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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

The “REAL” Martian Story


The recent film, “The Martian”, was a big hit at theatres. One reason it turned out to be one fabulous work of cinematic science fiction was because NASA actually collaborated with the filmmakers. With such expert technical advisement, how could it fail to succeed? The gringa would like to know just how similar the technologies featured in the film parallel actual technologies NASA is developing for the future Mars mission.

One of the technologies in development is a habitation module so astronauts can slip out of their dusty spacesuits and put their feet up for a well deserved break at the end of a long day exploring the Red Planet. The Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) is just the place where this happens. This artificial living habitat is a self-contained environment used for training at the Johnson Space Center in Texas. It simulates what will be the primary living quarters in deep space. Included in the two-story floor plan are workspaces, a bathroom, technically called a “hygiene module”, and an airlock.

Unlike the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), Mars mission astronauts will not enjoy food delivery from Earth on a regular basis. Even a hotshot rocket pilot would need at least nine months for an express delivery service. So, if astronauts want to bite into a delicious red apple or sip a glass of fresh orange juice or munch on a salad of crispy fresh leafy greens, they are going to have to grow their own.

So far, astronauts have proven successful farmers where lettuce is concerned but it’s going to take more than arugula to keep them from getting a case of scurvy.  What is being experimented with on the ISS is a vegetable growing system called “Veggie”. This system grows plants in pillow like structure and small bags that use a wicking material that contains the growing media and fertilizer. After the success of growing “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce, the farming operation has been expanded to include other crops that are important nutrition resources for future astronauts.

Not only will the astronauts need water to drink and use for personal hygiene, but the plants will also need fresh, clean water in order to grow. Although water has been discovered on Mars, there is still as yet no way to access this precious resource. When astronauts arrive, they will need to be supplied with their own water recovery system. Such a system is used on ISS. For years, this system has been tweaked and perfected to the point that not even a teardrop is wasted on ISS. Every drop of water produced in any way is recovered by the Environmental Control and Life Support system and recycled.

Reclaiming and purifying water for re-use sounds pretty simple. I mean, after all, we do it all the time all over the place on Earth. The major difference is gravity. Gases and liquids don’t separate the same way in micro-gravity so rather than use something like a steam distillation purification system or a process that requires gravity to pull unclean water through a filter, a centrifuge is required in space.

Since free-flowing saltwater exists seasonally on Mars, one thought is to construct new technologies for brine water recovery and purification. Water recovery from urine is already successful at separating salts and minerals from pure water on ISS. This technology simply has to be experimented and perfected for use on Mars.

And NASA is not stingy with their technology. Their work extends to vulnerable people all over the world in order to help provide them with clean drinking water. The gringa is proud that NASA considers humanitarian efforts as part of their mission.

Now, in the Mars movie the astronauts carried their oxygen supplies around wherever they went on Mars. Their oxygen supply was created by using carbon dioxide from the fuel generator in the ascent vehicle. In real life, how will astronauts have a regenerative supply of oxygen? We can again look to the ISS to see this technology already successfully in use. Breathable air is continuously made by splitting water molecules. After all H2O is a blend of hydrogen and oxygen. Work is underway to advance the existing technology to recover oxygen from any byproduct that may exist in the atmosphere and collected not only on Mars but also along the journey to Mars.

Now what about Matt Damon’s fashionable spacesuit in sporty orange? How real is that? Well, any astronaut is going to have to wear a protective suit to explore Mars. There is not enough breathable air for them to survive in and the cold would definitely wipe them out pretty quickly. After looking at photos of the Z-2 prototype spacesuit NASA is developing, the gringa is a bit disappointed after the high bar that Hollywood set with the sexy, Matt Damon spacesuit. NASA’s focus is not on a brilliant fashion statement. They are more concerned with creating a functional survival outfit that will remain comfortable to wear even after six or eight hours trekking about the remote wasteland of Mars. The trick is to design a spacesuit from a flexible material that is highly durable. Oh, well, if NASA decides to let the gringa tag along, I will just have to smuggle in my BeDazzler.

And just like the spacesuit let down, the gringa is a bit miffed that the real Mars rover design is not as sporty as depicted by Hollywood. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. Noone in Hollywood has any grip on reality, after all. It’s like living on another planet in that city! Maybe astronauts could spend some time there to practice what first contact will be like when they encounter their first alien species in outer space.

To go where their feet can’t take them, astronauts are going to have to have a vehicle that is sturdy and filled with all sorts of gadgets. The name of such a craft is the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV). The first real space mission this vehicle will be used on will be the upcoming asteroid mission that will precede the actual Mars mission. This little baby is still under development so the gringa doesn’t really have any specifics other than the design has to be extremely versatile in order to be prepared for just about anything that could happen on the Martian landscape.

The Mars journey will be one of the most dangerous undertakings NASA has tackled yet. Because safety is the primary concern, there is no big rush to get there. Zero margin of error is the mission standard. We have accomplished much on ISS that has helped get closer to accomplishing the ultimate goal of landing a crew on the surface of the Red Planet. The next stage of the game is to lasso that damn asteroid and start staging Mars rehearsals. The gringa just can’t believe that this may all happen within her lifetime!

Source & Photo Credit:  www.nasa.gov