Science Scanner: ISS Resupply Spacecraft Explodes, Tiny Decontamination Devices, Walking Workstations = Health/Happy Workers

Posted October 29th, 2014 at 8:58 pm (UTC-4)
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Rocket With NASA’s Cargo Spacecraft Explodes Shortly After Liftoff/Russian Supply Mission Reaches ISS

Orbital Sciences Corp.'s unmanned rocket blowing up over the launch complex at Wallops Island, Va., just six seconds after liftoff.  (NASA-TV)

Orbital Sciences Corp.’s unmanned rocket blowing up over the launch complex at Wallops Island, Va., just six seconds after liftoff. (NASA-TV)

You probably read about this elsewhere, but we’d be remiss if we were to omit mention of the two ISS resupply missions launched yesterday… one successful while the other crashed and burned, or perhaps more accurately, burned and crashed.

NASA’s resupply mission to the International Space Station ended in disaster after the Orbital Science’s Antares rocket that was to ferry the unmanned Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the space station exploded shortly after its 2022 UTC launch last night from the space agency’s Wallops Island Fight Center in Virginia.

However, a few hours after NASA’s attempted launch, the Russian space agency successfully sent up its resupply cargo ship which, according to NASA’s Space Station blog, docked with the ISS today at 1308 UTC.

“The crew of the International Space Station is in no danger of running out of food or other critical supplies,” said William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate in a prepared statement.

Both the US and Russian resupply missions were planned and scheduled in advance.


Microdevices Designed to Neutralize Chemical/Biological Warfare Agents 

Spherical micromotors fueled by water can neutralize dangerous chemical and biological agents. (American Chemical Society)

Spherical micromotors fueled by water can neutralize dangerous chemical and biological agents. (American Chemical Society)

Scientists from the University of California, San Diego said they’ve come up with a unique new approach to handling threats posed by the use of chemical and biological weapons by terrorists or rogue governments.

The California researchers are developing tiny new spherical microrockets that will quickly deliver titanium dioxide, an agent that scientists say neutralizes dangerous biological and chemical agents, into environments that can be difficult to decontaminate.

The scientific team, led by UCSD’s Joseph Wang, outlined their new decontamination process in the journal ‘ACS Nano’.  They created a delivery system by coating the titanium dioxide over tiny spherical cores of magnesium.

When these little orbs, with one tiny hole drilled into its shell, are introduced into watery environment the magnesium reacts to the water and produces hydrogen gas which quickly pushes the neutralizing titanium dioxide through the contaminated fluid.

The researchers tested their new micromotors and found that they were able to successfully neutralize not only nerve agents but also anthrax-like bacteria and were able to do so in much less time than with methods that are currently being used.


A 'walking workstation' (Jerry Huddleston via Creative Commons/Flickr)

A ‘walking workstation’ (Jerry Huddleston via Creative Commons/Flickr)

Healthier & Happier Workers Thanks to Walking Workstations

Most of us who work in offices are used to spending a lot of time sitting at our desks, but numerous studies have shown that too much sitting can be bad for our health.

As a result of this research, a number of office workers, including a number of my colleagues here at VOA, have switched from standard sitting workstations to those that allow you to work while standing up.

Some offices have taken the stand-up work station a step further and have introduced something called walking workstations.  Instead of simply standing at your desk on the office floor, with the walking workstation you stand on a treadmill which can be switched on and off throughout the day, allowing workers to do a little walking while they work.

Researchers from the Department of Psychology in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) recently conducted a study that found office workers using walking workstations had a higher level of satisfaction and weren’t as bored or stressed as those working with standing or sitting workstations.

“We found that the walking workstations, regardless of a person’s exercise habits or body mass index (BMI), had significant benefits,” said study co-author Michael Sliter, in a press release. “Even if you don’t exercise or if you are overweight, you’ll experience both short-term physical and psychological benefits.”

The study can be found online in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Occupational Health Psychology and will be published in the print edition of the journal in  this coming January.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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