Monthly Archives: December 2005

Why We’re Going Back to the Moon

Why We’re Going Back to the Moon
By Paul D. Spudis Tuesday, December 27, 2005; Page A25
The recent release of the details of NASA’s proposed plans for human return to the moon in response to President Bush’s “Vision for Space Exploration” last year has drawn much comment — some positive, some negative and some simply perplexed.

Although the reasons for undertaking the program were clearly articulated in the president’s speech, it is important to reexamine why the moon is its cornerstone and what we hope to achieve by returning there.

The moon is important for three reasons:

1. Science
2. Inspiration, and
3. Resources.

All three are directly served by the new lunar return architecture. This program has the potential to make significant contributions to our national economy and welfare.

The moon is a scientific laboratory of extraordinary facility, richness and benefit. The history of our corner of the solar system for the past 4 billion years is preserved and readable in the ancient dust of the lunar surface. This record is lost on the dynamic and ever-changing surface of Earth. Other planets do not record the same events affecting Earth and the moon, including impacts, space particles and the detailed history of our sun. The recovery of this record will let us better understand the impact hazard in the Earth-moon system as well as unravel the processes and evolution of our sun, the major driver of climate and life on Earth.

The moon is a stable platform to observe the universe. Its far side is the only known place in the solar system permanently shielded from Earth’s radio noise. That allows observation of the sky at radio wavelengths never before seen. Every time we open a new spectral window on the universe, we find unexpected and astounding phenomena; there is no reason to expect anything different from the opening of new windows on the universe from the surface of the moon.

The moon is close in space (only three days away) yet a separate world filled with mysteries, landscapes and treasures. By embracing the inspiring and difficult task of living and working there, we can learn how to explore a planetary surface and how the combined efforts of both humans and machines can enable new levels of productive exploration.

In 21st-century America, our existence depends on an educated, technically literate workforce, motivated and schooled in complex scientific disciplines. Tackling the challenges of creating a functioning society off-planet will require not only the best technical knowledge we can muster but also the best imaginations. One cannot develop a creative imagination, the renewable resource of a vibrant society, without confronting and surmounting unknowns and challenges on new frontiers.

Although of fairly ordinary composition, the moon contains the resources of material and energy that we need to survive and operate in space. With its resources and proximity to Earth, the moon is a natural logistics and supply base, an offshore island of useful commodities for use there, in space and ultimately back on Earth.

Water is an extremely valuable commodity in space — in its liquid form, it supports human life, and it can be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen. These elements make the highest-energy chemical rocket propellant known. Water exists in the dark and cold regions near the poles of the moon. Scientists estimate that each pole contains more than 10 billion tons of water, enough to launch a fully fueled space shuttle once a day, every day, for over 39 years. The ability to make fuel on the moon will allow routine access to Earth-moon space, the zone in which all of our space assets reside.

The moon’s slow rotation, unclouded skies and abundant local materials make it possible to build installations specifically designed to harvest solar energy there. Solar power, collected on the moon and beamed to Earth and throughout the space between the two, can provide a clean and reliable energy source not only for space-based applications but ultimately for users on Earth as well. Lunar solar power solves the apparent “showstopper” of other space-based solar power systems — the high cost of getting the solar arrays into space. Instead of launching arrays from the deep gravity well of Earth, we would use the local soil and make hundreds of tons of solar panels on the moon.

Living on the moon will expand the sphere of human and robotic activity in space beyond low-Earth orbit. To become a multiplanet species, we must master the skills of extracting local resources, build our capability to journey and explore in hostile regions, and create new reservoirs of human culture and experience. That long journey begins on the moon — the staging ground, supply station and classroom for our voyage into the universe.

The writer is a lunar scientist and staff member at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Last year he served as a member of President Bush’s Commission on the Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy.

read more digg story

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The "other" Microsoft Zillionare >> Paul Allen

Bill Gates and his wife Melinda are on the cover of Time magazine this week, along with Bono, as persons of the year for their work in helping the world’s poorest people. Gates founded Microsoft with another man who also went on to become a billionaire, and is also a great philanthropist. That guy doesn’t appear very often in Time.

Unlike Gates, whose recognition rating is the equal of a Tiger Woods or a Tom Cruise, this other guy could walk down the street untroubled by autograph hunters. He’s Paul Allen, and he’s worth a cool $US 21 billion ($28.6 billion).

Much of Paul Allen’s philanthropy has been dedicated to health and human services and toward the advancement of science and technology. Through the Foundation, Allen awards nearly $30 million in grants annually.

In 2004, Paul Allen confirmed that he was the sole investor behind Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipOne suborbital commercial spacecraft. SpaceShipOne was the first privately-funded effort to successfully put a civilian in suborbital space and winner of the Ansari X Prize competition.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Netflix wins first round in online DVD rental war

This week, it became evident that Netflix came out on top as a market leader as far as the movie rental industry goes.

Netflix was embroilled in a bitter turf war with longtime Rental Moghul, Blockbuster. This year Blockbuster switched places in market value over the course of an intense, year-long price war, with Netflix — which has no debt — now worth $1.5 billion, compared with Blockbuster at $684 million and more than $1 billion in debt.

This despite the fact that Blockbuster launched an intense year long offensive to specifically target the once small fish, Netflix. This only goes to show you how once market elephants, find it difficult to make the turn around until it is too late… making for spectacular downfalls.

read more digg story

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Google Agrees to Limit Resolution of Israel Satellite Photos

Google, which offers satellite photos of locations across the globe, has agreed to limit the resolution of footage of sensitive military installations and vulnerable sites in Israel.

Google has come under immense pressure from countries like India, Israel and China that have sensetive military installations and are in the midst of a conter insurgency in their respective countries.

Google has held talks with these countries, but has held a firm stand against limiting the resolution of sensitive sites until now. It has become evident that to be a truely global country, Google must be sensetive to global concerns and sometimes get dragged into local/territorial concerns.

read more | digg story

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

BBC NEWS | Technology | Green petite cars tempt tourists

An interesting article in the BBC talks about how the Spaniards are all Goo Goo GaGa over a Gems or “Global Electric Motorcars“. “Each Blobject car comes with a touch-screen computer system mounted in the dash. Through a USB port, you can plug in a flash drive containing information on Cordoba in Spanish, English or French. By using GPS technology, the computer keeps track of exactly where you are in the city.” A peek into our future? I’ll let you decide.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Green petite cars tempt tourists

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized