Tag: moon

Scientists scan the moon for alien life

Scientists at the Arizona State University have programmed their computers to scan millions of snaps of the lunar surface to look for signs that aliens might have landed there.

After all, if you have defeated the problems of speed of light travel and come all that way to see the Earth the first place you are going to put your landing gear down is going to be an orbiting lump of cold rock . The next thing you will do is go and scare some brain dead American farmer by giving him an anal probe.

But Professor Paul Davies and Robert Wagner at Arizona State University claim that passing extraterrestrials might have left messages, scientific instruments, heaps of rubbish or evidence of mining on the dusty lunar surface that could be spotted by human telescopes and orbiting spacecraft.

According to the journal Acta Astronautica, which we get for the Spot the Quark competition the pair admit that there is only a tiny probability that alien technology would have left traces on the moon, but since it is closer we might as well have a look.

It is also cheaper to scan lots of pictures rather than use expensive radio telescopes.

The scientists are using Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), which has mapped a quarter of the moon’s surface in high resolution since mid-2009. These images have also spotted the Apollo landing sites and all of the Nasa and Soviet unmanned probes.

They have developed software to search for strange-looking features, such as the sharp lines of solar panels, or the dust-covered contours of quarries or domed buildings. Because the moon is geologically inactive they might be visible millions of years after they were built.

Alien life might once have set up a lunar base in the underground networks of lava tubes beneath the moon’s dark, basaltic plains, and perhaps have left rubbish when they departed. “The same factors that make lava tubes attractive as a habitat imply that any artefacts left behind would endure almost indefinitely, undamaged and unburied,” the scientists write.

Quite why any alien civilisation would bother is not a question Wagner and Davies have answered. 

Woman promises the Moon on eBay

In one of the dafter attempts at eBay deception, a woman tried to use the online retailer to flog a red hot lump of Moon rock.

According to AP, the woman tried to flog the moon rock for $1.7 million to an undercover NASA agent and was later arrested.

Moon rocks are considered national treasures and are illegal to sell.

They were given to each US state and 136 countries by then-President Richard Nixon after US moon missions. More than 10 US states and over 90 countries cannot account for their shares of the Moon rocks.

Millions of dollars would be about the right price if you could find one on the black market, and you probably would not see them for sale on eBay.

NASA investigators and Riverside County sheriff’s deputies detained the woman after the two agreed on a price and the woman pulled out the rock.

So far, NASA is not certain if it is Moon rock as it is being tested for armalcolite, a mineral first discovered on the moon and named for Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, who were on the Apollo 11 lunar mission crew.

Joseph Gutheinz, a University of Phoenix instructor and former NASA investigator, has spent years tracking down missing moon rocks.

The woman is has not been arrested or charged yet. This is partly because the coppers do not know whether to do her for fraud or theft.

Gutheinz told AP that most purported Moon rocks offered for sale on the internet are bogus. It was possible, however, to have an authentic Moon rock if it arrived as a meteorite.

Fake Moon rocks have fooled a number of boffins. In 2009, the Rijksmuseum in the Netherlands confirmed that one of its rocks was a fake.

A stolen rock, which was presented to Honduras, was recovered in 1998 after a Miami collector offered $5 million for it. 

Isle of Man astronauts 'fifth most likely' to next reach the moon

Homophobes rejoice! There’s a very good chance that the moon will remain a gay-free zone, if a report from consultancy Ascend is to be believed.

The firm reckons that the fifth most likely nation to next put a man on the moon is – wait for it – the Isle of Man. To be fair to the place, it did scrap its anti-sodomy laws in 1992, but we figure they’re still hardly in any position to complain about outdated and prejudicial stereotypes.

“A surprising choice this one, but the tax haven island has firms with commercial interests in manned lunar flyby flights using Russian hardware,” says Ascend. One such is Excalibur Almaz, which reckons it’ll be carrying out orbital flights by 2013.

The Crown Dependency also has its very own director of space commerce, who says the government is “pro-space and committed to helping the space industry flourish”.

Ascend puts the odds of the erstwhile hang ’em and flog ’em island of getting there first at 50 to 1 – not great, but close behind India’s 33 to 1 and way ahead of the UK at 300 to 1. The UK Space Agency, it says kindly, “will never have the money for such a mission by itself”.

The most likely nation to get there first, says Ascend, is the US, with a 50:50 chance. Russia’s next at three to one, followed by China at five to one. India – hampered by ‘duff rockets’, according to Ascend, has a 33 to 1 chance of being the next country to plant its flag.

Unfortunately, Ascend knows very little about it. It’s a well-kept secret that there are in fact lots of people on the moon already.

Most were initially planning only to stay for one or two of the Selene club’s famed gay nights, but were so taken with the pleasant climate and friendly locals that they elected to stay.

Indeed, we’ve just had a postcard from the new trainee reporter waxing suspiciously lyrical about the place – which probably means another job advertisement and more unpaid overtime for the rest of us.

We’re still not back up to full staffing levels after the TechEye summer party on Ganymede.

US people fall for Mars and Moon email hoax

A daft email hoax is apparently being believed right across the United States, which is leading some of us in Europe to wonder how they ever got an Empire.

The email claims that on the 27 August, the planet Mars will appear bigger than the moon thanks to an optical effect on the atmosphere.

Telly outfit ABC said that people have been ringing up its weather office to see if the skies will be clear enough for them to see it.

Patrick Wiggins, NASA Ambassador to Utah – no, really – told the ABC hack who rang up about it to find out if was true, that he got called up by the media every year on this daft hoax.

True he deals with the Utah press and some of them think that Jesus discovered America and wrote down his family tree on some gold tablets which have mysteriously disappeared.

Wiggins said it first started in 2003 when Mars was the closest it had been to earth since humanity started to make a splash and heat up the ice caps.

ABC felt the need to tell viewers that even back in 2003 Mars was still nowhere near the size of the Moon.

“Even at its historic closest it still looked like a tiny dot in the sky,” said Wiggins, we assume with the same air of someone who has just told a 45 year old that Donald Duck is a cartoon character.

Even with the telescopes though Wiggins says Mars still won’t look as big as the Moon.

Then the reporter, who clearly will not let the story go during silly season, asks what happens if Mars did get close enough to look as big as the moon,

To his credit, Wiggins did not kill the hack in a desperate bid to raise the average IQ of the world.

Instead he said, very slowly, “if you ever did look up and saw Mars as big as the full Moon that’s probably one of the last things that human kind would see. Because that means Mars is coming to get us.”

He said every year Americans go out to see the big Mars “and they’re disappointed.”

Wiggins said it is probably better if people just delete the email and don’t forward it to anyone. 

NASA discovers caverns on the Moon

´╗┐The Moon may be home to many bizarre things says a new discovery by NASA of caverns hundreds of feet deep beneath its surface.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) sent back images of the unusual caves to NASA bases, where scientists are puzzling over what may potentially be “down the rabbit hole”.

“They could be entrances to a geologic wonderland,” said Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, one of the key figures in charge of the LRO. “We believe the giant holes are skylights that formed when the ceilings of underground lava tubes collapsed.”

Scientists theorised that the moon may have an underground network as far back as the 1960s, but now the LRO has given them some proof, with high-quality images of the entrances to the caverns and surrounding landscape.

The caverns are believed to be “skylights” for lava tubes from billions of years ago. These tubes are formed when a volcana erupts and then begins to cool, with the channels for the lava remaining behind as caverns. Such lava tubes can be found on Earth, with some creating labyrinthine tunnels that go on for miles.

The next step for NASA is to investigate the caverns, which it believes could provide shelter for humans when we go join the Clangers on the Moon.

“The tunnels offer a perfect radiation shield and a very benign thermal environment,” said Robinson.

NASA wants you on the moon

NASA has launched a new Citizens Science project called Moon Zoo that allows you to explore the moon and help it identify craters and other interesting sites.

Moon Zoo lets you view new high-resolution images taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) and NASA wants the public to help in sorting through these many images to spot anything of interest that it should be focusing on.

“We need Web users around the world to help us interpret these stunning new images of the lunar surface,” said Chris Lintott of Oxford University and chair of the Citizen Science Alliance. “If you only spend five minutes on the site counting craters you’ll be making a valuable contribution to science and, who knows, you might run across a Russian spacecraft.”

“We hope to address key questions about the impact bombardment history of the moon and discover sites of geological interest that have never been seen before,” said Katherine Joy of the Lunar and Planetary Institute and a Moon Zoo science team member.

Once you sign up you can do a Crater Survey or Boulder Wars. The first involves marking craters and other areas of interest on the images NASA has taken, while Boulder Wars gives you two images and asks you to identify the one with the most boulders in.

TechEye tested these to see what they’re like. Boulder Wars got very boring very quickly, but the Crater Survey had some more lasting appeal. Of course, there’s only so many images of a barren crater-filled landscape you can view in a day before you have to simply close the website. It’s no wonder NASA is trying to get other people to do this work for them.

You can view a tutorial which shows the Crater Survey in action below:

Earthquakes put NASA's supercomputer at risk

NASA has one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, but the expensive bit of kit is at risk because the outfit could not afford an electrical back up unit.

A review panel of scientists and engineers has warned that the decline of basic research at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration jeopardizes the agency’s ability to study and explore the cosmos. The problem is that the cash is not being spent on maintenance.

The panel pointed out, as an example, how the Ames Research Center in California in the earthquake-prone Bay Area, has been unable to afford a $15 million uninterrupted power supply for the supercomputer.

A loss of power and cooling capability would fry the whole lot, the report said.

The panel moaned that research is slowing down so fast that pretty soon they will be trying to launch satellites with a large kite pulled by three white horses.

The findings could bolster the arguments of the Obama administration that NASA’s current effort to send astronauts back to the Moon is too expensive and is siphoning too much money from other programs.

Obama is spending $19 billion on NASA in the 2011 fiscal year but wants to cancel the Moon programme, known as Constellation, and replace it with the development of technologies intended to achieve a cheaper, more sustainable approach for sending people into space.

Now the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that research laboratories at the 10 NASA centres for studying materials, aeronautics and other basic science was only “marginally adequate.”

Apparently the labs are more than 40 years old and falling to bits. Deferred maintenance costs have swelled to $2.46 billion and there are two dead pigeons in the water tank.

Joseph Reagan, a co-chairman of the panel, said that NASA is not in strong, healthy shape.

US claims it pwns the moon

The US State of California has decided that the Land of the Free has the legal power to declare the Apollo 11 landing site a protected archaeology site.

Apparently the US has been worried that someone will rush to the moon and damage the site of humanities “one small step”.

When Apollo 11 astronauts burgered off from the moon, they left behind not just the small steps of men but a giant pile of equipment and junk.

Some of the junk was left behind so that the lander could take off again with all the moon rocks that the astronauts could garner.

Included were space boots and portable life support systems, the arm rests from their cockpit seats, a hammer, cameras and containers; tethers and antennas; empty food bags and bags filled with urine.

California is poised to become the first state to register the items at Tranquillity Base as an official “state historical resource”.

If the US State Historical Resources Commission approves the idea, Tranquillity Base could be designated a United Nations World Heritage Site.

Although there is no doubt that the site needs to be protected, it opens up a can of worms over which nation state actually owns the moon and how the place should be administered. It is fairly likely that humanity will colonise the moon, but it is not clear who will govern it.

While America is claiming that one part of the Moon belongs to one state then all sorts of problems start to arise. We doubt that California is going to send any coppers to check out if the site has been touched by souvenir hunters.

Still, it does solve America’s problem that it does not have any history and its founding myth is about as historically accurate as Romulus and Remus.  All the US has to do is take over landmasses that have a history and it is sorted.



America gives up on space race

The US has decided that it is a waste of cash sending men and women to the Moon or Mars.

President Obama in his 2011 budget decided that the Constellation programme envisaged new rockets and a new crewship called Orion to put astronauts on the lunar surface by 2020 was too costly, “behind schedule, and lacking in innovation”.

Nasa has already spent $9 billion on the programme which Obama said was draining resources from other US space agency activities. He plans instead to turn to the private sector for launch services.

Jim Kohlenberger, chief of staff at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) said that while Obama was cancelling Constellation,  the administration was not cancelling US ambitions.

It claimed that running the space race like it did 40 years ago was pointless and there should be game-changing new technology that can take us further, faster and more affordably into space.

Critics claimed the programme was never properly funded, and when it ran into technical difficulties its time schedule also began to slip.

It will cost Nasa $2.5 billion to close it completely and hit Florida, where the programme is being developed, hard.

Obama wants a pitiful amount of cash – $500 million in 2011 – to be used to incentivise private companies, to help them bring forward a new generation of launch systems to carry humans to and from space.  This probably means that Beardie can get Virgin flights to the moon next.

The US has been looking for money to pay for its bail-out of incompetent bankers who stuffed up the economy. Giving vast amounts of cash to keep Wall Street bankers in their third houses was deemed more important for humanity than any space programme.