but then the Full Moon shone clear and bright
through the clearing clouds.
bad prose by guest blogger Ken
I guess I need to keep New Scientist on my radar a bit more in the future. I was tipped off to the fact that the April 1st issue had a two-article cover feature on “The Moon: A world of opportunity”. Since the local Borders doesn’t restock till Tuesday, there was still the issue from the prior week (Mar 25-31) which featured a cover article entitled “Celestial Express: Ride the subway to Saturn”.
Yup, an article on the Interplanetary Superhighways, and the vital role that Lagrange points play in their functioning. It’s as if someone took the L-1 primer found right here in the Selenian Boondocks and made it way, way better. I even learned a couple of things, such as how it looks as if the Earth and all the inner planets may be at the receiving ends of gravitationally formed funnels originating near Jupiter that may have provided a mechanism for conveying matter into the inner Solar system to help form the rocky planets (and may still put us at risk from Jupiter’s thunderbolts).
I did find the new issue at B&N, and the articles make a reasonable case for the good science to be done on the Moon. The first article, “The Ultimate Lab” notes several of the key features of the Moon, such as vacuum, cryogenic temperatures, constant sunlight, relative stability, and availability of materials for structural elements. The enabled science of a Moonbase would include not only partial gravity experience in human physiology and plant growth for greenhouses, but also radio astronomy (though I would guess there would be a low murmur of reflected Earth-signals from smaller bodies scattered throughout the inner Solar system), and optical astronomy (absence of atmosphere = GREAT resolution). The particular benefits of siting near the south Lunar pole are also explored.
The second article argues that the Moon is a great place to look for fossils. Not of dinosaurs (though that would be nice), but rather of the Earth. We know that pieces of the Moon get knocked loose by impacts and flung to Earth; now we’ve begun to explore what kind of impacts can send pieces of the Earth to the Moon. The hope is to find pieces of the earliest days of Earth, so that we may learn more about her infancy. Pieces from the earliest days are hoped to carry fossil traces of the earliest forms of life to be found on Earth. Sounds like a long shot to me, but I would be interested to find a pre-Solar fossil in an asteroid somewhere, a much longer shot by far.
Capping the triple-play of Moon features today is a cover article in the May 2006 Air & Space entitled “Moon 2.0: The Next Lunar Lander”. Okay, the cover title is “Moon 2.0”, the article is entitled “Son of Apollo”. In it, NASA exploration go-to guy John Connolly (whose NExT [NASA Exploration Team] team was looking at L-points before looking at L-points was cool) leads us through some of the design rationales for the LSAM. Noted are some of the frivolities that the Apollo guys didn’t have, like an airlock, a portable potty, or maybe large windows. Personally, I’d still like to see more of a sense of reusability in them, but I don’t get to design NASA’s solutions to their mandates.
Also included in this month’s Air & Space are articles on the shuttle tiles and an orbiter docking at the ISS.
For Francophone Aresphiles out there Espace Magazine just did a special “On the surface of Mars” (Ã la surface de Mars). Lots and lots of luscious photographs, some basic technical-type drawings, a photo of the Spirit & Opportunity team (where’re the youngsters?). 98 pages all told. I’d have to say that Espace is one of the best monthly general space magazines around, irrespective of whether it’s in French.
So go out, buy copies to share with friends, leave in the office or the bus station, where have you. Do your part to help spread the knowledge of real space right now!