Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C (Electrical Engineering)

What Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C Mean to Musicians and Engineers

When standards like Thunderbolt and USB evolve, it seems the inevitable result is more complications — like needing different cables, connectors, and adapters. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this kind of evolution instead resulted in a simpler world, so you could just get on with making music?

That’s the potential of the USB-C connector, as used with both Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 for data and power transfer. Remember all those funny computer AC adapter bricks, wall warts, and line lumps, each with a connector that didn’t work with anything else? Forget them — you’ll be charging your computer over USB-C. And what about those USB Type-A, Type-B, Mini-A, Mini-B, Micro-A, and Micro-B connectors littering your studio like unwanted house guests? Gone. Instead, you’ll have a bunch of high-quality USB-C cables capable of handling plenty of power. That AC adapter for your audio interface that wasn’t compatible with anything else on the planet? You won’t even need the AC adapter, as long as the computer it plugs into has enough juice to power the interface.

Sound good to you? Well, that time is here. Like all major changes, there are some initial issues as specs and gear settle into something new, but these advanced protocols already offer significant advantages.

Hey! They Use the Same Connector!

It used to be that each protocol had its own connector type — you wouldn’t mistake an SCSI port for a FireWire port, or USB for Thunderbolt. USB-C changes all that, because it’s intended to be a universal cable and connector specification. A USB-C connector is a significant improvement over the bulky connectors of the past: it’s reversible, so you can’t plug cables in upside down, and it is wicked thin so it will fit in just about anything — which is why many new smartphones use USB-C. This also means USB-C hubs can be smaller, and you’ll be able to fit more ports in tablets and small laptops.

Note: The term USB-C describes only the physical cable and connector, not the data speed or charging capability.

Because Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 (the latest generation for USB) use the same connector, it’s not surprising that some people are confused over which is which, or think they must be the same — but there are significant differences.

Thunderbolt 3 is currently the fastest data transfer protocol. It can transfer up to 40 Gbit/s with short cable runs (depending on whether you’re using passive or active cables — more info below), and 20 Gbit/s with longer cables. USB 3.1 Gen 2 tops out at 10 Gbit/s. (Note these figures are best-case — not all peripherals can run at those speeds.) Thunderbolt is also bidirectional and provides four lanes for PCI Express Gen 3 and eight lanes for DisplayPort 1.2 connections. What’s more, you can also daisy-chain multiple Thunderbolt devices so they share a single Thunderbolt port; whereas every USB device is a selfish little critter that needs to connect via its own cable to its own port.

So here’s the bottom line: if you want an audio interface with no perceptible latency, and/or need to drive multiple monitors or external high-speed graphics cards, Thunderbolt 3 is the ticket.

Thunderbolt 3 was designed to be the “one protocol to rule them all,” so it can connect not only to Thunderbolt-aware devices but also to older protocols like HDMI or FireWire via adapters. Perhaps more importantly — and one of the reasons for confusion — is that Thunderbolt 3 can also connect to the billions of USB devices.

Although USB 3.1 Gen 2 devices use an identical USB-C connector, this is solely for connecting to USB peripherals (some do support sending signals to DisplayPorts, but this isn’t guaranteed), which brings us to the connector version of New Rules:

  • A Thunderbolt 3 device with a USB-C connector shows a Thunderbolt logo, and is compatible with USB peripherals. So technically speaking, any Thunderbolt 3 port is also a USB 3.1 port.
  • A USB 3.1 device with a USB-C connector is not compatible with Thunderbolt 3 peripherals, only USB peripherals, unless the word “Thunderbolt” or a Thunderbolt logo is next to it.

(By the way, no law says a USB-C connector has to run USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt 3, so you may find some occasional USB-C connector-laden smartphones that run at USB 2.0 speeds. Just ignore them, and maybe they’ll go away.)

Is Your Cable Able?

One of the USB-C connector’s advantages is that there’s a companion USB-C specification called USB PD (Power Delivery). Devices using USB-C connectors, whether with Thunderbolt or USB peripherals, can deliver up to 100 watts of power for charging, or up to 15 watts to power bus-powered devices (like audio interfaces). The power delivery coexists with data and is bidirectional, so not only can a host charge a peripheral, but a peripheral can also charge a host. For example, if you plug a laptop into a display with a USB-C connector to play back a video, you could charge the laptop battery while watching the video.

Symbol Protocol Speed
USB icon USB 2.0 480Mbits/s
Super speed trident icon USB 3.0 5Gbits/s
Super speed 10Gbps trident icon USB 3.1 10Gbits/s
Super speed power delivery trident icon USB 3.0 PD
(Power Delivery)
Super speed power delivery 10Gbps trident icon USB 3.1 PD
(Power Delivery)
Thunderbolt icon Thunderbolt 10Gbits/s
Thunderbolt icon Thunderbolt 2 20Gbits/s
Thunderbolt 3 icon Thunderbolt 3 40Gbits/s

However, note the “up to” comment above: a device’s “power profile” determines whether the maximum available power is 10 watts (2 amps at 5 volts), 60 watts (5 amps at 12 volts), or 100 watts (5 amps at 20 volts). And there’s no guarantee that a device with a USB-C connector follows the USB PD spec any more than a keyboard supports polyphonic aftertouch just because it has a MIDI output jack, so USB PD-friendly USB devices have a battery graphic associated with the usual USB SS logo. Furthermore, you need cables that can handle the power; that skinny cable you’re using to charge your smartphone probably isn’t macho enough to charge your 70-watt laptop. Like record company contracts, read the fine print — especially when trying to use a newer device with an older port that may not be able to provide sufficient power.

A few more fine points: passive Thunderbolt 3-compatible cables can do 40 Gbit/s only at lengths of half a meter or less, and 20 GBit/s with 1- to 2-meter lengths. To do 40 Gbit/s at lengths up to 2 meters, you need to shell out more bucks for an active Thunderbolt 3 cable. On the USB 3.1 side of things, you need cables that can handle the higher speeds — the cable that came with your stereo USB 1.1 interface at the turn of the century won’t do the job.

Active vs. Passive Cables

An active Thunderbolt cable contains transceivers in the plugs that regulate data transfer. A passive Thunderbolt cable does not — it’s just wires between connectors. A typical 0.5m (19″) Thunderbolt cable that comes packaged with gear will be passive and have slower transfer speeds at lengths greater than 0.5m. Active Thunderbolt cables are more expensive than passive ones and will maintain higher speeds at longer lengths. Regardless of what cable you choose, if you plan to power or charge gear with it, make sure it can handle the maximum expected current.

Back to the Future

A major concern when protocols evolve is backward compatibility. Both Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 are electrically compatible with previous generations, although you’ll need physical adapters. Thunderbolt 3 devices with a suitable bidirectional adapter can connect to previous-generation Thunderbolt ports, and USB 3.1 devices will work with previous-generation USB ports, although of course you won’t gain the speed advantage of the newer protocols using older ports.

However, all the above is preceded with “in theory.” With the proliferation of computer hardware generations and operating systems, backward compatibility is never guaranteed. If you’re using modern hardware with integrated Thunderbolt and a recent operating system, all should be well. But if you’re using an overclocked Pentium 4 running Windows XP and think you can just install a Thunderbolt card and all will be well — it won’t be.

Caveats and Corner Cases

Then there are the situations that seem like they’d work, but don’t. Some peripheral manufacturers say their Thunderbolt 3 peripherals are not compatible with Thunderbolt 2 ports either because of problems with older USB-C controller chips, or because the Thunderbolt 3 peripheral wants to talk to USB 3.1 data channels. Because Thunderbolt 2 was never designed to support USB, that would be a nonstarter.

There are also kludges that seem like they wouldn’t work, but do. Apple doesn’t make a Thunderbolt 3 to FireWire adapter, but it does make a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter, which you can then use with a Thunderbolt 2 to FireWire 800 adapter…and a FireWire 800 to FireWire 400 adapter if the target device is FireWire 400. However, if you’re daisy-chaining Thunderbolt devices, then the adapter has to be closest to the computer in the chain. Then again, what are you doing with a cutting-edge Thunderbolt system and a FireWire 400 device? Seriously, it’s time for an upgrade.

Or if you’re running Boot Camp with Windows 7, 8, or 10 on a Mac with a Thunderbolt device plugged in, the Mac won’t be able to go to sleep — and if you try to reconnect a Thunderbolt device you disconnected, you’ll need to restart the Mac before the device will be recognized.

Realistically, though, these are “corner cases,” and as long as you don’t intend to stray too far from the wide world of best practices, you’ll likely be okay. There’s lots of information on the web, and Sweetwater’s Sales Engineers keep on top of recent developments as well. In any case, although we have an increasingly data-hungry and complex world, it looks like USB-C, USB 3.1 Gen 2, and especially Thunderbolt 3 are arriving just in the nick of time to deal with that data — and in the process, simplify our lives.

If you have further questions about Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, or USB 3.1 Gen 3, call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer at (800) 222-4700.

The Pepper and Nao Robots in the Classroom






Pepper is a humanoid robot manufactured by SoftBank Robotics (formerly Aldebaran Robotics), which is owned by SoftBank, designed with the ability to read emotions. It was introduced in a conference on 5 June 2014, and was showcased in Softbank mobile phone stores in Japan beginning the next day.  Pepper’s emotion comes from the ability to analyze expressions and voice tones.Pepper was launched in the UK in 2016 and there are currently two versions available.


The robot’s head has four microphones, two HD cameras (in the mouth and forehead), and a 3-D depth sensor (behind the eyes). There is a gyroscope in the torso and touch sensors in the head and hands. The mobile base has two sonars, six lasers, three bumper sensors, and a gyroscope.[4]

It is able to run the existing content in the app store designed for Aldebaran’s other robot, Nao.


Pepper is not a functional robot for domestic use. Instead, Pepper is intended “to make people happy”, enhance people’s lives, facilitate relationships, have fun with people and connect people with the outside world.[5] Pepper’s creators hope that independent developers will create new content and uses for Pepper.[6]

Pepper is currently being used as a receptionist at several offices in the UK and is able to identify visitors with the use of facial recognition, send alerts for meeting organisers and arrange for drinks to be made. Pepper is said to be able to chat to prospective clients.

The robot has also been employed at banks and medical facilities in Japan, using applications created by Seikatsu Kakumei. and is also employed at all Hamazushi restaurants in Japan.

Action Research

Teachers, engineers and scientists working at the Barboza Space Center are working on new training materials for the Nao and Pepper robots.  We are getting ready to work with students with special needs. Our students with autism will be in the first round of our action research projects.

Graphic Organizers for Robot Programs

We are training our students and teachers using custom software and graphic organizers designed for the Nao and Pepper robots.

Organizer Books.jpeg

Robot Programs for Gifted and Talented Students

The STEAM++ (science, technology, engineering, visual and performing arts, mathematics, computer languages and foreign languages), the Occupy Mars Learning Adventures project-based learning and space science summer fellowships, and robot building will continue in 2018.  We invite you to follow our photo essays.

Contact Information

Bob Barboza, Founder/Director

Barboza Space Center

Long Beach, California, USA

www.BarbozaSpaceCenter.comIMG_2346.jpgIMG_2342.jpgPepper 3.jpeg





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Who wants to help with growing plants for Mars 2030?

Students from the USA and Cabo Verde are working together to experiment with Super Seeds for Mars 2030.   Dr. Angelo Barbosa (Cabo Verde) and Bob Barboza, MS. (USA) are conducting research and sharing results.  This is a STEM project designed to get high school students excited about science.   We welcome you to join our experiments and to follow our photo essay.

We welcome your comments.

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Mars Desert Research Station Crew 187

Mission Summary – Crew 187 – Team Latam II

Mars Desert Research Station

Mission Summary

Crew 187 – Team Latam II


Commander/Astronomer: Cynthia Yacel Fuertes Panizo (Peru)

Executive Officer: Atila Kahlil Meszaros Henostroza (Peru)

Crew Engineer: Luis José Antonio Díaz López (Peru)

GreenHab Officer: Hernán David Mateus Jiménez (Colombia)

Crew Scientist/EVA Officer: Oscar Ivan Ojeda Ramirez (Colombia)

Health and Safety Officer: Danton Iván Bazaldua Morquecho (Mexico)

Journalist: Tania Maria Robles Hernandez (Mexico)


Commander’s Statement


I had the honor of working with a highly talented crew, not only professionally, but also personally. Our roots come from Peru, Colombia, and Mexico; but in our hearts, we carry the responsibility of representing all of Latin America, which we will always do with our best effort. Each member of the crew was a key to success the mission; their experiences, knowledge in science and engineering, their high commitment to make the simulation as real as possible, his teamwork and constant support were valuable; always following the philosophy of “All for one and one for all!”.

Every day on Mars was a great adventure; we celebrated a Martian birthday, we recharged a diesel tank, we saw the sun, the moon, the constellations, among other wonders of the universe, we were the first explorers of a canyon, and we had the honor that all the crew wishes to have, to give the name to a canyon and a road; in this way El Dorado Canyon and Despacito Road – because you have to go slowly along this road for the safety of each crew member – are now part of the MDRS map. El Dorado was an ancient legend about a city full of gold that challenged every explorer who dared to look for it. For us to call it that reflects the curiosity that awoke in us as new explorers of Mars and the desire to leave in there a Latin American mark.

I feel proud of each member of this crew since at their young age they have achieved great things with that courage and strength that characterizes every Latino. No matter how big the challenge and the obstacles that each one has to overcome, I am sure that with effort, courage, and dedication they will be able to do it; as well as we all defeated together the adversities that they had in our stay in the MDRS. In these fabulous 15 days, each one gained experience, acquired new knowledge, expanded his way of seeing the universe and learned from others. More than being part of a crew, we are part of a family … a Martian family!

The crew 187 is eternally grateful for the support and trust gave by The Mars Society, Dr. Robert Zubrin, Dr. Shannon Ruppert, Mission Support and all the people and institutions that believe in each one of us.


Ad Astra,

Cynthia Fuertes Panizo

Commander of the Crew 187 – MDRS


Summary of the EVA’s activities

EVAs on Space exploration are not routine, and for sure, in the first stages of Mars exploration, will surely keep that trend. Every EVA is different to the other, not only because the goals change, also because the circumstances change as well. One of the most interesting aspects of the simulation while on MDRS is the possibility to simulate such activities and experience the first two statements firsthand. While most of the crew’s projects were meant to be developed in or close to the habitat and campus, performing EVAs is an extraordinary opportunity to learn and test ourselves in a physical and psychological way. To be able to test our capacity of reaction to the unexpected, to solve problems that arise from thin air, to cope with stress, and to be able to come back home every day, to a cup of warm chocolate, and be ready the next day to go through that again. All that while wearing the space suit simulator, complete with gloves and boots.

Crew 187 performed a total of 15 EVAs, not counting the frequent excursions of our engineer to the generator. Most of our destinations were suggested by Director Shannon, taking us to previously unexplored zones of the MDRS area. Some of the EVAs where more routine, used to cycle the batteries of the rovers, in order to extend their life, 4 of this EVAs were performed. The other EVAs allowed us to test the projects of some of our crewmembers. The general testing was successful, attaining most of the science goals. Also, we were able to explore places that had not been visited before, or in a very long time by previous crews. Most of the activities went without trouble, but it’s important to mention the finding of the cougar prints, as well as the battery drain of Deimos, which led the team to find solutions for taking the vehicle and themselves home.

Oscar Ojeda

EVA Officer


Summary of the Greenhab

In the end, the Greenhab was as beautiful as the beginning. During the mission, we had to make some changes in the interior to give more space to the aquaponics and take care of the plants that were in front of the fan that had been damaged. After these modifications, we received a high resistance tarpaulin to place it under the cover and protect the plants that are exposed to solar radiation. During the two weeks, 3 projects were developed in the Greenhab, which involved an assembly of aquaponics, germination of different types of quinoa in two types of soil, one analogous to Mars and another commercial. In addition, we worked on the measurement of evapotranspiration of a quinoa crop in Martian analogous soil, the data that was obtained will be analyzed to give recommendations for the Greenhab and the irrigation process.


David Mateus

Greenhab Officer



Summary of the Operation reports


During our stay at the MDRS, the diesel tank was recharged for a total of 300 gallons, which allowed us to feed the electric generator, in charge of supplying power to the Habitat and all the structures of the station. It should be noted that due to the problem of water level control over the bedrooms, we successfully manufactured an alarm with a water level sensor to be alerted at the precise moment in which the key was to be closed.

Also, based on the problem raised with one of the Rovers during a long-term EVA, we implemented a security protocol in which, from now on, it is mandatory to carry a survival kit (food and tools), as well as thick ropes that allow towing a vehicle in the event of a breakdown.


Luis Lopez

Crew Engineer



Final reports of the Projects

 Mobile application as help agent in MDRS

Cynthia Yacel Fuertes Panizo

Systems Engineer. Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería, Lima – Peru

According to Gardner, Android is the Operating System with more users around the world, therefore the apps that I will develop will be for Android. I am working using Unity, Monodevelop, Vuforia, JDK and Android SDK.

During the Sim, I worked doing the app for Musk Observatory. I organize this app into 5 parts: Safety Instructions, Potential Hazards, Hand Control, Alignment, and Focus. When you select the first option, a PDF will be downloaded with the Safety Instructions. In the second case, a pop up will be displayed with the advice of the Potential Hazards. In the third case, it will allow to recognize the Hand Control of the telescope and overlapping it with the main parts of it and when you select it you will be able to know a short concept about each one. For the fourth and fifth case, a PDF will be downloaded for each one. Also, I have the intention of working with the equipment of the science dom. I already collected the information that I need to do it. Moreover, I have the intention to test the final app with future crews.


Spreading space issues using a mobile application

Cynthia Yacel Fuertes Panizo

Systems Engineer. Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería, Lima – Peru

During the Sim, I worked collecting the information that I need, like pictures, videos, 3D mapping of some zones that we went and so on. When I come back to Peru, I will start to create the app and in the end, I am planning to test it in a school of a vulnerable area of Peru in order to spread a different kind of topics like MDRS, Mars, Space and so on.


 Resistance of Peruvian crops to Mars analog soil

Atila Meszaros

Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima – Perú

Three kinds of quinoa and one of kiwicha were selected to prove their resistance to Mars analog soil and to prove their value for being included in future martian diets. During Sol 7, three replicas and one control were planted. They’ve been watered once a day with 250 mL of water. Till now, the control hasn’t germinated, and we are expecting, even the ones that are planted on the mars analog soil, to start germinating during the next two Sols.


 Aquaponics trade-offs and comparison with regular gardening methods on MDRS

Atila Meszaros

Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima – Perú

This project will be developed through the following months and will be taken within the intern program, with the support of the Green Hab Officers of the following crews to keep it running. Initially only the hydroponic functions will be used, and a cost-efficient comparison will be made between the hydroponic system and the regular gardening techniques. During this rotation, the aquaponics system is almost fully set up and we are going to start doing any time soon the leak tests.


Design and implementation of a thermoregulatory system for the homologation of the internal temperature in the EVA suits used by the analogous astronauts in the MDRS

Luis José Antonio Díaz López (Cascas, Perú)

Ingeniero Mecatrónico de la Universidad Nacional de Trujillo, Perú

The implementation and testing of the project were successful. Due to the cold, only the heating system was tested, which uses a ceramic resistor commonly used in 3D printer extruders. This resistance is part of the heat exchanger system that transmits, by convection, the heat to water. A water pump is responsible for circulating the thermoregulated liquid inside a bag for blood donation, which is regulated thanks to a temperature differential that takes as reference the external temperature and the temperature inside the suit (specifically in the area where the heart is located). Likewise, the temperature reading is stored in a microSD memory next to the date and time to have a chronological reference of the temperature compensations that the system had to perform.


Evapotranspiration on Mars

Hernan David Mateus Jimenez

Mechatronics engineer, student of master of science in systems engineering

Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota Colombia

Evapotranspiration is the physical process that converts the liquid water from a green area in vapor water by the action of both transpiration and evaporation. One way to measure evapotranspiration is using a device named lysimeter that measures the weight of the crop and the weight of leachate continuously.

The lysimeter started to be assembled since the beginning of the simulation but started to take measurements of evapotranspiration on Sol 8, because some pieces had to be repaired and it was necessary to do an EVA to take Martian soil. Also, it was necessary to determine the amount of water to mix with the Martian Soil and get the best texture. The data recollected during the six Soles are going to be analyzed in Colombia in order to get a list of recommendations to improve the use of water in the Greenhab and on the crops that use Martian Soil.


Positioning system based on star recognition

Hernan David Mateus Jimenez

Mechatronics engineer, student of master of science in systems engineering

Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota Colombia

In this project, we wanted to prove a software that says what your location is, based on a photo that you take from the sky. This software was developed in python using Opencv library. The objective was to measure the accuracy of the software in order to develop in the future useful positioning systems for night EVAs.

During the simulation we were able to take the enough amount of photos to build a sky map where the descriptor SIFT is going to search the similarities with a taken photo to find your location.


Field evaluation of the Cóndor Space Suit Simulator

Oscar I. Ojeda

Universidad Nacional de Colombia

The project aimed to evaluate the performance of the Cóndor Space Suit Simulator, as well as its independent systems. The activities consisted on partaking on EVAs with the suit in different configurations, the EVAs were classified in short, medium, and long range. The systems tested were the complete donning, and the flexible part combined with the Exo suit, available in the MDRS. The EVAs consisted on technical, biological, and geological activities, as well as basic mobility, and vehicle manipulation. Several observations on improvements were made and will be implemented for the next version of the suit. In general, the results were positive, with a high range of movement, combined with enough restriction, to simulate properly a space suit.


Testing of a PXCM based wheel for a planetary rover

Oscar I. Ojeda

Universidad Nacional de Colombia

The project aimed to do a basic field test of a 3D printed wheel, aimed for a planetary surface rover. The test made use of a simple automatized rover, which was implemented in the MDRS. The wheel was printed by ITAMCO and designed in Purdue University. The wheels were received in the station and assembled. First, the performance of the rover was observed with traditional commercial wheels, traversing different types of terrain, which is an analog for Mars. Afterwards the wheels were installed in the rover and tested again, over analog terrain. The results observed showed an equivalent performance while assuming terrain. Further laboratory and field testing is suggested to fully characterize the performance of the wheels, however the first testing showed positive results.



Remote sensing in mars analogue surface

Danton Bazaldua1 Walter Calles2


danton.bazaldua@spacegeneration.org1 , walterabdias@gmail.com2


The DRONE DJI SPARK to mapped 5 km of surface around MDRS to analyze with Cameras and digital processing for 3D in Martian soil. This drone mapped the soil of the MDRS and the habitat during 5 EVA for two weeks which will help to take images at 40 meters of height to be later analyzed by a digital processing in 3D which will help us to better understand the characteristics of the Mars surface as well to follow in automatic pilot the way of astronauts in each expedition after that the Drone analyzed the characteristics of the surface of the MDRS as well as the type of soil and its basic characteristics using Matlab and Pix4D to analyze the images of the Habitat taken by the drone.


Remote sensing of vital signs

Danton Bazaldua1 Walter Calles2


danton.bazaldua@spacegeneration.org1, walterabdias@gmail.com2

OBJECTIVE: This device was a E.C.G monitor as well as some important aspects like the pressure and the internal humidity of the space suit of MDRS CREW 187, through a system of monitoring focused to the Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA). E.C.G module moreover the body position, galvanic response skin that will transmit the data to the user interface in which are presented in real time to the astronauts in a smart watch or an interface pc. However, the monitor has a problem with the connectivity and was complicated used during EVA but it was used to monitoring before EVA expedition. The medical data has been useful for HSO during the mission to keep the Crew 187 and design protocols to choose the member of each expedition.



Cognitive function dynamics in a martian analogue simulation

Betel Martínez Valdés 1, José Eduardo Reynoso Cruz 1 & José Luis Baroja Manzano 1

1Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Psychology Deparment,

Mexico City

During the two weeks monitored different cognitive abilities fatigue levels in Crew 187 members and it was compared with control group of external participants not related to the Analogue Simulation.

Fourteen adults were part of the study. The groups were paired by the sex, age, lateral dominance and level of studies. The subjects from the support group and the control paired will be chosen voluntarily.


Cooperation dynamics in a martian analogue simulation

Betel Martínez Valdés1, Oscar San Pedro Caligua 1

1 Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City

During this experiment analyzed the dynamics of cooperation and working team. Reciprocity between the Analogue Simulation Crew 187 members. The cooperative behavior between crew members during the analogue simulation to Mars was apply a Collective-Risk Social Dilemma in which six astronauts will be players and one coordinator. This task will be applied five times in two weeks this information will help to analyze the status of the cooperation during an analogue mission.


Science communication and documentary to space projects of young scientist and professionals in Latin America

Tania Robles

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City

Latin America is an emerging and growing region in the global aerospace sector. Because of its capabilities to offer development and manufacturing services at low costs, it has been accepted as one of the supplier regions of the most important companies and space agencies.

Despite this, Latin America is an area that has not developed its infrastructure and human resources capacities in the sector. Some of the causes can be the ignorance of the decision makers. For this purpose, an outreach project has been created on the work of young Mexicans and foreigners in the space field, as well as the importance of these issues.

The project consists of documentation of the problems and actions of young students to solve problems of academia and industry.

Animation Tool Helps Alien-Hunting Scientists Track A Planet’s Habitqble Zone

Are we alone in the universe?  Students at the Barboza Space Center will be studying this topic in their 2018 space science fellowship program.

Partner Series

A planet orbiting in the “habitable zone” of its parent star has the potential to host liquid water on its surface — a critical ingredient for life as we know it. But what if a planet is in the habitable zone only some of the time? Can life still thrive there?—

It’s lucky for life on Earth that the sun’s habitable zone is effectively stationary and unmoving, providing life with a steady source of radiation. But that isn’t the case in every star system. Physicist Tobias Müller and astrophysicist Nader Haghighipour wrote a computer program that demonstrates how the position and shape of habitable zones can change rapidly in double- and triple-star systems, which are thought to be extremely common in the universe.

The program — which they call the “HZ calculator” — creates animations that illustrate how the habitable zone warps and evolves for a star system. [How Habitable Zones for Alien Planets and Stars Work (Infographic)]

On a website the two scientists created to host the program (and make it available to other researchers) is an animation of the star system.

The three-star system KIC 4150611 has a peculiar orbit that creates a rapidly changing "habitable zone" (in dark green). The black dots are stars.
The three-star system KIC 4150611 has a peculiar orbit that creates a rapidly changing “habitable zone” (in dark green). The black dots are stars.

Credit: Tobias Müller/Nader Haghighipour/HZ Calculator

The animation shows three stars engaged in a complicated orbit — two of them (K1 and K2) orbit close together, completing a single orbit in less than two Earth days. The third star (A) orbits farther away, looping around the close-knit pair on the order of months. But star A’s orbit is not circular, so its distance to K1 and K2 changes. When the three stars come close together, they form a single habitable zone. But as they move apart that zone separates into two separate habitable zones. (In the video above, the dark green area is the habitable zone; the light green areas show places where scientists think habitability might be possible, but that would depend on other factors including the nature of the planet’s atmosphere.)

The oddly-evolving habitable zone of the three-star system KID 5653126. The black dots are stars and the dark green region is the habitable zone.
The oddly-evolving habitable zone of the three-star system KID 5653126. The black dots are stars and the dark green region is the habitable zone.

Credit: Tobias Müller/Nader Haghighipour/HZ Calculator

In another extreme scenario, in the star system KID 5653126, a stellar pair orbit closely around each other and create a mostly stable habitable zone. But a third star orbits the pair and wanders erratically through the habitable zone — a potentially disastrous event for any planets that might reside there.

These sample animations can be found here: A complete description of the HZ calculator can be found here: There are no known planets around the two-star systems mentioned above, but there are star systems with unstable habitable zones that are known to host planets. If researchers are going to go hunting for life on those worlds, it would be good to know ahead of time how a changing habitable zone affects a planet’s habitability.

The fictional planet of Tatooine from the “Star Wars” universe orbits two suns. The planet is a harsh desert, but was supposedly temperate enough for life to evolve. Scientists have shown that planets around double-star systems exist in the universe, and that they could even support life. But how would the orbits of the two parent stars affect temperatures on the planet?

The HZ calculator provides some insight to this question. The real-world double-star system Kepler 453 is home to two stars, one of which is about five times larger than the other. That means the smaller star effectively orbits the larger one (as opposed to the two stars both orbiting a point in space between them). At least one planet is known to orbit both stars, but the movement of that smaller star means the amount of radiation reaching the planet changes regularly.

The orbit of two stars in the system Kepler 453 causes the surrounding habitable zone to shift. The white dot shows a potential planet in the system that might be affected by the changing levels of radiation.
The orbit of two stars in the system Kepler 453 causes the surrounding habitable zone to shift. The white dot shows a potential planet in the system that might be affected by the changing levels of radiation.

Credit: Tobias Müller/Nader Haghighipour/HZ Calculator

In the animation produced by the HZ calculator, the planet’s position in the habitable zone is an illustration of how much radiation the planet is receiving from its parent stars. Over the course of a year, the planet drifts from the middle of the habitable zone (the dark-green region) to the very inner edge of that zone (the light-green region), where temperatures might be too hot to support liquid water on the planet’s surface.

This would result in large seasonal swings on the planet’s surface, according to Elizabeth Tasker, an associate professor in solar system science at the Japanese Aerospace Agency (JAXA). She addressed this issue during a recent talk on planet habitability at a meeting of the committee on Astrobiology Science Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe for the National Academy of Sciences. The meeting was held at the University of California, Irvine.

“If you have very extreme seasons brought on by an eccentric orbit, can you still discuss habitability? Can life survive this?” Tasker said. “Well, of course, we don’t really know, but the outlook isn’t completely bleak.”

Tasker said exoplanet scientists have theorized that planets that drift across the inner edge of the habitable zone during an orbit might experience extreme seasons, but could potentially retain liquid water during those swings. Perhaps on the fictional planet of Tatooine, Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle harvest moisture during the cooler seasons, and live off their harvest through the harsher periods brought on by the movement of the two suns.

It could also be that life-forms on the planet go underground or hibernate during the hot periods; but if that’s the case, it could be difficult for Earth-bound scientists to detect those life-forms.

This kind of information is becoming relevant as scientists get closer to being able to look for signs of habitability on alien worlds. With thousands of planets to choose from, where will scientists go looking? The HZ calculator is one tool researchers can use to help narrow the list of planets to target for follow-up study, according to Tasker.

Müller, a professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of Groningen in Germany, told in an email that the HZ calculator has been helpful in illustrating that habitable zones are not static, something that can be difficult to understand without a visual aid, he said. He and Haghighipour, a researcher at the Institute for Astronomy and the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, have collaborated on scientific papers that made use of the HZ calculator.

This illustration shows the "habitable zone" of Earth's sun. Earth lies inside the habitable zone, while Venus and Mars lie just outside it, in a region where certain conditions could make liquid water possible.
This illustration shows the “habitable zone” of Earth’s sun. Earth lies inside the habitable zone, while Venus and Mars lie just outside it, in a region where certain conditions could make liquid water possible.

Credit: NASA

A planet that lies in the “habitable zone” of a star has no guarantee of being “habitable.” But a planet in the habitable zone receives enough radiation from its parent star (or stars) that the temperature on its surface could be right for hosting liquid water on its surface, an essential ingredient for life as we know it. Too much heat and liquid water evaporate; too little heat and the water would freeze.

The habitable zone is a good starting place to search for habitable worlds, but planets in this region could very easily be unfit for life.

For a planet to have liquid water on its surface, it has to have a surface, which means it has to be rocky, like Earth, not a gas giant like Jupiter or Saturn. The planet also has to have an atmosphere, but that atmosphere has to be moderate — Venus’ atmospheremakes the planet’s surface far too hot for water to remain a liquid, but that may not have always been the case. And scientists think it’s likely that many planets migrate through their solar system, so they could move out of the habitable zone, killing off any life that might have emerged there. Most stars experience a change in their radiation output near the beginning of their lifetimes, which could have the same effect.

“When we talk about ‘the habitable zone,’ we’re really just talking about a crude sample selection technique,” Tasker said. “It is not a quantitative measurement of a planet’s habitability.”

Tasker also mentioned that there are multiple scenarios in which life might survive outside the habitable zone. Take, for example, a moon orbiting a very large, hot planet around a star. The moon not only receives heat from the star, but may also receive heat from the planet. In addition, if the moon has an eccentric orbit (meaning not circular), it could experience extreme tidal heating (wherein the gravity of a planet pulls on the interior of a moon, creating a potential internal heat source for the moon). In that case, the moon might be too hot if it lies in the habitable zone of the parent star, but could be perfectly habitable if it lies just outside the habitable zone.

In total, researchers have identified thousands of alien planets, and there are new instruments coming online that will identify even more. Advanced instruments, like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), set to launch in 2019, will allow scientists to study those known planets in more detail, and search for complex “biosignatures” in the exoplanet atmospheres, or chemical combinations that are typically produced by life-forms. The upcoming Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WFIRST), set to launch in the mid-2020s, and the proposed Large UV/ Optical/Infrared Survey (LUVOIR), could also search for signs of habitability on exoplanets.

“I personally think this is perhaps the most exciting time for our field,” Tasker said during her presentation. “I think, perhaps, in the next 10 years we’re going to be able to really start talking about habitability on another planet.

“Now whether we will discover — conclusively — life, I think that’s more questionable, but the amount of information we’re going to get from things like JWST or WFIRST or LUVOIR is going to be game changing,” she said. “It’s going to be amazing.”

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