Will Humanity Mine The Moon For Titanium?

Posted by on Oct 11, 2011 in Moon, NASA, Science | 1 comment

Apparently silver isn’t the only thing Earth’s nearest neighbor harbors upon the surface. Astronomers have discovered another element which could aid lunar settlers in their quest to conquer the Moon.

A new map of the Moon has revealed an abundance of titanium ore that is up to 10 times richer than on Earth, a finding that could one day lead to a lunar mining colony, astronomers said on Friday. […]

 

“Lunar titanium is mostly found in the mineral ilmenite, a compound containing iron, titanium and oxygen,” they said.

 

“Future miners living and working on the Moon could break down ilmenite to liberate these elements. (Moon Daily)

Aside from the obvious uses of titanium (i.e. planes, rockets, buildings, etc.), the strong light weight element is also the metal of choice for surgical implants (as titanium is able to remain harmlessly within the human body for decades).

Although titanium alone will not convince humanity for the need to settle the Moon, it’s presence (along with the discovery of water and the ability to extract oxygen from lunar soil) will probably add to the case of inhabiting Luna first before our species decides to conquer more ambitious objects (like Mars and Callisto).

(Image: Titanium Crystals, Credit: Heinrich Pniok)

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Experience Martian Gravity Without Leaving Earth?

Posted by on Oct 3, 2011 in Mars, NASA, Video | 0 comments

For those of you who are Mars-bound, Adam Norton has developed a clever way of simulating reduced gravity without having to visit the red planet.

Mars Gravity Simulator is a fully functioning experiment adapted from the design of Apollo- era lunar gravity simulators, but made for Martian conditions. It can be used to assess maneuverability of Astronauts at a gravity approximately 40% Earth gravity, as well as to study gait changes for those conditions. Lunar locomotion styles from the Apollo landings were tested for speed and efficiency as well as to establish a figure for the approximate change in the walk/run transition speed at Mars gravity. (Adam Norton / Performance Space)

As you can see from the video above, this is actually an ingenious way to train future explorers intent upon settling Mars on how to “trot” upon the crimson world’s surface.

Norton’s adapted design is inexpensive enough (at least relatively speaking) to be adapted by the public as well as the private sector, not to mention private citizens seeking to envision themselves living off world.

Note: Since Martian gravity is almost 2/5 Earth norm, future residents could probably forsake wearing gravity suits (unless they plan on making a return trip to Earth in near future).

(via New Scientist, Video Credit: Adam Norton and Performance Space, Image Credit: NASA and Craig Bender)

 

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NASA And Russia Dream About Nuclear Space Ships

Posted by on Apr 7, 2011 in NASA, Russia | 0 comments

For those of you dreaming of reaching Mars, Mercury and other faraway destinations minus the chemical rockets, NASA and Russia are warming up to the idea of using nuclear spaceships in the not so distant future.

Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos and NASA will discuss the development of a nuclear-powered spaceship on April 15, agency director Anatoly Perminov said on Monday. […]

A nuclear engine design is to be completed by 2012, while the project’s implementation will require 17 billion rubles ($600 million). (RIA Novosti)

Although $600 million is chump change (at least as far as US federal spending goes), Russia is reportedly going to should most of the cost, with NASA filling in the rest.

As a bonus, NASA and Russia are open to partnering with other nuclear powers, which means we could see eastern nations (like China and Japan) as well as European countries contributing their scientific know how in order to ensure that the rocket is a success.

While chemical rockets are useful in helping us reach neighboring worlds like the Moon, we are going to need something a little bit faster if we want to see boot prints upon crimson soil.

(Hat Tip: Space Travel)

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Extraterrestrial Farmers To Raise Grain Without Soil? (Aeroponics)

Posted by on Dec 7, 2010 in NASA, Space Food, Video | 1 comment

If you were to attempt to raise a garden utilizing only lunar or Martian soil, chances are that your precious plants would either die a horrible death or survive albeit malnourished.

While there are probably exceptions to this rule (i.e. asparagus might be able to thrive within Martian dirt), the vast majority of terrestrial plants will need terrestrial soil in order to thrive, which poses a huge problem for humanity (as people need to eat off world, let alone find employment).

Instead of importing tons of terrestrial soil from the homeworld or manufacturing large quantities from humans, it’s probably wiser to raise them without soil thanks to aeroponics.

Growing plants without any soil may conjure up images from a Star Trek movie, but it’s hardly science fiction. Aeroponics, as one soilless cultivation process is called, grows plants in an air or mist environment with no soil and very little water. Scientists have been experimenting with the method since the early 1940s, and aeroponics systems have been in use on a commercial basis since 1983.

“Who says that soil is a precondition for agriculture?” asked Graber. “There are two major preconditions for agriculture, the first being water and the second being plant nutrients. Modern agriculture makes extensive use of ‘soilless growing media,’ which can include many varied solid substrates.”

In 1997, NASA teamed up with AgriHouse and BioServe Space Technologies to design an experiment to test a soilless plant-growth system on board the Mir Space Station. NASA was particularly interested in this technology because of its low water requirement. Using this method to grow plants in space would reduce the amount of water that needs to be carried during a flight, which in turn decreases the payload. Aeroponically-grown crops also can be a source of oxygen and drinking water for space crews. (Astrobiology Magazine)

Using Aeroponics would not only reduce the overall cost of raising grain, but enable us to establish “self sustaining” colonies beyond the Jovain lunar worlds (such as Callisto, Ganymede and Saturn’s Titan), but also upon asteroids and Centaurs (aka giant comets like Chiron) as well.

While aeroponics would not be feasible for every time of plant available (i.e. raising forests would require tons of soil), it would make it easier to settle upon the worlds that dance around our yellow sun which would aid humanities quest to conquer the final frontier.

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NASA Taking A Second Look At Mercury

Posted by on Nov 9, 2010 in Ice Water, Mercury, NASA | 3 comments

After six long years of space travel, NASA’s Messenger probe will finally be able to experience a close encounter with the world known as Mercury.

Although most of the planet has already been mapped, scientists are hoping that Messenger will be able to confirm whether or not the first rock from the Sun harbors water upon its Sun baked surface.

Most intriguing is what Messenger will find when it peers into craters near Mercury’s poles. The day side of Mercury reaches 800 degrees Fahrenheit, but within the shadows of the polar craters, where the Sun never shines, temperatures are thought to be around minus 300 degrees.

That means there could be large deposits of water ice on Mercury. Radar measurements from Earth have already given suggestions of water, but some scientists believe that the deposits could instead be sulfur or silicates, which could produce the same radar results. (New York Times)

If water is confirmed to exist within the shadowy craters of Mercury, it could potentially open up the planet for settlement in the semi-distant future.

While colonists would be insane to venture outside during the Mercurian day, they would be able to explore the surface during the night without fear of being irradiated thanks to the planet’s magnetic field.

Although the existence of water ice would not raise Mercury’s profile as a world humanity would need to conquer (unless of course a massive amount of metals and minerals are discovered upon the surface), it would help make the world a lot easier to inhabit for future settlers.

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Silver Discovered On The Moon?

Posted by on Oct 21, 2010 in Moon, NASA | 0 comments

Despite finding an abundance of water upon Earth’s nearest neighbor, NASA has unveiled that the Moon also contains trace amounts of silver as well.

Another intriguing result was the variety and amount of other substances inside Cabeus.

LCROSS and a sister probe, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), found evidence of all kinds of compounds, including elemental hydrogen, carbon monoxide, ammonia, methane, mercury, calcium, magnesium and silver. And these materials made up a surprisingly large chunk of the crater floor.

“Where we impacted, up to 20 percent was something other than dirt,” Colaprete said. “It was ices, volatiles, light metals. That was a surprise, that you had so much of this material in there.” (Space.com)

While Cabeus’s true wealth lies in the fact that the crater contains an abundance of water, the fact that silver exists on the lunar surface is good news as it gives future settlers a potential means to form their own monetary system apart from Earth.

Although it’s doubtful that we will see a “silver rush” to the Moon (as settling the off white world will cost billions), the valuable metal could aid lunar colonists in the electronics arena as silver is an excellent conductor of electricity.

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)

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