been sufficient time to prepare a defence.

He has suggested that Nasa build a defence system to be deployed should a similar situation be expected for Earth.

The issue was discussed on BBC Radio 5live , when Cathy Plesko, a research scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, discussed the possibility of a spaceship firing nuclear weapons at incoming asteroids.

Cheese triggers same part of brain as hard drugs, study finds.


If you’re planning a few cheese boards this Christmas, you might want to know a little-known fact about cheese first.

Your favourite yellow food contains a chemical that’s also found in highly-addictive hard drugs, scientists from the University of Michigan have found.

The researchers used the Yale Food Addiction Scale, which measures a person’s dependence on different foods. They asked 120 students to answer the addiction scale, and choose between 35 foods, and then did a second test on a further 384 subjects.

Their findings? The foods that ranked top of the scale contained cheese.

Lovely, melty, cheesy cheese.

northumberland-cheese-compa.jpg

Cheese contains casein, which is present in all dairy products, and can trigger the brain’s opioid receptors, which are linked to addiction.

The study states:

The current study provides preliminary evidence that not all foods are equally implicated in addictive-like eating behavior, and highly processed foods, which may share characteristics with drugs of abuse (e.g. high dose, rapid rate of absorption) appear to be particularly associated with ‘food addiction’.

Part Nano-Tech, Part Living Cells: Scientists Build A First-Ever Artificial Kidney


IN BRIEF

Scientists have created the world’s first implantable artificial kidney powered by the patient’s own heart. With the help of a microchip, the device mimics a real kidney and can help keep patients off dialysis.

BUILDING AN ELECTRONIC KIDNEY

Scientists at Vanderbilt University have developed a first-ever implantable artificial kidney. The artificial kidney contains a microchip filter and living kidney cells that can function using the patient’s heart, and this bio-synthetic kidney acts like the real organ, removing salt, water and waste products to keep patients with kidney failure from relying on dialysis.

The key to this new development is a breakthrough in the microchip itself, which uses silicon nanotechnology. “[Silicon nanotechnology] uses the same processes that were developed by the microelectronics industry for computers,” said Dr. William H. Fissell IV, who led the team that developed the device.

The microchips are affordable, precise, and function as an ideal filter.

Each artificial kidney will contain 15 microchips layered on top of each other. These chips will work as filters and also act a support system for the living cells needed. These living cells are kidney cells grown in a laboratory dish and nurtured to become a bioreactor of living cells. This membrane of living cells allows the device to distinguish between innocuous chemicals and harmful ones.

“Then they can reabsorb the nutrients your body needs and discard the wastes your body desperately wants to get rid of,” said Fissell.

The artificial kidney does not require any external power source and functions solely with the patient’s own blood flow; however, the challenge for the researchers is how to get blood to flow through a blood vessel and move through the device without any damage or clotting.

SOLVING A DONOR PROBLEM

To resolve this problem of blood clotting, Fissell and his team collaborated with Amanda Buck, a biomedical engineer, to figure out the potential areas in the device which could lead to blood clotting. With the help of fluid dynamics and computer models, Buck was able to streamline and refine the shape of the channels so that blood could flow smoothly through the device. 3D printing also allowed for immediate feedback on the resulting prototype and analysis of its performance.

Considering the extent of shortage in kidney donors, the device would alleviate the demand for organ transplants for kidney failure patients. This shortage is not without its victims. The National Kidney Foundation has estimated that in US alone over 460,000 have last-stage renal disease and that about 13 kidney patients die every day waiting for a kidney.

The U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network said that there are over 100,000 American transplant patients waiting for a new kidney with only less than a fifth receiving transplants last year. With more research, the device may give those on the waiting list a new hope.

This new surgery can restore some legally blind people to 20/20 vision.


The CDC estimates that in 2010 alone, 2.5 million emergency room visits or deaths were associated with traumatic brain injury in the United States.

This type of injury can cause severe damage to a patient’s vision, and even lead to blindness. Now though, researchers have discovered that sight can be restored in people who’ve suffered from a traumatic brain injury.

Even more, they were able to restore perfect vision in patients who were legally blind prior to their injury.

A small study conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the Kresge Eye Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit, and the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in India was published in the journal Ophthalmology.

The research included 20 patients who had surgery for Terson syndrome, a specific type of hemorrhage caused mostly by traumatic injury, such as vehicular collisions. Some of the patients experienced this hemorrhaging in both eyes, thus allowing for the study of 28 eyes.

The procedure used to restore sight in these patients is known as a vitrectomy. The surgery removes the jellylike tissue behind the lens of the eye and replaces it with a saline solution.

The patients were split into groups who had the surgery within three months of the hemorrhage and those who received it after the three month mark.

Legally Blind to Normal Sight

Just one month after the surgery, patients’ vision improved to an average of 20/40 from an average of 20/1290. Within a few months, almost all patients had 20/20 vision (normal visual acuity).

Researchers noted how the length of time between the injury and the surgery did not factor into how well the patient’s sight was improved.

This is an important development since there are often other factors more closely linked with a patient’s imminent death that must be stabilised prior to any surgery to restore sight can take place.

As Rajendra S. Apte, from Washington University School of Medicine stated “It was important to learn how long we could wait to operate without having a negative effect on vision.”

This could have a huge impact on those staggering statistics, offering hope to millions of people each year.

Oncologists Urge You To Stop Eating These 8 Foods That Are Proven To Cause Cancer!


Medical experts consider cancer as a complex set of diseases. They also note that it can be triggered by various factors, including:

  • Lifestyle factors like unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use;
  • Genetics;
  • Specific infections;
  • Environmental exposure to various types of chemicals and radiation.

According to researches, following an unhealthy diet and being physically inactive could elevate your possibility of developing cancer.

It has been estimated by The World Cancer Research Fund that nearly 20% of the total American cancer cases are associated with poor diet, physical inactivity, weight gain, and excess consumption of alcohol.

However, like many other diseases, cancer is also a preventable disease. So, you can greatly lower your risk of cancer by:

  • Eating a healthy diet rich in organic veggies and fruits;
  • Quit smoking;
  • Exercising regularly;
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight.

HERE IS THE LIST OF TOP 8 FOODS THAT CAN INCREASE YOUR CANCER RISK:

  1. REFINED AND ARTIFICIAL SUGARY FOODS

It is a well-known fact that the excess intake of foods containing refined sugar and artificial fructose sweeteners, like high-fructose corn syrup can lead to the development of a wide range of health issues.

In general, this type of foods can quickly raise the levels of insulin and boost cancer cell growth.

In 2006, the American Society for Clinical Nutrition journal published a study suggesting that the participants who consumed higher amounts of sugar-sweetened foods had a greater chance of developing pancreatic cancer than control group.

Hence, consider substituting these unhealthy food choices with natural options such as maple syrup, raw honey, stevia, blackstrap molasses, or jaggery.

  1. RED AND PROCESSED MEATS

There are a lot of harmful preservatives and chemicals in processed meats, including bacon, sausage, ham, etc. Moreover, this type of meat also possesses extremely high amount of salt.

A study shows that the excess processed meat consumption could be linked to the development of colorectal cancer.

That’s not all, high read meat consumption can also elevate the persons risk of developing prostate and colorectal cancer.

So, you should exclude these foods from your diet. You should only eat grass-fed meat since it is a much healthier alternative than processed ones.

  1. SMOKED AND PICKLED FOODS

The regular consumption of these foods is not good for your overall health.

Namely, the smoking process of smoked meats leaves many toxic ingredients in the meat, which can contribute to various health issues. Also, there are a lot of nitrates in pickled foods that are transformed into N-nitroso. Additionally, this ingredient can significantly elevate the possibility of developing cancer.

What’s more, smoked and pickled foods are loaded with preservatives. They are added in these foods in order to prolong their shelf life. But, the excess intake of preservatives can trigger cellular damage, thus resulting in cancer development.

Therefore, it is recommended to exclude these foods from your diet.

  1. WHITE FLOUR

Nowadays, there are a great number of processed food products containing refined white flour. However, refined white flour possesses high amounts of carbohydrates, which have negative impact on your health. Also, they can elevate the risk of developing cancer.

According to studies, women who consumed too much carbohydrates had a raised breast cancer risk. It has been also found that white flour consumption can cause increased sugar levels in the blood very quickly.

That is why you should replace refined white flour with other healthier alternatives such as quinoa, almond, whole-wheat, or barley flour.

  1. HYDROGENATED OILS

This type of oils are actually turned into poisons through their processing and manufacturing.

They are chemically extracted from vegetables to prolong their shelf life as well as preserve processed foods. Moreover, they are abundant in omega–6 fatty acids and trans fats.

To explain you more deeply, small amount of omega–6 fatty acids can be beneficial for your overall health. But, high intake of these fatty acids can negatively affect the cell membrane’s structure and flexibility. It can elevate your risk of developing many cancer types, particularly skin cancer.

Plus, the trans fats can raise your chance of developing colorectal, prostate and breast cancer.

As you can see, hydrogenated oils can do a lot of harm to your health, so replace them with extra-virgin coconut and olive oil.

  1. MICROWAVE POPCORN

Did you know that there is a chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid present in the microwave popcorn bags that is extremely toxic?

There are a few studies conducted on the harmful effects of this chemical. In addition, researchers revealed that those people who had PFOA exposure at work had a greater risk of developing kidney and bladder cancer.

Another study found that this chemical can also result in impaired fertility in women.

Unluckily, microwave popcorn also possesses many GMO products and preservatives, including propyl gallate.

Realated: 14 Cancer-Causing Foods You Should NEVER Put In Your Mouth Again

  1. FARMED SALMON

There is a huge difference between farmed and wild salmon. In other words, unlike the farmed salmon, the consumption of wild variety offers many health benefits.

Furthermore, farmed salmon consumption has been found to increase the chance of cancer development.

There’s a study confirming that there are greater amounts of harmful chemicals and cancer-promoting ingredients in farmed salmon than wild one. Some of these ingredients include toxaphene, mercury, dioxins, flame retardants, and polychlorinated biphenyls. These ingredients are not good for your health and can lead to many other health problems.

In case you want to purchase wild salmon, please read its labeled ingredients. Keep in mind that farmed salmon is cheaper than wild variety.

  1. POTATO CHIPS

The manufacturing process of potato chips requires very high temperatures. It leads to the creation of acrylamide, which is a popular carcinogen.

The National Cancer Institute published a study proving that this ingredient found in potato chips increases the possibility of developing breast, prostate, ovarian, and digestive tract cancer.

All of us know that potato chips are loaded with calories and fats that can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and so on. Also, they possess many artificial preservatives and flavors. But, why are you still eating this type of food?

Considering all these findings, you should prepare potato chips at your home by using olive oil, rather than purchasing commercial potato chips. Plus, consider preparing baked banana or apple chips because they are healthier alternatives than potato chips.

Quantum Equation Suggests The Big Bang Never Occurred – The Universe Has No Beginning.


 bigbang

There’s no shortage of theories when it comes to determining the true nature of our reality. We are like a race with amnesia, searching for an answer that most probably exists, but has yet to be discovered. How did the universe begin?

Well, according to new research, it may not have begun through a Big Bang. Instead, the universe may simply have always existed. Derived from the mathematics of general relativity, the theory compliments Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. As the study’s co-author Ahmed Farag Ali of Benha University explains, “The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there.”

The Big Bang Theory postulates that everything in existence resulted from a single event that launched the creation of the entire universe and that everything in existence today was once part of a single, infinitely dense point, also known as the “singularity.”

Below is a model for this theory.

bang

With this diagram in mind, the most pressing question then becomes, who or what is the thing blowing the balloon that is our universe? Who is the guy?

There’s no shortage of theories when it comes to determining the true nature of our reality. We are like a race with amnesia, searching for an answer that most probably exists, but has yet to be discovered. How did the universe begin?

According to Nassim Haramein, the Director of Research for the Resonance Project: ” ‘For every action there is an equal opposite reaction.’ is one of the most foundational and proven concepts in all of physics. Therefore, if the universe is expanding then ‘the guy’ (or whatever ‘he’ is), who is blowing up that balloon, has to have some huge lungs that are contracting to be able to blow it up” (source).

This marks just one out of many criticisms of the Big Bang Theory, but there is so much more to consider. Can something come from nothing? What about quantum mechanics and the possibility that there is no moment of time in which the universe did not exist?

The theory also suggests that there are no singularities or dark matter, and that the universe is filled with a “quantum fluid,” which is filled with gravitons. According to Phys.org:

The scientists propose that this fluid might be composed of gravitons—hypothetical massless particles that mediate the force of gravity. If they exist, gravitons are thought to play a key role in a theory of quantum gravity.

In a related paper, Das and another collaborator, Rajat Bhaduri of McMaster University, Canada, have lent further credence to this model. They show that gravitons can form a Bose-Einstein condensate (named after Einstein and another Indian physicist, Satyendranath Bose) at temperatures that were present in the universe at all epochs. (source)

As you can see, when quantum mechanics are thrown into the equation, everything changes. This new theory suggests that the universe could have always existed and there is no “beginning” as we understand it. Perhaps it was just an event that did occur that we perceive as the beginning, or perhaps the event occurred not from nothing, but from something. Again, who is that guy blowing on the balloon in the picture? There is something there that has yet to be discovered.

“As far as we can see, since different points in the universe never actually converged in the past, it did not have a beginning. It lasted forever. It will also not have an end…In other words, there is no singularity. The universe could have lasted forever. It could have gone through cycles of being small and big. Or it could have been created much earlier.”

–  Study co-author Saurya Das at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada (source)

What We Know Is Often Just Theory

It’s clear that we do not yet have a solid explanation for what happened during the Big Bang, or proof that it even happened at all. This new theory combines general relativity with quantum mechanics to make a new and interesting case for our universe’s history, but at the end of the day, it remains a theory.

Theories about multiple dimensions, multiple universes, and more have to be considered as well. When looking for the starting point of creation, our own universe might not even be the place to start — a difficult idea to consider given that we cannot yet perceive other factors that have played a part in the makeup of what we call reality. Harder to grasp still is the fact that quantum physics is showing that the true nature and makeup of the universe is not a physical, material thing!

There is still simply too much we don’t understand, and there are new findings in modern day physics that delve into non-materialistic science that many mainstream materialistic scientists have yet to grasp and acknowledge.

I’ll leave you with a quote that might give you something to think about:

“A fundamental conclusion of the new physics also acknowledges that the observer creates the reality. As observers, we are personally involved with the creation of our own reality. Physicists are being forced to admit that the universe is a ‘mental’ construction. Pioneering physicist Sir James Jeans wrote: ‘The stream of knowledge is heading toward a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter, we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.’ ”

– (R. C. Henry, “The Mental Universe”; Nature 436:29, 2005)

“Despite the unrivaled empirical success of quantum theory, the very suggestion that it may be literally true as a description of nature is still greeted with cynicism, incomprehension and even anger.”

– (T. Folger, “Quantum Shmantum”; Discover 22:37-43, 2001)

14 Diseases and Side-Effects Caused By Microwaves You’ve Been Ignoring


microwaves derive food of pretty much all of their nutritional value

Microwaves derive food of pretty much all of their nutritional value Microwaves use pulse electromagnetic waves that penetrate through food, as the exciting molecules begin to move, they vibrate and raise in temperature as they respond to the Microwave radiation. Microwaves derive food of pretty much all of their nutritional value, the only real value in microwaving food is that it inconveniently saves time.

The health hazards were noted by countries such as Russia who launched a complete ban on microwave ovens in 1976, the ban was then lifted, not because of a green light for health, but to promote free trade with the west.According to Organicallyhealthy After few years, these microwaves were found to be able to cook food, by Percy LeBaron Spencer, a member of the military industrial complex known as Raytheon Company. Namely, radar waves melted a candy bar he kept in his pocket.This eventually led to the creation of the Radar Range, which was the first microwave oven, in extremely large proportions.

The reason we speak about the beginnings of microwave ovens is that they explain a lot about their nature, and indicate why numerous researchers object against their use nowadays.These are the side-effects of microwaves, confirmed by numerous studies:Weakened immune systemGreater susceptibility to illnessBirth defectsCataractsReduced resistance to viral and bacterial infectionsCancerOn the other hand, these are the effects of microwave ovens to food:The Swiss scientist Hans Hertel conducted a study which showed that microwave ovens eliminate the nutrients from our foodThe radiation from these ovens deforms and destroys the food molecules, leading to the creation of harmful radioactive compounds.

In 1992, a study from the Search for Health conducted a study in 1992 which showed that microwaves led to the following issues in participants:Reduced hemoglobin which led to an anemic-like conditions Significant rise in cholesterol levelsIncreased leukocytes, indicating cell damage and poisoningFall in white blood cellsThe structure of the microwaved Infant formulas was greatly damaged, and the components of amino acids were altered, leading to immunological abnormalitiesMicrowaved breast milk was deprived of 96% of its antibodies

Watch the video. URL:https://youtu.be/ScbbQ2pYd9I

Why don’t humans have a penis bone? Scientists may now know.


Speed of human mating might be behind the lack of a baculum in humans, suggests study tracing bone’s evolution

Penis bones from various mammals. The baculum varies so much in terms of length and whether it is present at all, that it is described as the most diverse bone ever to exist.
Penis bones from various mammals. The baculum varies so much in terms of length and whether it is present at all, that it is described as the most diverse bone ever to exist.

It can be as long as a finger in a monkey. In the walrus, it can be two feet long. But the human male has lost it completely. And researchers are a little stumped.

Known as the baculum to scientists with an interest, the penis bone is a marvel of evolution. It pops up in mammals and primates around the world, but varies so much in terms of length and whether it is present at all, that it is described as the most diverse bone ever to exist.

Prompted by the extraordinary differences in penis bone length found in the animal kingdom, scientists set out to reconstruct the evolutionary story of the baculum, by tracing its appearance in mammals and primates throughout history.

They found that the penis bone evolved in mammals more than 95 million years ago and was present in the first primates that emerged about 50 million years ago. From that moment on, the baculum became larger in some animals and smaller in others. The stump-tailed macaque, an animal that weighs only 10kg, has an extremely long baculum for its size, with the bone extending for 5cm. The bone is five times the size of the baculum in the collared mangabey, which is a slightly larger monkey.

Kit Opie who ran the study with Matilda Brindle at University College London, said that penis bone length was longer in males that engaged in what he called “prolonged intromission.” In plain English, that means that the act of penetration lasts for more than three minutes, a strategy that helps the male impregnate the female while keeping her away from competing males. The penis bone, which attaches at the tip of the penis rather than the base, provides structural support for male animals that engage in prolonged intromission.

In chimps, the penis bone is no longer than a human fingernail. The tininess of the bone correlates with the very short spell that the male spends mating, in the order of seven seconds. In chimpanzee groups, females mate with all the males, in what appears to be a strategy to reduce the risk of her children being killed by older males. “It gives each male an idea that they may have fathered the subsequent offspring, and it is in her interests to get that done quickly,” Opie said.

Humans may have lost their penis bones when monogamy emerged as the dominant reproductive strategy during the time of Homo erectus about 1.9 million years ago, the scientists believe. In monogamous relationships, the male does not need to spend a long time penetrating the female, because she is not likely to be leapt upon by other amorous males. That, at least, is the theory.

“We think that is when the human baculum would have disappeared because the mating system changed at that point,” Opie said. “This may have been the final nail in the coffin for the already diminished baculum, which was then lost in ancestral humans.” Details of the research are published in Proceedings of the Royal Society.

“With the reduced competition for mates, you are less likely to need a baculum,” he added. “Despite what we might want to think, we are actually one of the species that comes in below the three minute cut-off where these things come in handy.”

Finland Will Become the First Country in the World to Get Rid of All School Subject


Finland is famous for having one of the best educational systems in the world, always ranking in the top10. This has not made them complacent, however, as they has recently unveiled a plan to majorly shake up their system.

Educational officials have proposed a plan in which ‘school subjects’ as such no longer exist, meaning there will be no one class dedicated to math, geography, history or science, but instead they will learn in terms of different concepts and ideas.

Marjo Kyllonen, Head of the Department of Education in Helsinki explains:

There are schools that are teaching in the old-fashioned way which was of benefit in the beginning of the 1900s — but the needs are not the same, and we need something fit for the 21st century.

The students will instead study in more of a broad-reaching kind of concept. A proposed example would be the Second World War which would be looked at through the perspective of history, geography, and math, and not just as an event in ‘history’ as it has previously been seen. Another example given is the course ”Working in a Cafe,” in which the students will learn the skills of English language, economics, and communication in an all-encompassing experience.

These options will be available for students above the age of 16, which is the important age at which most teenagers are urged to start seriously considering a career. Instead of choosing a subject, say Physics, and be forced to learn all of the fact without the knowledge of applying them to the real world, the student will be learning alongside the experience of using this knowledge in a real-life event thus making it more applicable.

The teacher-pupil format is to be discarded also, with no rows of desks all listening to the one teacher, instead pupils will be learning in small groups, discussing problems and subjects with the help of the teacher.

Around 70% of teachers in Helsinki have already began preparations for this change, and the school system is relying on the teachers to be co-operative throughout this massive over-haul. 

The teachers that are already on board are being given a pay increase as an incentive. The change is expecting to be implemented completely by the year 2020.

We Could Be Living On The Moon In 10 Years Or Less.


AND IT WOULDN’T ACTUALLY BE THAT EXPENSIVE, THANKS TO ROBOTS, 3D PRINTING, AND SPACEX.

moon colony

This could be us in a few years.

“You are here to help humanity become a spacefaring species.”

 So said the opening line of a brochure for a workshop that took place in August 2014. It was a meeting of some of the greatest scientists and professionals in the space business and beyond, including gene editing maverick George Church and Peter Diamandis from the XPrize Foundation. The workshop’s goal: to explore and develop low-cost options for building a human settlement on the moon.

“You are here to make this moonshot a reality,” said the brochure.

apollo astronaut on moon with flag

One giant expense for mankind

The history-making Apollo missions would have cost $150 billion by today’s standards. With new ways of thinking, it might be possible to set up a lunar station for $10 billion.

 NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay helped organize the meeting, and then he edited a special issue in the journal New Space to publish the papers that came out of the workshop. Those papers just came online this morning, and Popular Science had exclusive pre-publication access. Together, the 9 papers help to build momentum for an idea that’s growing throughout the planetary science and commercial space communities. The details differ between papers, they all say roughly the same thing: that we can set up a permanent, inhabited base on the moon, soon, and without breaking the bank.

Of course, this isn’t the first time scientists have talked about returning to the moon.

“The reason all the previous plans for going back to the moon have failed is that they’re just way too expensive,” says McKay. “The space program is living in a delusion of unlimited budgets, which traces back to Apollo.”

 The Apollo program that put the first men on the moon would have cost $150 billion by today’s standards. For reference, NASA’s entire budget for the year of 2016 is $19.3 billion.
“The space program is living in a delusion of unlimited budgets, which traces back to Apollo.”

The New Space papers, by contrast, conclude that we could set up a small lunar base for $10 billion or less, and we could do it by 2022.

“The big takeaway,” says McKay, “is that new technologies, some of which have nothing to do with space–like self-driving cars and waste-recycling toilets–are going to be incredibly useful in space, and are driving down the cost of a moon base to the point where it might be easy to do.”

Why go back to the moon?

Currently, NASA has no plans to send humans back to the moon–instead it’s focusing on getting to Mars in the 2030s. But McKay and others think we can’t possibly go hiking on Mars if we don’t first learn to camp in our own backyard.

“My interest is not the moon. To me the moon is as dull as a ball of concrete,” says the astrobiologist. “But we’re not going to have a research base on Mars until we can learn how to do it on the Moon first. The moon provides a blueprint to Mars.”

A lunar base would provide a valuable opportunity to test out new propulsion systems, habitats, communications, and life support systems before astronauts bring them to Mars–a 9-month trip away, versus just a few days to the moon.

The trouble is, NASA tends to think it can only afford to go to either the moon, or Mars. If McKay and his colleagues are right, we can afford to do both–it just takes a new way of thinking about it.

“The moon provides a blueprint to Mars.”

There are other reasons to go back. We’ve explored only a tiny portion of the lunar surface, and a permanent base would certainly fuel some interesting science.

mining equipment on the moon

Mine on the moon

Extracting water from the moon and breaking it apart into hydrogen and oxygen–i.e. rocket fuel–could turn a moon base into a profitable investment.

Plus, everyone else is doing it. China, Russia, and the European Space Agency have all expressed interest in setting up a base on the moon. Instead of getting left behind, cooperating with other nations on building a lunar station would lower NASA’s costs, much like in building the International Space Station.

Private space companies are also ready and raring to go back to the moon. Many hope to extract water from the moon and split it into hydrogen and oxygen–i.e. rocket fuel–that can be used to top off the gas tanks of spacecraft headed for Mars. Lunar tourism could also become a hot market.

“And if private industry goes, NASA’s going to go just to establish the rule of law,” says McKay. “The fastest way to get NASA to the moon is to get other people to go.”

How do we do it?

The exact strategy for building a lunar base differs depending on who you ask.

Many of the proposals start with robotic exploration to scope out the perfect site for a permanent dwelling. “MoonCats” (like a Bobcat, but adapted for lunar excavation) could then level the terrain for landing pads and the habitat, suggests one paper, while other robots set up solar power panels.

After the habitat modules arrive, robotic “Lunar Surface Mules” could help set them up so they’ll be ready when the humans arrive.