Start Your Rockets!

The United States’ Astrobotics team and Japan’s Hakuta team announced on February 23 their plans to send robot rovers to the moon on the same SpaceX flight next year. These rovers have a less scientific purpose than past lunar rovers: racing.

The two teams are competitors in the Google Lunar XPrize competition and have teamed up to stage the first car race in outer space. Astrobotics has created a lander, named Griffin, which will deliver the pair of rovers in 2016. The winner of the outer space race will receive a portion of the $20 million grand prize.

The race between the solar-powered off-roaders will be at least 500 meters long and the vehicles must stream HD video back to earth throughout the entire race. Astrobotic CEO John Thornton envisions the event to become “’NASCAR on the Moon’ scenario, where competing teams land together, and countries can cheer on their team to the finish line.”

Other teams have been invited to join the race and share the prize with the winner, but none have yet to accept the offer. Final flight plans must be filed by December 31, 2015 for the contest to move forward.

Obama Veto’s Keystone XL Pipeline

According to Carrie Dann from NBC News, President Barack Obama has officially vetoed a bill to allow the Keystone XL pipeline, “marking his third rejection of congressionally approved legislation during his six years in office.”  In the veto message, Obama stated the bill “attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest.”

Obama also stated, “because this act of Congress conflicts with established executive branch procedures and cuts short thorough consideration of issues that could bear on our national interest — including our security, safety, and environment — it has earned my veto.”  The president notified the Senate of the veto on Tuesday afternoon.

Dann stated that the veto, which was anticipated, came the same day that the GOP-dominated Congress officially submitted the bill to Obama; even though it was passed by both chambers of Congress before the week-long Presidents Day recess.  The White House stated the president opposes the bill because it would shorten a current review process of the project by the State Department.  Obama also conveyed uncertainty about how many jobs the pipeline would make.

Dann also stated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the “Senate will attempt to override the veto no later than March 3rd.”  Congress could overrule the veto if two-thirds of both the House and the Senate vote to do so, but lawmakers are not anticipated to reach that decision.

Republicans have accused the president of submitting to pressure from environmental activists who are against the project. These activists argue the pipeline could trigger spills and would build the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

House Speaker John Boehner stated “the president is just too close to environmental extremists to stand up for America’s workers. He’s too invested in left-fringe politics to do what presidents are called on to do, and that’s put the national interest first.”

Sleep Deprivation

Debra Goldschmidt, a CNN writer, stated sleep deprivation is such a widespread problem that last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called insufficient sleep “a public health epidemic.”

Goldschmidt stated teenagers may be suffering the most.  Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health titled the problem “The Great Sleep Recession” in a new report published in the journal Pediatrics.  They “surveyed more than 270,000 teens in eighth, 10th and 12th grades between 1991 and 2012 and found teens are getting less and less sleep.”  The normal amount of sleep is seven hours a day, which is “two hours less” than the nine hours they should be having.

Goldschmidt stated Katherine W. Keyes, lead researcher and assistant professor of epidemiology at Mailman, says her and her team believe less sleep could be due to increased Internet and social media use as well as pressure and competition from college.

Goldschmidt stated not getting enough sleep effects our minds and bodies regardless of age.  She stated sleep deprivation causes us to eat more and it “shrinks our brains, is linked to Type 2 diabetes, leads to slow reaction time that can impair driving and can even cause false memories.”

Goldschmidt stated there are proven things people can do to fall asleep and sleep better after they fall asleep.  A new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine says “mindful meditation helps adults fall asleep and stay asleep.”

Goldschmidt also stated the National Sleep Foundation recommends a relaxing bedtime ritual, settling down before bed and meditation.  The Foundation also recommends “waking up and going to bed at the same time every day and using bright lights to help wake up.”  They also advised to avoid naps; and heavy meals, alcohol and cigarettes at night.