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.

Sources:

jsc.nasa.gov

spaceflight.nasa.gov

Image source:  antarcticglaciers.org

 

CPR for MWG


That’s shorthand for “Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation for the Milky Way Galaxy”.  Scientists believe that if our galaxy is not already dead it is probably drawing its last gasps. Kevin Schawinski, a Swiss scientist from Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology explains that this happens when a galaxy no longer forms new stars. His research claims that we are all living in a zombie galaxy that has been a billion years long since dead.

Schawinski has a color code system for  galaxies:

  • Blue Cloud – Galaxies that are still forming stars from gases
  • Red Sequence – Galaxies that are evolving passively
  • Green valley – This is a galaxy that is at the crossroads of evolution, between blue cloud stage and red sequence stage. (An interesting tidbit… the term “green valley” came about after an Arizona University student, attending a lecture on the evolution of galaxies, responded to the speaker’s description of the death phase of a galaxy by yelling, “Green Valley! Where galaxies go to die!” referring to a local retirement community, Green Valley, Arizona.)

Green valley galaxies are at an intermediate state. Stars are still forming but the gas reservoir is running low. However, space time is not like real time on Earth. By the time researchers can get the data that a reservoir is empty, meaning a galaxy is no longer capable of creating stars, that galaxy may have already been dead for billions of years.

Andromeda galaxy, our neighbor, is also a zombie galaxy. It began dying eons ago but still produces stars. That means it’s gas reservoir is empty but the stars that began the creation process billions of years ago are still forming. Kind of like when the gringa’s car runs out of gas but I manage to coast off the freeway with just enough momentum to reach the gas pump at the station on the side of the road.

So, even though the data collected about our own Milky Way galaxy is not complete, what scientists do have indicates that it may be on the precipice of falling into the green valley. Once the zombie period is over and a galaxy actually begins to show signs that it is truly dead, it may take billions of years for a complete death mask to be detectable. The clearest indicator is that they stop expanding. Galaxies grow by making stars so when no new growth is possible, when galactic expansion ceases, the galaxy is dead.

The funny thing about this is that stars are the by-product of a build-up of certain gases. It’s as if a galaxy grows by recycling its waste. If mankind could somehow imitate that model just imagine what that would mean for our pollution problems!

So, if star-making gases are the waste product of galaxies, what is their “food”? Dark matter, that invisible stuff thought to be the fibers that hold galaxies together, provide the hydrogen gas that feeds galaxies so they can make stars and grow larger. When hydrogen gas cools it becomes trapped in the dark matter that forms halos around cosmic objects like planets. As it cools, this disk of gas eventually breaks up to later form stars. Where does the hydrogen come from? From dying stars. So, really, a star is just a cosmic object that is recycled, reborn or reincarnated, depending on the perspective you prefer.

What does that mean for humans living in the Milky Way galaxy? It means that if our Sun ever goes kaput, that’s it for civilization. We will never get a new Sun.

Sources:

www.yahoo.com/news/

theconversation.com

Image Credit:  d.ibtimes.co.uk

 

Cosmic Spas & Outer Space Mineral Mines


Are NASA and other international space agencies interested in creating colonies on the Moon and various other exotic, cosmic locales? Most certainly. However, not for the nefarious purposes of whisking away the highly educated and financial elite in order to preserve the human race from extinction. What they really want to do is exploit the natural resources of these places.

Humans are a hungry species and their appetites include all sorts of stuff from fruits and vegetables to minerals and ores. Many minerals and ores are not only rare, with few deposits in sundry places around the world, but are also finite in their supply. Once diminished, humans will have to find another source. That’s where asteroids and the Moon come into play.

Asteroids are like one of those grab bags you get as a party favor. You never know what’s inside. Although primarily chunks of ice, tar and dust, they also contain scare minerals and metals. For astronaut mining crews, outer space is full of opportunity, kind of like a mechanic entering an auto junkyard the size of Earth. Best estimates to date believe there are hundreds of thousands of asteroids, some nearly five billion years old, of assorted sizes and shapes from the size of a coffee table to hundreds of miles in diameter (Earth, in comparison, is about 8,000 miles in diameter). With such abundance, if humans can overcome the technological and economical obstacles, we may have a seemingly limitless supply of raw materials available.

The gringa wonders what will happen when that occurs? Will space become filled with flag waving asteroids? Considering even a small asteroid could be valued at many millions of dollars in potential minerals, will countries be zipping about space, hither and yon, planting flags on as many asteroids as possible in a territory game of, “Mine! I found it first!”? The gringa is hoping it will be much more civilized than that.

For mining purposes, asteroid’s are classified according to three groups based on light reflection (spectral) analysis. Since mankind cannot yet land on an asteroid and physically take a geological sample or do so with a robotic satellite, scientists evaluate how light reflects off the surface of an asteroid to determine its primary mineral component.

C-type asteroids are dark and carbon based. They are comprised of clay based minerals that have lots of water trapped within the clay. The gringa thinks these could, perhaps become cosmic spas if we could find a way to generate some kind of thermal reaction within the asteroid. Think of it, “Come visit asteroid XP-247 for its relaxing steam baths and mineralized clay body and facial wraps. Just don’t forget your oxygen mask.”

But what about the carbon and other stuff in the clay? Is that any good for anything? Yep. It makes a garden grow lush, thick and plentiful. C-type asteroids rich in carbon, phosphorous and other elements in the fertilizer spectrum could be very valuable as future garden spots. The gringa can now see the cosmic version of the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” where visitors can also get a soak in the hot springs and a beautifying and detoxifying mineral rich clay body wrap.

I mean, really, we have plenty of clay and carbon and water here on Earth but surely there will be an eager entrepreneur who will see the same potential. Or do we really have plenty of clay, minerals and water on Earth?

The water reserves could very well come in handy. The gringa can see it now – a gravity beam lassos a water rich C-type asteroid and hauls it near Earth’s atmosphere. It then uses transporter technology that has finally been perfected to zap it through the atmosphere, avoiding a friction filled entry that would evaporate up all that precious water. Then, as it approaches fatefully close to a desert region, just before impact a precision laser beam goes, “ZIP, ZAP, ZOOM!” and a lovely shower of water rains down upon the desert with all the pulverized clay and carbon providing rich fertilizer. The desert is soon a fertile oasis. Hey, it could happen. Stranger things already have.

But NASA thinks the real value of water rich asteroids is in using the resource in outer space. By finding a way to mine the water in flight, crews could save billions of dollars by not having to pack this life-support necessity. Interestingly enough, the very thing that humans need to survive, consisting of two molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen, are the very elements of rocket fuel. (Wow, humans are 60% rocket fuel, or, water, depending on your perspective!). So, astronauts dock their spaceship at a galactic version of Exxon to fill up the tank and top off the water reserves. And while the service station is checking the engine’s oil level and cabin’s air pressure, the crew is freshening up at the nearby spa. Interesting.

So, C-type asteroids can either be Desert-to-Eden conversion sources, hot spring spas, water wells, or rocket fuel depots. Or all three at the same time.Take your pick.

S-type asteroids shine a little brighter than dark, carbon based C-types. That’s because they are rich in reflective metals like cobalt, iron and nickel. If a mining crew is really lucky they could find one with deposits of rhodium, platinum or gold. Scientists estimate that an asteroid about the size of an average bedroom could be packed with well over one million pounds of metals, a tiny fraction being the exceedingly valuable rare ones. Even if mining crews could extract just one hundred pounds of platinum, at about $1000 an ounce, a $100,000 load of platinum would just be the gravy on top of the wealth accumulated from the remaining predominant minerals.

But it may be the M-class asteroids that wars end up being fought over. The wars for oil that we have raging now could very well become wars for M-class asteroids in the future. These asteroids are expected to contain at least ten times the mineral content of S-types.

To make space mining a reality, the mission has to be profitable. With current missions costing in the hundreds of millions, some even billions, an asteroid would have to be massively rich in raw materials. The other option is to develop technologies that are more economical.

Before any of that even matters, current asteroid knowledge needs to be vastly broadened and fine-tuned. We need cosmic cartographers to accurately map the hundreds of thousands of asteroids in outer space. The world needs space geologists that have the technology and knowledge to analyze what minerals each asteroid actually contains. Young students now, who have an interest in a cosmic career, could really have a geology or cartography degree pay off by landing them their dream job.

NASA’s first effort to test their scientific mettle for determining present mineral resources within an asteroid lie with their OSIRIS-REx mission. The goal of “Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security and Regolith Explorer” is to return with a geological sample from asteroid Bennu. It is set to launch in September and arrive at the asteroid almost two years later. If all goes according to plan, Earthlings can expect an authentic piece of Bennu to arrive on planet Earth around 2020. (Of course, the gringa is reminded of her favorite piece of motherly advice given regularly to her children in efforts to cultivate a more relaxed approach to life, “The plan is that nothing goes according to plan.”)

In addition to geological studies of Bennu’s raw materials, asteroid re-direction technologies will also be studied. The spacecraft is scheduled to perform an interesting experiment. It is going to give Bennu a gentle, solar nudge. Scientists want to know if sunlight can be used to affect the path of travel of asteroids. I guess the reasoning is that asteroids are too valuable to simply blast into oblivion if Earth happens to be in the way. They would rather nudge them aside then attempt to exploit the wealth they contain.

The most important goals of the mission, however, are to further the development of space mining technologies. They plan to scrape together a two ounce and 4.4 pound geological sample. The spacecraft will then use its state-of-the-art instruments to map the surface of Bennu and analyze its composition. These are the on-board technologies and their purposes:

  • OVIRS (OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer) – analyzes visible and near-infrared light to detect minerals, compounds and chemicals within the asteroid.
  • OTES (OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer) – analyzes infrared light to detect surface minerals of Bennu, determine surface temperature and map the location of water-rich clay mineral deposits.
  • REx (Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer) – analyzes X-ray aura of Bennu’s surface in sunlight to calculate amounts and locations of elements like: iron, magnesium, silicon and sulfur.

To find out if sunlight can be used as an asteroid diversion technique OVIRS and OTES will combine their abilities to study what is known as the “Yarkovsky effect”. When an asteroid absorbs sunlight much of the heat radiates outward and provides a propelling effect. Observations will be made to see if a “man-made” solar heat saturation could result in changing an asteroid’s trajectory.

Most of what will be recorded by the different spectrometers will only reflect what is on Bennu’s surface and within a shallow depth (about half a millimeter). They are not capable of reaching deep within the asteroid’s core. To get a deeper look the spacecraft has a tool that blows nitrogen gas onto the surface that will force minerals up from a depth of about two inches. Even so, it’s pretty obvious that much about Bennu will remain unknown even if the mission is successful in achieving all of its goals.

But, a successful mission will at least tell the world one thing: can mining asteroid’s work? The gringa believes if great wealth is at stake there will be movers and shakers in this world who will make it work one way or another while pocketing a healthy profit in the process.

Source & Image Credit:  www.nasa.gov

 

 

 

 

 

A New Moon For A New Age


Most people think Earth’s moon is old news. However, what the public may not realize is that NASA has a rover active on the Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LRO). The gringa will call the rover “Elroy” for your reading pleasure.

Elroy has a new exhibit on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. that reveals that our Moon is anything but boring. What with Mars and black holes and parallel universes getting so much attention, it’s easy for our little ol’ Moon to get lost in the mix. The gringa wants to give it some glory that is long overdue.

One thing that is interesting about the Moon is that it undergoes such frequent change. It seems to get blasted all the time by meteors and such. The images on display in the exhibit show the formation of new impact craters (kind of scary when the gringa considers its proximity to home! The Moon may very well be our shield!). Recent volcanic activity has also been detected. And, most curious of all, is evidence that the Moon’s core may be cooling which has caused it to shrink and crack the crust of the Moon’s surface.

Elroy is a busy little rover. So busy, in fact, that there are too many images for this single exhibit. So, in addition to the favorites that were selected for display, there is a large screen which projects lunar images that are updated daily.

Since 2009, in addition to a fabulous photography collection, Elroy has also collected environmental and geological data with the seven other instruments he is equipped with. Elroy’s mission is to map the entire surface of the Moon. Even the legendary “dark side” of the Moon.

You see, one reason the Moon remains so mysterious is because it has a “backside”. Yes, we never get to see the Moon’s rear-end. We always see only one physical side of the Moon. Now, this is not because the Moon hangs suspended in space and never rotates. It’s just that it has a rather peculiar rotation cycle.

Millions of years ago the Moon spun around much faster. The pull of Earth’s gravity has caused it to slow down. So much so that its rotation cycle now matches its orbit cycle.  These cycles take 27.3 Earth days. However, observed from Earth it takes 29.5 days. (Don’t expect the gringa to get into that mystery here! You can research it yourself by clicking on… Understanding the moon phases). So, since the orbit and rotation cycles are exactly matched, as the Moon travels about the Earth, at night, when we see it, the same side is always presented to Earth.

However, for serious stargazers with top-notch telescopes, you can get a peek at a sliver of the hidden aspects of the Moon. Since the Moon is not “round and flat” like a coin but is actually elliptical, like a ball, at just the right time there is a speed differential when the Moon is farthest from Earth, thereby its rotation speeds up a bit because of a little less gravity drag. This causes what scientists call a “rocking” motion and an extra nine percent of the Moon’s surface is visible. But now, thanks to Elroy, all Earthlings can see just exactly what is on the Moon’s backside which is not “dark” after all, except during the cycle of a full moon when the Earth is blocking all sunlight.

Only two years into its mission NASA declared Elroy a complete success. Over four billion measurements were used by Elroy to complete a topographical map of the entire Moon. Elroy’s instruments determined that the coldest spot in our entire solar system is right smack on the Moon. It is found inside the shadows of Hermite crater which is located near the north pole. It is a bitter minus 415 degrees Fahrenheit. The gringa hopes Elroy was wearing his mittens.

Elroy is not just taking photos and temperature readings. The rover is also looking for water deposits, such as ice, and searching for fuel resources such as hydrogen. In preparation for future manned Moon missions, environmental radiation levels are also recorded.

So, the next time you gaze up at the Moon, give Elroy a salute. He is still on the job!

 

Sources: www.nasa.gov, www.moonconnection.com

 

Image Source: http://www.nasa.gov

 

 

 

 

 

Here Comes The Sun, Little Darlin’


China may be one step closer to saying, “Bye, bye,” to fossil fuels. With their latest invention, an artificial sun of hydrogen gas, in fact, an incredibly dense artificial sun of hydrogen gas that is triple the power of that glorious glowing ball of gas high in the sky, they may very well have a limitless power source.

The first thought is, “Hurrah! The global energy crisis is over! Human caused acceleration of climate change can be ceased with no more use of fossil fuels!” However, the gringa hates to be the cynic and rain on everyone’s parade. I will withhold my judgement that this incredible invention will work successfully, everything going as planned. And, if it does, that it will be put to use for humanitarian purposes for the benefit of mankind. The gringa will “wait and see”.

China’s Institute of Physical Science in Hefei is the brainchild and creator of a magnetic fusion reactor that has produced this seemingly inexhaustible source of hydrogen based energy. This is a direct outgrowth from technology developed over 60 years ago by Soviet scientists who created the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). It is a metallic chamber shaped like a figure-8.  The reactor can produce hydrogen energy up to 50 million Kelvins (that’s almost 50 million degrees Celsius or 122 million degrees Fahrenheit). Wow, that’s enough to curl my hair! Consider that the sun burns at about 15 million Kelvins. So, China’s man-made sun is more than three times as hot as the real McCoy. It’s not as big a deal as it seems because scientists were only able to maintain this core temperature for less than two minutes.

Now, really, this artificial sun news is really no new news. The Germans claimed to have created such a thing already. The real news is the length of time the existence of the “sun” lasted. However, at two minutes a pop, the gringa doesn’t see how this is really going to change the energy game around the world. China, Germany and Russia are still years, probably even decades, away from perfecting the technology to the point that it will even matter to mankind.

And really, despite all the fuss being made over China, artificial suns are actually a dime a dozen. The technology has been around for ages. And every nation that has a decent scientific community has one. Consider Coelux. This Italian invention uses nano technology to create the natural lighting of the sun and sky. This technology is being used around the world in museums, shopping malls, airports, subways, garages, and even homes.

However, the gringa’s favorite use of Italy’s artificial sun is in healthcare. The medical community is responding to the human aversion of being confined. By introducing artificial natural light (if THAT’S not an oxymoron!) into treatment rooms that are usually windowless, medical professionals are seeing patients respond positively through the psychological and physiological benefits of being in a space illuminated by the sun and sky.

People can even enjoy this at home. Even on a rainy day you can be enjoying the rays of a tropical sun. And the Italians are not just scientifically sterile in their lighting craft. Channeling Italy’s deep roots within the art community, they offer lighting perspectives for every taste: dramatic tropical sun, a gentle Mediterranean sun, or a cool Nordic sun. The gringa thinks this is sensational, um, I meant “sunsational” (darn you, auto-correct)!

Sources: South China Morning Post, www.scmp.com, www.coelux.com

Photo credit: www.coelux.com

Uranus – The Teenager Planet


Why are astronomers fascinated by Uranus? Some have even gone so far as to claim it is the best darn planet in the Solar System. The gringa says, “Hey! What about Earth and Mars? Aren’t they the ones NASA is making such a fuss over? Trying to save one and explore the other?”

Well, astronomical appreciation for Uranus is because it is just so bizarre. Bizarre, huh? Like, odd rainbow colored creatures with spiny noses and squishy springs for appendages and gumballs for tails? Well, no, not quite that bizarre.

Uranus is bizarre because, apparently, it’s a bit lazy. You see, other planets spin around on their axis,  or axi, the gringa’s not quite sure about the plural spelling of axis, but you know what I mean. To get back to the point, yes, Uranus is lazy. It does not spin on its axis like other planets. It lays on its side.

Another oddity is that, even though it is not the farthest planet from the Sun, it is the coldest. Perhaps that’s because it’s so darn lazy. It’s never up, spinning around creating friction and heat and all that good, heat-generating stuff that movement creates.

Also, Uranus is confused and misplaces things, things like its magnetic field. Its magnetic field is NOT where it’s supposed to be. Uranus is kind of like a teenager. It lays about doing a lot of nothing and is messy, laying other things about where they are not supposed to be.

One more thing that makes Uranus like a teenager is its greenish atmosphere. It’s moody. It vacillates between dull boredom and doing absolute nothing to crazy business.

Uranus also has an identity crisis. You know how a parent names a child, like, say, the gringa named her eldest son, Zachary, then he goes off to school and engages in some mild rebellion to assert his independence and comes home with a name like, say, Milkshake? Yes, that’s Uranus, too. While all the other planets were named after Roman gods, Uranus had to go and be different and have a name after a Greek god instead, Ouranos, the sky father, who beget Saturn (aka Cronus) and Jupiter (aka Zeus).

Another aspect of Uranus is, because of its laziness and slow motion movement, for a very long time it was thought to be a star. It wasn’t until 1781 that Sir William Hershel discovered that it was actually a planet. Poor Uranus, so misunderstood and underestimated.

If we chose to colonize Uranus instead of Mars, life would be rather odd living on a sideways planet. Summer would last for twenty years without a single sunset and winter would be just as long, spent entirely in darkness. The gringa would surely go mad.

It takes the planet over eighty years to orbit the sun. Surrounded by its 27 moons (that we know about) and ringed about by 13 circlets of rock and spacedust, Uranus plods along at its own snail’s pace. And those moons and rings are just as odd as the planet they surround.

One ring is made up completely of spacedust astronomers think came from the moon named Mab when it was hit by asteroids. Another ring has simply disappeared since the last image received while another moved about and is now somewhere else. But, perhaps the strangest ring of all is the one that “breathes”. Every few hours it expands and then contracts throughout a five kilometer difference. Now that’s just weird.

The moons don’t just orbit Uranus but seem to engage in a dance. They are not considered stable because they are constantly pushing and pulling one another with their different gravities. Scientists expect a few will eventually crash into one another and then who knows what kind of changes will develop. Maybe the planet will get another ring or two.

And with an atmosphere of hydrogen, helium, methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, the gringa’s pretty sure it would be a very unpleasant place to set up household. Everyone would speak ridiculously, no more opera and musicals to appreciate. The air would also smell like a big fart, everywhere, and your eyes would sting and tear. There are also storms with winds over 100 mph that can last for years.

However, one oddity that the gringa thinks may just make all that nastiness about the stinky, unpleasant air worth the sacrifice is what scientists think about the “oceans” of Uranus. Underneath those thick, smelly gas clouds there could be an “ocean” of liquid diamonds! For heaven’s sake! You don’t say?! The gringa has just GOT to know if this is true! Can you imagine! If it is, every single woman I know who loves sparkly things will be on the first commercial rocket, no matter the cost. Goodbye Earth!

So, what the heck happened to Uranus? What got it knocked off its axis? Some experts theorize a large moon, that is long since extinct, had a powerful gravitational pull that overpowered the planet. Others consider that perhaps it had a cosmic collision with something larger than Earth.

Unfortunately, NASA doesn’t expect to dig in to a deeply involved study of this mysterious planet anytime soon. We just don’t have the technology developed that can effectively get an orbiter that far away (almost 2 billion miles) and successfully cope with the instability of all the oddities of Uranus. But, with NASA, the word is never “impossible”. The word is always, well, the two words are always, “not yet”. So, the gringa hopes somewhere there are some NASA scientists as incredibly curious as herself and are being some Johnnies-on-the-spot getting this technology developed. I just have to know more!

Source & Photo Credit:  www.nasa.gov

 

 

All Aboard The “Moon Express”


A couple of years ago “Moon Express” completed a round of flight tests at Kennedy Space Center. Evidently, this didn’t seem like big news because the popular media sources were rather silent on the matter. Is the “Moon Express” newsworthy or not? The gringa just had to find out. I mean, with the name “Moon Express” conjuring up images in my mind’s eye of a space alien whodunit novel, surely there’s a story in there somewhere.

The “Moon Express” is a private company partnering with NASA’s Lunar CATALYST mission to provide a chunk of technology referred to as “MX-1”. The primary role of Moon Express is in the field of transporting commercial cargo from the Earth to the Moon. The MX-1 is an innovative lunar landing vehicle to help Moon Express fulfill its self-proclaimed mission of “blazing a trail to the Moon to unlock its mysteries and resources for the benefit of life on Earth and our future in space.” Considered by Moon Express to be the eighth continent, the company, with NASA’s support, looks to the Moon as an economic opportunity in order to exploit its natural resources that are rare here on Earth. What are these natural resources and their potential to help mankind?

Take, for instance, the platinum group metals classified as PT-78. Platinum is so scarce on Earth, that humans are only capable of producing a few hundred tons every year. This metal is the least reactive and most resistant to corrosion and can withstand extremely high temperatures. Platinum is most commonly used as a catalyst to produce chemical reactions such as igniting hydrogen and is used in the catalytic converters of automobiles. Estimates of manufacturing experts claim that almost one fifth of industrial applications require platinum. The plan is to mine this valuable commodity found on the Moon, return and sell it back on Earth, and the fellas at Moon Express can make the bank and fund their goals of further space exploration. Is that not the wildest “American Dream” story ever? The gringa is fascinated. I’m thinking of going out and buying a pick-axe and shovel and wheelbarrow and coveralls and…

And, the first stage in achieving these goals is the MX-1commercial lunar lander. This robotic spacecraft will deliver scientific and commercial cargo much cheaper than NASA. How can they do this? Moon Express has developed a “green” space vehicle that is powered by sunlight and, for fuel, uses hydrogen peroxide! Next time the gringa cuts herself, when cleaning the wound and the hydrogen peroxide gets all fizzy, I will imagine myself blasting into space like a shooting star!

Moon Express is just one of a small handful of private companies that have contracted with NASA. These contracts do not allow any funds to be exchanged. They are, rather, an agreement about support services and technologies that will be shared. Moon Express in particular will play a key role in assisting space exploration objectives such as returning geologic samples from the moon, providing the first platform of deployment for further space exploration, and prospecting resources on the Moon such as metals, water and oxygen that can be used to advance space exploration programs.

For more information about Lunar CATALYST, visit http://www.nasa.gov/lunarcatalyst.

For more information about Moon Express, visit www.moonexpress.com

Sources:

http://www.totalmateria.com/page.aspx?ID=CheckArticle&site=ktn&NM=237

www.nasa.gov

www.moonexpress.com

Photo credit: www.floridatoday.com