Asteroids don’t typically trigger the doomsday scenario Netflix movies and unfortunate dinosaurs may inspire — in fact, hundreds of space rocks enter Earth’s atmosphere every year. Other asteroids breeze by Earth regularly. Meanwhile, humans continue about their business as usual creating their very own, very real dangerous scenarios.
Earth’s atmosphere means we’re well protected from rogue space debris, but it’s still good news that the European Space Agency and astronomers around the world were able to catch an asteroid before it mowed into Earth. You can read that amazing story in today’s Inverse Daily, which also includes a health tip and some ISS updates. But before you read on: If a giant asteroid was about to smack into Earth, how would you spend the day before it hit?
Earth has its lumps and bumps and that’s okay. Many of them are part of the planet’s tectonic activity — valleys, mountains, things like that — but some are inflicted upon Earth by outside forces, like ditch-digging humans or mega asteroids. Space scientists, for their part, are mostly interested in the asteroid part of this (they also tend to be more predictable than humans) and spend much of their time tracking them, both for scientific and existential reasons.
Sometimes their efforts pay off in miraculous ways. For example, recently, the European Space Agency revealed that astronomers “managed to catch an asteroid on a collision course with Earth before it actually hit — the fifth time this has even been achieved,” writes Inverse managing editor Claire Cameron. “Typically, scientists discover asteroid strikes through their ruins and relics, long after impact.”
Although detecting the small asteroid was a lucky break, the space rock still pummeled into Earth, diving straight down into cool Arctic waters. “But if it had been on a trajectory to hit a populated area of the world, this could have been a very different story,” Cameron writes.
It’s good to get moving, especially if you’re under the age of 55, a new meta-analysis says. Inverse science reporter Nick Keppler writes the meta-analysis shows aerobic exercise strengthens episodic memory among adults under 55 years old without a history of dementia and that “a routine of 50 minutes, three days a week for 26 weeks could make a difference.”
Episodic memory is the type of memory that involves past and personal experiences — the memory of your last birthday or a recent day at the beach, for example. A brain area called the hippocampus helps with this type of recollection, “organizing memories in context,” Keppler writes, though it’s also “more susceptible to age-related deterioration than other brain parts.”
“Aerobic exercise, the kind that raises your heart rate and increases oxygen intake, is correlated with an increased size of hippocampal gray matter volume and regular function of the hippocampus,” continues Keppler, but this only seems to hold true for the under 55 crowd.
Do you remember?: Just 30 minutes of exercise can ward off early death
“NASA wants to build a giant spaceship to orbit the Moon — but ultimately it’s designed to help send humans to Mars,” writes Inverse innovation editor Mike Brown. “The Lunar Gateway is a critical aspect of NASA’s Artemis program, a multi-mission project to return humans to the Moon and set up camp to enable them to venture further out in space than ever before.”
If everything goes according to NASA’s plan, the Gateway will function as an International Space Station for the Moon, a place where astronauts can live, work, and be near the Moon for research. “The Gateway will also support crewed and unmanned missions to the Moon’s surface,” writes Brown. “For crewed missions, astronauts will first fly to the Gateway using the NASA Orion spacecraft. Then, they will use a human lander to transfer the astronauts to the Moon’s surface.”
It all sounds awfully futuristic, I know, but NASA hopes to begin launching sections of the Gateway “no earlier than November 2024,” reports Brown, from the historic Launch Complex 39A in the Kennedy Space Center. “Whether NASA can stick to this timeline remains to be seen, especially after the agency noted in November 2021 that litigation has pushed the first human landing back several months to 2025,” writes Brown.
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Humans aren’t shooting just for the Moon — they want to keep spinning in space. The private company Axiom Space could soon “take the first steps to a privately-funded successor to the International Space Station,” writes Mike Brown.
“The Houston-based company is gearing up for the first in a series of private crewed space missions, which will act as a stepping stone to a complete station.” The first mission, AX-1, is scheduled to blast off from the Kennedy Space Center on March 30.
Axiom Space’s end game is to “offer such amenities as a luxury hotel, a factory floor, or even a media production facility,” writes Brown. So, a hype house in space, though Axiom Space vice president and former NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría is quick to note that AX-1 crewmembers are “not space tourists.”
The mission will involve four men going on a “10-day mission” with “eight days at the ISS,” writes Mike Brown, so it doesn’t really sound like a vacation, either. More like a business plan — eventually, Axiom Space would like to “send a mission to the space station every six months. Each of these missions could take anywhere from 10 days to 60 days,” writes Brown.
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- On this day in history: The second U.S. satellite, Earth-orbiting Vanguard 1, was launched on March 17, 1958, from the Kennedy Space Center. According to NASA, Vanguard 1 is both the first satellite to use solar cell power and is the oldest satellite still orbiting our planet.
- Song of the day: “Orbits,” by Miles Davis.