Space has never been accessible to the average hobbyist. It was instead the realm of elite astronauts and billionaires.
Edward Wright is on a mission to change that. As the project manager for Citizens in Space, an initiative of the nonprofit United States Rocket Academy, Wright is looking to recruit both amateur scientists and astronauts to participate in a commercial space industry that is rapidly taking shape.
Citizens in Space has made an appealing offer to aspiring space explorers: The project has purchased 10 flights on the XCOR Lynx, a commercial suborbital spacecraft, and will send that many amateur astronauts to the great beyond along with 100 small experiments or payloads.
Scientists working to make exact chemical copies of fossil fuels from living microbes say they have scored a major victory in the lab. Merging genes from the camphor tree, soil- and gut-dwelling bacteria, and a microorganism that is lethal to insects, researchers have produced molecular replicas of petroleum-based fuels.
The team, composed of researchers from Exeter University in the United Kingdom and Shell, engineered the DNA of E. coli, a bacterium commonly found in the gut of mammals, to alter how it metabolizes its food so that it excretes the fossil-fuel replicas.
The new fuel doesn’t need to be heavily processed after it’s produced to work in combustion engines, says study coauthor John Love. It could be a solution that bypasses a major hurdle for conventional biofuels, which are not fully compatible with vehicles already out on the road.
“Modern engines are not suited to using these biofuels without major modifications and/or loss of performance,” Love, an associate professor of plant and industrial biotechnology at the University of Exeter, tells Txchnologist. “Ideally, you’d want to replace the fossil fuel with a biofuel that matches it exactly in chemical structure. We have engineered bacteria to produce such a fuel: biological gasoline or bio-alkanes. These hydrocarbons can be added directly to any engine, including a jet engine.”