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NASA ask Citizen Scientists to help Track Mosquitoes, Reduce Disease Outbreaks

More citizen science data from more areas of the world could help, the US space agency noted

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"Detecting life in an agnostic fashion means not using characteristics particular to Earth life," said Heather Graham at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Pixabay
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NASA has invited citizen scientists to help them track mosquitos known to carry and spread diseases like Zika, West Nile Virus and malaria to create new forecast models that can predict the spread of these diseases.

“We do not have enough information on the geographic distribution of mosquito and time-variation in their populations. If a lot of people participated in this citizen science initiative worldwide, it will help fill in gaps and that would help our work,” Assaf Anyamba, a scientist from Universities Space Research Association at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.

NASA scientists have initiated the work with DEVELOP team — part of NASA’s Applied Sciences Programme, which addresses environmental and public policy issues — to create the models.

The teams blended the citizen science data with NASA satellite observations of land surface temperatures, humidity, soil moisture, elevation, vegetation and precipitation.

The data were then used to create an interactive, open-source map on Google Earth Engine to improve prediction models for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

mosquitoes
Mosquito, (IANS)

Early results have showed that vegetation, humidity and soil moisture made it easier for mosquitoes to thrive during the summer months. During the winter, elevation played a stronger role in creating mosquito-friendly habitats.

The public can help track mosquitoes by downloading an app called GLOBE Observer, and then collect data over the summer using the Mosquito Habitat Mapper tool in the app, NASA said.

Also Read: NASA Spacecraft Sends Back Close-Ups of Dwarf Planet Ceres

The app guides users through the process of identifying and eliminating mosquito breeding sites in order to reduce mosquito populations in their immediate surroundings.

More citizen science data from more areas of the world could help, the US space agency noted.

“Knowing the mosquito species and their approximate populations at a given time provides useful information on the potential of occurrence of a particular pathogen, or disease transmission,” Anyamba said. (IANS)

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The Aborted Mission To Relaunch In December: NASA

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched.

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Russian Rocket
Astronaut Anne McClain, left, is seen during training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas. VOA

The American astronaut who will hitch the first ride on a Russian rocket since last month’s aborted launch and dramatic emergency landing is confident that her scheduled trip in December on a rocket that she calls a “workhorse” will go smoothly.

Astronaut Anne McClain, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a Canadian astronaut, will man the Dec. 3 mission. It will be the Russian-made Soyuz-FG’s first crewed flight since Oct. 11, when U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and a Russian cosmonaut landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe after the rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff.

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Specialists watch broadcasts from the Soyuz spacecraft showing astronaut David Saint-Jacques of Canada, Oleg Kononenko of Russia and astronaut Anne McClain of the U.S. attending the final qualification training for their upcoming space mission in Star City near Moscow, Russia. VOA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the United States retired its Space Shuttle program in 2011, though the agency has announced plans for test flights carrying two astronauts on commercial rockets made by Boeing and SpaceX next April.

“I do see the incident that happened on Oct. 11 with our launch abort not as a failure but as a success,” McClain told Reuters in a telephone interview from Russia. “It actually bolsters my confidence in the rocket and in the processes that we have.

“We’re confident in the vehicle and getting back to it,” McClain said of the Soyuz rocket, which she called “the workhorse of the space program.”

After lifting off from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur last month, a damaged sensor caused one of the rocket’s three booster stages to separate improperly, falling inward on the rocket and jolting it off its ascent two miles above ground, Russian investigators announced earlier this month.

Russian Rocket
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

During Assembly

Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, their arms and legs flailing. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”

The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a crewed Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.

Also Read: NASA Grants $7 Mn For New Life Detection

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has said that it could have been made deliberately by someone during manufacturing or while the craft was in space.

McClain and two other crewmates will launch from the same launchpad in Baikonur, joining the space station’s current three-person crew. (VOA)