Getting to Know Our Neighbors – WIF Solar System Perspective

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Fascinating Mysteries

of the Planet Mars

For being one of the closest objects to us celestially, we still know about as much about the planet Mars as we do the depths of the ocean. Which is to say, not a lot. The things we’ve seen in pop culture about Mars makes us conjure a red, dusty planet where Matt Damon grows poop potatoes. But there’s more to Mars than that.

Mars is the second smallest planet in the solar system (with only about 10 percent of Earth’s mass), yet Earth and Mars have about the same amount of actual land. Mars also has the tallest mountain in the entire known solar system. Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, will be torn from the planet’s orbit one day, creating a ring that will last hundreds of millions of years. Those are some really cool things that we know about the planet. But there still remain many Martian mysteries that we haven’t quite figured out yet.

10. Mars has two drastically different hemispheres

The northern and southern hemispheres of Earth may have different kinds of topography, but they’re relatively similar. Mars, on the other hand, has a much lower and flatter northern hemisphere, while the southern hemisphere has an average elevation that’s about 3 miles higher. That’s a pretty drastic difference, geologically speaking, and no other planet we know of exhibits such a trait.

Scientists once thought that a huge asteroid could have crashed into the top half of Mars early in its life, making a much flatter northern hemisphere. Later computer simulations rendered that theory less than ideal, unless the asteroid only glanced against the planet. Like a big, rocky kiss that flattened part of Mars. Newer theories suggest that the resulting magma flow from such a cosmic punch would have inundated the southern hemisphere, creating the resulting terrain elevation difference.

9. Mars has a lot of methane (usually produced by living things)

We humans normally come across a slight knowledge of methane amounts from jokes about cow farts. And that’s part of it. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to the rising warmth of Earth. It’s trapped in our atmosphere and causes the temperature of our planet to rise even more than carbon dioxide does.

Mars, curiously, has a lot of methane too. But here’s the kicker: methane is usually released by living things. At least for the most part. So why is a planet that we’ve never discovered life on releasing a bio-signature? Well, we don’t know yet. It could have been trapped under ice for ages, or caused by a release from ancient microbes on the planet, or even from a freak chemical reaction. We do know that a plume of methane was detected by spacecraft in Mars’ orbit more than once, which is notable because the gas is finicky to pick up, especially in such a thin atmosphere that the planet possesses.

8. Mars has signs of water, but it can’t be from the surface

The discovery of ice near the poles of Mars sent ripples throughout the scientific community in 2008. If there’s ice, that means there’s water, and if there’s water, that means there could be life, right? Well slow down there, Andretti, because there’s a lot more going on here.

Yes, there have been more and more spottings of icy polar caps and frost-filled craters. And that’s really cool. But what if we told you there was a subterranean lake of standing water on Mars? It shouldn’t be possible. Liquids at that depth from the surface should have a temperature of -68 degrees Celsius. Orbiting satellites have yet to get a visual on this “lake,” but that could be hard since, you know, it’s underground. And of course a portion of the science community is using this to prove that life on Mars is an indisputable truth. It is pretty tempting, especially if you think back to how and where we humans began.

7. Can we live on Mars?

This one seems pretty straightforward. It would be a hard no, correct? At least with the technological capabilities we have currently? And the atmosphere is way different than Earth’s, so we couldn’t just walk around like we do in everyday life.

Yet in direct defiance of all things holy and sane, NASA is determined to get the ball rolling on human colonization of Mars. By 2030, they think they’ll get feet on the red planet. Radiation is an obvious concern if we were to ever set up shop there, so underground shelters would be a requisite. We can’t grow food in the soil. Like, at all. But, humans had to start from scratch here on Earth, so we would likely at some point find a way to use Mars’ alien resources to develop new methods of survival. There really isn’t a way to know how we could fare on Mars, long-term, until the first people reach the planet.

6. Why did Mars totally change its climate?

One billion years, in the grand scheme of the universe, isn’t much at all. Four billion years ago, judging from the vast veins of old waterbeds on Mars’ surface, water flowed all over the planet. Since we know that Mars is about four and a half billion years old, science can say with some certainty that the red, dusty planet we think of now actually used to be quite moist.

Then somewhere along the way in the next few billion years, something happened. The atmosphere of Mars starting disappearing. The sun reached the next stages in the life cycle of a star and became hotter. So how did the red planet continue to have water in a place in the universe where the sun should have evaporated it all? Scientists have a pretty cool-sounding theory that maybe Mars was in orbit much closer to the sun, closer to Venus, and then began trailing behind like a C student, eventually ending up where it presently resides. It’s also about the best answer we currently have, because we don’t even really know why Earth has water.

5. We don’t know much about Mars’ two moons

For being as close as it is to Earth, we know very little about Mars, and even less about Mars’ two weird moons, Phobos and Deimos. Some think they may have possibly been asteroids that were snagged into orbit by Mars, but the problem with that theory is that the shapes and angles of the moons don’t necessarily fit that scenario. More likely, something struck Marshard, and flung the eventual moons out into orbit.

While we’re in the realm of the weird, there are some formations on Phobos that would give conspiracy theorists night sweats. There’s what seems to be a large rectangular monolith on Phobos, standing over 90 meters tall. While it’s likely just an abnormal chunk of Martian rock, it’s still pretty notable.

4. What caused the bright white light in a 2019 photo?

When you are in charge of receiving photos of Mars from a rover light years away, you might be taken aback when you see a picture with a bright white spot where there shouldn’t be one. An image taken in June 2019 by the Curiosity rover showed a weird white glow emanating in the distance behind some hills.

Aliens were the immediate explanation by non-scientists, as you would expect. But it was most likely a lens flare or a cosmic ray, and NASA admittedly has captured tons of these things. The white anomaly doesn’t show up in pictures taken immediately before or after the event, and the team that created the Curiosity’s camera system says that they come across oodles of pictures with bright spots every week. Still, can they prove it was a lens flare? That seems exactly like something aliens would say to throw us off.

3. What lines the dry ice pits at Mars’ poles?

We mentioned before that the poles of Mars contain some known deposits of ice, which means liquid, which means potential for life. We also know that near the southern pole is a sub-glacial lake, the first known stable body of water we’ve found on the planet. What’s really interesting about those polar caps is that nearby there are some pits of dry ice that are lined with … well, we don’t really know.

There is some kind of dust that lines these gorgeous pits. They’re huge, some of them two hundred feet across. There is a possibility that the dust they’re lined with what could be gold, but we still don’t know for sure.

2. How do Mars’ giant dust storms happen?

Dust-Storm-On-Mars

The thin, brittle atmosphere on Mars is absolutely perfect for some truly epic dust storms that can shoot particles at speeds of over 60 MPH and, in some cases, cover the entire planet for weeks at a time.

Thing is, those planetary-scale dust storms still hold a lot of mystery in them. We think that they may be the largest dust storms in the solar system, and since the planet is essentially a desert, it doesn’t take much to get them rolling. And while science is pretty sure that sunshine is the catalyst, they aren’t too sure how they get to become so massive. One theory thinks that the dust particles are warmed by the sunlight, which then warm the thin atmosphere, causing more wind, and thus capturing more particles in a repeating cycle. We, of course, still say aliens.

1. Did Earth life come from Mars?

Bear with us here, because we’re about to get weird. So, perhaps you’re already passingly familiar with the basic theories of how life began: Big Bang, primordial ooze, etc. Well, early on in Earth’s history, the building blocks of life were pretty much non-existent. Remember how we mentioned that early Mars could have been a quintessential Goldilocks planet? What if the essentials for life came from outer space, survived the trip on a meteorite, for example, and arrived on Earth and evolved there? It’s something science is highly considering.

It’s called panspermia, and it suggests life arrived on our home planet in the form of spores. So basically, life may have arrived on Earth, not started on Earth. The primordial soup version of life-building holds some water, sure, but it’s that exact water that almost kills RNA (a fundamental part of genetics) in its tracks. Minerals like boron and molybdenum give life to RNA, and those were plentiful on Mars four billion years ago. So when we talk about aliens on Mars, we’re probably just referring to our last universal common ancestor.


Getting to Know Our Closest Neighbor –

WIF Solar System Perspective

Moon Over Mankind – WIF Space

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Fascinating Facts

About

Our Moon

Ever since man looked up at the stars, he has been fascinated by the big round white hunk of rock that hangs in the sky above us. The Moon has featured in religious beliefs and in the lore of countless cultures and societies. Due to human curiosity, we set out to understand the Moon further, and what we have learned is sometimes even more interesting than the legends themselves. Join us below as we explore our Moon and revel in its glory.

10. Helium 3

mining-helium-3

Many people, upon hearing that countries still plan to return to the Moon, often wonder why. Some people don’t really think much of a big hunk of dull rock that isn’t even made of cheese. However, the Moon has something much more valuable than stale Gouda underneath the surface. Enter Helium 3, a lightweight isotope that could single-handedly fix our energy problems. Helium 3 can be used in nuclear fusion sans the radioactivity, making it a way safer process. This isotope has already been tested, and has been found to be incredibly efficient. While mining it would be extremely expensive, the costs would be well worth the gain. Imagine a future with safe, affordable, clean energy for the entire world.

9. Water

Bullialdus-RGB

These days, scientists are on a roll finding all kinds of cool new things, and the Moon has been no exception. While many people would suggest all kinds of strange things that could be on the Moon, such as extraterrestrial beings or maybe all of those socks that you lose in the washing machine, what scientists actually found is much more surprising. Using remote imaging, scientists scanned the crater Bullialdus near the equator of the Moon, and found water molecules locked in the rocks deep below the surface. Found beneath the surface, it is referred to as magmatic water and is thought by scientists to have originated due to solar wind that impacted on the surface of the Moon.

8. Preserved Footprints

moon-footprint

As you know, our Moon doesn’t really have much in the way of an atmosphere, but what you may not realize is that this has some very interesting implications. Namely, things don’t erode very easily, so the footprints left by US astronauts in the ’60s and ’70s are still preserved, and should be for a long time. This unique situation has given a brand new thing for people to worry about, and US lawmakers spent time that they were getting paid for in an attempt to legislate the issue. You see, some people are worried that, with commercial organizations getting into space flight and other countries working towards landing on the Moon, that we needed to make sure no one messes with our historical imprint. For this reason, lawmakers tried to pass a bill making the Moon landing site a national park. This failed, though NASA has asked people to at least attempt to respect the original lunar landing site, should they somehow end up there.

7. Spaceship Moon Theory

secret-moon-base

It’s a God! It’s a huge hunk of cheese in the sky! It’s … an alien spaceship? The Moon has been the victim of many strange origin stories over the years. Many have been convinced that the Moon is some sort of God that needs to be worshiped, and some people actually think it is made of cheese. However, perhaps the oddest theory is that the Moon is the remains of an alien spaceship left orbiting earth. The theory starts with the supposition that aliens have been seen on the surface of the Moon. At one point, the United States even experimented with remote viewing, although they decided it was pure rubbish.

But it gets weirder. Those who subscribe to the theory claim that the Moon’s deposits of rocks such as chromium, titanium and zirconium were actually because they were strong building materials for the alien’s enormous spaceship. Those who believe this claim that the Moon’s surface is actually armor plating and was used to protect from meteorite impacts, although they believe the Moon has been abandoned for some time.

6. Moonquakes

moonquake

Over forty years ago while visiting the Moon, astronauts left seismometers that sent data back to the scientists waiting on good old terra firma for results. These seismometers were left active for over a decade and now many years later a professor from Notre Dame and his team set to work once again looking at the data.

What they found is that the Moon has earthquakes or “moonquakes” as it were. Apparently there are several different kinds of quakes that can happen on the Moon. The first are hundreds of miles below the surface, some are simply vibrations set off by meteorites striking the surface. Still others are simply due to thermal expansion. and then there are the shallow moonquakes, the ones that, according to the scientists, we need to watch out for. These are only tens of miles below the surface and can reach a 5.5 on the Richter scale. However, quakes on the Moon have some features that differ from ours and make them more intense. Many of these shallow moonquakes went on for a good ten minutes, and the researcher in charge said the Moon was “ringing like a bell”. Learning more about these quakes is very important if any country is ever to set up a base on the Moon.

5. The Man in the Moon

man-in-the-moon

Long ago before all of our precious modern technology, man looked up at the Moon and wondered about it. For one thing, what was that strange outline that looked like a man on its surface? Wanting to explain the strange shape, people made up many different stories about the Man in the Moon. While these stories have different variations they usually feature a man who was banished to the Moon as punishment for working on the Sabbath and some versions include a woman who was punished with him for a similar crime. However, some legends suggest the man was actually Cain, exiled to our lonely Moon as punishment because his offering was not pleasing to God.

4. Moon Base

Lunar-base

Suggesting that NASA will build a base on the Moon has turned into almost something of a joke in the United States. NASA keeps talking about it and people keep making plans or claiming it is going to happen, and it just never quite gets off the ground. However, while the United States may have been the first to land on the Moon, they may not be the first to establish a permanent base. Supposedly, the Russians plan to head to the Moon with some cosmonauts in 2025, and hope to have a base established a few years later, but they have the countries of Japan, China, and India close on their heels. China especially has ambitious plans of their own and has come up with advanced concepts for their own plans to establish a fully-working base on the Moon by the year 2050.

3. Blue Moon

blue-moon

You’ve probably at some point in your life heard the expression “once in a Blue Moon” and thus know it means something that doesn’t happen very often. However, interestingly there is some confusion as to how not often a Blue Moon actually occurs. Some people are under the impression that it is when two Full Moons happen in the same exact month, but this isn’t accurate. Essentially, a Blue Moon is when a particular season has four Full Moons instead of only three.

Much more interesting though, is that under certain circumstances the Moon can truly appear blue to the naked eye. According to scientists, volcanic eruptions can cause huge plumes of ash to spread out over the atmosphere and scatter red light particles. Particularly strong eruptions such as the volcano Krakatoa caused people to see blue Moons and lavender suns for literally years. According to some people as recently as the 1980’s, after the Mt. St. Helen’s eruption a Blue Moon was visible in some parts of the world.

2. Outer Space Treaty

space-treaty

We mentioned earlier that one lawmaker tried to have the lunar landing site made into a national park, but it turns out that there is a really good reason why his legislation failed. It may not be obvious to those outside the US at first, but the Moon is not actually our property. The Moon orbits the Earth, and is not claimed in particular by any one group of people.

This presents a unique problem when it comes to colonizing, mining from, or even landing on the Moon. Many years back, during the Cold War, some people were afraid the Moon might end up a serious point of contention, perhaps even used as a military base or a place to launch missiles. After much diplomatic back-and-forth, a treaty was finally agreed upon that essentially makes the Moon international territory, from which no one is allowed to conduct any military operations.

1. Dark Side of the Moon

dark-side-of-the-moon

You’ve probably heard the phrase “dark side of the Moon” before; after all, it was one of Pink Floyd’s most well known albums. What you might not realize though, is that the phrase actually doesn’t make any sense. You see, the Moon is mysterious and has a whole secret life we know nothing about, and by that we mean there is a half of the Moon we never see. However, while the Moon only shows one side to us, it still shows both sides to the Sun, and the “dark side” gets plenty of light. Interestingly, if you take this the other way around, it means that if you looked at the Earth from the surface of the Moon, you would end up with the same effect. The Earth would continue to show you the same side, and remain in the same place in the sky every single day.


Moon Over Mankind –

WIF Space

Blastoffs, Landings, Moonwalks and You – WIF Space Travel

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Unusual Aspects

of NASA’s

Apollo Missions

In July 1969 – five decades ago, and just eight years after President Kennedy challenged the United States to land a man on the moon – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin accomplished the task to international fanfare. They were of course just the tip of the sword. The lunar landings were a massive accomplishment, supported by an international network of communication stations and strategically located ships. It had required advances in the preparation of food and the disposal of waste; the exact determination of contingencies beyond the ken or caring of most of humanity. It was a scientifically determined exercise which required, at the end, the courage of three men strapped atop what was essentially an enormous bomb. At the time, only a few unmanned vehicles had been dispatched to the moon, and more than a few had failed spectacularly.

Scientists, engineers, mathematicians, cooks, tailors, technicians, administrators, politicians, and virtually every discipline known to humanity had contributed to the effort, striving to consider in advance every potential contingency and have in place the means to deal successfully with whatever event may arise. Fifty years later much of their efforts can be viewed as nearly quaint, particularly when one compares the computing power of one’s smartphone with that of the Lunar Excursion Module, which carried Armstrong and Aldrin to the surface of the moon and returned them to rendezvous with their colleague, Michael Collins, in lunar orbit. As with all of humanity’s great leaps forward, there are many aspects little remembered, but which were a part of the event and the community which accomplished it. Here are just a few.

10. NASA took steps to protect the Earth from moon germs, but they weren’t foolproof

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the only two men of Apollo 11 to walk on the moon, but upon their return to the mission’s Command Module they were reunited with fellow astronaut Michael Collins. Thus it was determined by whomever determined such things that all three astronauts could have been exposed to unknown microorganisms while on their journey, and that it was a wise precaution to isolate the three astronauts from the rest of the human race upon their return to earth, at least for a short time. Accordingly NASA constructed a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) to house the three upon their return, and it was waiting for them aboard USS Hornet. It was, essentially, an Airstream trailer which had been properly modified. Since they had made contact with other humans as part of exiting the spacecraft floating merrily in the Pacific, those potentially contaminated worthies joined them in the trailer.

Within the confines of the Airstream – which was actually built by Airstream – the three astronauts were seen via television chatting with American president Richard Nixon. What the public did not see was that the astronauts, and those recovery personnel isolated with them, were doing what many vacationers did when temporarily residing in their Airstreams. They were enjoying martinis. Perhaps it was the alcohol which stymied lunar pathogens, or perhaps it was a bit of over-caution on the part of NASA officials, but after three weeks the quarantined men were allowed to return to the life of the living, having exhibited no ill effects caused by moon germs (Not all the time was spent in the Airstream. They were transferred to a larger isolation facility after being flown to Houston). After Apollo 14 (the Apollo 13 astronauts were not quarantined, having never reached the moon) isolating the astronauts upon return was deemed to be unnecessary.

9. A piece from the Wright Brothers’ airplane was carried to the moon by Neil Armstrong

Humanity first achieved powered heavier than air flight in December 1903, when Wilbur and Orville Wright launched their Flyer into the air at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Less than 66 years later the first men walked upon the surface of the moon. Millions of people who were alive when the first flight was accomplished were still alive to see men on the moon. Neil Armstrong, like the Wrights, was an Ohioan, and it was his decision to take to the moon with him a tribute to the men who had not only achieved the first flight, but had developed the principles of control which still determine the ability to fly. To do so he enlisted the help of the Museum of the United States Air Force, also located in Ohio, and obtained pieces of the Wright Flyer, one of muslin fabric from the left wing of the aircraft, the other a piece of wood from the left propeller.

Armstrong took advantage of an authorized piece of equipment carried by the astronauts known as the PPK – NASA speak for the Personal Preference Kit. Basically it was a purse, made of Teflon coated fabric, and roughly the size of a standard lunch box. The space travelers were limited to five pounds or less of personal items, which they were allowed to carry to the moon and back. Although no one knows for certain what else Armstrong took with him to the moon (there has been speculation that personal items which had belonged to his late daughter were carried) the pieces of the Flyer which went to the moon were brought back with him. Both the swatch of fabric and the piece of wood are in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington today, having been, like a man, taken to the moon and returned safely to earth by the end of the decade, as President Kennedy had challenged.

8. The Apollo Program missions were a massive undertaking in terms of workers

It is difficult to accurately estimate the number of people who directly supported the Apollo program and its accomplishment of landing Americans on the moon. Earlier programs, from which some workers had already retired, were essential to the success of Apollo, though they are not usually counted. By the time of the launch of Apollo 11 in July 1969, NASA had already been subjected to cutbacks in other programs. The United States military also provided active duty personnel, particularly the US Navy, whose ships provided the recovery vessels for retrieving returning astronauts and their spacecraft. Other military organizations used the Apollo missions (and other space missions) to hone their missile tracking skills as part of their continuous training towards stymieing the Soviets during the ongoing Cold War. So a true number is somewhat difficult to pin down when counting those who made Apollo a success.

At least 400,000 men and women were directly involved in the successful landing on the moon. Whether this number considers those who were tangentially involved – such as those who prepared the recipe for a space dinner – is debated. Regardless, the effort was truly a national one, involving contractors and subcontractors from virtually every American state. President Kennedy had exhorted “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal” and the nation responded in a manner not seen since the industrial buildup during the Second World War, and unfortunately, not seen since. Each Apollo space mission, including all of the components of the boosters and the Apollo system itself, comprised over 5.5 million individual parts, any of which could have led to a catastrophic failure and the loss of the lives of the three men which rode the system into space.

7. Astronauts returning from the moon signed customs forms asserting items to declare

When Apollo 11 returned from the moon – in the form of the three astronauts and the Command Module, the rest of the equipment remained in space or on the moon – the astronauts were treated to the trappings common to heroes in American tradition. They were visited by the President of the United States. They were interviewed by the press, radio, and television. They were given ticker tape parades and the keys to the city by American towns. Streets were renamed in their honor. Later so were schools, parks, museums, highways, and other sites. But before enjoying any of the perks derived from their mission, they were subjected to the bureaucratic nonsense which is all too often part of modern life (after their period of isolation in the Airstream, that is).

The first men to return from the moon returned to US territory via the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. From there they were flown, ensconced in their Airstream, to Honolulu, then Houston, where they entered the more spacious isolation facility. While in Honolulu they filed forms claiming that they were re-entering the United States with items to declare to customs. The items were dust and rocks collected from the lunar surface. They also had to state, as all international travelers do, their travel itinerary, and they described it as being from Cape Kennedy to Honolulu, with a stopover on the moon. All three astronauts signed the form, declaring it to be “complete, exact, and true” as if they could have possibly deviated, having just completed what was the most closely monitored trip of all time.

6. The Apollo 11 astronauts were among the most closely watched television personnel in history

Apollo 11 provided some of the most dramatic television scenes in history, presented by the astronauts themselves as they continued on their journey, and emphasized by network personnel hosting the broadcasts. Walter Cronkite – an unabashed fan of the American space program – spent hours explaining events as the mission wound on, and his competitors at the other networks did the same. Regularly scheduled television broadcasts were bumped to allow events from space to be viewed by the American public (who were paying for them through their taxes) as well as by the rest of the world. When Neil Armstrong stepped down the ladder of the Lunar Excursion Module, named Eagle by the astronauts, it was seen live on television. So were his early steps on the moon, undoubtedly the most dramatic footage yet created.

It should be no surprise then, to learn that a broadcast prepared by NASA and the astronauts engaged on a space mission should be the recipient of an Emmy award. But it went to the astronauts of an earlier Apollo mission, Apollo 7 in October 1968. Apollo 7 never left earth orbit as the astronauts went on an eleven day mission which tested the components of the program’s Command Module. Astronauts Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham were awarded a special Emmy award that year for their nightly broadcasts of what came to be known as the “Wally, Walt, and Donn Show,” during which they demonstrated eating in space and other daily evolutions. Later Schirra revealed that he had wanted to televise astronauts using the relief tube to answer the call of nature while in orbit, but his bosses in Houston demurred.

5. When astronauts needed clothes that moved with them, a bra manufacturer came to the rescue

As early as 1962 NASA was evaluating and testing spacesuits to be worn by the Apollo astronauts, cognizant of the fact that unlike suits to be worn only within the confines of a space capsule, the Apollo astronauts would require better range of motion and comfort. Of particular concern were the suits to be worn by the astronauts on the surface of the moon. Two companies led the bidding process to produce the Apollo suits, International Latex Corporation and Hamilton Standard. Hamilton tried to muscle ILC out of the process, but Hamilton’s spacesuits failed to make the grade required by NASA, with a great deal of the criticism coming from the astronauts themselves (the astronauts were heavily involved in all aspects of crew comfort and safety throughout the manned space program). ILC became the lead developer and manufacturer of space suits, a position it retains in the 21st century.

ILC is better known by its current name, Playtex. In 1962 it was a subsidiary of Playtex, known primarily as a manufacturer of two types of women’s undergarments, brassieres and girdles. Although girdles are all but unknown in current women’s fashions, in 1962 they were still considered a foundation (ahem) of the lingerie industry. The suit produced for the Apollo astronauts weighed just over 100 pounds minus the astronaut, and when the latter and his support pack were included the total was around 500 pounds, depending of course on the weight of the astronaut. It is a little known fact that at the same time the women’s lib movement was beginning to exhort their sisters to burn their bras, a suit designed and made by a bra manufacturer was preventing astronauts from being burned up in space. By the way, as of 2019, Playtex no longer manufactures girdles, preferring to concentrate on something called shaping wear.

4. Some of the astronauts carried contraband to the moon

America’s astronauts had an established history of smuggling unauthorized objects into space with them, to the everlasting frustration of their earthbound bosses. John Young once flew into space (Gemini 3) taking along a corned beef sandwich, mostly as a joke on his traveling companion, Gus Grissom. Both astronauts took bites from the sandwich before concerns over errant crumbs forced Young to return it to his pocket. The incident drew debate in the House of Representatives and other political posturing and drew Young a reprimand, though according to Young it was neither the first nor the last sandwich to be smuggled into space by astronauts less than enthralled with the NASA prepared official cuisine available. Alan Shephard took smuggling contraband a step further. He took along a golf club on his journey to the moon.

Specifically, he took the head of a six iron, specially modified by an accomplice (a Houston golf pro named Jack Harden) to fit an authorized piece of equipment to serve as a shaft. In the manner of golfers everywhere, Shephard also smuggled along golf balls with great secrecy, enabling him to play while his spouse thought him at work. While on the lunar surface, Shephard took out club and balls, and became the only man to hit a golf ball (thus far) while standing on the moon. According to Shephard, he shanked the first shot. On his mulligan he hit the ball “flush and it went at least 200 yards”, nice distance for a one-handed shot while wrapped in an over one-hundred pound Playtex space suit. The United States Golf Association Museum in New Jersey has the modified six iron, donated to it by Shephard at the suggestion of Bing Crosby. The balls still lie on the surface of the moon. Shephard never revealed to the world what brand they are.

3. Communion has been taken, but not served, on the surface of the moon

The second man to set foot on the surface of the moon was Edwin E. Aldrin, known to his fellow astronauts as Buzz. Aldrin was, in addition to being a veteran combat pilot (he flew 66 missions in Korea, shooting down two enemy planes), the first astronaut to hold a PhD (Astronautics, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and a veteran of walking in space, an Elder at Webster Presbyterian Church. While on the surface of the moon and while awaiting his commander’s first steps on the lunar surface, Aldrin took communion, an event witnessed by a respectful Neil Armstrong, who did not participate. Aldrin took communion in the form of both water and wine, with the foreknowledge of mission controllers on the ground. The event was kept from the media at the time, since NASA was already involved in a lawsuit regarding the astronauts having read from the Bible during the mission of Apollo 8 on Christmas Eve, 1968, an event broadcast to the earth on television.

Aldrin used a communion kit which had been presented to him by the pastor of his church. He poured the communion wine into a vessel and reported on the qualities it displayed in the severely lower gravity as a matter of scientific observation. Many years later (in 2009) Aldrin reflected that had he the opportunity to repeat his act, he would not do so, since the rite was a Christian one and thus not reflective of the mission’s self-stated intent to be for “all mankind.” There are other examples of astronauts taking part in religious rites while deployed in space, particularly on the space shuttle missions and while serving aboard the International Space Station, but Aldrin’s communion is the only such act to have been performed on the surface of the moon.

2. Humanity has left tons of trash and refuse on the surface of the moon

For the most part, the moon and Las Vegas have in common that what happens there stays there. There have been six manned moon missions, all completed by the United States. Twelve men, all Americans, have trod upon the lunar source. No man has ever gone back. Nearly all of the equipment taken to the moon by the missions was left behind. In return for the soil samples and rocks which Americans took from the lunar surface, left behind have been cameras, flags, shovels and other small tools, the bases of the six lunar modules, lunar rover excursion vehicles (yes, there are abandoned cars on the moon), and a host of other detritus. At least one bird feather remains there (falcon) and a hammer. The two items were used in an experiment mirroring those of Galileo, and then left to lay.

The Apollo missions aren’t the only source of man-made detritus on the moon, many unmanned space missions which reached the moon are of course still there, some of them Soviet property, making America not the only earthbound nation to litter the moon. Most estimates are that there are upwards of 400,000 tons of earth-made trash lying around,waiting for the next lunar explorer to encounter. In fact there is so much trash on the moon that missions to recover some of it have been proposed, as a means of studying the long term impacts of radiation and the lunar environment on man-made materials. The NASA History Program Office maintains an inventory of items known to have been abandoned or lost on the moon, visible online. Among the items listed is a Gold Olive Branch (sic) and just a bit lower on the same page, a Defecation Collection Device.

1. Armstrong and Aldrin both claimed that they could smell the lunar surface

Beginning with Armstrong and Aldrin, and confirmed by subsequent lunar explorers (unanimously) the surface of the moon had, or has, a unique but readily noticeable smell. First noticed by the Apollo 11 astronauts at the end of their first stroll around Tranquility Base (as they named the landing site in July 1969), it remained a subject of discussion among the small fraternity of men who have seen the earth while standing on the moon. The astronauts all noticed the smell upon re-pressurizing the cabin of the lunar module, allowing them to remove their helmets. Dust and other residue present on their boots, suits, and gloves gave off the smell, which several likened to gunpowder. Spent gunpowder. An interesting phenomena is that the smell is not detected emanating from lunar samples examined back on earth. It was only present in the lunar module, shortly after completion of re-pressurization.

While all of the astronauts who walked on the moon agreed on the existence of the smell and its similarity to the odor of gunpowder, none have ever agreed to explanations of what the smell was, or why it was not replicated when examining samples on earth. But the smell was bothersome at the time, as some scientists believed that lunar dust collected by the astronauts could spontaneously combust when exposed to oxygen, a worry not lost on Armstrong and Aldrin. Armstrong collected a handful of dust while on the moon, depositing it in a pocket rather than a sample bag, and placed it on a flat surface while the LEM was re-pressurized for the first time, ready to act should the sample begin to smolder. It did not, and the two astronauts returned to earth. The strange smell of the moon is a mystery which began, rather than ended, with man’s first trip to the moon.


Blastoffs, Landings, Moonwalks and You –

WIF Space Travel

Great Mischief in the Great Expanse – WIF Space

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Most

Terrifying Places

in

the Known Universe

Like Great Cthulhu, who lies dead and dreaming in the sunken city of R’lyeh, or the nuclear chaos–the blind idiot god–Azathoth, in HP Lovecraft’s stories and other cosmic horror stories, the universe is home to planets and celestial objects that defy our expectations and exhibit truly horrific environments–where humankind was surely never meant to voyage.

10. Trappist-1

Imagine that you stand on the surface of an alien world, where the sky burns dark and crimson, oceans of magma stretch from horizon to horizon and volcanoes constantly resurface the planet. A red globe of light rises slowly above the horizon, but unlike Earth’s star, it barely provides any light at all. Five other worlds appear as moons, forever drifting in the dark, threatening one another in their eternal celestial dance. Brilliant auroras fill the sky, burning and caressing the atmosphere, irradiating the surface and anything that dares to draw breath.

The Trappist-1 system may be the best hope for finding an Earth-like planet yet, with each of its seven planets being very Earth-like. Scientists think that many, if not all, have some sort of atmosphere and feature liquid water.

But—there’s always a but, isn’t there?—it may also be terribly inhospitable.

So far, evidence suggests that these worlds orbit their parent star peacefully. But, if our system is any indication, orbits are rarely static. Earth itself has at times exhibited a more elliptical orbit (which has been used as a possible explanation for our many ice ages).

A bigger threat to emerging life and habitability in the Trappist-1 system, however, may be a process called magnetic induction, causing many of the innermost worlds (even those in the habitable zone) to have oceans of flowing magma (like Io, which orbits Jupiter).

There is also the fact that super-cool dwarf stars like Trappist-1 are extremely active. They flare more than our star does, and this could prove to be particularly dangerous for the planets that orbit at such close proximity.

Trappist-1 is also a very dim star. Super cool dwarfs don’t emit much visible light, so processes like photosynthesis may be impossible. So, we can probably rule out rich vegetation.

9. Wasp-12b Exoplanet

A black shape transits across the surface of a star not unlike our own. It glows with an eerie iron red halo as its parent star devours it, the tidal forces squishing it and inflating the atmosphere until it’s nearly the size of Jupiter.

Welcome to WASP-12b. Deep in the Auriga constellation. Where the tidal forces of its dwarf star parent are so great, they stretch the planet into the shape of a football, and diamond is as abundant as limestone is on Earth. Despite how close the planet is to its star, it emits almost no light, making it one of the darkest exoplanets ever discovered.

But it won’t be around for long, because its host star is devouring it.

8. PSO J318.5-22

In the depths of interstellar space, a lone rogue burns on through the darkness. From within its raging dust clouds, there is no star in the ever-night sky. But, even with no star to warm its skies, somehow, its temperatures rage on into the 800s, and it rains rocky debris and pure iron.

PSO J318.5-22 is a rogue planet, a lonely, wandering jovian class world with no star to call its home. It exists some 80 light years away in the constellation capricornus. The planet is thought to be six times larger than Jupiter, and, surprisingly warm for a free-floating object.

The object is part of a group of stars which formed almost 12 million years ago. That’s relatively recent in cosmic terms. Scientists aren’t quite sure how objects like these end up floating all by their lonesome in the depths of interstellar space.

7. Mira: A Real Shooting Star

Imagine that you wake up in the middle of the night. There’s an odd glow visible from your bedroom window. You go outside and stare up at the night sky. You see a new, bright object in the night sky. At first, you think it’s a comet. But, soon realize that it’s not. It’s a star, shedding its material much like a comet.There’s just one problem, your world is in its way.

You’ve heard of so-called “shooting stars,” which you’ve probably also learned are nothing more than meteoroids burning up in our atmosphere. But what if we told you there were real shooting stars out in the blackness of space?

With a tail of cosmic gas and debris that stretches 13 light years, Mira is quite special. It’s actually part of a binary system, and its partner (Mira-B) feeds off of its stellar partner. A bow shock forms in front of the star, as it swallows up cosmic dust and gas and anything unlucky enough to get in its way.

So, what’s so terrifying about this? Imagine if our world were in its way.

6. Wandering Black Holes (Black Holes)

You’re looking through a telescope, focusing on Jupiter. You notice something warping the stars around the planet’s bright surface. Then, you see a large trail of gas and dust stretching from Jupiter to a dark spot, hurtling through space toward you.

The earth rumbles, and you realize that it’s all over for humanity.

Wandering black holes are terrifyingly common in our Milky Way Galaxy. Scientists have found two possible Jupiter-sized black holes in gas clouds using ALMA, a set of 66 telescopes spread throughout the Atacama Desert in Chile. And it’s thought there are close to 100,000,000 black holes in our galaxy alone.

But what would happen if such a black hole came close to us? Well, unfortunately, if a wandering black hole got anywhere near our star system, the results would be disastrous, throwing the orbits of every planet, even our Sun, into utter chaos. The most terrifying part? We wouldn’t see it coming until Jupiter and the other gas giants ended up getting their atmospheres gobbled up by the black hole’s immense gravity, creating an accretion disk.

5. Supermassive Electric Current

From the bright core of a spiral galaxy shoots a massive jet of glowing material. Getting any closer than 150,000 light years would mean certain death due to immense radiation and the strongest electric field in the universe.

Equalling about a trillion bolts of lightning, the cosmic jet resulting from the supermassive black hole at the core of galaxy 3C303 is the strongest electric current ever detected in the known universe. Scientists aren’t sure why the electric field is so powerful but theorize that it has something to do with the jets created by the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center.

Considering that the Milky Way is only estimated to be about 100,000 light years in diameter, that’s quite impressive, if not terrifying.

4. Hand of God

From the depths of space, the apparition of a ghostly hand reaching up to grab the corpse of a star that went supernova. It flashes with dangerous x rays, filling the pulsar cloud that makes up the hand every seven seconds.

Created by a pulsar wind nebula, the hand formation that the pulsar creates is a mystery scientists are still trying to solve. If our Earth were too close to a pulsar like this, and in the direct path of its gamma ray and X-ray jet, all life on Earth (except extremophiles in caves and near volcanic oceanic vents) would likely go extinct.

Pulsars like the one creating the Hand of God nebula are actually rapidly rotating neutron stars, which emit pulses of intense radio waves and electromagnetic radiation. It has been suggested that objects like these, which emit gamma ray radiation, if pointed directly at the Earth, could cause a mass extinction event.

3. The Boomerang Nebula

From within the hourglass nebula, you freeze almost instantly, drifting through space on a collision course with a dying star.

A proto-planetary nebula created by a dying red giant star 5,000 light years from Earth. It’s the coldest object in the known universe. The boomerang nebula’s average temperature is a minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit (or 1-degree Kelvin). For reference, the coldest place on Earth (located in Antarctica) registers minus 133.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

The team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)–located in the Atacama desert in northern Chile–suggest that the extremely low temperatures may be caused by the collision of a small companion star, plunging into the dying red giant’s surface. The rapid expansion of gas caused by the collision is likely what’s causing the extreme decrease in temperature.

2. RXJ1347

Assuming you had a ship that could get you to this galaxy cluster, it would likely melt within seconds of entering the hottest place in the known universe.

gas cloud surrounding a galaxy cluster in the constellation Virgo is the hottest place in the known universe. It’s thought that this massive celestial heat storm was produced by two galaxy clusters colliding, creating one of the most violent phenomena in the universe. Contained within a 450,000 light year wide area, the cloud shines like a spot light. What’s more terrifying is that the custer is swimming with X-rays.

Now imagine if Earth was contained in that cluster. How long do you think our planet would last?

1. Boötes Void (The Great Nothing)

Imagine that you’re falling through space. You try to orient yourself, but every which way you turn, all you see is darkness. Up is down, is right, is left. No matter where you look, there are no stars, no planets, nothing but pitch-black nothingness to inform your senses. Imagine now, that this is all you’ve ever know, from the dawn of your existence.

A true abyss from which nightmares are spawned.

Boötes Void is the largest void in the known universe. It’s nearly 330 million light-years in diameter, and its existence is somewhat baffling. Most of the universe appears to be sponge like, expanding uniformly, but the presence of such a void, where thousands of galaxies could (or should) easily fit, raises many questions about the origins of the universe.

Answers, such as TYPE 4 or 5 alien civilizations, capable of harnessing the light and energy of their galaxies, to dark energy or other phenomena, have been proposed as potential explanations for Boötes Void. Some even think that it may be the very epicenter of the Big Bang, and others think that its very existence refutes the big bang as a whole.

The fact stands, that Boötes Void is the largest thing ever discovered within the known universe. If the Earth were to be placed at its center, we wouldn’t have known that there were even other galaxies until the 1960s.


Great Mischief in the Great Expanse

– WIF Space

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 51

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 51

…“If we had no moon at all, chances are Earth would be just another rock circling the sun…

“What does our moon have to do with the creation story?” asks Constance.

Martin has descended into professor mode, eager to satisfy the unquenchable thirst of an inquiring mind. “That is where the single most fundamental law of cosmic physics comes into play; gravity is what makes the world, or universe, go ‘round. How Earth orbits the sun, how the solar system navigates through the Milky Way and finally how all the other galaxies keep their distance from each other; gravity is what determines these things.

“Our Moon serves as an anchor for this ship. If you it were to suddenly drift away now, after having been here for the entire time, planet Earth would descend into geological upheaval. The continental plates would be scrambled into an unrecognizable mess and volcanism would rule the day.

“If we had no moon at all, chances are Earth would be just another rock circling the sun, an ordinary orb arbitrarily wobbling from year to year; without life, without singularity.”

“My cousin Jimmy (cousin #4) says that the moon is the Earth’s dartboard, attracting Eddie's Cousins-001all those meteors and crap.” Eddie cannot help but inject his own brand of knowledge. “Just look at it; a good pair of binocs show all those craters.”

“I’d love to meet that Jimmy whom you refer to often.”

“He lives over in Berwyn; I can take you there sometime.”

“That’s quite alright, Eddie, I was being facetious. Anyhow, Earth has as many or more craters being the larger target; it’s just that it heals itself, just like our skin recovers from a scratch.

“That all aside, the bottom line is, believing that all these factors have fallen into place by accident… frankly is folly. There are an increasing number of us in science who subscribe to intelligent design over evolution.

“Will Libby is one of those who have not swallowed that pill.” Martin is still fearful of what kind of Willard Libby they are retrieving; wondering what manner of cruel pill takes away one’s memory.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 48

 

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 50

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 50

…Martin Kamen puts forth some remarkable correlations between science and Earth’s placement in the Solar System…

On the way out to Elgin, a sixty mile drive not including one or two wrong turns by the pavement pilot of their Packard, Constance picks Martin’s brain about all things astronomical, as it applies or doesn’t to creation. This whole divine creation thing has jump-started her curiosity gene.

Being a biochemist by trade does not disqualify Martin from entering into solar system-ly speculation. Point in fact; the absence of his carbon-based colleague has left a void of such scholarly conjecture.

After some guarded thought, away from Eddie’s ramblings about his cousins’ mundane exploits or Fanny’s incessant worries about where they should or should they should have turned at the last intersection, Kamen puts forth some remarkable correlations between science and the unlikely randomness of Earth’s placement herein the place we call the Solar System. “Like many scientists, I would normally conclude that Earth’s deployment is just a convenient coincidence, as opposed to intentional.

“There are three critical factors that contribute mightily to the fragile factors that have allowed for the existence of life as we know it:

  1. Earth’s distance from the sun
  2. Earth’s degree of axis tilt
  3. Earth’s moon

“For example, if Earth is 10,000 miles farther from the sun, the climate would not be conducive to the development of intelligent life; it would be intolerably cold. If it is placed that same distance closer than it is currently, only the hardiest of desert creatures would have had the chance to thrive. 30˚ oceans are a tough swim for sea creatures, in the same way 100˚ water will evaporate faster than it can be replenished.

“Secondly, if Earth rotated at a zero degree tilt on its axis, the four seasons we have come to treasure would cease, thereby creating distinct latitudinal zones, ranging from an attractive equator climes, to incrementally less desirable 100 mile regions all the way to the poles.  The mediating ocean currents would be nonexistent and prevailing winds would never waiver north to south.”

Constance never considered herself the scholarly type, rather taking advantage of her cheerleader body and accordingly matching looks, one of the reasons her and Fanny “work”, with her friend possessing a combination of disguised intelligence and child-like innocence.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 47

The NULL Solution = Episode 193

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The NULL Solution = Episode 193

…Like a doting parent,      observes nurtures and guides…

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

They Call Me Lorgan

There is chaos in disorder. Chaos breeds contempt. Contempt leads to conflict. Conflict destroys order. Order is good. Our purpose is to restore order. – The Mission Statement of ⃝   .

Stardate 11 billion B.C.E.

Right after the dawn of creation, there came an enforcer, the purpose of which was to maintain a reasonable structure for life that may form out of the molecular ingredients that will be spreading to infinity.

As eon-after-eon passes, life from nonlife comes to be, the complexity of which increases steadily. As the stars gather in galactic groups of millions, masses of debris coagulate and coalesce. These planets orbit each according to gravitational serendipity.

     oversees the Great Expanse, vigilant to its assigned task of order out of chaos, compiling notes along the way. Like a sponge it soaks in every aspect of what it means to be alive. From the infinitesimal to the intellectual,      sees all, thereby knows about all. It will be called the Library of Life.

Like a doting parent, ⃝     observes nurtures and guides. True to its directive,      tracks the progress of every single hotspot pocket of burgeoning civilization. Indiscriminately placed and varied in progress, such distances between these is a natural barrier to interaction. Each believes they are alone among the many stars.

Intelligent life develops ways to communicate. Ideas are molded and recorded. Records are compiled.      categorizes and takes in every shred. It is the task      is assigned.

Still more eons come and go. Interaction on individual worlds increases. Rules are made. Populations grow. Technologies advance at varying rates. Levels of communication rise. The thirst for knowledge is insatiable.

     is witness to it all. We do not interfere with the natural progression of life.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 193


page 188