May 20, 2009 was a first. Astronauts aboard the space station drank water recycled from urine, sweat and water condensation from exhaled air. The urine recycling system is especially needed for outposts on the Moon and Mars, but it will also save NASA money by not having to ship as much water to the space station. The system’s ability to make about 6 gallons of water in about 6 hours will become even more important when the space station expands from 3 to 6 people. Today if you’re an astronaut, “urine” a unique group.
Farmers whose microchipped plants send text messages to the farmers’ cell phones asking for water are in a unique group. The thin sensor, which is smaller than a postage stamp, attaches to plant leaves like a clip-on earring. Using these sensors in the western U.S. to conserve water and the electricity needed to pump water across fields could save farmers hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly. The original “plant cell phone” was developed by NASA to reduce time and supplies needed to grow crops in space. Today’s version still needs a power source, but future sensors could have solar panels as technology grows too.
As technology grows, a New York company may have made the most significant change in publishing since Guttenberg started printing more than 500 years ago. “On Demand Books” has installed a trial machine in a London bookstore. Containing 500,000 digitally saved titles and another 500,000 expected in 3 months, the printer runs at about 100 pages a minute, pages are stuck and bound together and a book is turned out. Although the machine costs $175,000, books average $15 and will enable bookstores to compete with Internet stores and electronic books. Although it’s called the “Espresso”, this machine grinds out books.
To divert fishing and diving from natural reefs, the General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, a retired Navy warship, ground to a halt when it was sunk in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The $8.6 million project is the world’s second-largest, artificial reef. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates the ship’s lifespan to be at least 100 years at 40-140 feet below water, providing a stable habitat for many fish species and exciting fishing and diving opportunities for residents and visitors. Because the Vandenberg reef is expected to increase spending in Monroe County by $7.5 million annually, their ship’s come in.
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