Boeing Starliner First Launch Carrying NASA Astronauts

Boeing launched its first Starliner flight with astronauts last week, marking a critical final flight test of the long-delayed spacecraft.

The launch occurred at 10:52 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with two NASA astronauts on board. The Starliner was carried by a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, destined for the International Space Station (ISS).

Approximately 15 minutes after liftoff, the rocket successfully released the Starliner capsule into orbit, with the flight proceeding as expected, according to mission control.

Although Starliner is equipped with cameras to capture views inside and outside the cabin, NASA’s broadcast indicated that Boeing would not be able to relay video footage back to Earth until the spacecraft reaches the ISS.

Starliner is set to travel in space for about 25 hours before docking with the ISS at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday. The astronauts will spend about a week on the ISS, focusing on testing Starliner, before returning to Earth.

Boeing’s crew flight test aims to certify the Starliner system as capable of transporting NASA astronauts to and from the ISS.

Wednesday’s liftoff followed a series of previous launch attempts. On Saturday, a launch was aborted in the final minutes of the countdown due to an issue with one of the ground support computers. Earlier in May, another attempt was canceled due to a detected problem with the rocket itself.

United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, replaced the rocket’s faulty valve after the May attempt and fixed a faulty part in the ground infrastructure computer after the Saturday attempt.

The Starliner capsule is designed to carry up to four NASA astronauts per flight, along with more than 200 pounds of research and cargo. The spacecraft lands using a parachute and airbag system and is reusable, with each capsule capable of flying up to 10 missions.

The Starliner capsule successfully docked with the International Space Station the next day, achieving a significant milestone for the company’s crew spacecraft in a crucial test flight.

Below is the video of the liftoff. The fun part starts around the 1 hour 10 minute mark.

I’m just glad all the doors were securely bolted on! 😬

Wearable Infusion Pumps

Infuzamed, a medical equipment company, recently introduced a new mobile infusion pump that you can wear, and it’s a game-changer. This small device does away with the bulky wires and poles of traditional pumps, giving patients more freedom to move around.

What sets Infuzamed apart from other portable pumps is its precise control over how much medicine it delivers and the different ways it can be used. Plus, it uses WiFi to keep track of patients’ vital signs in real-time, sending that info to the doctors.

The Infuzamed Wearable Patient Care Modules include:

  • Blood Pressure monitors, including ones that check occasionally and ones that record and send data.
  • A Holter monitor to track heart rhythms and send updates instantly.
  • Monitoring of breathing rate and oxygen levels.

Infuzamed can attach to most pre-filled syringes easily, making sure the medicine goes in just right, whether it’s through an IV or under the skin. Worn on the forearm, it lets patients move more and uses standard disposable syringes.

Sand Batteries

Sand batteries are emerging as an effective way to store energy from intermittent sources like solar and wind. The physical properties of sand, particularly its ability to store heat at high temperatures, make it ideal for energy retention. Technologies leveraging these properties aim to create a more stable and reliable energy supply, with sand efficiently accumulating and releasing heat as needed.

The science behind sand batteries involves heating sand to high temperatures using surplus energy from renewable sources. This stored heat can then be converted back into energy when required. This system uses the thermal properties of sand to create a natural battery, offering both heating and electricity generation.

Patrick Davenport from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) notes, “Sand and concrete silos with refractory insulation are very inexpensive materials that can lead to low-cost energy storage.”

Key players in this technology include Polar Night Energy in Finland, which has implemented a sand battery for residential and commercial heating, and EnergyNest in Norway, specializing in thermal energy storage. Sand’s abundance, low cost, eco-friendliness, and long-term heat storage capabilities make it an attractive option for stabilizing renewable energy systems and providing a reliable energy supply during low sunlight or wind.

Sand battery technology is being tested and used in various projects worldwide, demonstrating its viability and potential scalability. Despite this potential, there are still challenges. Large-scale development and deployment of sand batteries require significant research and investment.

5 Year Old, First to Receive Bionic Arms

A five-year-old boy, born with one hand, has become the youngest person ever fitted with a bionic arm.

Jordan Marotta experienced “pure joy” when he received his Iron Man-themed ‘Hero Arm’ prosthetic last week. Hours after getting the arm, footage showed him riding his scooter, gripping the handlebars with the prosthetic.

“It’s really fun and it’s cool,” said Jordan. “I like to play with the hand and make it open and close.”

His mother, Ashley Marotta, contacted Open Bionics, the company that makes the prosthetics, when Jordan started asking why his hand hadn’t ‘grown back’. Despite being told he was likely too young for a mechanical limb, they let Jordan try one. Following a successful trial, they agreed to fit him with the arm at their New York City office, two years earlier than usual.

“As soon as we left with Jordan’s Hero Arm, he was running around with so much confidence, trying to hail New York taxis,” said Ashley.

“You can’t even put a number on how amazing that is. It is worth its weight in gold.”

The first thing Jordan wanted to do when he got home was ride his scooter, now able to hold on with both hands. His advice in a video: “Don’t give up. Just don’t give up.”

Ashley was fortunate that her health insurance covered the cost of the arm. Jordan quickly adapted to using it in his daily life.

Watch the first moments below…

Key to Alzheimer’s Disease in Simple Amino Acid?

For over a decade, big pharmaceutical companies have invested billions in Alzheimer’s disease drug trials without making significant progress.

However, a potential neuroprotective compound with promising early-stage results might be found in our everyday diet.

Dr. Paul Cox may have discovered this after investigating high rates of ALS and Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in Guam during the 1990s. He found that cyanobacteria, which produce a toxin called BMAA, were contaminating trees on the island. The trees’ seeds, eaten by flying fox bats, became a source of BMAA for the local population, who hunted the bats for food. This toxin was linked to widespread neurodegenerative diseases among the locals.

In 2003, Dr. Cox revealed that cyanobacteria could be a risk factor for these diseases, though not necessarily the cause of Alzheimer’s. To study BMAA’s toxicology, he conducted trials at the Brain Chemistry Labs at the Institute for Ethnomedicine in Jackson. His research showed that the neurotoxic effects of BMAA were reduced by 85% when combined with the amino acid L-serine.

L-serine, found in eggs, meat, edamame, tofu, seaweed, and sweet potatoes, is a non-essential amino acid in our diet. The protective effects observed in monkeys prompted Dr. Cox to initiate clinical trials with the FDA to explore L-serine as a potential Alzheimer’s treatment.

Interestingly, Dr. Cox is an ethnobotanist, not a neurologist. His research in Okinawa, a region known for its longevity, revealed that residents of Ogimi Village consumed about 400% more L-serine than the average American. This, combined with his lab data, gives Dr. Cox confidence that his clinical trials with Alzheimer’s patients supplementing with L-serine could yield effective results, potentially leading to a simple dietary treatment for the disease.