Archive for July, 2013

The Frost Interview – Buzz Aldrin: Discovering the Moon

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Let’s Make Apollo Landing Sites American Territory

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Armstrong City is a bustling little frontier town on the moon as imagined in my novel “Crater.” Nearby is the Apollo 11 landing site which has been turned into a tourist attraction, complete with “photos of the American astronauts Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin for sale along with other souvenirs, including models of the Apollo capsule and the Eagle lander.” In the novel, a tour guide points at the truncated base of the Eagle and an American flag hanging on a pole and tells slightly bored tourists that the original flag was knocked down when the top half of the lander took off. The guide also notes the tracks winding through the site, the result of a Chinese robotic vehicle barging across it on the 60th anniversary of the Eagle’s landing. With lights, signs and memorials dotting the cratered plain around and within the landing site, it is almost impossible to imagine what it had once looked like in 1969.

In “Crescent,” the sequel to “Crater,” I have responsible members of the lunar exploration community forming an Apollo Restoration Committee to assess the landing sites, evaluate their condition and determine what it would take to restore them, as near as possible, to their original state. When the committee visits, they find nearly all of the sites have been compromised with boot prints from poachers who removed pieces of the landers and moon buggies for souvenirs, or to sell them on eBay.

Recently, with real life more or less copying my art, members of the House of Representatives proposed the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, whereby all the landing sites would be designated as part of the United States National Park System and essentially put off-limits to exploitation by other countries or commercial entities.

Although the bill didn’t go anywhere in the legislative process, I think these Congress folks were on to something good — although I would go a little further by actually claiming the landing sites as American territory purchased by the blood and treasure of these United States.

One of the remaining legacies of the Cold War is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which mostly concerned itself with keeping nuclear weapons out of space, but also went on with a high-minded declaration that the moon and other “celestial bodies” would forever be considered the common heritage of mankind and not subject to national claims of sovereignty.

In other words, none of the signing countries could plant a flag on the moon, Mars, an asteroid or any other object in the sky and claim it as theirs. Left open, mainly because it wasn’t thought feasible, was whether commercial entities might make such claims.

It is my assertion that the Outer Space Treaty should be considered as moribund as the Treaty of Tordesillas, signed in 1494, in which Pope Alexander VI essentially carved up the New World between Spain and Portugal. What I would really love to see is a rush to claim territories on the moon and everywhere else “up there” because there’s really only one good way to do that: Actually go there and push your standard into the dust. As it is, the United States can’t even put Americans into low-Earth orbit, a sorry state of affairs which might be changed if other countries were engaged in a heavenly land grab. Well, I can always hope.

In both “Crater” and “Crescent,” the moon is a raw frontier carved up between ruthless entrepreneurs reminiscent of Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller. There are also groups of people, similar to the pilgrims and the Mormons, who have fled to a harsh land to escape religious persecution. Earther ex-pats are also there, having run to the moon to escape the 22nd-century versions of the IRS or angry spouses. In other words, it’s a bit like a high-tech American Wild West with a lively population of quirky people who get things done.

If real life goes on to truly imitate my art, I think we’d better lock up our Apollo treasures before our descendents turn those old landing sites into amusement parks or Helium-3 mines, erasing the high-water mark of American 20th-century civilization forever.

Read the Original Article at Space.com

Protection of Apollo Moon Landing Sites Sparks Controversy

Friday, July 26th, 2013

A new bill introduced into the U.S. Congress would establish the Apollo Lunar Landing Sites National Historical Park on the moon. However, the proposal is seen by some as lightning rod legislation, sparking controversy in legal and public circles.

Called the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, the bill — House Resolution (H.R. 2617 — was introduced July 8 by Rep. Donna Edwards of (D-Md.) and was co-sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas).

In introducing the bill, Edwards said that the Apollo history, “as preserved on the lunar surface, is now in danger, as spacefaring commercial entities and foreign nations begin to achieve the technical capabilities necessary to land spacecraft on the surface of the moon.” [See photos of the Apollo moon landing sites today]

Edwards said her bill would expand and enhance the protection and preservation of the Apollo lunar artifacts while providing for greater recognition and public understanding of this achievement for generations to come.

Lunar artifacts

The Act, Edwards said, “will ensure that the scientific data and cultural significance of the Apollo artifacts remains unharmed by future lunar landings.”

The Act would endow the artifacts as a National Historic Park, thereby asserting unquestioned ownership rights over the Apollo lunar landing artifacts. “The legislation will additionally require the Secretary of the Interior to pursue nominating the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing site, where humanity left its first steps on the moon, as a World Heritage Site,” the lawmaker said.

Edwards said the Act builds on the recommendations of a 2011 report titled “NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of U.S. Government Lunar Artifacts.”

But the proposal has received a thumbs-down response from the Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) organization, based in Washington, D.C.

In a July 24 statement, the group gave Edwards and co-sponsor Johnson their “Porkers of the Month” honor “for straying so far from reality’s orbit, wasting the taxpayers’ money on the paper and ink on which H.R. 2617 is written, and engaging in sheer ‘lunarcy.'”

Space archaeology

Not everyone disapproves, though.

“I applaud the idea that two Congresswomen have decided to spark public dialogue about protecting the artifacts on the moon as an important part of American and ultimately, humanity’s lunar legacy,” said Beth O’Leary, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico in Las Cruces. She is a leading expert in the field of space archaeology.

“It will be interesting to see the responses to this effort by the federal agencies concerned,” O’Leary told SPACE.com.

One of the most important steps in doing anything for the first time, O’Leary said, “is to make sure that all those involved and concerned — especially archaeologists, the historic preservation and the international community — craft a plan together that will ultimately protect those unique artifacts and sites created by humans on another celestial body.” [20 Most Marvelous Moon Missions]

In reality, humanity went to moon on an extraordinary day now over 44 years ago, O’Leary said. “We have an opportunity now to honor that event and are entrusted to do so for the generations who will come after us.”

Apollo 11's Tranquility Base landing site on the moon — a future tourist haven needing protection? Credit: NASA

Clumsy product

“In my view, the Bill is a rather clumsy product of a seemingly uninformed ‘drafter’ or drafting committee,” said George Robinson, a space law practitioner and retired Associate General Counsel for the Smithsonian Institution.

“Referring to the proposed site as a ‘national’ park implies that only the United States and NASA should be recognized for the Apollo program and its successes and failures,” Robinson told SPACE.com.

“In fact, many countries offered and provided critical components of the program, from alternate emergency landing sites, to unique technology and personnel with equally as unique specialty capabilities, to tracking stations, and on and on,” Robinson said.

Element of ignorance

The proposed legislation seems “consistently inconsistent,” Robinson said, and “reflects such an element of ignorance, superficiality, and casual disregard for current world opinion that it might well be tossed and a rewrite undertaken with some element of very relevant factual knowledge.”

That recasting of the bill, Robinson emphasized, should include the fact that the “NASA of old no longer is capable of assuming independently the next step in leading the way to permanent off-planet migration and physical salvation of the humankind species.”

“Perhaps, just perhaps, attention can be turned to the creation of a new and uniquely effective international, global, and perhaps even transglobal entity in which the United States could assume a very influential, if not lead role,” Robinson added.

International forum

The reaction in the non-U.S. legal community has been one of concern and decided negativity, said Michael Listner, the founder and principal of the firm Space Law and Policy Solutions, based in New Hampshire.

“Preserving both the artifacts and the presence of mankind’s historic activity on the moon is an important effort,” Listner said, “but it will require a fresh legal strategy to obtain that goal preferably in the form of an international norm that allows a nation like the United States to exercise jurisdiction over landing sites, like Tranquility Base, for purposes of preservation without actually asserting sovereignty.”

Listner said that the approach taken by the bill is “fundamentally flawed” because it attempts to harmonize existing federal preservation law via the National Park system with “international law,” which includes international space law.

“The means of creating national parks under 16 U.S.C. 1 [Title 16 of the United States Code, which outlines the role of conservation in the code] requires sovereign control over the real property,” Listner said. “Since the Outer Space Treaty prohibits sovereign claims over the moon, any attempt to create a National Park under 16 U.S.C. 1 will fail.”

apollo-11-footprints

Investment of blood and treasure

The proposed idea of protecting lunar landing sites with national parks on the moonhas caught the ear of Homer Hickam, former NASA engineer and best-selling author of the memoir “Rocket Boys,” later adapted into the popular film “October Sky.” Hickham has foreseen that future moon residents would visit historic landing sites in his just released novel “Crescent,” the second volume in a series called “Helium-3” (Thomas Nelson, May 28, 2013).

“To me, I’d claim those parts of the moon. We’ve certainly invested enough blood and treasure to do that,” Hickam told SPACE.com. “To hell with any past agreements we’ve had … they are passé. That’s sacred American soil as far as I’m concerned,” he said, and advocates ringing the Apollo sites off and saying “all these worlds are yours, except these. Stay away from them.”

Hickam said he’s aware of plans by private commercial firms to send small rovers to the moon, able to trundle to Apollo landing sites.

“I’d like that, but I do think they have to be careful and not run over, say the Apollo 11 footprints, specifically. That would be like running over Columbus’ footprint on the beach when he landed in the New World,” Hickam said. “All of these things have to be protected.”

Tourism will be a major industry on the moon, Hickam said. “So there will be another reason to preserve those sites,” he said.

To view the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, go to:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113hr2617ih/pdf/BILLS-113hr2617ih.pdf

Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is former director of research for the National Commission on Space and is co-author of Buzz Aldrin’s new book “Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration” published by National Geographic. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager Trailer

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Space Program Manager is our highly anticipated space management sim for PC, Mac, iOS and Android, in development at Polar Motion.

UK team designs human mission to Mars

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

A team of scientists from Imperial College London discuss how we could put a human on Mars

Scientists at Imperial College London have designed a concept mission to land astronauts on Mars.

The plan envisages a three-person crew journeying to Mars aboard a small two-part craft.

The craft would rotate to generate artificial gravity and use a heat shield to protect itself against solar flares.

The crew would then return to Martian orbit in a pre-sent craft fuelled using ice from beneath the planet’s surface.

The concept, developed in conjunction with the BBC, is intended to spark further debate about the technical obstacles and risks that would have to be overcome in order to put humans on Mars.

“Every part of this mission scenario has been demonstrated one way or the other, including the in situ propellant production on the surface of Mars,” said Prof Tom Pike, who led the Imperial design team.

“There are big, big jumps between a demonstration at one level and putting together the engineering systems for a mission, but they are engineering challenges. They are not fundamentally about making new discoveries.”

The new Imperial concept comes amid renewed interest in the Red Planet with two private groups having proposed missions in recent months.

The Imperial team have designed a two-part craft, consisting of a Martian lander with a heat shield, inside which the crew would also ascend into Earth orbit.

Directly beneath the lander on the launch pad would be a “cruise habitat vehicle”, a cylindrical craft split into three floors and measuring some 10m (30ft) in height and 4m in diameter.

Once in Earth orbit, the astronauts would move from the lander into the larger habitat vehicle before a rocket burst would propel the conjoined craft on a trajectory to Mars. The quickest journey time would be nine months when Earth and Mars are in optimum alignment.

Mars Journey overview. Photo Credit: BBC News UK

Mars Journey overview. Photo Credit: BBC News UK

Shortly into the journey, the lander and cruise vehicle would unwind from each other on a steel cable tether to a distance of some 60m. Short thruster bursts from both vehicles would then set them spinning around a centre of gravity.

This would create artificial gravity within the habitat vehicle similar to Earth’s gravity, which the scientists believe would prevent the type of muscle and bone wastage that weightlessness would cause, which would render the astronauts unable to walk on Mars once they arrived.

Later in the mission, the spin rate could be reduced to better emulate Martian conditions, where gravity is 40% that on Earth.

“We’ve obviously got some real issues with a long-term mission in terms of the de-conditioning which goes on in the space environment,” Ryan Robinson, the Imperial team’s physiologist, told BBC News.

“Bones loss [in a weightless environment] is about 1-2% a month and if they’re landing they’ll be susceptible to fractures if they’ve got to be exerting themselves.”

During the journey, the crew’s health would be monitored closely with wireless sensors – but they would rely entirely on medication aboard the craft and the skills of their fellow crew members should they fall sick.

The long journey and confined quarters could also affect their mental health, and conflicts between the crew could arise.

During the journey, the craft could deploy a number of measures to try to reduce the threat to the astronauts from solar and cosmic radiation, the former from the Sun, the later emanating from beyond our solar system.

Water could run within the shell of the cruise craft to absorb radiation, while the Imperial team also examined the idea of fitting superconducting magnets to the craft, which would generate a magnetosphere to deflect solar and cosmic radiation in the way the Earth’s natural magnetosphere does.

The crew would also deploy emergency procedures should satellites detect a major incoming solar flare.

This would involve winding in the tether and re-directing the lander’s heat shield towards the Sun to protect the astronauts in the cruise craft.

The crew would also put whatever they could find between them and the front of the vehicle to absorb the solar burst.

Even with such measures, a solar flare could still kill, or result in cancers. Cosmic radiation could also take its toll.

“We’ve got some great results from the Mars curiosity rover,” said Imperial’s Martin Archer, who specialises in solar and cosmic radiation.

“On its trip to Mars, it measured the radiation from these galactic cosmic rays and it was exposed to quite a lot – about two-thirds of the level that Nasa is prepared to risk over the whole of an astronaut’s life, just on the way there and back again.”

Once the craft reaches Martian orbit, it would contract together and the astronauts would pass into the lander ready for detachment and descent.

Its shield would absorb the heat of entry before being jettisoned and then multiple parachutes would deploy to slow the craft, with thrusters used to further slow and guide it through the final metres to the landing site.

The Imperial team propose a landing site near the equator, where milder conditions exist.

They would hope to land near a pre-sent Martian habitat module and rover, although the rover could be robotically controlled to travel from the habitat to the landing site if the distance was too great for a crossing on foot.

Then the Martian visit would begin – a first human landing on another planet.

Mars Landings Map

The time spent on the Martian surface would be dictated by the next time Earth and Mars aligned for a speedy return home. It could be two months, or we might choose to spend more than two years on Mars, says the Imperial team.

It is during this time that the human crew could try to demonstrate why humans could still outperform robots in analysing and understanding the Martian environment.

“Some people think that the use of humans is just something that is popular and attractive from an adventure and inspirational point of view, but there are also real scientific benefits for sending humans,” said Prof Mark Sephton, the team’s geologist.

“Humans can data process while they’re walking around, while they’re looking at rocks. They’re probably the most sophisticated computer, the most sophisticated robotic living organism that we can imagine.”

Radiation would remain a danger during the stay, with Mars possessing no magnetosphere to shield the surface from cosmic and solar rays. Shovelling up soil from the surface during the mission and part-burying the habitat module could help, as could staying inside during a solar burst.

Then comes the return home, which would be far from simple.

The approach taken by the Imperial scientists would be to pre-send both the habitat module, rover and a return vehicle before any human launch.

The return vehicle would land at a latitude where water ice would be found in large amounts just a few centimetres beneath the surface. Robotic devices would mine the ice, which would then be split into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis.

These gases could be used as fuels on their own, or the hydrogen could be combined with carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere using a catalyst to produce methane, which is a more stable and energy-dense fuel than hydrogen.

As the Imperial team propose landing near the equator, a crew would have to travel by rover to a cooler latitude where the return vehicle and ice-mining devices would be waiting. Several hundreds of kilometres may have to be crossed, posing both risks and opportunities to further explore the Martian landscape.

Should they make it safely, the crew would have a narrow launch window to ensure the quickest most fuel-efficient return to Earth.

After leaving Mars, the return vehicle would dock with the orbiting cruise vehicle and replace the Martian lander as the counter-balance within the spinning tethered structure en route to Earth. Like the lander, the return vehicle would have to be fitted with a shield to protect the crew during extreme solar activity.

After at least nine months, the craft would reach Earth orbit and dock with the International Space Station before the astronauts could take a Soyuz capsule home, the team envisages.

The new Imperial concept comes amid renewed interest in the Red Planet, with two private groups having proposed missions.

Businessman and former space tourist Dennis Tito wants to send an American couple on a mission beginning in 2018 that would pass within 100 miles (160km) of Mars before using the planet’s gravity to “slingshot” the craft back to Earth.

The Dutch project Mars One proposes putting a human colony on the planet beginning in 2023, while SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk has spoken of sending a private human mission to Mars within 12-15 years.

The US, Russian, European and Chinese space agencies maintain long-term plans to put humans on Mars.

The documentary How to put a human on Mars can be seen this weekend on the BBC News channel and BBC World News.