SAP#3: Cell Culture Room

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Above is a familiar scene in a biology lab, especially those working on cell culture. To minimize contaminations, lab users usually keep the place neat and clean and sprayed their things with 70% ethanol. The flask she was holding was probably a tissue culture flask. They come in different sizes, mainly known by their surface area, such as 25cm2 or 75cm2. This is because mammalian cells are usually cultured as a layer, attaching to a surface, compared to suspension culture where you have shake flasks.

SAP#2: Lift Under Maintenance

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Just like many working location, science laboratory has safety and health policies to protect the safety and well-being of those working in it. Hence, when we are transporting liquid chemicals, such as a bottle, there would be a secondary container and fully clad with protective gears (lab coats). This picture was a depiction of what happened when we were working in a high-rise building. There were only two service lift (for cargoes and lab samples transporting). Sometimes, unfortunately, the elevator was not feeling well and we were stuck several stories from our level.

SAP#1: The -80 degree Celsius Freezer

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One of the things about working in a lab is the temperature. In a biological lab, many samples are best kept at -80 degree Celsius or -20 degree Celsius. Hence, it was common to have a shared -80 freezer, which most probably was covered with ice. The chilling experience to find your tube of samples in a -80 freezer was, at times, like a competition. You race against time, hoping to get your hands on the sample before the cold get to you.

30 years since Challenger Disaster

Last week, on the 28th of January, marked the 30th year since Challenger Disaster. NASA made it a day of remembrance for the sacrificed and contemplation upon the future of manned spaceflight. To be fair, NASA had many achievements along the years. Recently, it shone brightly with projects like New Horizons and Mars Rovers. All these did not come in easy, it took many people’s many effort, to ensure things were right. In movies, we often see the glorious moment when the spacecraft succeeded in entering space and so forth, with people cheering at the control centre. Indeed, these are the moment worth celebrating.

Despite the usual meticulousness of the whole process, NASA was still subjected to a few grave moments. To name a few, Columbia, Apollo 1 and Challenger.

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In 1986,  Space Shuttle Program STS-51-L was launched with Challenger space shuttle before ending as a disaster a minute later. This flight consisted of seven crew, including one school teacher. This incident was very much talked about in science class or spaceflight accidents, not only because it was tragic, but it served as a reminder of how often we overlooked something very small. After investigation, it was reported the cause of the accident was due to some faulty o-ring seal.

If you have no idea what an o-ring looks like, here it is:

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Yes, exactly. This is something you get to see everywhere, from equipments to your water bottle to your pipes. Of course, in a space shuttle, the scale is different, but they served the same purpose. In Challenger’s case, hot gas from the right Solid Rocket Booster(SRB) had been causing the casing the bent and smoke. During previous mission, this process allowed the o-ring to melt and seal properly, hence a design meant for extrusion. However, during the mission in 1986, the weather might have been a bit cold for the seal to melt in time for the sealing to be complete. The disaster went on with the sealing with molten aluminium oxide, the unfortunate not-seated-well backup o-ring, liquid hydrogen tank. Within a minute, the aerodynamics of the spacecraft was finally compromised and failed. The structural failure, however, did not affect the crew cabin. And this had also brought about the notion that the crew might be fully aware or conscious throughout the process until the impact of the hit back on Earth.  None of the crew survived.

What happened after that? In 1998, there was another accident, Columbia disaster, during its re-entry to Earth atmosphere. And for NASA, it spelled the temporary end of space shuttle program. To this date, all of our travel from our Pale Blue Dot to the International Space Station (ISS), were by the Soyuz spacecraft, which was meant for Soviet manned lunar programme. It had been in service for quite a long time. Yet, these accidents or incidents hinted us of how early we are still in terms of manned space flight. Putting things away from Earth was still not our forté and work still needed to be done in this field to ensure solid foundation before we could confidently send people off this planet.

Let us remember and appreciate the work and sacrifice done by those, who had contributed in our journey as we forward ourselves in the knowledge and practicality of aerospace activities. NASA had prepared a page on their thoughts for these too.

Apollo Mission Archive by NASA

Needless to say, NASA probably got most of the limelight in this year’s scientific breakthrough and headlines, with Pluto Flyby and the discovery of a potential Earth-twin Kepler-452b. Not only did these news reached us in terms of press release, NASA had successfully engaged most of the public, in the excitement of exploration through social media, videos and pictures, leaving us awestruck by the scale of magnificence, displayed by the universe.

Recently, NASA opened up another archive which possibly brought us back to the place near where it started. Even for a person who might not have much knowledge about space, most probably we at least heard of The First Man On the Moon.

Yes, NASA had published its archive of photos taken during the Apollo Mission, called Project Apollo Archive. The full collection of rather high quality could be found in its Flickr account.

Here are some of the amazing moments when human made a mark, showing us the possibilities we could achieve…

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The archive of media included the first manned flight in 1968 till Apollo 17 in around 1970s, and were taken using Hasselblad 500 EL, 1968.

Of course let’s not forget each and every of these mission, even for the ones we get to witness this year, consists of extreme hard work by so many and detailed planning. Yet, the area we have explored in the universe, was none other than a tiny speck of dust in this vast dark universe. Hence, let’s try our best to contribute to advancing our science and technologyand move forward!

Lonely Chairs at CERN

In April 2014, one of the CMS physicist in CERN decided to start a site titled ‘Lonely Chairs at CERN‘. The physicist, Rebecca Suarez, never knew there would be so many people following her blog. In fact, the blog was full of pictures within CERN with single chairs in each. She thought it would serve more meaning for those already working inside CERN, but her blog was swarmed by comments and followers who had been very enthusiastic about their work and things inside CERN. For her, as read from interviews, those pictures reminded her of the long history of the facility and the work and brilliance of people who had made CERN for what it is today.

From viewpoint of a person who follows her blog, it was an experience to know more about life in CERN, little tiny part of them and the feel of living in a time when all these is possible, and many more possibilities ahead.

This post is not about very science stuff, but it is cool to know such a page.