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NASA's More Obscure Lunar Research

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the peering-into-the-crevices dept.

NASA 59

MickDownUnder writes "Ever wondered what the moon smells like (and no it's not like wensleydale) ? Or how good the skiing is there? If you do decide to hit the lunar slopes you may want to take a torch with you in case you run into your own shadow."

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Mmmmm....... (1)

DoraLives (622001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651087)

gunpowder.

Re:Mmmmm....... (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651424)

*Spent* gunpowder. It smells different than unspent gunpowder.

I wouldn't want to be breathing that stuff in, though.

Re:Mmmmm....... (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 8 years ago | (#14652234)

*Spent* gunpowder. It smells different than unspent gunpowder.

I wouldn't want to be breathing that stuff in, though.

Why not? Burning gunpowder smells great. Really wonderful. I may just associate it with lots of great memories, but it's certainly not repulsive, by any means, even to someone who's never smelled it before.

Re:Mmmmm....... (2, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 8 years ago | (#14653059)

It's not the smell that's the problem. It's the fact that moon dust is mostly what is effectively powdered glass. Do you want that in your lungs?

Re:Mmmmm....... (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 8 years ago | (#14653361)

Sorry. I thought we were talking about breathing in spent gunpowder smoke, not moon dust. That dust would, of course, be bad news.

Sounds like a good way to ruin your skis... (1)

metternich (888601) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651105)

but the Low Gravity would be fun.

Re:Sounds like a good way to ruin your skis... (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651196)

moondust is much more abrasive than sand." Typical grains of Earth-sand measure 250 to 500 microns (millionths of a meter) across and have rounded edges. They easily slip, slide and roll. A typical grain of moondust, on the other hand, measures less than 100 microns wide and has very sharp edges. The fine grains lock together "like Velcro," says Schmitt, "and scratch anything that comes in contact with them." A Teflon ski-coating might not last long.
Sand is not nearly as abrasive, because we have things that don't exist on the moon.

Water and wind to be specific. All that tumbling around takes the sharp edges off the sand grains.

I imagine the sand/dust on Mars will be closer in quality to the sand & dust on Earth, than the Moon's.

Re:Sounds like a good way to ruin your skis... (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651751)

I would have expected the sand on earth to be finer, if it's subject to abrasion a lot more, no? why is moon dust smaller?

erosion? (2, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651893)

I think the superfine stuff on Earth gets picked up by our ubiquitous flowing water and turned into mud, which over geological time gets turned into shale, sandstone, and other sedimentary rock. That is, what we call "sand" on Earth consists of grains too large to be suspended in water. There's a lower limit on the size of "sand" on Earth that doesn't apply to "sand" on the Moon.

Not exactly (2, Informative)

djward (251728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14655830)

While you are correct that water will preferentially suspend finer grains, sand is commonly suspended in any flow that's fast or deep enough. Sand blows through river systems pretty quickly on geologic timescales.

Your are right to point out, though, that this eventually ends up in rock again in some form or another. And this rock gets exhumed and eroded into big particles, some of which may break further down to sand, silt, clay...

So the answer lies in the fact that on earth, additional large debris is generated along with fine debris. On the Moon, it's the same stuff sitting around getting hammered over and over by meteorites. It ends up very fine and very pointy.

Of course the moon smelled like gunpowder... (3, Funny)

jferris (908786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651122)

...that was one of the things they used on the set when they filmed the moon landing. ;-)

Lunar Snowmobiles? (2, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651144)

It's extremely interesting how the Apollo 15 astronauts went skiing on the moon. It might suggest a better mode of transport than the buggy they used. Instead of bothering with four wheels, perhaps they really need a Snowmobile? (Or would that be a lunarmobile? Perhaps a dustmobile?) Skiing along like that might allow them to expend less battery power on locomotion, and move from place to place much faster. Having retractable treads so that they can glide might not be such a bad idea either.

I'll have to patent this now and then charge megabucks for the idea when Moonbase Alpha goes in. At least I'll be able to collect up until the moon gets blown out of orbit. :-P

Re:Lunar Snowmobiles? (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651528)

Unless your wheels are very badly lubricated, you're going to get a lot less friction from wheels than from skis.

Re:Lunar Snowmobiles? (1)

barawn (25691) | more than 8 years ago | (#14652344)

Unless your wheels are very badly lubricated, you're going to get a lot less friction from wheels than from skis.

You're assuming that the wheels can stay (mostly) above the surface. If they're digging and displacing a lot of ground (i.e. slipping constantly), you might as well use skis, as there's no reason to waste the energy in rolling resistance if you're going to slip no matter what.

Of course, the lunar rovers didn't seem to actually slip that much, so for most of the Moon, they're probably fine.

Re:Lunar Snowmobiles? (1)

mightypenguin (593397) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651553)

I think a modified pogo stick would be a cooler way to get around, those 15-25ft hops would make traveling more fun and help astonauts keep in shape :)

Re:Lunar Snowmobiles? (2, Funny)

tsalaroth (798327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651560)

Don't you know Moonbase Alpha's been in operation for decades? We put it there to defend ourselves against the cosmo-terrorists that we all know are after our oil.

Re:Lunar Snowmobiles? (1)

pedroloco (778593) | more than 8 years ago | (#14652934)

Skiing along like that might allow them to expend less battery power on locomotion, and move from place to place much faster.

That might be true as long as you only need to go downhill. Of course, unless someone puts a ski lift at the bottom of every crater, you might have a reasonably exhausting walk upslope.

Re:Lunar Snowmobiles? (2, Funny)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14652941)

perhaps they really need a Snowmobile?

I vote for dog sled.

Of course, they'd have to be robotic dogs, because as we know there is no dog food on the moon.

Re:Lunar Snowmobiles? (1)

aphoenix (877085) | more than 8 years ago | (#14660194)

I'll have to patent this now and then charge megabucks for the idea when Moonbase Alpha goes in.

I'd wait for at least Moonbase Beta... preferably Moonbase v1.0.

Torch = Flashlight, for Americans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14651191)

No message here

Re:Torch = Flashlight, for Americans (1, Offtopic)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14652691)

Maybe that should be...

Flashlight = Torch, for

Considering that flashlights were invented in the United States (by The American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Co. later known as Eveready)... and named because of the fact that in the late 1800s batteries didn't last too long. So they were "flashed" on and off when needed to conserve the battery. That is why so many flashlights still have that flash function today.

Bill

Moon dust formed by violence? (5, Funny)

Oms (16745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651207)

I can't believe how TFA goes on about the moon dust being "formed by violence." This is not not proven fact; it is opinion. It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the nature of moon dust that discounts intelligent design by a creator. And a benevolent creator would certainly not form anything by violence!

This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.

Re:Moon dust formed by violence? (0)

CheeseTroll (696413) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651448)

A truly benevolent creator would have made the moon out of cheese.

Re:Moon dust formed by violence? (2, Funny)

Oms (16745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651547)

That the moon is NOT made out of cheese is also not proven fact, it is opinion.

To be entirely honest, I'm not sure I'm happy with the cheese theory either, since making cheese involves the curdling of milk. And curdling is a pretty violent process if you happen to be a milk protein! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curd [wikipedia.org] )

This being such a contentious issue, I would prefer if NASA took the Moon off the agenda entirely. The very people who rely on us for factual information the most could be easily confused by this debate.

Re:Moon dust formed by violence? (2, Interesting)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651919)

I was going to mod this funny, thinking it was just a random ID attack, then I realised you were referring to http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/02/0 6/0540246 [slashdot.org] as well. Depressing more than funny :(

Re:Moon dust formed by violence? (2, Funny)

el_gordo101 (643167) | more than 8 years ago | (#14652203)

This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA.

Do I detect a new /. meme in the making? I, for one, would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA...

The Moon: A Ridiculous Liberal Myth (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 8 years ago | (#14654404)

This is one of the stories where this isn't a troll:

The Moon: A Ridiulous Liberal Myth [slashdot.org] .

<DISCLAIMER>
I am not claiming authorship of this, and as such, am only posting a link to the first version of it I found.

Self-moderated down with No Karma Bonus.
</DISCLAIMER>

On a more serious note .... (3, Interesting)

DoraLives (622001) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651224)

if we presume that people are eventually going to establish a permanent presence on the moon, and their numbers increase as the colonies become well-established and fully self-sufficient, then a point will eventually be reached where the "skiers" will have successfully managed to push all the best "powder" downhill to where it no longer resides on a "skiable" slope.

Since the weather on the moon will not replenish the "powder" upslope in anything resembling a useful timeframe on the scale of human lives (or even human civilizations), that will be the end of that. No more "powder" on the slope and no more "skiing."

Which, I suppose, is by way of wondering what other unwitting long-term effects the presence of people on the moon may wind up causing.

Re:On a more serious note .... (2, Interesting)

dmatos (232892) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651554)

They'd just need to invest in groomers, like there are on terrestrial slopes. The same problem happens on earth-based snow-skiing mountains. At the end of the day, a lot of the snow has been pushed around, and there isn't a nice surface to ski on. The snow machines level out the bumps, smooth out the surface, and push snow to places where there is no snow.

Of course, the dust would be compacted a bit, and it wouldn't be nice powder per se, but I'm sure if that's what the moon skiers really want, it won't take too long for a moon ski resort to think of a way to put fluffy powder back on the slopes.

Re:On a more serious note .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14651625)

Ah, yes. Perhaps we should worry about the environment on the moon as well. Destroying its pristine wilderness maybe?

Lets not forget that this is a lifeless hunk of rock. If needed we can push the dust back up the hill or grind up the hill for more dust - if skiing on the moon really became a big deal.

I'd actually think that a large domed structure with gliders in the low grav environment would be more fun.

Bulldoze it back up. (1)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651708)

Think of it as dredging a lake to restore the beaches. Just push all the powder back up to the top of the hill. Of course, push too hard and it'll go into orbit...

Re:On a more serious note .... (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651778)

Assuming over-ski every hill on the moon, couldn't we just use a dust-plough to push it back up.

Re:On a more serious note .... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14653996)

if we presume that people are eventually going to establish a permanent presence on the moon, and their numbers increase as the colonies become well-established and fully self-sufficient, then a point will eventually be reached where the "skiers" will have successfully managed to push all the best "powder" downhill to where it no longer resides on a "skiable" slope.

Since the weather on the moon will not replenish the "powder" upslope in anything resembling a useful timeframe on the scale of human lives (or even human civilizations), that will be the end of that. No more "powder" on the slope and no more "skiing."

I suspect a bulldozer or two will be borrowed from a nearby construction site and the dust will be returned. No biggie.

Re:On a more serious note .... (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658740)


Since the weather on the moon will not replenish the "powder" upslope in anything resembling a useful timeframe on the scale of human lives (or even human civilizations), that will be the end of that. No more "powder" on the slope and no more "skiing."


Considering the moon has about the same surface area as Africa, I wouldn't really worry about a few Astronauts ruining the "skiing" for everyone else just yet.

Poo in Space (1)

eutychus_awakes (607787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651502)

Some of NASA's most obscure research has been in the area of what to do about human waste products (including and especially the resulting methane gas) in a spacecraft environment. There still isn't a good solution, AFAIK.

Re:Poo in Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14653925)

In Earth orbit anything can be a deadly projectile because the space is so crowded. Colliding with a turd at several thousand miles an hour would really ruin your day. But in outer space on the way to Mars? Dump it overboard. In colonies just dig a hole and bury it, the same way you would on Earth.

Of course, dumping your dumps overboard on a Lunar trip might result in some extra "meteors" at some point after the spacecraft's arrival at the base. But who said space flight was easy? Seriously, waste would probably be just stored on the way to the Moon, but tossed out the airlock on a Martian mission.

Re:Poo in Space (1)

eutychus_awakes (607787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14654302)

But then there's the problem of how to collect it in low/no gravity, and what to do to replace the water that you're throwing overboard with each waste dump. Not a trivial problem for a long-duration space mission. This is not to mention the fact that the average human produces a huge amount of flatulence (farts) every day that the air handling equipment on the spaceship needs to be able to deal with. I recall stories from the early shuttle flights that the limiting factor on the duration of a mission was how long the astronauts could stand the smell on the spacecraft. Mir had the same problem, as I recall.

Are you kidding?! (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651762)

I would presume that the moon smelled like moldy cheese.

Not that I buy into the conspirary theories (1)

psgalbraith (200580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651857)

But if shadows are so dark, why is the back-lit capsule not dark in the first picture?

Re:Not that I buy into the conspirary theories (2, Informative)

Aranth Brainfire (905606) | more than 8 years ago | (#14652072)

Notice how the upper portions, facing the sky, of the module are dark, while the parts angled downwards are bright? It's reflecting the light bouncing off of the surface of the moon- but the surface doesn't reflect light onto itself, and thus when it is shadowed, it is rather dark.

Good explanation! (1)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14652582)

It's so simple, yet the grandparent poster's question had me scratching my head for a second, too.

Re:Not that I buy into the conspirary theories (1)

hesiod (111176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14652089)

Very interesting question. Perhaps the camera used to capture the image had a light source that was strong enough to be caught on the extremely reflective material on the lander, but not strong enough to bounce enough light off of the particles on the ground to produce a visible image on the film/CCD.

You'll notice that there are parts of the lander that look pitch black like the shadows, such as inside the folds of the reflective material and the underside.

Re:Not that I buy into the conspirary theories (1)

Fenris Ulf (208159) | more than 8 years ago | (#14653315)

Good eye :) The lower part of the LEM is covered in gold foil, which is reflective to help prevent direct sunlight from cooking the inhabitants. The "lit" portion of the LEM which appears gold is the foil reflecting the sight of the white landscape like a mirror.

The upper portion of the LEM is not as reflective, but you can still see bright panels where they are aligned to reflect light back toward the camera.

Why did it smell like gunpowder? (3, Funny)

sarlos (903082) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651955)

The same reason everything tastes like chicken. The designers of the Matrix did not expect Humans to go sniffing moon dust so there was no pre-determined smell for it and some agent panicked and smacked the "spent gunpowder" smell instead of the "it's just a rock" smell.

The Sagan Incident? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14651959)

Can anyone confirm or deny whether carl sagan really was hired to figure out how big a nuclear blast we'd need on the moon to get a mushroom cloud visible from earth? i'm pretty sure its an urban legend, but its a pretty good story otherwise.

Ahh, secret project A119 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14652530)

Well, we will never know if Project A119 [wikipedia.org] was indeed fact or fiction, but it remains a good story nonetheless...

Shocking Revelation (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14651998)

The Moon has "electrically charged dust". Is the net charge of the lunar surface zero, like the ground of the Earth? Is the charge positive or negative, and where did the extra electrons come from (or where did they go)?

Moon's charge (1)

EightBits (61345) | more than 8 years ago | (#14655338)

The net charge of the lunar surface is zero, relative to the moon. Relative to the Earth, it may be and probably is something different. The problem is that the net charge of the Earth being zero is only relative to the Earth. What if we compare the net charge of the Earth's surface to another planet's surface net charge? Will it be zero? Why or why not? Basically, a charge of 0V means there is no potential for eletrical charge to migrate from one location to another. If we put the Earth and the moon close enough to each other we would probably see a lightning bolt as the electrical difference settled the score so the voltage difference between the two bodies was zero. This would probably happen over and over again because there is a lot of activity under the Earth's surface and probably not so much under the moon's surface. That might cause the Earth's surface to keep recharging and shooting lightning at the moon.

Basically, I think it's safe to assume that building a colony on the moon would mean that on the moon, the moon's surface would have a net charge of zero relative to the electrical devices running on it. It would be an interesting question to ask if a space craft from Earth would have to go through a discharge zone before approaching a lunar colony or risk damaging the electronics of either one because it's net charge of zero relative to the Earth's surface would no be 0V on the moon's surface. I assume lightning rods on the moon would perform as well as they do here on Earth, though.

Interesting question and one that could spawn a nice little short story if one was so inclined.

Re:Moon's charge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14655631)

Don't confuse charge and potential. Potential is inherently relative. Charge is not.

Re:Moon's charge (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14655681)

Maybe you're thinking of voltage?

Charge isn't relative. Charge is either positive or negative, in some number of coulombs. Which reflects the balance of electrons per atom, a real physical quantity.

The Earth's charge is zero (at least at or near the surface, where we've measured it). The Earth's capacitance and conductivity (at least in the crust) is great enough that it remains effectively zero, even when charges are applied to it. That's why electrical devices are "grounded" by connection to "earth": the Earth's charge is net zero, even when negligible charges (up to lightning bolts) are transferred to/from it.

The Moon's surface is reportedly covered with "charged dust", as mentioned in the article we're discussing. I've heard that before, and assume it's true. But I don't know whether there are complimentarily charged piles of positive dust in some areas, and negative in others. I also don't know the conductivity of the Moon. It gets hit with particles, perhaps charged, all the time, some of which might carry off charge, others which might deposit them. But the evidence of charge is there in the dust. I wonder how that happens.

Why NOT go back to the moon, or to Mars? (3, Interesting)

tsa (15680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14653380)

Many people in my surroundings tell me I'm mad when I tell them that we msut certainly send people to the moon and to Mars, just because it's cool and we can do it. They tell me that it is risky and costs a lot of money. Sure they are right, but we wouldn't be where we are now if we didn't undertake expensive and risky projects now and then. In my opinion going to the moon is the coolest thing humans have ever done, and I can't wait until people will travel to Mars, or back to the moon. Apart from the coolness factor, maybe it's good to have an event that will be followed worldwide by people of all religions and backgrounds, just to bring us a bit closer together again. The world needs that.

Re:Why NOT go back to the moon, or to Mars? (1)

yoprst (944706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657173)

The world needs that

Well, if you pay, why not?

Re:Why NOT go back to the moon, or to Mars? (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14657775)

It's cheaper than this war against Iraq, you know. And a lot more useful I might add. I would gladly pay taxes to put a man on Mars. I'm from europe and I'd love to see ESA do something like this, but for some reason the EU is always busy fighting about REALLY unimportant things so we can't expect much from them unfortunately.

Re:Why NOT go back to the moon, or to Mars? (1)

yoprst (944706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14658155)

Well, I have some really bad news for you. War misteriosly correlates with decline of terrorism within US, so you can't call it useless unless you're ready to prove that it's just a coincidence (that doesn't make war cheap/effective/whatever else you can grieve about, of course). Getting people to other celestial bodies, in contrast, is utterly useless. The only thing that people can do outside our planet is research. Not that it's only thing that we want to do, but alas - we're limited by how successful our tecnology is in protecting us from hostile environments. And the only sensible way to conduct research there is to use automatic probes. If you send humans there you essentially have automatic probe with some costly human ballast attached. On the money side, sending humans to Mars right now isn't much better economically then repeating WWII again. Nowhere near Iraq spendings... If you're burning with desire to spend a few billions on space programmes, launch a newer better Hubble ST.

Re:Why NOT go back to the moon, or to Mars? (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14660177)

War misteriosly correlates with decline of terrorism within US, so you can't call it useless unless you're ready to prove that it's just a coincidence

Why don't you prove to me that you're right? It seems to me we have a lot more terrorism outside the US since Bush started his `war against terror.' But what do you care, you live in America.

The usefulness of space exploration as such can indeed be debated, but don't forget about all the spin-offs such an operation produces. We take a lot of things that were originally developed for space travel for granted now, and they are certainly useful.

Re:Why NOT go back to the moon, or to Mars? (1)

yoprst (944706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14674132)

It isn't much more terrorism outside US. It's much more terrorism being shown on CNN, because nowdays CNN spends more time where the terrorists are. And no, I don't live in US. As for spin-offs, they're a drop in the sea of useful products, and I can't come with a single reason why they wouldn't be developed without manned space missions anyway.

Very interesting article (3, Insightful)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 8 years ago | (#14653391)

That was one of the more interesting articles I've ever seen featured on Slashdot. Too bad it was relegated to the back burner.

Spent gunpowder smell (1)

pontifier (601767) | more than 8 years ago | (#14655250)

When I was little I liked to break little rocks into dust with a hammer. The resulting dust often smelled like spent gunpowder.

Reality Distortion Field (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 8 years ago | (#14655674)

"The astronauts could see Surveyor 3 from their lunar module Intrepid. "I remember the first time I looked at it," recalls Bean. "I thought it was on a slope of 40 degrees. How are we going to get down there? I remember us talking about it in the cabin, about having to use ropes."

But "it turned out [the ground] was real flat," rejoined Conrad."

Good news, no need to find yourself a job at Apple Computer anymore to experience the Reality Distortion Field, you just gotta go to the moon

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