Green Stuff: Space Exploits Tangentially Related to St. Paddy’s March 19, 2016 March 19, 2016 Arun

Being a college student gives one a pretty unique vantage point on what may be considered the most revered and holy collegiate holiday: Saint Patrick’s Day. We all know it: the Chicago river is dyed green; the beer flows like… well, beer; and all around the country, college students prepare for a weekend of pretending to celebrate their Irish heritage.

Well, we at SEDS would like to contribute to St. “Fratty’s” Day in our own unique way: with SCIENCE! Space science, of course. Listed below are some of NASA’s greenest accomplishments.


Auroras are a dance between the electrons coming from the radiation of the Sun and the oxygen and nitrogen molecules in our atmosphere. The inelastic collisions between particles give of photons, usually green ones. However, auroras can be violet, blue, or yellow as well.

The Earth is constantly bombarded with so-called ‘solar wind’ that consists of high energy particles given off by the Sun. Life on Earth aren’t subject to these particles because the magnetic field that surrounds our planet that deflects the wind. This field is weaker at the poles, and so the entering of some amount of solar wind there creates the Northern and Southern Lights.

It's beautiful isn't it?

The Aurora Borealis as seen in Northern Michigan (Image Credit:

Terraforming Mars

Last year, Elon Musk mentioned the possibility of nuking Mars in order to warm while the one the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. After being compared to a “James Bond villain” for the idea, he clarified that he wanted to mimic the process of fusion being conducted by our sun, but directly over the surface of Mars. The melting the polar ice caps is a widely discussed way to allow for the spread of water across the surface of Mars.

Nevertheless, the similarities to Blofeld can’t be denied. Intellectual? Check. Pasty white guy? Check. Accented English? Check. Mysterious success at creating vast amounts of money? Super check.

As I’m sure we all know, water begets life, and so by creating conditions that allow water to exist in liquid phase, the planet could then very conceivably host life that could affect substantial changes on its atmosphere. For instance, by implanting lichen, cyanobacteria, or other photosynthetic, oxygen-producing extremophiles, there exists the potential to contribute small amounts of oxygen to the atmosphere. Similarly, if the process could be replicated with carbon dioxide, a greenhouse effect could be introduced, thus warming the planet significantly.

He does look a lot like Christoph Waltz doesn't he?

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, PayPal, SolarCity, and Tesla Motors. (Image Credit: Business Insider)

Beer in Space

No, there isn’t beer on the ISS. Unfortunately, the carbonation inherent to beer would not bubble to the top and evaporate away, like it does on Earth. This leaves you with a pretty gassy drink, which isn’t ideal. That said, in 2013, a small brewery was selected to be sent to the ISS as part of an experiment to test the brewing process in microgravity. The project, developed by an 11-year-old from Colorado, was inspired by the idea that in the Middle Ages, people drank beer because it was generally cleaner than the water available at the time. Out of 4000 submissions, the project and 10 others were chosen to fly to the ISS.

In other news, shortly after the arrival of the brewery, the ISS began to erratically deviate from its flight path, and bad 90s rock could be heard being blasted from its external speakers. No word from NASA yet as to why this occurred.

– By Arun Nagpal, Publications Co-Chair, SEDS@UM