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10 SUPER EXCITING THINGS HAPPENING THAT PROVE THE FUTURE IS NOW

 

If we turn the pages of history, we will find a number of first-time achievements. Whether it was the first automobile or the first airplane, most faced a lot of negativity and criticism before the project became a success. But with the jet-set pace in which our technology is advancing, we now know that anything is possible. Everything that earlier looked like fantasy is now welcomed with cheers, applause, and excitement. So, here is a list of the 10 “next big things” that will make you excited about the future.

1. A wave of satellites set to orbit the Earth in the future will be able to pinpoint producers of greenhouse gases right down to an individual leak at an oil rig. They are looking to track nations, industries, companies, and even individual facilities.

Artist’s illustration of a concept for NASA’s GeoCarb mission, which will map concentrations of key carbon gases above the Americas from geostationary orbit. Image credits: NASA/Lockheed Martin/University of Oklahoma

Global warming is a huge aspect of climate change, and it is affecting our present and future in ways no one can ignore. Greenhouse gases are the main cause of global warming. It is estimated that about a quarter of today’s global warming is due to human-made, methane emission. Government of several countries and numerous companies have decided to prevent any further damage from happening. The first step in this direction is to pinpoint the producers of greenhouse gases. This can be done by launching satellites that can detect and evaluate the sources.

NASA satellites are already monitoring the carbon dioxide and methane levels. So is the GOSAT (Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite) of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite of the European Space Agency. The Environmental Defense Fund is planning to launch its compact satellite MethaneSAT in 2021. It will pinpoint the sources of methane emissions and evaluate their impact. The firm Bluefield Technologies is creating a fleet of tiny, cutting-edge satellites that can detect methane leaks. These satellites would be used by gas companies to monitor their methane emission.

In 2015, the western US state of California became the site of the largest natural gas leak in US history. In order to prevent and control such incidents in the future, California is partnering with Planet Labs Inc. on a satellite. This satellite will “pinpoint individual methane plumes” from oil and gas facilities along with dairies, landfills, and waste-water plants. NASA is launching satellite GeoCarb (Geostationary Carbon Observatory) in the early 2020s to add to the data gathered on Earth’s emission. With multiple sources, the data gathered is expected to be helpful in making policies and bring changes in the future to curb greenhouse emission throughout the world. (1,2,3)

2. A $3 billion Hoover Dam project hopes to bring the power plant into the 21st century by turning the dam into a giant energy storage system, similar to the job a battery performs.

Image credits: CBS This Morning/Youtube

Built during the Great Depression, Hoover Dam is one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. Located near Boulder City, Nevada, the dam provides power to three states and water to more than 20 million people. Now that we have stepped into the 21st century, Hoover Dam is going to have a major makeover. The makeover comes in the form of the Hoover Dam Proposal. The aim of this project is to turn the dam into a storage system so that when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, Hoover Dam can act as the battery from which electricity would be derived.

The $3-billion-dollar project is based on a simple plan. At present, Hoover Dam’s water load functions at about 20% of its full capacity. According to the plan when there is a high production of electricity, water would be pumped uphill. Then during peak demand or when there is a crisis of electricity, the water would be run downhill to produce electricity.

To implement this plan, a pumping station would be built 20 miles south of the dam. It would pump water from downstream back up to Lake Mead. Lake Mead is the artificial lake that feeds Hoover Dam. Water stored in the lake would be released into the dam whenever needed, turning the dam into a battery. The target for completion of this project is 2028.(123)

3. In 2021 when NASA’s Mars 2020 rover lands on the red planet, it will be able to send an actual video of the Mars-landing back to Earth for the first time in history. Also, the rover will carry microchips etched with the names of millions of people.

Mars 2020. Image credits: NASA

Landing a rover on Mars is a tricky business for rocket scientists. Only 40% of the landings on Mars has been carried out successfully. In 2021, Curiosity snapped hundreds of photos with its Mars Descent Imager, or “MARDI,” camera while it was descending through the Martian atmosphere. The rover team released a one-minute video after combining 297 of the shots. Curiosity’s most famous video is “Seven Minutes of Terror.” The video showing the entry, descent, and landing of Curiosity was actually created using computer-generated animations.

But to this date, no rover has captured or sent back an astronaut view of its Mars landing. NASA is planning to achieve it through the Mars 2020 rover. Mars 2020 is fitted with 23 cameras and several microphones. Seven of these cameras are entry-descent and landing cameras that will capture the landing from various angles. On 18 February 2021, the Mars 2020 rover will touch down in Jezero Crater on Mars. If all goes well, then we will receive a full-color video of Mars 2020 throughout its descent to the Martian surface. For the first time in the history of Mars landings, Mars 2020 will show us the parachute opening in the Martian atmosphere, the rover being lowered down to the surface of Mars, sand and rock blown into the atmosphere by the retro-rockets, and many other exciting images and videos.

 

Boarding Pass-NASA Invites Public to submit their names etched on microchips to be affixed to the rover. Image credits: NASA

Also, there is one more exciting news associated with Mars Rover 2020. When it lands on the red planet in 2021, it will be carrying microchips etched with the names of millions of people. At present more than seven million people have submitted their names to be etched in the chips. The last date to submit your names to NASA is 30 September 2019. (123)

4. NASA is opening the International Space Station to a $35,000-a-night visit. Each year, two private astronauts will be able to stay on the ISS for up to 30 days each.

 

Image credits: NASA

When Wright brothers invented the airplane, every person on Earth nurtured the dream to fly at least once in their life. As technology improved, commercial airplanes made this dream come true for millions of people. So, what is the next secret dream we began nurturing after airplanes? The answer is space travel. To make your dream come true, NASA is opening the International Space Station for private astronaut missions.

 

Image credits: NASA/Tracy Caldwell Dyson

Through this mission, NASA will enable “…private astronauts to conduct approved commercial and marketing activities on the space station.” Each year, two private astronauts will be allowed to stay on the space station for up to 30 days each. The person visiting ISS would have to get there via a commercial US spacecraft such as the upcoming vehicles of SpaceX or Boeing. The trip won’t be free. To stay in the ISS, they have to pay a base charge of $35,000 per day which will cover NASA’s life support, communications, and other expenses such as $50-per-gigabyte of data. The first private astronaut mission is expected to begin in 2020. (12)

5. More than 20 African countries have joined together in an international mission to plant a massive wall of trees running across the continent. The tree-planting project, dubbed “The Great Green Wall” of Africa, stretches across roughly 6,000 miles (8,000 kilometers).

Great Green Wall-Map of northern Africa. Image credits: John Kappler/National Geographic

At the southern edge of the Sahara desert, there exists a region known as the Sahel. Back in the 1970s, it was lush and green with trees, plants, and foliage. But climate change, population growth, and unsustainable land management degraded the swath of land and made the area barren. Facing persistent drought, the region is one of the poorest places on the planet. In order to rectify the mistake and bring the former glory of the region back, 11 African countries undertook a huge step. They joined together to create an international mission: “The Great Green Wall” of Africa.

The Great Green Wall Project was launched in 2007. Since then, nine additional countries have joined in this venture. The aim of this project is to plant a massive wall of trees running across the continent. The trees being planted are the drought-resistant acacia trees. Currently, about 15% of the project is complete, and over 12 million acres of degraded land has been restored. Once the wall is completed, it will be the largest living structure on the planet. It will be three times the size of the Great Barrier Reef! (12)

6. Planetary Resources, a space-mining company lead by two aerospace engineers and billionaire investors, plans to create a fuel depot in space by using water from asteroids, splitting it into liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for rocket fuel. They have already launched two test satellites to orbit.

Our ever-increasing demands are rapidly depleting the resources available on Earth. The futuristic and ambitious solution to this problem is asteroid mining. Scientists are planning to look into space for resources that are becoming scarce on Earth. Near-Earth objects, such as asteroids and numerous minor planets, are a huge source of raw materials such as hard rock minerals, precious metals, iron group metals, and many others. One of the most important resources that will be available through asteroid mining is water. Water locked in the clay deposit of asteroids can be used as a propellant for spacecraft. The hydrogen and oxygen created from this water can be used to refuel spacecraft and probes in space, enabling them to function a lot longer than they do now.

An American company, Planetary Resources, Inc., has already taken its first step towards asteroid mining. It aims to develop a robotic, asteroid-mining industry. To survey and analyze the best potential targets, the company launched its potential space-mining satellite atop an Indian PSLV in January 2018. Before that, they had sent a nanosatellite named the Arkyd 3 in 2015. According to the company CEO Chris Lewicki, the satellite is now capturing images of water and thermal energy. As their next step, Planetary Resources is planning to launch multiple spacecraft to different asteroids in the future. (123)

7. ‘Super-banana,’ a genetically modified fruit from Australia that contains increased levels of vitamin A, could help prevent thousands of Ugandan children from having an impaired immune system and going blind from Vitamin A deficiencies. It will be commercially available in Uganda by 2020.

Image credits: QUT/MetroUSAID in Africa/Flickr

According to the World Health Organization, about 250 million preschool children are suffering from vitamin A deficiency. Every year, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind and almost 50% of them die within a year of losing their sight. These cases are most prevalent in Africa and Southeast Asia. Science has a remedy for this deficiency: “super” bananas. Super bananas are genetically engineered bananas that are fortified with alpha- and beta-carotene. When consumed, our body converts them to vitamin A.

Super bananas have been created by scientists from the Queensland University of Technology. Visually their flesh is more orange-colored than white. After being sent for trial to the United States; scientists aim to have them commercially growing in Uganda by 2020. This humanitarian project has been backed by about $10 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (123)

8. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), are developing an implantable artificial kidney that can closely replicate the functions of real kidneys. The government had granted $6 million to the project. If successful, it will replace dialysis in a few Years.

Image credits: University of California/Youtube

As more and more people suffer from kidney problems, the kidney-transplant waiting-list throughout the world keeps on growing each year. While waiting for a donor organ to become available, patients go through dialysis. The average life expectancy of a dialysis patient is five to 10 years, although some have lived for decades. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) are working on an alternative to dialysis. They are creating a bioartificial kidney which will be implanted in the patients. As opposed to dialysis in which patient suffer restricted mobility, artificial kidneys would let the patient move and work without any restriction.

The implantable artificial kidney will be a coffee-cup-sized device. At present, dialysis comes with many problems such as dietary restrictions and regular dialysis sessions. So, the continuous removal of wastes by these artificial kidneys will be a welcome change in the life of these patients. In 2015, the device was tested on seven dialysis patients at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. The result was quite positive. Researchers are still working on the device to improve it further. Once it is perfected, this device will drastically change the lives of kidney patients throughout the world. (123)

9. NASA’s project “Artemis,” named after Apollo’s twin sister, will land the first women on the moon by 2024.

An artist’s concept of a crewed lunar lander for NASA’s Artemis program. Image credits: NASA

In 1969, NASA sent the first person to the Moon on Apollo 11. The namesake of this program was the Greek god Apollo. According to Greek mythology, Apollo had a twin sister named Artemis. NASA believes that in the future, she is going to lead humans back to the Moon. Well, not the mythological Artemis but rather the project named after her. NASA unveiled its Artemis Program in May 2019. Its aim is to put astronauts on the lunar surface in the year 2024. The “cherry on top” is that it will carry the first female to ever walk on the Moon.

Soon after its announcement, NASA laid out the milestones for the project. In 2020, NASA will conduct the maiden flight of its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. It will blast an Orion capsule to the moon and back. The next milestone will be in 2022 when they will run a test with four astronauts aboard, and a small space station will be constructed in orbit around the Moon. In 2024, NASA will dock a lunar lander there. In the same year, four astronauts (one of them will be a female astronaut) will fly to the station in an Orion capsule, then board the lander and descend to the lunar surface. (12)

10. A startup named Zero Mass Water is producing solar panels that pull clean drinking water out of the air, and they might be a solution to the global water crisis. The startup, which is backed by a $1 billion fund led by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, recently created a new sensor that allows you to monitor the quality of your water.

The United Nations estimates that about 2.1 billion people do not receive safe drinking water in their homes. This situation leads to severe health implications ultimately limiting the economic prosperity of the region/country. According to the World Vision Organisation, access to clean water increases the chances of escaping poverty, pursuing education, and fending off disease. To make clean drinking water available to everyone, a startup, Zero Mass Water, is making solar panels that can pull clean drinking water from the air.

The importance of this project can be understood by the fact that Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and other investors have funded $1 billion to help finance this project. This project uses panel arrays called “Source” which harvest water from air vapor using sunlight. The harvested vapor is sterilized and then turned into liquid. The water is stored in a reservoir that is connected directly to the home faucet. Each day, Source can deliver an equivalent of two to five liters of water.

Source panels can last for around 20 years, so, in the long run, they are cheaper than bottled water. Since launching their product, Zero Mass Water has installed its panels, Source, in 18 different countries. In 2019, they unveiled a new product, a sensor that monitors the quality and safety of drinking water. Now, the startup is planning to install their panels all over the world, especially in poverty-stricken areas where people do not have any immediate access to clean water. The best part of this project is that the Source panel can provide water anywhere in the world from the driest deserts to the wettest jungles. (source)

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