Lunar Nips & Tucks


The gringa has reached that age where she critically examines the tiny lines around her eyes and notices the effects of gravity slowly creating those puppet lines around my mouth as my cheeks droop a bit lower every year. And then there’s that little turkey wattle dewlap flap hanging under my chin and drawing attention to my scrawny chicken neck. Despite my flaws, the gringa is not interested in a facelift. Our Moon, however, gets one every so often whether it likes it or not.

Yep, about every 80 thousand years or so the Moon is transformed into something unrecognizable from its former self. Does this amazing facelift happen overnight? No. It experiences its own form of nips and tucks gradually. Every year numerous comets, asteroids and meteors crash into our Moon and create almost 200 new craters.

If you visit NASA’s photo gallery you can find an array of Moon images dating back to 2009 when the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft began its mission. It has been mapping the Moon’s surface for years. Comparisons of the collection of images that span five years’ worth of work tells the gringa that mapping the Moon will be a never-ending job seeing as how everything is always changing.

An historical super-moon is scheduled to arrive around November 16. Chances are newspapers and cyberworld will be filled with images of our Moon as it appears in 2016. This is the perfect opportunity for a Moon project to see if amateur stargazers can detect any changes. Below are a pair of 2009 images of our Moon you can use for comparison:

images.jpg

NASA’s Astronomy picture of the day February 6, 2009

584641main_apollo17-left-670

NASA’s detailed 2009 image of the Apollo 17 Moon landing mission site

Sources:

NASA

Yahoo News

lroc.sese.asu.edu

Image Credits:  NASA

lupusuva1phototherapy.com

 

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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.

Sources:

www.nasa.gov

www.nrc.gov

www.popsci.com

www.mun.ca

www.newscientist.com

www.windows2universe.org

Image Credit: www.wakingtimes.com

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

 

 

 

 

 

Moon Music – It’s Classified!


When astronauts are orbiting the Earth within the International Space Station they can entertain themselves with all sorts of digital media. We see their tweets of fantastic sunrises and sunsets. We watch, mesmerized, at their videos taken as they float about in zero gravity, uploaded to YouTube via their personal smartphones and other devices. We listen to their narratives and interviews in real time, streaming live through any number of digital media sources. Certainly, space exploration and space living has come a long way since the 1960s.

When astronauts launched on a moon trip in 1969, they had no such devices. Their only link was their communication radio that transmitted direct to mission control. There was no live transmission for the world to follow along with. The rest of us Earthlings had to wait for on-the-ground command to filter what we were allowed to hear and deny us what the powers that be considered classified. Recently, many classified documents, videos and audio recordings have been “de-classified” and NASA fans have been absorbed with sifting through these records searching for a fantastic story.

The gringa’s favorite so far has been the Moon music audio reported by the Apollo 10 mission in 1969. The Science Channel ran a feature on this in a special entitled “NASA’s Unexplained Files”. As the astronauts orbited around the “dark side of the moon” they claim to have heard what they specifically called “outer space-type” music. So what were these cryptic, mysterious sounds heard through the spacecraft’s radio? Was that the purpose for the follow up Apollo 11 mission that got boots on the ground on the Moon? Were they searching for a lunar brass and strings ensemble?

Crewmen Eugene Cernan, Thomas Stafford and John Young listened for almost an hour to this eerie space symphony and transcripts record their reactions:

  • “The music even sounds outer-spacey, doesn’t it?”
  • “You hear that? That whistling sound? Woooo?”
  • “Sounds like… you know, outer-space type music.”

Then, after almost an hour, the sound suddenly stopped. Upon returning home, NASA chose to archive the transcripts and report of the “Moon music” as “classified”.

Now, the gringa wants to know exactly how and why a document or video or audiotape is determined to be “classified”. President Barack Obama made changes to the United States government classification system with Executive Order 13526. Every new administration creates a new Executive Order regarding classified documents because these documents are not governed by a constitutional government that governs and legislates on behalf of the people. Classified documents are governed by the Executive Branch. So, when a new President is seated, a new Executive Order governing classified documents must be administered.

To classify a document, video or audio recording, first, levels of sensitivity have to be considered. Sensitivity is rated according to how much damage to national security would occur if the information were made public. “Classified” has three levels: Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. Confidential is the least sensitive, Secret a step up, and Top Secret the highest level of secrecy (well, almost). To publish classified documents is a criminal act, espionage.

There are also sub-levels of sensitive information that are not classified: Sensitive But Unclassified, Sensitive Security Information, Critical Program Information, For Official Use Only, Public Safety Sensitive and Law Enforcement Sensitive. These documents are still restricted and not available to the general public for reasons such as privacy regulations, court orders, ongoing investigations, and national security.

Nuclear and atomic energy information has its own form of classification. Documents related to these industries are “Restricted Data” and “Formerly Restricted Data”. Whereas most classified information is automatically de-classified at its twenty-five year anniversary, not so with nuclear and atomic energy. These documents are under the complete authority of the Department of Energy to de-classify whenever they darn well feel like, if at all.

Even if a person has the highest level of security clearance, Top Secret, that does not mean they have access to every Top Secret document. Some Top Secret documents are further secured with a required code word. These are known as “Sensitive Compartmented Information”. A person must have Top Secret clearance and authorization to know the code word in order to access the document. An example of a Top Secret document with code word requirement is the report on the incident of the USS Liberty, a U.S. Navy research ship that was attacked in 1967 by an Israeli Air Force jet and Israeli Navy torpedo boats.

To classify a document, video or audio recording, the information must fit into one of the following categories:

  • Military plans, weapon systems, or operations;
  • Foreign government information, relations, or activities with U.S involvement;
  • Intelligence activities, methods, sources, confidential sources & cryptology;
  • Scientific, technological or economic information of national security and defense;
  • Nuclear materials and facilities;
  • Infrastructure vulnerabilities, capabilities, installations, projects, plans or security;
  • Development, production and use of weapons of mass destruction (say what? Are they also classifying documents that might reveal U.S. development, production and use of WMDs? I mean, we had a President that started a bogus war over that stuff [because it ended up that they didn’t exist in the “enemy’s camp” after all]. So, the gringa’s just sayin’ if classified documents of WMD programs are not just a stack of papers about “terrorist” organizations and “rogue” nations, but includes docs about our own WMD program, um, I kind of have a problem with that).

So, the gringa wonders which of these criteria did the Moon music fall under? I suppose, because NASA is responsible for satellites related to the national defense, any space exploration document could be loosely classified for that reason. Or, perhaps they thought the Moon music was the communique of a “foreign government” so that criteria was applied. Perhaps it had to do with intelligence gathering activities and they thought the Moon music was an encrypted secret space alien code.

The gringa thinks Apollo 15 Pilot Al Worden perhaps explained it best. He said, “NASA would withhold information from the public if they thought it was in the public’s best interests.” The gringa believes NASA thought that the general public would go bananas thinking there were little green harpists, pianists, percussionists and trumpet blowers living on the Moon.

They must have felt it best to classify the documents so as not to reduce the world to mayhem as panic ensued at the thought of invasion by, not just intelligent extraterrestrials, but MUSICAL ones as well! HOLY COW! The HORROR of it all. And with the social upheaval of Elvis, the Beatles and many others subversively altering the youth of Earth into beatniks and hippies, it’s no wonder that the government thought it in the best interest of security to prevent a space alien music rage to invade and take the world by storm.

NASA’s official position is that, perhaps, it was atmospheric interference picked up by the space capsule’s radio. However, the Moon has no magnetic field to create any type of interfering frequency. Despite NASA’s “theory”, Worden chose to believe that the Moon music remained an unsolved mystery. He stated matter-of-factly that astronauts were well educated on what was “normal” space noise to be expected. The gringa is also certain astronauts know what music is when they hear it, no matter what its biological or terrestrial origins. In an interview Worden said, “Logic tells me that if there was something recorded on there, then there was something there.” Whoa, ho, ho! Methinks I hear the distinct possibility of an ET radio broadcast version of Casey Kasem’s Top 40 blasting from a lunar DJ being alluded to in that comment. How ’bout you, dear reader?

When the gringa listened for herself, I made note of the more interesting points of the eight minute audio recording amidst the chatter and background noises:

  • 2:52 – “That music even sounds outer-spacey doesn’t it? Ya hear that? That whistling sound… Wooo!”… “It sounds like ya know, like, outer space type music.”
  • 3:10 – Cernan asks Stafford (Tom) if his window insulation is all burned off. Stafford affirms that it is. Cernan informs Stafford that his window’s insulation is also burned off and that the sound is “eerie”.
  • 4:45 – A fluctuation in the sound.
  • 5:25 –.A sound like rapid shutter clicks of a camera (they were photographing the Moon).
  • 5:34 – A momentary lapse in recording.
  • 6:00 – Sound fluctuations.
  • 7:45 – The crewmen comment back and forth: “Well, that sure is weird music… Nobody will believe us… It’s a whistling, like an outerspace type thing.”
  • 8:00 – The tape ends

Now, the gringa has listened and all I hear is what sounds like a high-pitched siren, not music. However, the astronauts specifically used the word “music” three times. The word “eerie” was used to describe what they were hearing. A high-pitched siren sound is annoying, not eerie. A high-pitched siren sound does not sound like “music”. Three times the astronauts described the “music” as sounding “outer-spacey”. A high-pitched siren like sound does not sound “outer-spacey”. It sounds very terrestrial and pesky.

At first the gringa considered it was possibly caused by the acoustics within the capsule changing as a result of the insulation being burned off the windows. However, that theory is dashed when I remember that after almost an hour of being entertained, the space concert abruptly ended. If the burned off insulation had been the culprit, the sound would probably have lingered throughout the flight, at least throughout the orbit cycle. And if the lack of insulation resulted in such a noise, wouldn’t that indicate the possibility of a breach of the hull? A minute crack creating a windy whistle? There was no loss of cabin pressure and hull integrity was remained throughout the brutal re-entry burn. So, I don’t think it had anything to do with the burning off of the window insulation.

Also consider that NASA has only made available this eight minute clip yet it is reported that the astronauts listed to the “music” for almost an hour. The gringa would like to hear the remaining fifty-two minutes, please (eyeball roll, fingertips tapping the desktop).

From what I heard, there was not much to cause a big panic or scare among the population of Earth. I can’t see much there to justify all the trouble and drama of classifying the recording. So, the gringa suspects there is more to the story than what has been de-classified and released.

The gringa believes that there was definitely some sort of interference or feedback affecting the recording and that is the siren like noise heard. That siren like noise, however, is not what the gringa believes they are discussing. Just as it was very difficult to hear Astronaut John Young because he was distanced from Cernan’s microphone, I believe the interference was near the microphone and drowning out the “eerie, outer-space music” that was in the background, like Young’s voice. The astronauts were actually hearing that background noise, because they all heard it distinctly and discussed it.

If ufologists are fiercely dedicated to their pursuit of information about extraterrestrial life, the gringa recommends that they clean up the audio. Because I want to hear what the astronauts were actually hearing. And I think that darn siren noise is the “interference” NASA is talking about and most definitely NOT the music the astronauts are talking about. To hear it for yourself, click on the link below:

“eerie, outer-spacey Moon music drowned out by pesky siren-like interference”

 

Source: www.nasa.gov & New York Daily News

Image source: Getty Images

 

 

 

Moon or Mars?


The gringa has been down in the dumps, a bit, but, I will soon bounce back and become moon-eyed over what will have to become my new pet project. You see, after getting me all excited and pumped about getting to Mars, Congress has gone and rained all over my parade, the ol’ party poopers.

You see, Congress just doesn’t have what it takes to believe in a starry-eyed dream. NASA’s dreams Congress wants to shoot down:

  • Landing a human on an asteroid by 2025
  • Manned mission to Mars in the 2030s
  • 2nd manned mission on the Moon

Congress had a hearing on these subjects. The gringa can just hear all the discouraged “Tsk, Tsking” that must have gone one amongst all these “responsible” folk who know nothing about dreaming big. If the responsible purse-string holders don’t get more details on NASAs budgetary needs for these goals, then NASA may only get approval for the Moon mission.

Now, the gringa does not deny that these goals are not just ambitious but, to some, may sound downright outrageous. But, hey, the reality is that it is the outrageous dreamers that brought us the telephone, computer, car, steam engine, etc., etc.

It is also true that much of the technology necessary to survive a mission to Mars doesn’t even exist except in the minds of scientists and their scratched out theories on paper. But isn’t that the very first step? Aren’t these outrageous dreams what inspires innovative minds to try something that seems impossible and, finally, to accomplish it? Isn’t that the greatest way to create history?

I mean, if it wasn’t for the dream of traveling through space and solving the inherent problems of that goal we would have never come up with things like digital music, lasers, etc. Developing science and technology to solve space exploration problems is not wasted taxpayer money. There are all sorts of benefits to Earth and humans with spin off technologies.

Congress even hinted at an ultimatum: Mars or the ISS. The money is simply not there to do both. The idea is being tossed around to ditch Mars and concentrate on the ISS and returning to the Moon. Some see the development of a Moon base as an opportunity to exploit the mineral resources of the Moon.

Well, Congress may be packed with a bunch of Negative Nellie Republicans, but the gringa is proud that her president is encouraging all the dreams of NASA. Not only is President Obama openly encouraging a return to the Moon and the establishment of a Moon Base, but he hopes NASA stays on track to get to Mars in the 2030. I guess one positive of the liberal mindset of a Democrat is that they dream big and believe nothing is impossible to achieve!

Although Obama has been supportive throughout his two terms in office, his last term is coming to an end soon. NASA realizes the very real possibility of a government transition and a new president that might just nix the Mars mission altogether. They have been enjoying this dream being supported for almost eight years and now have to consider the possibility of a newcomer dooming it. The gringa thinks that not only would that be small-minded, but also just downright mean.

However, it may not be all that surprising if a new president expects the space agency to turn its focus Moonward rather than Marsward. After all, that is the focus of the ESA. Europe wants to establish a lunar orbit working colony that remotely controls Moon-bots that work below on the surface.

With all its focus on Mars, NASA has only considered the Moon in the sense of it being a waystation on the way to the Red Planet that is the real goal. This strategy may have to be reconsidered. It seems that the ESA is not alone in thinking the Moon to be the most desireable space goal at the moment. Geological industry and geological related businesses are seeing that it may be a way of turning a profit. European businesses are ready to team up with the ESA and get a Moon mission off the ground.

Russia is also on board the Moon mission idea and has private sector partners that are putting together their plans for a Moon base to be a reality within another decade or so. The plan to go robotic, rather than have boots on the ground, is what may be the saving grace of this Russo-European Moon dream. It is much more feasible and economically achievable when human survival technology is taken out of the formula. Russia and Europe may end up leaving the Americans in their dust by not only achieving an orbital Moon base but also a similar orbital Mars base with astronauts orbiting safely and controlling rovers and robots down below on the dusty, red surface.

So, now the gringa may have to change her vocabulary. Instead of, “To Mars! To Mars!” I may have to channel the late, great Jackie Gleason, “To the Moon!”

Source:  www.nasa.gov

 

“Back Up Life…”


SpaceX is the private company that is contracted with NASA to supply the space agency with the “Dragon”, a crew transport spacecraft designed for large crew capabilities as well as deep space missions. Elon Musk, the creator of SpaceX, recently gave an interview with GQ magazine. In that interview he voiced his concerns regarding accomplishing the Mars mission in light of the fact that this world’s nations just can’t seem to grow up and stop all of this war mess.

Musk’s big dream is to colonize Mars. Considering his accomplishments, the gringa believes he can achieve his dream. I mean, just think about it: he leads a company that has managed to develop technology that can design and build rockets at a fraction of the cost as NASA. SpaceX is also the first private company, ever, in all of the world, to have launched a spacecraft into orbit and have it successfully return to Earth. SpaceX has impressed NASA so much that it is contracted to manage resupply missions to the International Space Station as well as transport the astronauts between the ISS and Earth.

Musk believes colonizing Mars is more than just a glamorous adventure. He believes this mission is critical to the ultimate survival of the human species. Considering how mankind has been consistently annihilating one another since a caveman first created a club to sock it to his romantic rival, the gringa has no trouble at all believing Musk’s worst-case scenario of a natural or man-made disaster destroying life as we know it on Earth and the survivors starting over somewhere else. Why not Mars? Musk’s philosophy can be summed up in this statement, “You back up your hard drive… Maybe we should back up life, too?”

In addition to reusable rocket technology and personnel space ferries, SpaceX is developing “Mars colonial transport architecture” to further advance toward the ultimate goal. The gringa asks, “What the heck is that?”

A critical piece of this architecture is commonly called the BFR rocket (it has a technical name but Musk and the developers refer to it as BFR). Now, the gringa likes to keep things family friendly on these blog posts, but, just so you know, BFR actually stands for Big F*#@ing Rocket. I MEAN IT! No kidding! I love that! Scientists that have a sense of humor are right up the gringa’s alley.

The BFR is a two part rocket, booster rocket + spaceship. The booster is to break through the gravity and atmosphere of Earth. Once free, the spaceship is designed to travel through deep space to Mars. The gravity of Mars is weaker than Earth’s and also has a thinner atmosphere. Because of this the spaceship does not need a rocket booster to blast off from Mars for a return trip home.

In order for Martian colonists to create a self-sustaining environment on the Red Planet, what must be done? The planet has to be terraformed to create a warmer environment that will lead to ice melts so that it becomes a “watery” planet. Then fauna can be introduced that will help to create a breathable atmosphere. Musk considers Mars to be a “fixer-upper”. The gringa likes that term.

Nuclear energy could be used to help warm the planet. By converting technology that has been used to destroy life, the fusion bomb can be repurposed into technology that creates and sustains life (now, the gringa LOVES that!). As tiny pulsing suns at each Martian pole, this technology would create a warming effect without radiation and fallout. Mars would then experience the same benefits Earth has from its proximity to the Sun.

Now, NASA is devoted not only to preserving life on the planet Earth, but any life that may possibly be present throughout the cosmos. It has a Mars directive in place forbidding any mission landing near any area containing the potential for liquid water. That is because of the possibility of the presence of bio-organisms, life, causing cross-contamination, whether those organisms are of Earth and contaminate Mars or vice versa.

The good news, as far as the colonial mission goes, is that NASA’s research has not detected any life present on Mars, even on the microscopic level. So, if it is eventually determined that no life at all exists on Mars, the moral dilemma of invading, contaminating and/or destroying it is resolved and colonization can get the green light. The only life on Mars that might exist that NASA’s current research methods are unable to detect is subterranean microbial life.

So, who would like to give the pioneering life a shot and actually become a MARTIAN?  The gringa says, “Where’s the sign up sheet?”

Now, it’s pretty clear that Musk is the type of personality that is driven. There is very little that seems to get in his way when he has set a goal. His biggest concern regarding achievement of colonizing Mars is the very real reality of war. The Earth has never seen a single day in modern history where there has not been an active war somewhere. War could be the very thing that prevents progress.

War stood in the way of progress in the early 1900’s. It was supposed to be a golden era with no more war. Then, guess what? BAM! World War I started. Then World War II. Then the Cold War. However, the Cold War eventually led to the space race, so progress did come of that mess.

How possible is it, then, for progress toward colonizing Mars be disrupted? Pretty darn possible. So, the gringa says to all the religious zealots and war profiteering warmongers everywhere, “JUST STOP IT! KNOCK IT OFF! WE ARE SICK OF IT!”

Now, I know you must be itching to see just how much more fantastic Musk’s dream can get. Well, just check out his timetable. He is determined for all of this to be accomplished within his lifetime. If Musk gets his way (and he seems very apt at always getting his way) the world could see the first boots on the ground on Mars within the next ten to fifteen years.

In fact, before the end of 2015, or early in 2016, he plans to make a big announcement regarding his Mars-colonization plan. The gringa cannot wait to hear this crazy plan because I’m a crazy gringa who is his biggest fan!

 

Source: www.gq.com

Photo Credit: www.joserojas.org

The “Little Green Men” Star


If you happen to be a writer looking for fodder for a great science fiction story, you may want to delve into NASA reports regarding star KIC 8462852. NASA is fascinated by the strange goings on about this star and bears much resemblance to a pulsar named LGM-1 (Little Green Men). This pulsar emitted strange signals that created a stir within NASA and were ultimately determined to be a natural phenomenon. The strange events involving star KIC 8462852 have yet to solved.

Monitoring this star has been the responsibility of the Kepler mission for the past four years. In 2011, and later in 2013, two significant, and as yet unexplained, events took place. What do scientists really know? They know that the star dimmed because “something” passed in front of it large enough to block its light. The gringa says, “What the heck?”

In September scientists finally reported their theory and findings on what could possibly explain these strange events. They are blaming a “swarm” or “family” of comets. The gringa’s imagination begins whirling and thinks, “Or perhaps a fleet of starships.” Another theory suggests a cluster of planetary fragments and asteroids.

Scientists are using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to probe deeper into this mystery. To learn more, scientists, who first studied the star using observations conducted in visible light, then tried using infrared light. This is because if asteroids were involved and actually impacted the star there will be a whole bunch of infrared light surrounding the star and the dusty old bits of gravel from a pulverized asteroid should be at the perfect temperature to glow like a firefly under infrared wavelengths.  And detecting infrared light is one of things the Spitzer Space Telescope is designed to do.

This year the Spitzer took a gander at star KIC 8462852 while looking at hundreds of thousands of stars in its search for planets. One thing in particular that Spitzer was looking for was infrared emission of space dust that encircled stars. Spitzer didn’t find any of this type of dust around star KIC 8462852 so scientists think the asteroid collision theory can probably be scratched.

So, the gringa wants to know just what their thinking is now. What the scientists seem to be leaning toward is the possibility of a “swarm” of cold comets. For such a theory to work, this cluster of comets would need to have an unusually long orbit around the star. They also call this theoretical comet cluster a “family” because it would require a “pack leader” to explain some of the phenomena. The larger “big daddy” that would be in the lead would have been the one to block the star’s light in 2011. In 2013 the rest of the family would have been passing through in front of the star and blocked the light again in the strange pattern that was recorded.  This would explain why in 2015, when Spitzer observed the star again, there were no infrared signatures. The comet “swarm” was long gone and probably around on the other side of the star in its orbit progression.

The gringa must confess to thinking, “Mm hmm. Scout ship shouts, ‘The coast is clear!’ and the support ships soon set a course for the coordinates.” Oh yes, what an imagination! But please don’t judge the gringa! I just couldn’t help myself when NASA itself goes and names a pulsar something like “Little Green Men-1”.

NASA admits that what is going on with this star is strange and not understood. Their interest is extremely piqued so study and research will continue until the curiosity of these scientists are satisfied. And I ask you, is that not the greatest job ever? For every little kid that has lain on their back in the grass in the dark of the night staring up at the stars and wondering if there really are “little green men” out there, is that not just the coolest job ever to grow up and get to do!

Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov