There REALLY IS Life On Mars (And The Moon)

What if the gringa told you that there was, without a doubt, life on the Moon and life on Mars? You might not believe me if you are a strict science enthusiast. You might believe me without hesitation if you’re a UFOlogist. You might hope that I’m telling the truth if you are a science-fiction fan.

Well, the gringa’s got exciting news for all of you. It IS true and there is proof and NASA testimony to back it up. But there’s a curious twist. The life discovered in both locations is not alien. It is very Earth in origin. What does this mean?

The strict science-evidence buff will say this of course means that NASA scientists have contaminated the regions they have explored. UFOlogists will claim it is trace evidence of mankind’s ancient extra-terrestrial ancestry. Science-fiction fans will simply shrug, nothing coming as a surprise to them.

The first thing to do is examine the decontamination procedures of NASA. Is it possible to launch space exploration vehicles that are not contaminated with even microscopic traces of Earth sourced materials? Nope. If complete decontamination is not possible, are there Earthly micro-organisms that can survive the harsh conditions of space travel, be delivered to an alien landscape and, ultimately, thrive only to be discovered later by exploration equipment? Yep.

NASA does not fly solo, determining unilaterally decontamination procedures before or after a space flight. About 50 years ago the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), comprised of UN members from the International Council of Science (ICSU), created the Treaty of 1967 which outlined certain protocols related to outer space travel and research. Contained within the document are guidelines for 5 categories of space missions, rated according to the risk of contamination posed.

  • Category 1: Any mission to celestial body that does not involve study of biological systems (like launching of an orbiting satellite).
  • Category 2: Any mission to any cosmic body within our Solar System where documentation of biological or chemical systems involves a remote chance of contamination (like when a satellite takes a sample of a vent plume to see what kind of gas it is without entering a cosmic body’s atmosphere).
  • Category 3: Any mission with a specific purpose of studying chemical or biological systems that may contain living organisms that poses a risk of introducing contamination to other cosmic bodies (as in taking a satellite sample that could involve an orbit or fly-by into a cosmic body’s atmosphere, elevating risk of picking up atmospheric particles that could cross-contaminate another planet, moon, etc.)
  • Category 4: Any mission that lands equipment on the surface of a cosmic body for the purpose of interacting with the natural processes of the extra-terrestrial body which will certainly create the possibility of introducing contaminates from Earth to a celestial body (this is what occurred with the Lunar Apollo and Mars Rover missions, the equipment at risk of contaminating the Moon and Mars with Earth organisms).
  • Category 5: Any mission that has equipment set down on an extra-terrestrial body and returns physical samples from an extra-terrestrial body to Earth. This creates 2 subcategories of Restricted and Unrestricted. If the host for the sample is rated a Class III stringent, in other words, not a host for possible life, the returning sample is considered Unrestricted. Any specimen returning from a cosmic body where life is possible, must go through severe decontamination and quarantine protocols.

But how effective are these guidelines? Well, considering what happened with the lunar missions in the 1970s, none of these protocols may even matter. Even though there were procedures for quarantines and decontamination, there was simply no baseline to compare against any data.

Astronauts, equipment and geological samples were quarantined in isolation units for 3 weeks after a “bath” in a super-bleach solution or a betadine wipe-down. An examination for biological, bacterial and chemical anomalies would determine whether or not there was any risk posed by releasing from quarantine. And what about alien contaminants that had dormancy periods longer than 21 days?

Not all returning Apollo mission “stuff” was scrupulously cleaned and monitored. You know the raft the astronaut crews rode in from the module that splashed down to the ship that picked them up? Yeah. It just got a wipe down with betadine and was then sunk in the ocean. And guess where Earthly biological life as humans know it is theorized to all begin? Yeah. In the oceans. Hm. That might not have been such a good idea. That raft may have just been converted to a lunar life nursery.

And you know the geological samples the astronauts returned? Those “Moon Rocks”? Yeah. They didn’t even get quarantined or a splash of Lysol. They were whisked away in a helicopter and taken to NASA laboratories in Houston. So that means a couple of pilots, their crew and an entire helicopter were not just contaminated but blazed a trail of contamination across the sky of half of the United States. The helicopter and crew were quarantined but what about all of that airspace? Yeah. There’s that.

So, basically, humans have already cross-contaminated the Moon and Earth. That means any samples that pop-up on either locale that indicate alien life from one or the other are suspect.

The same is also probably true for Mars. Chances are Earth-origin micro-organisms have probably already survived the trip,arrived and set up shop for the next millennia or two. And, if climate change continues on course, Earthlings may not be around to explain human life on Mars for the ETs that eventually discover them. They will be on their own to figure out that little conundrum.

Which poses the question. Is that how life on Earth originated? Are humans the ancestors of alien contaminates? Could be.

And what is NASA’s solution if samples are determined to be contaminated with biological matter that is a threat to humans? If a danger is discovered en-route back to researchers on Earth, their fall back plan is to fly the stuff into the Sun. Hmm. Yes, by all means. Let’s continue our practice of pollution and let the chips fall where they may.




Johnson Space Center

Image Source: Gizmodo

Video Source: Licensable

A Triple Play Cosmic Conspiracy

(Originally published 1/30/17 on Read With The Gringa)

Mars, Utah and Germany are all in cahoots together. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have been conspiring together for years and now evidence of their plot can be found in Utah. Yes, they thought they were clever, selecting a remote and rugged location, inhospitable to human life, in order to keep out prying eyes. But their schemes have been foiled. The gringa has discovered the truth of their cosmic conspiracy triple play.

I have discovered intelligence, yes, special intelligence. Intelligence that speaks with a German accent and rolls about the dust and craters surrounding the desert wilds of Hanksville, Utah. Cosmic conspiracy agents have been spotted in this region and are said to have the uncanny navigation skill of a Himalayan Sherpa and the adorability of a frisky coyote. And all controlled by the whims of German taskmasters. But what are they, the dear reader asks? What are they doing? What does it mean? Well, the gringa’s gonna tell you.

The whole world knows that global space agencies are itching to get to Mars. Scientists and engineers are all engaged in frenzied efforts, developing the technologies to make a successful mission possible. One thing astronauts will need on such a long-term deep space mission will be robots that can think for themselves, AI’s (Artificial Intelligence). There will be no shirking of duty on a mission like that. Everyone has to be capable of doing their part, even the robots. No slacking and leaving your duty for someone else to perform.

It seems that Germany has come up with a great design for a couple of robotic rovers, CoyoteIII and SherpaTT. However, seeing as how Germany is sorely lacking in landscapes that are similar to Mars, the good people of Utah have played host to NASA and the ESA. Exploring the crevices, rocky hills and dusty craters of the terrain around Hanksville is the work of the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). Boy, those Germans are precise, that’s for sure. What a mouthful!

Now, these German scientists didn’t just dump costly technology off and wash their hands of the whole mess. They also aren’t managing their robot trials nearby, bunking with the locals. They are engaged in a more accurate enactment of what it would be like to work with a robot that is as far away as Mars. The robots in Utah are controlled by scientists in Bremen, Germany. “But what are they doing with them,” the dear reader says. The gringa thought that you would never ask.

It seems that there are some issues with how these babies get around. Although technically considered rovers, that doesn’t mean they are limited to just rolling about.  There were some issues to work out with the legs, navigating tight spaces and collecting geological samples. And, according to DFKI, the Utah tests were a success.

For now, there are no definite plans for Mars, but the gringa can see where these scientists are going with this technology. They will first use it to explore non-human capable places like underwater volcanoes with a tenuous future goal of searching for water on Mars. All the gringa can say is that the control center in Bremen looks like the most amazing video arcade. I may scrap my ambitions of becoming a space gringa, soaring through the heavens in a spacecraft, for operating gizmos like this. Check it out and see if you agree with me.

Sources & Image Credit:


You Lost What?!!


Tell me it ain’t so, NASA. Tell me that you didn’t really lose the original tapes of the Moon landing. I mean, what were you thinking? The one time in ALL of human history that a human being sets foot on a patch of ground that IS NOT Earth and you don’t have the best proof that it really happened in some sort of Fort Knox type security vault? Really? You lost them?

The gringa is torn between being hopping mad and curiously perplexed. Since I recently discovered just how bad being mad is, I will try to cultivate stronger feelings of perplexity.  But NASA didn’t just “lose” the tapes. No, they ERASED THEM! They recorded over the original footage. Anything we see today is a “restored version of the original”. In other words, a copy, a cheap imitation, something that ain’t quite true.

Again, the gringa has to ask NASA, “Who in their right mind ERASES and TAPES OVER the original footage of the most historical moment of mankind’s modern history? Who, NASA? Who?” I mean, the gringa hasn’t even taped over my oldest son’s ballet recital when he was 3-years-old and thought dressing up in a pink sequin outfit with bunny ears and a cottontail and performing on stage was the coolest thing ever. I still have that tape. I don’t even own a VCR anymore but I STILL HAVE THE TAPE! Are you kidding me NASA?

You know what this does for the gringa? It calls into question all the validity of the Moon landing altogether. The gringa clings tenaciously to the hope that the Moon landing was not staged. The gringa wants to believe in the noble cause and purpose of America’s space agency. The gringa does not want to believe that her government was willing to stage a bit of Cold War propaganda with NASA when it was a fledgling organization. But stuff just keeps coming up that makes the gringa continue to scratch her head and think that Moon landing conspiracy theorists may have gotten this sordid tale right.

Why in the world would the original footage ever be considered unimportant enough to tape over? Unless it was footage of a staged event that modern videography experts can now pick apart detail by detail with sophisticated technology and techniques to expose it as a fraud. The gringa is trying so hard not to feel anger.

So, basically, way back when, on July 16, 1969 President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) and his wife, our First Lady affectionately called Lady Bird, watched Apollo 11 launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, hurtling Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins toward the Moon, maybe. Four days later what we have always believed the world has seen, a grainy video of Neil Armstrong “Moon walking” and saying those famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” was the next big event after the launch. And the next big event after that? In 2006, nearly 40 years later, NASA fesses up that the original video cannot be located.

After an investigation, led by Rich Nafzger, NASA discovered that the original footage had been part of a batch of videos that had been magnetically erased and re-used. My, how convenient. Their excuse was that the original video had only been intended for live broadcast, never for re-airing. Why? All throughout television history live broadcasts have been re-aired. And wouldn’t scientists want to preserve the true video feed of the one and only FIRST time a human has walked around on another surface other than Earth? I mean, apart from historical value, isn’t there other scientific, safety and training value to such video?

So now what we see are copies originally furnished by CBS News that were restored by Lowry Digital. The new versions have cleaned up the images to be more clear. So what of the footage of following Moon landings, five more that occurred between 1969-1972? Does NASA have original video footage of astronauts gallivanting on the surface of the moon for those? And who was this Lowry Digital? What kind of reputation did this Lowry production company have?

Here are all the Moon missions when an astronaut walked on the Moon’s surface:

Apollo 11 – Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon:

Apollo 12 – Pete Conrad & Alan Bean walked on the Moon.

Apollo 14 – Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell walked on the Moon.

Apollo 15 – David Scott & James Irwin walked on the Moon.

Apollo 16 – John Young & Charles Duke walked on the Moon.

Apollo 17 – Eugene (Gene ) Cernan & Harrison (Jack) Schmitt walked on the Moon.

(Apollo 13 – Uncompleted mission with a harrowing crisis and narrow escape and recovery)

Lowry Digital has restored all sorts of movies like Bambi, The Robe and Star Wars. Considering the quality of science fiction productions during 2009 when the original Moon landing tapes were restored, sure, it’s possible to have faked the production. But then there’s the reality that the original footage of five other Moon walking missions are in existence. So, the gringa believes that where conspiracy theorists are concerned, the status of the first Moon landing’s original footage does, indeed, make for good fodder for the conspiracy gristmill. However, when you weigh it against the other videos NASA has that proves that astronauts actually did land and walk around on the Moon throughout the following decade, the balance tips in favor of NASA credibility.

Whew. That was close. The gringa is sure glad she followed that little trail to a happy conclusion!

Sources:  NASA



Image Credit:




What Should We Fear? I Forgot!

The gringa is more than happy to cheer on Obama’s goal of getting the U.S. space program to Mars within the next 15 years. I should still be young and vibrant enough to don a space helmet if the call to serve my country arises! In fact, considering the latest news on expected conditions for Mars destined astronauts, someone like me might be the astronaut of choice.

Whereas, before, the gringa always believed that epilepsy would probably be a big disqualifier for space travel, turns out a bit of brain damage is probably just par for the course for a Mars trip. Heck, then, maybe I’ve already been there and didn’t even know it! Could be those alien abduction conspiracy theorists have been right all along!

Doctors are still mystified about what causes epilepsy. Maybe all of us epileptics were abducted by space aliens, taken to Mars in an instant through a wormhole, had all kinds of crazy medical studies performed on us, then returned home in the blink of an eye. All that radical space/time continuum dazzle frazzled our brains!

Or… maybe us epileptics are all originally FROM Mars! Now wouldn’t that be something. The brain damage expected to be experienced in a flight from Earth to Mars may have the same effect in a reverse course from Mars to Earth. Maybe I was switched at birth with a real Earthling by Martians who took my doppleganger to Mars! Wouldn’t THAT be something!

So how does travel between Earth and Mars, regardless of which direction you’re headed, end up casing brain damage? Two words… cosmic rays. It’s a long journey from the Big Blue Marble to the Red Planet and then back again. The effects of being exposed to cosmic rays for about one year would be neurological impairments that would affect an astronaut’s judgment and cognitive abilities. In addition to the space brain effect, prolonged, long-term exposure to radiation is pretty much a guarantee that Mars bound astronauts are going to end up with some form of cancer and a weakened immune system that couldn’t even fend off a bout of sneezing.  But how do researchers know this, or suspect it, if no one has traveled between Mars and Earth (that we know of… the gringa is still musing the possibilities of her origins…)

Studies have been conducted at the Brookhaven Laboratory in New York. Leading the research is a team of scientists from the University of California Irvine. They used the particle accelerator at the laboratory to simulate the Earth-Mars travel condition scenario on rats. What happened is that the rats suffered serious neurological damage. They became dumber… unable to remember which meant unable to learn. Even worse, as far as the gringa’s concerned, they lost their natural ability of “fear extinction”.

“What is “fear extinction?” the dear reader asks. Well, the gringa’s gonna tell you. From the time we are babies all sorts of things happen to us that traumatize us with fear. The human brain is an amazing thing. It has a powerful survival instinct that triggers all sorts of protective measures and responses that are automatic. Sometimes we don’t have to try at all when it comes to saving ourselves. Our brain automatically performs an extinction of the fear reaction to certain stimuli.

You see, when something scary happens, like a mom or dad that jumps out and yells, “Boo!”, scaring the baby, the first time the baby probably cries like the dickens, scared to death. However, as mom and dad continue to do this the baby’s brain learns that nothing really bad happens even though the fear response is automatically triggered when startled. Eventually the baby no longer cries when someone jumps up and says, “Boo!” In fact, the baby may even learn how to laugh.

As we grow and have all sorts of life experiences, this happens all the time. That’s how we are able to actually enjoy fear, like watching scary movies or telling spooky tales at campouts or visiting haunted houses or pranking loved ones. But a trip to Mars destroys this capability.

When the gringa puts together the entire picture of an astronaut’s mental condition upon arriving to Mars, she’s not so sure they will survive. Think about it. A Mars team would be:

  • Physically ill (early stage cancer with little to none immunity)
  • Critical information would be forgotten related to their survival (impaired memory may result in no longer remembering how to operate complex technologies their lives depend on)
  • Even if they are in contact with Mission Control on Earth who could talk them through an important process, they are not able to understand instructions (cognitive abilities impaired)
  • In a strange place so far from Earth, unable to master the necessary skills to survive, the realization of their doom would trigger immense fear that would be uncontrollable (the fear extinction response is destroyed)

If anyone has read “Lord of the Flies” it is no big stretch, then, to surmise what might result from this accumulation of trouble… a mission crew that becomes unreasonably paranoid, dangerous and turns on one another. Until the world’s space programs come up with a way to effectively shield Mars bound astronauts from cosmic rays, the gringa has lost all interest in a manned Mars mission. Although my personal level of brain damage can be frustrating, at least I can enjoy a good helter-skelter horror flick without turning on the caveman with a butcher knife.


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NASA, Please Explain

Why hasn’t mankind been back to the Moon? Why do humans only travel as far as the International Space Station (ISS) and no further if Russia and the United States have already had successful Moon landing missions? These questions fuel the conspiracy fires that claim the Apollo Moon landing was a staged scene and never really happened. Regardless of a person’s position on this, what of Russia? If they made it to the Moon, why haven’t they been back either?

During the years of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, it was always a game of one-upmanship. Rather than flinging bombs at one another it was a bit of “Whatever you can do I can do better.” The space race was no exception.

In 1961 the Soviet Union took the lead in the space race when Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth and returned home, all in one piece. In response, U.S. President John F. Kennedy did not say, “Well done.” No, instead he threw down the gauntlet and swore that the U.S. would out-do the Soviet’s achievement. He declared that within a decade Americans would have a man on the Moon and back home safe and sound. Eight years later people around the world watched televised broadcasts of Neil Armstrong planting a U.S. flag on the surface of the Moon. Or did he?

What we know now compared to what we knew then may cast great doubt on the legitimacy of the Apollo mission. Accusations that film director Stanley Kubrick prepared a fake production staged with the latest technologies of 70s era filmdon may actually have credibility. Consider the most common criticisms that point to the film being a fake:

  • Wind mysteriously blowing a flag that should be in the vacuum of space.
  • Anomalous shadows cast in different directions which would indicate multiple sources of light.
  • No disturbance of lunar dust or the Moon’s surface from the landing of the space module.
  • What are the strange objects that are reflected at different times in the visors of the astronaut’s space helmet?
  • Where are all the stars that should be in the background?

Skeptics of conspiracy theories can argue away these questions. For years the gringa has been inclined to believe in the Moon landing as an event that really did happen. My reason being that, for one thing, think about how many people would have to be in on such a crazy secret for all of these decades. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but the gringa’s pretty certain that somewhere along the way, throughout all of these years, surely someone would have cracked.

Despite my confidence in NASA, however, the gringa must admit that by becoming informed about the Van Allen radiation belts, I may have to change my position. This may be the smoking gun that exposes how the entire world has been duped. The U.S., desperate to remain relevant and seen as the most powerful nation, outperforming its most aggressive global competitor, may have gone so far as to stage the most incredible hoax of all time.

You see, the Van Allen radiation belts surround the Earth. Consider these belts to be an enormous layered donut and the Earth the donut hole. They radiate outward as far as 36,000 miles depending on whether they are expanding or contracting. The innermost ring generally spans from 400-6,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. The outer belt stretches generally from about 8,400-36,000 miles above Earth. The ISS is safely tucked into orbit at a mere 230 miles from the Earth’s surface in what is called a Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Orbiting between the two belts is a GPS satellite set 12,500 miles away, just inside the innermost rim of the outermost belt, where radiation levels fluctuate according to waxing and waning cycles. Just within the outermost layer of the outermost belt is NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in geosynchronous orbit at 22,000 miles away studying the mess solar radiation makes from time to time.

In addition to the Van Allen radiation belts is the problem of a cloud of cool, charged particles which envelopes most of Earth’s outer atmosphere. Its nearest edge is about 600 miles from the surface of the Earth and extends outward and stops just inside the outermost edge of the furthest Van Allen belt. Scientists call this cloud the plasmasphere. It seems to cause particles in the outer belt to scatter. As the electrons scatter they create a loop which becomes a well defined belt. The plasmasphere is responsible for creating and maintaining the belts. When a powerful solar event occurs, such as a solar flare, some of the belts’ electrons can be forced by these extreme conditions into the space void between the belt layers, thus creating the waxing and waning effect of the belts.

The craziness of this relationship boggles the gringa’s mind. Think about it. The electrons are prevented by Earth’s magnetic field from penetrating all the way to Earth and frying all of us Earthlings. However, they also do not have enough energy to escape and dissipate into outer space. Thus they are trapped in this belt system which results in a protective barrier that traps dangerous radioactive solar radiation so that we don’t all get fried. Without the belts we fry. Without the plasmosphere we fry. Without the magnetosphere we fry. And if we hang out in any of these Earth preserving regions for any length of time we fry. Is that not the most amazing irony? That which preserves us can also kill us.

Considering that the Moon is 238,900 miles from the Earth, these dangerous, radioactive belts must have been navigated safely with the technology available in 1969. The only other option would have been to “thread the needle”, so to speak, by using a trajectory that would have allowed astronauts to travel through a narrow window of space that would have avoided the highest concentrations of radiation within the belts.

If this path had been successfully traveled in 1969, and adequate shielding technology existed, why is the danger posed by the Van Allen belts considered to be the main obstacle and unsolved problem preventing a consecutive Moon landing today? The gringa suspects the answer may lie in the fact that there really was no successful 1969 Moon landing to begin with.

Here are the words and quotes NASA uses to describe the Van Allen belts today:

  • 2 donuts of seething radiation.
  • Impenetrable barrier.
  • Wax and wane.
  • Expose satellites in low-Earth orbit to damaging radiation.

So what did NASA do to deal with the dangers of the Van Allen belts? Did they come up with a competent strategy and deliver the real deal with a man on the Moon or did they scam the entire world?

Newly discovered in 1958 by scientist James Van Allen, not much was known about them two years later when the first solution was offered up. In 1960 Robert O. Piland and Stanley C. White told NASA that hoping to shield astronauts effectively from the radiation was impractical. They did believe they could provide moderate protection and a safe enough route that would enable astronauts to not fry as they passed through the outer belt.

NASA got to work with a Group On Trajectory Analysis. Van Allen, himself, suggested that by detonating a nuclear warhead the crew could clear a path of travel. The gringa can only say, “Thank goodness NASA didn’t do that!” However, the defense industry in the US really mucked things up by nuclear testing which only increased the intensity of the radiation levels in the belts.

In 1964 NASA officials were confident that with the right skin on the spacecraft, a layer of protection provided by instrumentation, and the right trajectory, the risk was nominal to the crew. Equipped with dosimeters to record radiation exposure, the gringa is puzzled over the final results as reported by NASA. The agency reports that over the course of all the Lunar missions, astronauts were only exposed to radiation levels that were actually lower than the 5 rem a person working in a nuclear power plant would be exposed to annually. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission claims that the average American is exposed to a radiation dose of about 0.62 rem annually. A full body CAT scan delivers a radiation dose of 1 rem. So any human going through some rather routine medical procedures can easily reach the same radiation exposure levels as what NASA reported in the Apollo Moon landing crew.

ISS astronauts deal with radiation issues daily. It took the gringa quite a bit of head scratching and calculating to discover how ISS astronaut radiation levels compare to the astronauts of the Apollo Moon missions. They use a different measurement, the SI system. Maybe, if there is a conspiracy, this is by design to confuse amateur sleuths like myself. Anyway, I digress.

Basically one mSv is the equivalent dose of radiation an average person would be exposed to on Earth in one year’s time. Astronauts on the ISS are exposed to 1 mSv daily! This exposure takes place well outside the Van Allen belts in a space station constructed with the latest technology in radiation shielding and manned by personnel equipped with the safest space suit equipment available. How, then, could minimally protected astronauts pass through highly radioactive belts not just once, but twice, and not be ravaged with radiation? If ISS astronauts report a daily radiation exposure equivalent to a year’s worth of radiation back home and are not in the belts themselves, how in the world is the public supposed to believe that the Apollo astronauts were only exposed to the amount of radiation a person would absorb if they had 4-5 full-body CAT scans?

The  gringa has become incredibly skeptical. The gringa is going to be hopping mad if she discovers hard evidence that proves we have all been had. NASA, please explain.


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Salute Our Space Heroes

Traveling in outer space sounds fun. Being an astronaut seems to be an exciting career. Until the gringa is reminded about space radiation. Those heavy duty marshmallow looking suits astronauts wear are not just to keep them warm, properly pressurized and surrounded by oxygen. They also protect against dangerous space radiation. But is it enough? Are spacecrafts and the International Space Station adequately protected or are our astronauts slowly being radiated to death?

Radiation is an invisible energy form of high-speed particles and electromagnetics. It surrounds humans in everyday artificial light, sunlight, and electronics that produce radio-, television-, and micro- waves. Radiation comes in two forms:

  • Ionized: This is the worst in the form of gamma rays, protons and neutrons. Exposure to ionized radiation results in exposed atoms becoming unstable by an energy powerful enough to remove electrons from their orbit around the atom’s nucleus.
  • Non-ionized: Not powerful enough to destabilize atoms, this is the kind of common radiation produced by microwaves, radio waves and light.

The radiation in space is, unfortunately, comprised of ionized radiation. There are three things that typically create dangerous space radiation:

  • Trapped radiation: The Earth’s core creates a magnetic field that surrounds our planet up to several thousand kilometers from our planet’s surface. Solar wind carries charged particles that slam into our magnetic shield. Some particles manage to pass through. Those that don’t create a shockwave that deflects from Earth’s magnetic field. This creates layers of cavities called the “magnetosphere” that act as shock absorbers to protect Earth further from charged particle bombardment. But some particles get trapped in these cavities and they become radioactive belts surrounding Earth. Astronauts have to pass through these dangerous belts before they reach deeper space.
  • Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR): Outside our solar system ionized atoms traveling at almost light speed pass through space matter, including humans and man-made objects unless they are properly shielded.
  • Solar Particle Events (SPE): Sometimes the Sun flares and ejects copious amounts of highly charged radioactive particles into space. These particles travel so fast they are capable of reaching Earth within ten minutes of a solar or coronal flare event. These are dramatic happenings that temporarily drastically increase radiation exposure.

Astronauts traveling through space radiation or living in the ISS have to be protected from space radiation. Radiation exposure causes damage to human cells. There is a scientific formula used to calculate how much radiation exposure an astronaut can expect when working on the ISS. It’s a bit too complicated for the gringa to understand. These calculations are the reason ISS missions have a maximum six month cycle and spacewalks are limited. Exposure is increased during a spacewalk to perform repairs and maintenance.

Shielding is preferred to be constructed of materials like polyethylene because it has a high hydrogen content. This kind of material is more effective than metals at reducing the ability of particles to pass through and enter the modules. Astronauts also wear monitors called “dosimeters” that constantly measure the level of radiation damage to the chromosomes in their blood cells.

Every single astronaut is a hero. No matter what the duration of their mission. No matter what the nature of their mission. No matter what it is they did, whether it seemed glamorous or insignificant, these men and women are heroes of science. They are risking their lives every moment they are off the surface of the Earth. Even if they return safely, they have still sacrificed much. From musculo-skeletal issues to organ damage and higher cancer risks, every single astronaut will experience the effects of radiation exposure for a lifetime despite the measures taken to protect them. If you ever meet an astronaut thank them for their invaluable sacrifice and service performing critical scientific endeavors that are helping us understand our origins, learn about climate change conditions and create solutions to save our homeworld.


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The Allure of Conspiracy Theories

The gringa loves real science and also a thrilling science-fiction tale. I don’t get the two confused. I love to debunk a curious space related conspiracy theory and I have to admit I have believed my share of crazy conspiracy theories in my lifetime. However, there is a difference, I believe, between a person who entertains a conspiracy theory as a possibility, explores it for its entertainment value or believes one with the joint purpose of proving or disproving, and the person who is a whole-hearted conspiracy theorist. Where exactly is the line in the sand between the two psyches? Why are conspiracy theories so alluring to otherwise sound, reasonable minds?

Take for example the true believers in a  YouTube video  that contains audio claimed to belong to a Soviet Union era cosmonaut, the first Soviet woman in space, who was killed upon re-entry when her space capsule failed to withstand the re-entry burn.  The video/audio was debunked as a hoax by former NASA mission control technician James Oberg. His career encompasses space journalist, historian, author and he is fluent in the Russian language, an expert in Russia’s space program.

The hoax award can probably be given to the Judica-Cordiglia brothers who perpetrated multiple space related hoaxes throughout the 1960s. These Italian brothers liked to while away the time underground in an old bunker filled with electronic equipment. Although they claimed the equipment was for detecting radio frequencies filled with covert signals that they decoded and revealed to the public, the truth is it was their own private hoax production studio.

They also claimed to have captured the dying words of Vladimir Komarov, a Soviet cosmonaut whose spaceship burned up in re-entry. Back then the public must not have known what we know now… there is a radio blackout during re-entry as radiation and intense heat interfere with the viability of radio signals.

Although the gringa is certain the hoax videos and audios were highly compelling, the truth is equally, if not more, interesting. While Komarov encircled the Earth in a faulty space capsule he had what he knew was his last conversation with a Soviet official who was safely aground on Earth. It is reported that Alexei Kosygin was in tears as the two talked, knowing his comrade was doomed to a torturous death by suffocation in extreme heat before the capsule ever disintegrated into a ball of flames. The United States had listening posts in Turkey where Cold War spies eavesdropped on the emotional exchange as  Komarov vacillated between rage and despair at his horrible fate.

To make the tale even more gripping is the fact that Komarov’s gruesome death could have been completely avoided. The original plan was to launch a second capsule the day after Komarov’s launch. The two space vehicles were to dock together and Komarov would swap places with one of the two cosmonauts in the second vehicle.  This was all scheduled to coincide with the Communist revolution’s 50 year anniversary and was Brezhnev’s victory plan to reveal to the world Soviet superiority.

Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was slated for the second space capsule. He made a tour of Soyuz 1 with a group of technicians and they recommended a postponement of launch due to hundreds of flaws in the vehicle. Forwarding the recommendation, inspection report and a ten page memo to Brezhnev through a KGB friend, the buck stopped with the KGB. No one dared defy Brezhnev’s dream of glory because the KGB agent, Venyamin Russayev, as well as every other agent who had knowledge of the communique, were summarily demoted and shipped off to remote areas within the Soviet Union for convenient, out of the way service.

Komarov knew he was on a suicide mission but he went anyway. He is a true hero. When Gagarin’s KGB friend suggested to Komarov to simply refuse the mission, he explained that if he didn’t go, the government would send the cosmonaut who was next in line, which was Gagarin. Gagarin had tried to save Komarov’s life by recommending the mission be scrapped. Komarov turned around and gave his own life that Gagarin’s might be saved. If that’s not a hero, I don’t know what is.

Soyuz I launched April 23, 1967 and almost immediately began experiencing problems and mechanical failures. Due to these problems the second capsule’s launch was scrubbed from the schedule. U.S. National Security Agency analysts (fancy words that basically mean spies) recorded and translated what they could of Komarov’s communications to ground control. They describe a cosmonaut who knew he was going to die. Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin cried as he told Komarov he was a hero. American records reveal that when the descent parachutes failed, Komarov raged as he entered his death plummet.

This tragic story is as fascinating as it is sad. Why would anyone feel the need to believe a titillating conspiracy theory rather than the tragic truth? And this is not the only case where outrageous conspiracy theories have often been eclipsed by an even more fantastic truth. Consider the following conspiracy theories and their fans:

  • Da Vinci disciples who believe the mysteries in the book “The Da Vinci Code” are real yet the mystery of Da Vinci’s art is even greater than conspiracy fiction.
  • 9/11 Truthers who believe that the U.S. government murdered thousands of U.S. citizens yet is eclipsed by the intricacies of an ideological war by a small group of terrorists that have managed to capture the entire world’s attention, keeping everyone riveted with fear despite their very small numbers compared to the numbers of allied militaries fighting against them.
  • Birthers who believe that President Obama was not born a U.S. citizen is really quite boring when compared to the fascinating, tragic yet triumphant tale of how a young boy became president of the United States of America despite the statistical odds stacked against him.
  • Amelia Earhart fans who believe that she was abducted by extra-terrestrials yet the biography of this amazing, adventurous woman and the impact she has had on the lives of women for decades is so much greater than chasing shadows.
  • Osama bin Laden – conspiracy theorists believe that he is not dead and that the story of his body being dumped into the sea from a helicopter is a cover story. However, the account of the assassination plan by military special forces is the stuff that best selling novels are made of.
  • Princess Diana – conspiracy theorists believe that she was assassinated by the British Royal family and would rather believe such outrageousness when the life of not only this amazing princess but the entire House of Windsor can keep a person riveted to history books for weeks on end.

The gringa would like to know what makes a diehard conspiracy theorist tick. Experts say that they are more than your average skeptic. To selectively doubt certain scenarios or details that are reported by official agencies is normal. But when a critical political view morphs into believing in the omnipotent power of an elite shadow government ruling the world, a real conspiracy theorist is born.

Conspiracy theorists are not necessarily mentally ill despite the fact that they may believe some things that seem outright crazy, unreasonable or illogical. It is becoming such a widespread perspective, psychologists are categorizing it with its own empirical field definition. They explain that distrust is the underlying condition but it is the wrong kind of distrust. It is a form of distrust that is disconnected from critical thinking skills.

Although everyone has trust issues with someone at some point in their life, not everyone becomes a conspiracy theorist. When a person is able to hold on to the general opinion that most people in society are decent people worthy of measured trust, that trust growing as a relationship grows, that is a person managing distrust in a healthy way. However, once a person becomes so cynical that they believe that no one can be trusted, that everyone is out to get something over on everyone else, they are primed and ready to believe that the entire world is at the mercy of global elite puppetmasters.

Conspiracy theorists believe a distortion of the real truth that governments, though corrupt to varying degrees, do have within them some officials who are puppets serving elite interests in order to line their own pockets yet at the same time there are also officials who genuinely want to serve their people. And working within these governments are programs honestly designed to make the nation, as well as the world, a better place while at the same time operating alongside programs designed to enhance and broaden the scope of power for individual elites as well as the nation. So, a conspiracy theorist neglects to believe the good that is very real and their perspective lacks balance because it lacks the entire truth.

You see, cynicism is like a cancer. Once a person gets into that negative mindset, cynicism grows. At first Frank believes that his coworker, Joe, who got a promotion, somehow conspired to sabotage Frank’s chances at the promotion by telling tales behind his back. Once Frank convinces himself of this truth, rather than the real, ugly truth that he’s just a lousy worker unworthy of the promotion, Frank then has to include his other co-workers in the conspiracy when they object to his accusations against Joe. As Frank continues to stew in his own angry juices he soon believes it all started at the top with a boss who must surely hate him. Eventually he either quits or his behavior is so affected he gets fired. Such an experience will most certainly shape his behavior as he continues on to his next job.

Rather than accept the uncomfortable truth that another person excelled his own capabilities and deserved the promotion, rather than believe the nasty truth about self, that he scapegoated a co-worker and then blamed his other co-workers and, ultimately, his boss, rather than accept that he is the problem, Frank continues in blaming others because that is more convenient than believing an uncomfortable truth about self. By perpetuating this scapegoat mindset Frank becomes unfit for any job. As he continues this self-destructive cycle blaming others rather than practicing self-accountability, Frank must then begin to believe in a united business conspiracy of a network of people who just want to keep him down. Eventually this unreasonable paranoia will affect Frank’s view of pretty much everything in his life.

Eventually, Frank is just a very nasty, negative fellow who believes that everyone is out to get him. He concludes if that’s true about society and work environments, it’s not a stretch to then believe that the federal government also conspires against the little people for their own gain. Mainstream and official sources of information are rejected as “tainted” and Frank only relies on fringe journalism because those are the folks who really know what’s going on and haven’t sold their souls to the “establishment”.  Eventually, by his own selective exposure to views that agree with his personal angry-at-the-world perspective, Frank is a full-fledged conspiracy theorist, brainwashed by himself.

So, when you get right down to it, psychologists are right. Conspiracy theorists are not really mentally ill. They are really just Negative Nellies and Nasty Nelsons. It’s perfectly fine to be a Curious Casper and entertain conspiracy theories for entertainment value or as alternative possibilities to an accepted truth that does not have the evidence to completely prove it to be the truth. But keep things in perspective. Don’t be like Frank.


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