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Dispatches : Exploration

How Do Astronauts Lift Weights in Space?

Screen Shot 2012-05-24 at 3.42.04 PM

As astronauts spend more and more time in space, their bodies degenerate. Gravity doesn't exist as it does on earth, and so there isn't the same amount of resistance from weights. During space flight, astronauts experience a force of gravity one-millionth as strong as we experience on earth. In such conditions, a benchpress or Bowflex would be little more than a prop with which to record some amazing YouTube videos.

With nothing to simulate the resistance of free weights, an astronaut could lose muscle mass and bone density. One study found that after a six-month stay in space, astronauts lost 15 percent of the mass and 25 percent of the strength in their calves. It's for that reason that NASA spent a lot of time and money creating a fancy machine complete with sensors, pistons, cables, computers, balancing devices, and lots of high grade metal. They named it the Advanced Resistance Exercise Device, or aRED for short. Astronauts simply call it "The Beast."

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Elon Musk—and a Little More

Falcon-9-launch
Falcon 9 lauch. Photo: SpaceX

Yesterday, the same man that sent a rocket into space also had his company announce the release date for one of the most efficient electric cars on the market. Elon Musk, the 224th richest man in the United States and the father of five children, watched as his SpaceX team successfully launched what could be the first commercially-produced rocket and spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station.

On the same day, the South African billionaire’s other company, Tesla, announced the first deliveries on June 22 of a mass-produced electric car that can get more than 300 miles per charge and is priced under $50,000. It's probably not a coincidence that both items were released on the same day. Still, how was Musk able to accomplishment such huge technological feats in different industries?

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Model S. Photo: Tesla Motors

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Car Camping, Minus the Car

First, assume an Australian accent. It'll help when you pronounce the name of this snazzy bike trailer setup: Midget Bushtrekka. This pimped out bike trailer has "duallies" (kind of) and is designed to pivot and absorb shock. It can be adjusted to fit on a range of bike frames and has leveling legs to address uneven terrain. Of course, the main feature is the pop-up tent.

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Images: Kamp Rite

The set-up likely isn't worth the $600 you'll spend on it unless you're a dedicated bike tourist and get a guarantee from the manufacturer that you won't have any hitch failures, which some commenters on eBay complain about. If you're willing to sleep on the ground, you could save some money and some weight (the Midget Bushtrekka will add 45 pounds to your trip before it's filled) with a standard bike trailer

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Goldman Awards Roundup: Wild Rivers, Old Growth Forest, Arctic Health

2012Africa_Ikal_AngeleiIkal Angelei on the shores of Lake Turkana. Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize

Running Ethiopia's Omo River can be a serious adventure, as we described here in 2008, but more importantly, the river is a lifeline for those who rely on the water and fish of Lake Turkana, at Omo's terminus. Plans to build a massive hydroelectric dam on the Omo, however, would have changed all that -- were it not for the tenacity of 31-year-old Ethiopian Ikal Angelei. A public policy expert and political scientist, Angelei founded Friends of Lake Turkana and rallied many communities around the lake to rise up and fight the Gibe 3 Dam, which would have been the largest in Africa.

They appealed to the various funding sources, including the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank, and demanded that they defund the $60 billion project. While it would serve as a significant power source for Ethiopia and Kenya, it also would cut off local food sources and harm the lake, a crocodile-rich World Heritage Site and an anthropological hot spot.

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Yellowstone: Better by Bus

Linx_bus_lake_lodgeAll aboard who's going aboard.  Photo courtesy Linx Co-op

In our May issue we rounded up 12 amazing off-the-beaten path National Park adventures. Trekking into Yellowstone National Park (oh, you've heard of it?) didn't make the cut. But that doesn't mean you should avoid the 3,472 square miles of alpine wonders that make up the world's first national park. What you should avoid, however, is seeing it through your car windows, while stuck in park traffic.

"The park gets three million visitors each year, and they come mostly in the summer months," says Kim Billimoria, communications manager for Linx. Thankfully, visitors now have a public transit option to get around, and even get into, the park. The best part? It will act as your trail chauffeur, opening up thru-hike options and access to multi-leg trips that you'd never be able to pull off in a car.

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