Posted tagged ‘Earth’

The ‘Earthification’ of Science

December 18, 2011

All people from all nations must support Earth Science

“…To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”  – Carl Sagan

No, no, this is not one of those “evil, evil man was never meant to fly” type hyperventilations. It is an effort to point out that despite the scientific community‘s obligation to explore, discover and explain the Cosmos, it must also continue to accord the same intense curiosity about our home planet, Earth. This must be regardless of the rising number of discoveries of exoplanets including some that promise to be uniquely Earth-like (Kepler 22b). Science must increase its understanding of the entire evolution of Earth and in achieving this understanding, dictate its preservation
Yes, humankind must survive and Earth is our life-supporting host, but we must evolve our dependence to not continue to suck the very life from Earth while also tearing at its own life-giving entrails. Earth-focused science and technology is the answer. This is where we continue to enjoy and benefit from Earth’s bounty, but at the same time continue to insure that we do not abuse it benevolence. In times of crises such as those surrounding us now, it is even more critical that we defer to science for help in coping constructively with our crises in a manner that protects; even enhances our home planet.
No political head butting here, no cries of environmentalists seek to increase joblessness, and no defiance of the gifted and dedicated by the intense Earth abusers who seek immediate returns in trade for a degraded planet. Yes, we can enrich ourselves from this planet’s munificence, but we must do it in such manner that we preserve that abundance of resources while protecting the well-being of ALL life here at home. In this respect, organizations that are both global and territorial in scope seek to inspire greater Earth-science solutions to this challenge. One such public persuasion in this regard is clearly illustrated by the following video from the advocates for protecting millions of life-forms including Homo sapiens.
Science is the answer and for it to address ALL of the issues and challenges we must press hard upon the political button to bring about the changes and enactments needed to preserve planet Earth and in doing so preserve and enrich all life. ALL of us, tiny cells to towering Homo sapiens, are an integral part of this planet’s very existence. We are and must remain inseparable, and unified on behalf of Earth and life.
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WANTED: A SciTech Revival

November 12, 2011

The ECO-FANDANGO that is going on right now is a save Big Money dance that makes sure not to disturb the profits-above-all-else motives of corporate America. Most corporations are flush with cash and are coasting along on set, big-bank supported business strategies that are enhanced by lowered worker populations. Status Quo is the rule and gets solid political support. Meanwhile, America is in an socio-economic decay cycle that will eventually undermine the status quo and all of us.

America’s rise to prominence and world leadership came about from a combination of brave, risk-taking innovators and a bold new growth of both science and technology. Right now the fiscal crisis hoax is directly seeking to discourage risk taking and definitely a turn away from aggressive science and technology advances. This is coupled with actions by Big- Money duped politicians to continue to protect corporate profit growth at the expense of employment and our natural resources conservation. Another very active example of our dedicated self-destruction.

SCI-TECH TO THE RESCUE:  First, corporations must decide to loosen their grip on their cash reserves and begin to invest in new technology. Secondly, the Federal government must inspire those corporate risk-takers by offering earned credits applied to their fully restored tax obligations. The elimination of all the tax breaks and other fiscal benefits we taxpayers provide corporations will make the chance to earn reasonable tax-breaks highly attractive. This is accomplished by reinvesting in our sci-tech revival . If done properly this becomes an attractive incentive for big business to again behave like real American industrial innovators. Additional credits can be earned by providing sci-tech employee training for those job applicants which corporations currently list as unqualified for current job openings. ‘

So what are some examples of this sci-tech revival. We will look at three key areas. They are (1) new energy systems, (2)breakthrough transportation technology, and (3)natural resource conservation. We, our government and our corporations need to understand that there is an incredible sci-tech research and development resource just waiting to be unfettered and financially supported. We must not ignore it and its almost instant availability. Let’s start the revival.

1. NEW ENERGY SYSTEMS:  Right now we are in a diddle mode by toying with systems (wind, bio, current solar, etc) that either by themselves or jointly are not going to meet both current and future demands for energy. Yes, solar could grow as a high resource, but it has its limitations as a sole resource. If immense solar array systems are linked with thorium based nuclear power systems we could very will establish a safe and fossil-fuel free energy generation, transmission and storage system. To achieve this we need to gain considerable maturity in the design, constructions and safe operation of this composite energy system. We CAN do it, We HAVE the sci-tech skills and wherewithal to start now. Status quo stalling, however,  imperils this entire energy future. In this regard, we must acknowledge that the delays to move in this direction are not precautionary, they are political obeisance to big-oil and big-money forces. We must break that choke-hold.

2.BREAKTHROUGH TRANSPORTATION TECHNOLOGY: Again we are currently dancing around with energy efficient transportation systems. The diddle rules. Yes, there is a mild increase in both US and foreign development of electric vehicles, but we have yet to commit to infrastructure changes that will support a fully EV based transportation model. Additionally, although there are musings about fuel-cell and hydrogen powered systems this again is in diddle mode. A solid program that seeks to achieve a mixed migration from pure EV to EV+FuelCell technology is a possible strategy. Regardless, unless, as mentioned above, we can break the Big-Oil /Big-Money choke-hold on SciTech progress we are stranded in petrol-quicksand with no rescue in sight.

They, being the media, say we are too timid, too intimidated, and too indifferent to push forward. Well if we do not push forward we will surely FALL BACKWARDS!  In that case, shank’s mare will be our most innovative means of transportation.

3. NATURAL RESOURCE CONSERVATION: What? Where is the Sci-Tech challenge here? Well, it could be the greatest and most rewarding that we can conceive. No, watering the flowers is pretty well accomplished, but dumping industrial offal on those flowers (Flowers in this case should be seen as our entire environment aka Planet Earth) kills them and most likely stifles all life in the area. This must be stopped.

Oh no, here we go with more restrictive rules and regulations and many marches of protest against polluters. Alas, more diddle! This is not to say that environmental protection by legislation and regulation is not important, but the real challenge is to find ways to give the polluters methods to produce and NOT POLLUTE! This is a sci-tech challenge, and for it to be effective it must be fully encouraged and financially supported by both government and private industry. The rewards to all parties, including Mom Nature, are immense. Here are just a few areas of research and development challenges and opportunities:

  • Just how hard have we looked at possible by-products from many industrial wastes?
  • Have we really determined the very best synthetic fertilizer for the farming industry that grows produce and does not produce stinking, life-stifling run-off?  No way?  Are you really sure about that?
  • CO and CO2 are generally bothersome, but as researchers already know they also are chemically useful. So why don’t we find more ways to pull them from our big polluters and put them to use for all of us? Stick the dollar incentive under our noses and guess what; VOILA; progress!  This is another critical joint government and private industry support activity.
  • GREEN is critical, and again sci-tech has and can produce answers to ways for we humans to co-exist on this planet while keeping it alive and well. Doing so definitely keeps us alive and well too. This latter point is conveniently ignored by both politicians and the BIGGIES.
SUMMARY: We already have the power to take these and many other progressive steps that will enrich our lives while protecting and preserving our home. Why, then, do we allow ourselves to be hoodwinked into accepting that the status quo is best for all and that progress is a hoax except where it benefits the BIGGIES? Have we given up on ourselves and on our amazing capacity to innovate and move all of us forward? If we are, in fact, giving up them we are denying our purpose as humans in the Cosmos. Well, don’t give up unless you are ready to simply let the status quo snuff out all your hopes and your life and the lives of your offspring – our future.
GOOD BYE STATUS QUO – LET’S MOVE ON!
IMAGE CREDIT: “WILD DANCES”. forum.alexanderpalace.org

LUNAR LUNACY or LUNAR SMARTS

June 7, 2011

Well lunacy got its first use as a way to describe the suspected effects of our Moon (lovely Luna) on human behavior.  Luna, of course is the Roman Moon Goddess and it did not take long for early philosophers to assign strange human mental behaviors to the work of Lady Luna and lunatic has been with us ever since.

There is no denying the many influences Luna has had on human history. One could fill an entire library with all the scientific studies, novels, plays, movies and music that talk about or talk to our Moon. For most of us, all the above represent deep expressions of endearment we all feel for Luna. In fact the Moon affects most of life. Wolves and dogs howl at Luna, owls hoot hello, bats dance in her light, some exotic flowers wait to bloom at her bidding, and legions of tiny creatures break into boisterous song upon her appearance. So, should we Earthlings be satisfied with just one, brief visit with Luna? Can we really be satisfied with that fleeting assignation and go galloping off to Mars and beyond?

Now some serious space exploration advocates believe a return to the Moon at this point would be a bit loony when there is Mars out there waiting for us. Well, we will go to Mars, the important thing is how we go, and how well we stay there. The establishment of a fully active and fully international Lunar Research Base will offer a host of scientific knowledge that will directly affect all of our future space explorations. There are cosmic messages waiting to be discovered and read on Luna that relate to the evolution of our solar system, and most likely to the development of exo-systems like the newly discovered GL581 system. So, returning to Luna with an international team would be what we see as Lunar Smarts. Nothing loony and filled with both scientific and promising commercial discoveries that will hold promises for both research and private development.

There will be obstacles, even life threatening ones, as well as revelations about humans existing functionally in the rather unfriendly environments of Luna and certainly Mars. What is learned in working on Luna will better ensure a safe and highly productive exploration of Mars and beyond. All of these lessons will be provided at a lower cost, than a gallop to Mars that is fueled more by “guts and glory” than by careful and concentrated scientific investigations. Of equal importance, is that while we are learning on Luna, when serious things happen that need rescue, it will come quickly whereas on Mars, it most likely will not come at all.  This development will not deter our exploration of Mars, but when we do make the trip we will go with extensive Lunar foreknowledge and an established rescue protocol based on time and distance from Earth.

Lastly, if we bypass Luna, others will not, and we will immediately lose any leverage about what should happen both scientifically and commercially on our only Moon. Those kinds of assessments and decisions should be derived and followed internationally. We can assure that only if we, this nation, take the initiative to bring it about in an orderly manner. If we wait and in a startled and rushed response seek to resolve that problem. it most likely will fail.

Brave men, dedicated support staff, tons of money were spent to visit Luna. Let us not waste all of that great achievement by casting aside those first, magnificent steps across the wide, wide river of space. Luna awaits with open arms, a greater supply of water than we initially thought, and as stated above a glorious and important history lesson about how we all came to be. So lets be Lunar Smart and set sail, soon, for lovely, lovely Luna.

IMAGE CREDIT: Image of Orion spacecraft approaching Luna courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

SPACE EXPLORATION MOMENTUM: About Focus and Vitality

May 26, 2011

Alone and blurred by the elements and time, Pad 39A longs for its shuttles.

“You can actually feel it” That comment refers, with sadness, to the decline of momentum in NASA’s space exploration programs. The approaching last launch of the space shuttle snaps shut NASA’s only current human space exploration activity. Most importantly it is entirely unrealistic and unfair to assume this decline  is NASA’s doing.

Throughout its fifty year history, NASA has been fiscally underprivileged and yet has managed to accomplish astounding missions. Its relations with its main funding source, the U. S. Congress, is similar to an orphaned child in a foster home limbo. Despite segments of support within that foster care setting, there is little assurance of sustained fiscal and policy support for America‘s space program.  At best, there are bushels of lip service and thimbles-full of dollars all tied together in a discouraging package.

We are past the glorious experiment and global supremacy stage. Space exploration, both robotic and human, is now a vital and integral part of our national profile. Additionally it is also a growing profile element around the globe. The esteemed Space Studies Board of the National Academies of Science defines this as an aggressive scientific and engineering effort to address a wide range of factors related to space exploration. In this regard, the SSB envisions a lunar base as the successor to the ISS after 2020 (see “Recapturing A Future For Space Exploration” NAS Space Studies Board, Document  13048.pdf  page 432). The SSB supports this recommendation with a long and detailed list of research projects all related to improving and extending the success of human space exploration. Please see the reference list at the end of this article for links to the referenced documents.

What, no Mars exploration? This is not what the study means, in fact it fully acknowledges human exploration of Mars, but first there are a host of questions that need complete answers before we put humans on the surface of Mars. The referenced report details those research objectives.

Establishing a Lunar Research Facility will enable us to fully address many of those objectives in the ideal mico-gravity and essentially hostile environment. Most  importantly that lunar environment is in close proximity to Earth and as such it can be serviced and supported with lower costs, and with the necessary reaction speeds to reduce or eliminate loss of human life. A Lunar Express shuttle would be the ideal transport vehicle connecting Earth and its new Lunar Research Facility. Yes, there would also have to be a recoverable lunar lander to complete the transportation process.  Most importantly, the research environment is no longer a low Earth orbit setting.

About Focus and Vitality: Following the range of research objectives and goals outlined in the SSB study would restore NASA’s and its host of private-sector partners’ space exploration focus and vitality by targeting a Lunar Research Facility. All the envisioned development and research activities either underway or planned now have focus and specificity. Linking all of this to an expanded research facility that duplicates but enhances the ideals of the ISS imparts renewed momentum to this nation’s space science and technology activities. Most importantly all that NASA is undertaking now in the aftermath of its shuttle program gain new direction and impetus because they become linked to the next stage of our space exploration goals. We have revived space research with the elixir of “purpose.” Return to the moon and a Lunar Research Base before others opt us out of it.

The vitality of partnerships with the attendant array of various scientific and engineering expertise fills the project with both eagerness and the cross fertilization of ideas that will grow new breakthroughs in the entire process of exploring space. Believe it,  returning to the Moon in this kind of joint effort from both government and industry will establish the operating style that will move us forward from lovely Luna to Mars and onward. Yes, politicos ramble around muttering about “common ground, shared objetives”, etc, but do little more than jiggle and talk. A cooperative, joint and global exploration program to Luna with the establishment of a true research base IS that sought after common ground.

The new international lead is this united space exploration effort. Instead of remaining a pleading, plaintive for support, a global space society lays the foundation for an entirely new focus on life here on this planet and beyond. We stop shriveling (especially psychologically) and once again, and together, stand tall. Yes, tall all across the Cosmos.

Are you coming?

IMAGE CREDIT: The image of a shuttle launch pad is courtesy of Phil Konstantin (http://tinyurl.com/3hjtd5w), the modifications of that image for the purpose of this blog article is by the author.

REFERENCES: National Academies of Science Space Studies Board: Recapturing A Future For Space Exploration:  http://www.nap.edu/catalog/13048.html

The inseparable and critical relationship between science and government: http://tinyurl.com/427x5go

Returning to the Moon and a Lunar Research Facility: http://tinyurl.com/3mpc2xz

The Lunar Research Institute: http://tinyurl.com/4y2u9pf

Bill introduced in House of Representatives for a 2022 Lunar Mission and Base.Link: http://tinyurl.com/3mktwez

WE WILL GO THERE, But First….!

April 8, 2011

The “October Sky” style youthful achievement shown in the above video is a clear statement of the deep commitment to space exploration that we must achieve to again venture forth. Human spaceflight will evolve as a combination of government, private industry and both human and robotic astronauts. Right now, in this year 2011, it all looks only slightly brighter than dim. Most importantly, real and awesome success will come from the unity of effort of government and industry as well as with our international partners. We must work as one if we are to successfully go into deep space.

The following are five critical accomplishments that must become active reality if we are going to take humankind to our solar system and then out into our newest frontier – our galaxy. We must also realize that it is not a “final frontier”. We have an entire Cosmos to explore. Let’s get started.

  1. To ensure that we support a growing population of bright, young minds like those in the above video, we must both standardize and diversify our education system. This must start at the elementary level and progressively move all the way to graduate level studies. Diversification calls for strong science education, but also equally strong and inspiring education in the arts. Humankind is motivated both by dreams and by the arts (music, art, writing) that spread the word and the glory of those dreams. In all cases imagination and innovation dominate. Education cultivates and insures that domination.
  2. Solid, progressive governance is a vital ingredient of a space faring civilization. To insure both national and international political sanity we-the-people in all nations, must strive to achieve and sustain real democratic governance. To do this we must make sure that people shall prevail, and not greed and the addiction to power. The people must not let those dangers erode or even destroy that system. Not an easy task, and without an alert and devoted electorate, any nation can easily slip into pseudo-democracies dominated by only a select few. It is easy to snarl and complain, but that simply signifies a nation of people who have let things slip. Citizens committed to both democracy and to global unity have no time to snarl and complain, they are too busy and too involved in making governance work.
  3. Anyone who chooses to look up and behold the awesome glory of the night sky, or breathtaking dawns, or sunsets is easily mystified by all that overpowering beauty. Earliest humans translated those mystifying moments into expressed and treasured celebrations. These revered practices expanded and now seek to relate human morality and behavior to that mysticism. When all of those practices induce widespread compassion and a global sense of community among humankind they become strengthening and unifying. At the same time, science, equally mystified by all it sees and explores, diligently seeks to explain fully and truthfully. In both practices there are many moments of deep spirituality as we humans strengthen the bond between ourselves and all that surrounds us. For us to proceed across the cosmic seas we must achieve mutual respect and eschew distrust, suspicion and fear. We are enriched and made whole by all we come to learn. Lastly we come to accept all that proves to be true and to see it as a bond between humankind and the Cosmos. When we achieve this, we then joyfully join the cosmic community.
  4. We are not exclusive to all that is around us. We are in unity with it. Yes, all life-forms share resources and that give and take process is life-sustaining for the entire community. In this relationship, there is no malice or evil or chicanery only interdependence. When we nurture this interdependence we enrich both our lives and the community of  life that comprises this planet. If we fail in this respect we threaten the community and cause a decline in those vital resources and weaken that essential interdependence. Science calls this the process of extinction. If we seek to explore the Cosmos we must first stabilize and sustain the resource that supports that exploration. For now, for decades or maybe even for centuries to come, planet Earth (our community of life) must be protected to enable us to seek those cosmic revelations.
  5. We are not alone in the Cosmos. Yes, we have not yet made direct contact with other life-forms, but science on almost a daily basis is uncovering many clues that support the presence of life across the Cosmos. Life, in all its forms is, as stated above, interdependent and when we succeed in both respecting and protecting that reality then we are philosophically and sociologically reaching the stage where we can successfully meet other life in the Cosmos in a peaceable manner. Unlike those who first came from afar to this continent, we must not arrive to conquer, but to rejoice in our reunion with other members of the cosmic community. We must shed our warrior complex and sail that glorious cosmic sea as ambassadors of unity and peace. Remember, we are all interdependent.

Each of those five goals include within them long lists of responsibilities that we must fully exercise to meet each criterion to the fullest. In other words, we are facing an evolutionary life change. Hey, this is as it should be; otherwise, we stumble down the extinction pathway. There are a bounty of rewards as we exercise those responsibilities. Those rewards enrich us and inspire us to continue to move forward as a community of life. All of this, in my mind at least, restores and embeds hope in each of our hearts.

Lastly, the following video is a repeat, but says more eloquently than anything else who we are and why we are here and the glory that awaits us. Welcome to spaceship Earth.

AN ALL DIGITAL, DEEP-SPACE VOYAGE.

March 26, 2011

A modified model of the Orion spacecraft serves as the Gliese Explorer

Get ready! We are going again to the Gliese family of exoplanets, and especially Gliese 581g. This is not a deep future program, it is a program that can and should occur within the 21st Century.

Visiting an Exoplanet That Isn’t? Yes because we are not sure it isn’t there. If it is there, as originally presented, then it is important because it is the first suspected rocky, Earth-like planet orbiting within .its parent star’s habitable zone. This, as we have all come to know, means the strong possibility of life existing on Gliese581g.

Should we determine that Gliese 581g really does not exist, then we do not cancel the mission we simply select another likely candidate that is in a star system within the 25 light year or less distance profile.

So we propose to launch a human space flight to a maybe exoplanet 20+ light years distance? Yes and no.  Yes we should launch a mission to the Gliese family, but NO it should not be a human spaceflight mission.  Read on to follow our plan.

The power of IF: In the case of Gliese 581g some scientist maintain it is actually there while other competent astrophysicists express doubts. The overlying question is: If it is there, and if it is in a habitable zone, is there life on the planet? This is exciting science and the only way we can be certain is to test the validity of our earlier theories and observations. That is exactly what we will be doing with the Gliese Explorer program. Please read further for more detailed justifications for this expedition.

Mission Overview: The Gliese Mission is essentially a digital exploration. This means that the entire program is focused on the use of extensive electronic and robotic systems that will help detect, evaluate and describe the entire celestial environment of the Gliese family. Additionally the mission will conduct ongoing evaluations of the deep space environment while enroute to Gliese 581g. If it is determined that Glieses 581g physically exists and that it has an environment that could be life supporting, then one of the two Robonauts on board the spacecraft will physically visit Gliese 581g. It is anticipated that the reports back from that robonaut will be all of a breakthrough quality and importance. To review a more detailed presentation of the mission objectives go here.

Why an all robotic mission? The exoplanet count grows almost daily, and although we are improving our deep space detection capabilities, the final analyses will require a close encounter with a selected, Earth-like exoplanet that promises to be life supporting. Preparations for and the costs of human spaceflight (HSF) missions are time consuming and incredibly expensive. To launch an HSF mission to investigate only a marginally defined life supporting exoplanet could be wasteful in both time and resources. This is particularly the case where the travel distances are in multiple light years. We should only send in human astronauts after we have completed a detailed up-close visit by robotic systems. For a more detailed discussion of those robotic systems, please visit here.

The Abort, Redirect or Return Option: The Gliese Explorer craft is equipped with a infrared telescope that is continuously pointed and focused upon the Gliese environment and specifically searches for Gliese581g. Now this telescope is not of a Kepler size or quality by fully capable of detecting and assessing exoplanets in the Gliese family. Should this detection and tracking system confirm that there is no Gliese 581g or another Earth-like exoplanet in the Gliese family, then the system initiates an abort query sequence and awaits instructions from Mission Control on Earth. Depending upon the distance already traveled, the communication cycle time could be lengthy. In the interim, the spacecraft continues on toward the Gliese system. Once there is a complete data exchange between the Gliese Explorer and Mission Control, a decision is made to either redirect the spacecraft to an alternate destination or to return home. To learn more about this function as well as the overall functions of the spacecraft, please visit here.

Discovery and Confirmation: The odds are that with the onboard telescope system, it is doubtful that the Gliese Explorer will go the full distance if there is not new evidence (at closer distances) of GL581g. In that case the system would initiate the Abort regimen as described above.

Should the ideal happen in that as the explorer gets closer to the Gliese family and confirms the existence of GL581g; including its orbit within a habitable zone, then the mission is on course and begins the preparations for an eventual rendezvous with the exoplanet. For the details of the rendezvous program and the investigations it includes, please visit here.

Summary and Conclusions: The long term advantages of this mission are derived from all of the development work that leads up to its launch. Some of the key advances include:

  • Although the Kepler mission profile is continued, there is an additional effort to find and confirm Earth-like exoplanets that are in star systems that are 25 light years distance or less from Earth. This is in support of the Gliese Explorer concept of all digital deep space explorations.
  • Development of a propulsion system that supports sustained speeds of 20% the speed of light, and is either nuclear or a combination nuclear and a fuel regeneration system.
  • Development of complete neural network artificial intelligence that equips the Robonauts with extensive data analysis and decision capabilities.
  • Development of Robonauts that are fully articulated and can perform EVAs both in space and on the surface of a planetary body.
  • Design and development of a radiation shielding technology that protects all electronics as well as the Robonauts from damaging radiation.
  • Production of a modified Orion spacecraft to facilitate a totally robotisized mission. Excludes unnecessary life support required only for Astronauts.
  • Design and development of a communication system that anticipates and supports the long, long delays in transmission and reception due to light year distances. Actually enhancements to the Deep Space Network (DSN) are the most likely advancement.

The above is not a complete or exclusive list. What the items do emphasize is that the design and development for this mission is directly supportive of future human spaceflights into deep space. The data feedback that will come from Gliese Explorer will serve to advance overall spaceflight technology toward a safe and productive HSF goal. All of which will enhance NASA’s stated goal of 100 year intrastar travel.

Some may view the all digital space exploration concept as an unnecessary preliminary to HSF deep space explorations. A combination of sound technology and cost controls will allow a consortium of space faring nations to jointly pursue the first steps in deep space exploration. All of these efforts can serve to refine and improve the success of future HSF missions.These would be to fully identified and defined planetary targets. Most importantly, nothing has changed in the long history of the human drive to explore. We are now simply maximizing our efforts by increasing the effectiveness of new technologies and the vital science they can perform.

Hand in hand with our Robonauts, we will go into the unknown of deepest space where no Earthling has ever ventured before.

Astronaut and Robonaut in historic handshake - Photo by NASA

Click Image for Deep Space

PHOTO CREDIT:

Image of the Orion capsule courtesy of NASA and Lockheed Martin.

Image of Astronaut and Rob0naut shaking hands courtesy of NASA.

A RHEALIFE: An Explorer’s Journal – Part III

February 28, 2011

An Apology: I sincerely apologize for the lateness of this update to my journal. A series of intervening events kept me very busy and the best I could manage was to jot down some notes to remind me of ideas and events I wanted to include in this last part of my journal. I hope all of you will forgive this transgression.

The icy, fractured and chaotic surface of Rhea

Core Anyone?: As the above image of Rhea’s tumultuous surface shows, I had a very limited range of exploration; all of it considerably hazardous. The “dirty snowball” concept would seem a fitting description if my personal experience and research had not proved a different assessment of Rhea. Deep beneath Rhea’s crusty skin, there is evidence of a base core.

Tasty Green Plants: Even though there had been earlier research on the effects of both microgravity and hypergravity upon plant growth, I neglected to consider the changes in the tastes of the vegetable plants I grew in my hydroponic garden. The taste was not unpleasant; just different. I acquired a new taste for all of my green food.

Oxygen’s here: I continue to both assess and utilize the thin flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide in Rhea’s atmosphere. Researchers are still investigating the possibility that similar thin but oxygen rich atmospheres may exist on other icy planets in our solar system and even possibly on some exoplanets in other star systems.

Something other than rings: Years back there was real excitement that Rhea may have rings. Well, I do not see any here, and I am right. It turns out that Cassini‘s detection system MIMI spotted something that behaved (one time) like there may be rings, but subsequent flyby’s showed no repeat of those indications. There is still something unusual that occurred that was either peculiar to Rhea or was an event between Rhea and Saturn or Rhea and another one of her sister moons.  There is a lot of action our here, but most of it is physics of the understood kind.

Well, its wrap up time: Yes, I am happy and proud that I was selected to be here, and I think my observations and reports have helped us to better understand the very intricate process of planet formation (including most moons). This same knowledge is helping and will continue to help us eventually understand what we finally, physically see in our neighboring exoplanets.

How am I doing? I am tired. I am weak, and I am ready to return to Earth. Despite my regular exercises, the microgravity of Rhea is physically debilitating. In this regard, long-term visits on planetary bodies like Rhea should be done by robots. Additionally, although all of my food, both grown and supplied was very nutritious, I remained constantly hungry. Why? In any given meal my chew-time was very short.  Don’t laugh, really. By chew time I mean just that, the process of chewing food is a neuro-physiological need that is directly related to hunger satiation. No chew or low chew often fails to produce our bodies hunger satiation response.

Ahh, but being here, in the eyes of Saturn will remain unforgettable. The imposing, gorgeous, and powerful giantess with her accompanying gaggle of moons is a constant panoply of celestial dynamics. Waking up to Saturn, or Titan or Dione or Mimas knocking on my window, so-to-speak, is difficult to describe. Lets just say I lived most days in complete awe.

Can humans exist in this kind environment for long periods of time? I would say, barely. It is cold, almost airless, with little or no gravity and depending upon the specific orbit of the planetary body, your days can be very short or terribly long.  Earth-style sunlight is not present and so a human’s life-cycle can get pretty confused.  It certainly was for me in the beginning. I adjusted, but I can’t wait for a good old sunrise on Earth. In this regard, I am, as far as my research revealed, the only living being on Rhea. We need to remember this when we continue our search for life on exoplanets.  Yes, we will find life out there, but most likely it will occur in a very Earth-like environment. Need I point out then, what a precious treasure our home planet is? Be kind to Mom Earth,  it is, at the moment,  our only safe and supportive home.

CREDITS:

Header Image:  Courtesy of Maestro Cassini and NASA – Rhea blue streaks.

Site Close-up:  Courtesty of Maestro Cassini and NASA – A crusty, fractured, icy Rhea.