#MathPaths is “Making Math Meaningful!”
The first video in this series features Dr. Nehemiah Mabry, founder of STEMedia and Bridge Design Engineer at Simpson Engineers & Associates in Cary, North Carolina. Check out a promo teaser for the first installment below:
You can watch the full interview of Dr. Nee by visiting MathPaths.org.
Besides increasing the total number of electric sports cars in outer space from 0 to 1, the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is also stimulating serious dialogue about inter -planetary travel. At the center of those conversations is Mars and the idea of one day establishing a human colony on the red planet.
Musk, who aims to send a crewed mission to Mars by 2024, isn’t the first person to set their sights on the 4th planet in our solar system. In 1948 German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun published The Mars Project, the first engineering analysis detailing the equipment, resources, and calculations needed for planning a trip to Mars. Since the release of The Mars Project there have been over 60 formal proposals for crewed missions to the red planet from both public agencies and private companies. It’s safe to assume that Mars has been on our minds for quite some time.
Of course, like everything else involving space travel, huge technical hurdles must be overcome before humanity can blast off to Mars. The red planet can be anywhere from 55 million to 400 million kilometers away ( 34-250 million miles for you non-metric readers) with an average distance of 225 million kilometers (140 million miles). This translates to a travel time of 6 – 9 months one way which brings a slew of challenges because human space passengers require a whole lot more to survive than robots.
In addition to food, water, air, and staying sane in a cramped living quarters passengers aboard the spaceship to Mars will also have to worry about things such as radiation and micro-gravity. Both of which can be detrimental to health when exposed to for long periods of time. Unless there are major breakthroughs in artificial gravity or space propulsion technologies, there’s not really much that can be done to offset these issues.
After finishing the long and dangerous trek the crew will then have to think about surviving in the hostile environment of the red planet. Although readings as high as 20 oC (68 oF) have been recorded during summer months, the average temperature on the Martin surface is a chilly -63oC ( – 81oF) with a record low of -140oC (-220oF). A thin atmosphere and lack of a magnetosphere still leaves the risk for long term radiation exposure. Let’s not forget that Mars has 38% the gravity of Earth which might be detrimental to long term health.
Should the astronauts need to communicate back to mission control their signal ,on average, would take 13.8 minutes to travel to Earth. Sustaining life beyond Earth has been historically challenging, but a journey to Mars will ratchet up the difficulty to a new level.
The idea of taking our next small step on Martian soil has been popular for a long time. However, Elon and his team don’t have to go to Mars. Keep in mind the mission of SpaceX is to one day enable people to live on other planets. They never specified which ones. If there were an easier option for a planet to colonize Musk could choose to send people there instead. Interestingly enough, an attractive alternative may lie heading one planet closer to the sun.
A journey to Venus would definitely be shorter. The morning star can be anywhere between 38 million and 261 million kilometers (24- 162 million miles) away with an average distance of 170 million kilometers (106 million miles). Venus is roughly 25% closer to Earth than Mars giving a reduced travel time of 4.5 – 7 months. A shorter trip implies that less supplies/ fuel will be needed, but more importantly the crew would have less radiation and micro-gravity exposure. Venus is also closer to the sun making solar power a more effective resource.
Those familiar with our solar system have undoubtedly heard of how hostile the Venetian surface is. Large amounts of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid trap the sun’s heat on the planet making the average surface temperature hot enough to melt lead at a toasty temperature of 450oC (842 oF) . The high concentration of gasses also exert an atmospheric pressure 90 times that of Earth. Make no mistake , survival on the surface of Venus is impossible. Even the probes we’ve sent have only lasted at most a few hours before being burned and crushed.
Surprisingly what makes Venus a nightmare on the surface helps to make it a great option for colonization. The carbon dioxide atmosphere causes balloons filled with breathable air (79 % nitrogen and 21% oxygen) to float like helium balloons do on Earth. After traveling up about 50 km (31 miles) Venus transforms from a hostile planet to one of the most pleasant places in our solar system.
At this high altitude temperatures range from 0 – 50 oC (32-122oF) at a pressure equal to 1 atmosphere. Venus has a gravity 90% that of Earth’s and is also protected from cosmic radiation by its thick atmosphere. Flying high in the Venetian sky, human crew members would experience the most Earth like conditions in our entire solar system. The idea of cloud cities on Venus has been floating around ( get it?) since the early 70’s. In 2015 a team at NASA proposed the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC) which aims to send airships and eventually humans to explore Venus’s atmosphere.
Attempting to build the cloud city from The Empire Strikes Back isn’t without inherent challenges. There will still be hefty communication delays (roughly 10.4 minutes on average) back to planet Earth. Any materials used on Venus for habitats and space suits could also tear due to corrosion from sulfuric acid in the clouds. Luckily if a balloon were to tear in Venus’ dense atmosphere air would leak slowly giving astronauts plenty of time to fix the issue. Also let’s not forget the serious risk of something or someone falling a long way down off the balloon!
Falcon Heavy’s successful launch is one key step in Musk’s goal of reaching Mars by 2024. However with a trip to Venus meaning shorter travel times, better environmental conditions, and a chance to make Star Wars more of a reality one can’t help but ask : is Elon Musk trying to colonize the wrong planet?
Should we go to Mars or Venus instead. Let us know what you think in the comments below!
I feel as though this is the perfect time to bring something to the light. March is Women’s History Month and we just slid out of Black History Month…
Did anyone else watch Black Panther and by the end think there was definitely more than one hero in the film? Every character had their moments of heroism, but I would definitely say that Shuri could have had more limelight. I at least would love to see her have her own movie in the future. She really lit up the screen!
I know in the past, we had our eye on RiRi Williams being a big comic book figure for African American women, but Shuri is starting to win over my affection. I mean, she has the whole package! The Black Panther’s powers come from consuming a plant. Yes, it makes him stronger and faster and more agile, but those powers are made better by the suit he wears, designed by Shuri! Shuri’s powers however, come from within. She is intelligent, creative, ambitious, funny, caring, beautiful, AND she’s got the physique to be as bright of a star as T’Challa! If I had to choose a comic book woman crush, Shuri is it!
When it comes to smarts, Shuri’s got’em! She is a younger, more melanated version of Tony Stark. At one point in the movie M’Baku comments at how embarrassed he is for Wakanda that a child is in control of their technological advancements, a child who “scoffs at tradition” at that! Thankfully, he did not come for her womanhood, but coming for her youth is equally bad. Age does NOT determine one’s ability to contribute to a community OR to invent.
The technology Shuri has developed is used throughout Wakanda and sets the nation apart from the rest of the world. From weaponry to bodysuits, to transportation, to medicine, prosthetics, and protection, Shuri has managed to intertwine vibranium into the DNA of Wakanda. She saves life without risking her own. She improves lives just by manifesting her own ideas. Show me another black female who has created a magnetic transportation system and helps fight bad guys all by/at age 16… I’ll wait.
To accompany her technical intelligence, Shuri surely has creative genius. The proof is in the inventions. Firstly, two words: arm cannons. Secondly, instead of wearing an Apple Watch or having cell phones, she creates a Kimoyo beaded bracelet with multiple functions. Each bead had a different action, one is equipped with medical assistance, used to stabilize the government agent; another is a communicator that produces a hologram of the person speaking; another controls things around the city.
However, I think one of the COOLEST displays of technology created by Shuri was being able to control a vehicle from a remote location! With technology like this, you can send your vehicle to pick up your groceries at Walmart Pick-Up; you can safely chase and cut off a criminal without risking the lives of law enforcement; just imagine the benefits if this technology really existed! Seeing it on the big screen was awesome, but thinking about this kind of thing becoming a reality is what really blows the mind! Shuri’s creativity MUST NOT BE SLEPT ON! Her and her creativity are essential assets to Wakandian culture!
Shuri’s ambition is inspiring. This young lady is nowhere near done improving her nation. She is glued to her and has a never-ending excitement about her work. She is confident in what she does and has a classic childlike curiosity about the endless possibilities of vibranium. She does what she loves, is eager to share her creations, and really puts in the hours to make things happen, values we can all learn from.
Lots of little sisters get a bad rap for being brats or unpleasant sometimes, but Shuri is really funny and caring. She is not a quiet sibling hiding in big brother T’Challa’s shadow. She is vibrant; she is present; she does “too cool for school handshakes” and she cracks jokes during serious moments. Her youth is a pleasant break of tension in the film. Shuri is also supportive. She’s a fighter, helping her big brother in the best ways she knows how. I would love to have her as my tech provider or little sis any day! SIDENOTE: If you peep STEMedia on Instagram, you can see Letitia Wright (the actor who plays Shuri) rap a few bars too!
I would like for us to take a moment to just appreciate the undeniable beauty of Shuri. From her smile to the “out of this world” clothes she wears, to the haircut design in the back of her head, she is just amazing! Her style is futuristic and graceful and fun. She wears fishnet dresses with tennis shoes. Even when she is in traditional Wakandan attire, she shines.
In the comics, Shuri really is a superSHEro. Though not really highlighted in the movie, she has an essential role in not only T’Challa’s success, but all of Wakanda. With beauty, an innovative spirit, and a passion for family, nation, and science burning within, Shuri honestly could prosper in her own movie. Just like The Black Panther, she could inspire young people (especially women) as well, if not more since she is a youth herself. Black Panther made history last month, but I look forward to the historic impact Shuri has on women, on African Americans, on youth, and on STEM.
This piece comes to us from one of our talented content contributors, Cynthia Sharpe. Her bio is below and if you would like to work with us you can email us here!
Cynthia M. Sharpe, is a May 2015 graduate of NC State University. Cynthia graduated with a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing and currently aspires to pursue an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. “As I let my own light shine, I unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” -Cynthia M. Sharpe, inspired by Marianne Williamson