"Kids to Space" pt. Deux: The Moon Nerd Strikes Back

sayeth guest blogger Ken

It’s here, it’s here, it’s finally here! “Kids to Space” arrived on my doorstep today. What an absolutely beautiful and well-written book. I paid for the special hardcover edition two months ago, and have been on tenterhooks ever since. As noted previously, I did get to see the handbound edition that Apogee Books did for the ISDC, but wasn’t exactly allowed to go pawing through it the way I wanted to, and can with my own copy. (Yes, that’s a rad-hard Gameboy [tm] on the skater’s belt)

Just reading through the first sections I’m astounded, but of course have also found a few things I disagree with. Tourists, hello, does no one remember Helen Sharman? (The Japanese jounalist did it for his job) She basically won a trip to space from a radio advert. She was R&Ding chocolate at Mars Confectionery. The Russians just wanted a British woman to study. Talk about your luck of the draw! I still have seared into my memory the video of her floating through Mir in a bright pink teddy to the strains of Malcolm McLaren’s “Waltz Darling”. And the horrified/bemused look on the cosmonaut’s face. I can’t remember if that was “The Red Stuff”, or “Out of the Present” or the IMAX one…

The basic premise of the book is that thousands of schoolkids ages 3-18 were asked to submit questions about space, and that they did. Some 18,000 were generated, and the editor, Lonnie Schorer, parsed them by general topics, tossing out the dups. And general means general. There are 101 chapters, each averaging somewhere around 3.5 pages with illustrations. They range from ‘Age’ to ‘Hair and Nails’ to ‘Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco” to ‘The Moon’.

I think I had the most disagreement with the Alcoholic Beverages section. It seemed like a bit of a cop-out given the Russian experience, and teenagers are smart enough to recognize thought-shaping versus knowledge-giving (I hope…). Had I known I probably could have hooked them up with Dr. Oleg Atkov, an adjunct professor for the ISU program, and the first medical doctor in space. (That’s one of the cool benefits of ISU – you can tap into a truly global network of people involved in all aspects of space endeavours)

I’m truly pleased with the Moon section. It’s the longest in the book, because it generated the most questions. About 120 final questions, if I recollect correctly. I also happen to be a little verbose, but re-reading my answers I’m very happy with them. I think I generally aimed for the 12-14 year old set, but suitable for older kids as well. Tom Matula, PhD, also contributed a good bit to the answers, and many I left entirely to him since I didn’t want to be piggy about it.

Not to gloat…okay I’m gloating, the Mars section was only 1/5 the length of the Moon section. I saw the opportunity to paint a compelling picture of life on the Moon, and I took it. That I had so much great feedstock in the form of leading questions from the kids, more than for any other section, also helped. Next most popular was Spacecraft (very STS centric. Maybe we should auction off the shuttle, a la Jon’s post below), then Rockets; Space; and Health & Medical, then Clothing; Water; Emergencies; Animals, Fish, Insects & Birds; Space Hotels; Duration and the Sun.

Oops, they did get the footnote wrong on the table for the question ‘What is the Moon made of?‘. It’s actually from “The Pocket Guide to Lunar Mineralogy: How Moon Rocks and Earth Rocks are Related”. Sorry about that Mr. & Mrs. Coleman. [<--Please click to left<--] They also left out the table on Moon measurements that I did for the question 'Have people actually measured the Moon?‘. Probably because it was in metric and they wanted everything in English units, making some of this stuff hard to verify, so it’s easiest just to leave it out. I’ll have to see if I can dig it up and I’ll..ahh, here it is,

Some Moon measurements:

Diameter: 3,476 km
Radius: 1,738 km
Volume: 2.2 x 10^10 km3
Surface Area: 37.9 x 106 km2
Mass: 7.35 x 10^22 kg
Ave. Density: 3.34 g/cm3
Surface Gravity: 1.62 m/sec2
Escape Velocity: 2.38 km/s
Orbital Eccentricity: 0.0549
Ave. Distance from Earth: 384,400 km
(center of mass to center of mass)

Nodical: 27.21222 days
Tropical: 27.32158 days
Sidereal: 27.32166 days
Anomalistic: 27.55455 days
Synodic: 29.53059 days

Mean Albedo: 0.07
Mean visual magnitude: -12.7

-Temperatures at Surface:
Low: -173°C
High: +127°C
Ave. Day: +107°C
Ave. Night: -153°C
Ambient Polar: -40°C

-Atmospheric density:
Night: 200,000 molecules/cm3
Day: 10,000 molecule/cm3

-Mean Inclination of Orbital Plane to
Plane of Ecliptic: 5°9’
Plane of Equator (max): 28°36’
Plane of Equator (min): 18°18’

Ecliptic Inclination of axis of rotation: 1°32’
Maria Area: 17 x 10^6 km2
Maria % of Lunar surface: 17%
Regolith pH: 7.38
Regolith Heat Flow: ~29 mW/m2
Largest Moonquake (Richter scale): 4.8
Angular Momentum: 13.1764°/day
Moment of Inertia: 0.395

I guess you could call this a Selenian Boondocks exclusive, at least until I get around to publishing a full review of the book over at Out of The Cradle. (would have been nice to have had it -before- the Memorial Day weekend…) I have no doubt that it will be as gushy and effusive as my initial impressions here, if only because all of the drawings from the kids are so cool.

Everyone should immediately order one of these for their local school. Then another for the family. This kind of resource is the kind of rare treasure that doesn’t come around very often.

Wow…what an accomplishment, and an amazing team was put together. I can’t wait to read through it.

P.S. I receive zero proceeds from this, other than an author’s copy from Lonnie. I’m saying these things because I believe them, not because I’ll make a buck off of them.

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7 Responses to "Kids to Space" pt. Deux: The Moon Nerd Strikes Back

  1. Ben Reytblat says:

    Hi, Ken,

    My chapter (on costs) ended up only about 2 pages, but what a thrill to see it in the book! I think Lonnie, and all the contributors, and Apogee did a kick-a** job. I felt very privileged to be part of the project.

    ps. it was very nice to meet you at the hospitality party in LA – nice hat 🙂

    See you next year

  2. Marzo says:

    >Dr. Oleg Atkov … the first medical doctor in space.

    What about Dr. Boris Borisovich Yegorov and Voskhod 1?

  3. murphydyne says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live down that hat. I should probably just give in and start wearing it, like to Vegas in July for the space conferences (everyone knows about the SFF one, NewSpace 2006, the other is invite-only for business types). I look forward to seeing you next Memorial Day.

    Good job with your chapter, by the way. You had some tough questions but had great answers, answers that actually addressed the students’ questions, which I’m finding is not always the case. And you got a bold section! There aren’t too many of those, only in those rare cases where Lonnie thought that something really important was said really well. I didn’t get one. 🙁

    I double checked in “Who’s Who in Space” and you are correct, he was the third MD assigned to a cosmonaut crew. He was, however, the first MD to spend more than TWO days in space (uh, like 237), so in my esteem he was the first to -really- practice his trade in space, aboard Salyut 7. I will however qualify all future statements regarding Dr. Atkov accordingly. I will take a moment to state that one should never rely solely on the internet for info. Professionally published books are solid, have a lower error rate, and aren’t likely to 404 Error on you. That’s why I have the Lunar Library.

    Cool, and it turns out he designed a portable ultrasound cardiograph used on Soyuz T-5 (he didn’t tell us about that in class).

    All of which is tangential to the point I was making, which is that if you want to know about the affects of alcohol in space, you go talk to the guys who know about alcohol use in space not the guys for whom it is verbotten.

  4. Sean Lynch says:

    Don’t forget repurchase agreements! The Fed uses repurchase agreements on short term debt as its primary means of affecting Fed balances and hence the money supply. I am not sure if these specific repos were counted in M3, however, but I think it makes more sense than large time deposits and eurodollars being the primary reasons.

    If I were investing in a company and there was no way to see how many shares there were total, I’d be worried. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to know what the Fed is up to if you pay attention. It’s the opposite of what they say they’re up to 🙂

  5. Marzo says:

    Murphydine: yes, I was tangentially nitpicking, and your point re: Ask About It To The Guys Who Do It is sound and sensible.

    But, hey, tangential nitpicking is fun and usually harmless.

    (Tangentially, I knew abot Dr. Yegorov in a book a long time ago; long before the Internet and not so long after the Voskhod 1 flight).

  6. murphydyne says:


    I was just climbing up on one of my favorite hobby-horses: over-reliance by way too many folks on un-verified info from the internet.

    Not that the Encyclopedia Astronautica is an unreliable source of information, but I did uncover errors in the data back during my salad days at ISU when we were researching small sats. Which everyone did almost exclusively on the internet, to my consternation.

    But you’ll probably notice that when I’m verifying a fact it’ll come from a printed source. I guess the assumption is if someone is going to go through the capital expense of actually printing something, then they’ll invest a little bit in making sure the content is correct.

    And on the tangential nit-picking, I’m just a little stressed from work and ISDC 2007 preparations and on-line writing and book reviews and exercise and uncle-ing my nephews and travel and yeeaaaaaaargh!

    (Sound of running footsteps and door slamming in distance. Post terminated…

  7. Anonymous says:

    i understand the bonus cd contains hawkwind’s “space symphony” possibly as the backing track to the slide show, is it good?

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