Monday, 16 November 2009

A Lunar Rainbow

First, about Project "M" :
Project M is a JSC Engineering Directorate led mission to put a lander on the moon with a robot within a 1,000 days starting Jan 1., 2010.
When will Project M begin? Next month? Next year? No, Project M has been “go” since Monday, November 9th.
Why? From Air & Space Smithsonian
Five weeks ago a crater from the LCROSS impact formed on the Moon. The pre-impact build-up had been sensational, but the actual event was largely invisible to observers on Earth. It was a different story on the Moon. The slowly growing impact ejecta curtain threw water ice particles and vapor far out into space. When the crater formed, flying ice particles could have refracted the glare of unfiltered sunlight into an “ice rainbow,” similar to those seen through very high altitude clouds on Earth. For a very brief time, a rainbow might have been visible to an observer standing on the lunar surface. And like its namesake, this rainbow is a promise – a promise that the Moon is habitable. It is an invitation to humanity to extend man’s domain to our nearest planetary neighbor.

The LCROSS science team’s initial analysis of ejected impact plume data found evidence for water. It appears that several other species, particularly some carbon substances also found in the cores of comets, may be present. The new results suggest that some lunar polar volatiles may have their origins from outside the Moon, deposited there over millions of years by the impact of comets and asteroids.
It means that apart from (possibly) a Gamma Burster, we as a species will survive. There is another place, apart from Earth, where we can live. It has the chemicals. It has the (solar) power. We can make subterranean habitats, and apart from any long-term physiological problems due to low gravity, we can live there, grow and expand. Even a low-gravity problem can be solved with centrifuges with slightly canted floors. Ones a kilometer in diameter wouldn't have to spin very fast, and could be built as large underground railways with carriages the size of large rooms on tilted tracks, moving at a constant speed.

(Hmmmm... I wonder if that idea's worth a patent... haven't seen it in any SF literature....)

It means that a dinosaur-killer only has a few centuries at most to get us.


Steve said...

The idea of the large wheel with slightly canted floors as a way to provide gravity for a moon-base appeared at least as early as 1990 -- see e.g. Dirty Pair Biohazards.

Zoe Brain said...

Yes, but what about a train?

I think James P Hogan used the canted floor wheel as well - but by separating rooms and having multiple tracks, it avoids single points of failure, and allows smooth transition via branch lines to lunar gravity.

Laserlight said...

I'm all for a lunar hab, but I'd be happier if we had a reliable way to detect and deal with dinosaur killers. If a 2km rock smacks the North Atlantic, the survival of H. Sapien Luna would be an extremely limited consolation to me.

Lloyd Flack said...

A Gamma ray burster is brief. It will only directly kill life forms on one side of the planet. It will destroy the ozone layer on that side and it will take a while for it to recover. A mass-extinction but unlikely to wipe out our species.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading somewhere that a gamma ray burst might have been responsible for the Ordovician - Silurian extinction. What sort of evidence would a GRB leave behind?

Jamie said...

Considering that we are killing off a planet almost designed to support us, I am not sure I have the same optimism. Oh, and you are missing the main problem of living on the moon... DUST. The lunar dust is highly abrasive, its electrostatic and it gets EVERYWHERE. Apollo astronauts had worn through their boots in about 2 days of EVA. The challenges of any long duration habitation are way more enormous that reversing desertification or replenishing the ocean stocks or detoxifying our air and atmosphere..

Lloyd Flack said...

I've seen the same suggestion. However there are two types of burst, long and short ones with probably different causes. The type of burst suggested as a cause is the long one. However we think we know the cause of this type of burst. It is believed to be a hypernova, a particularly powerful type of supernova. The problem with this occurring near us is that it is believed to only occur in a particular type of star, one which has never existed in our galaxy. The short bursts are believed to be neutron star collisions and are much more likely to occur in our galaxy.

The generally accepted cause of the Ordovician-Silurian Mass extinction is the onset of an Ice age and the consequent sea level fluctuations. I suspect that there were agraving circumstances.

The way that has been suggested of looking for evidence of a burster is to look at the Moon for evedence of uneven exposure to gamma rays.