Wednesday, October 07, 2009

'Save The Moon'

As you may know, NASA is planning to send missiles to the Moon THIS FRIDAY. Why? They want to find out if there's water below the surface. Besides the symbolism (!) there are other issues, which Amy Ephron sums up in her excellent article in The Huffington Post. And also thanks to Amy, here is a link to a Twitter page about it:

UPDATE Oct.8 2:09 p.m.: And in the interest of equal time (or something) here is the Twitter url for something or someone pretending to be the LCross spacecraft involved in the Moon crash:

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At Thursday, October 08, 2009 7:14:00 AM, Blogger Steve Caldwell said...

If we're worried about this small man-made crater causing any of the hypothetical problems in Amy Ephron's story, perhaps we should also ban the universe from causing any future meteor impacts on the Moon.

In this particular case, what creation without the involvement of humanity has done to the Moon is much more severe than anything humans are doing here.

The impact site for this experiment is an impact crater that is 60 miles across.

What NASA is planning to do is small in comparison to what nature already does.

At Thursday, October 08, 2009 12:33:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

Thank you for your comment. Though I understand your pov in taking a detached scientific view of this, to me there is a difference between what nature does and what humans do. We cannot (in most cases) control nature. Nature is, well, natural and we need to have faith that although there are natural disasters, that this is part of embodied life and that ultimately there is a balance. But when people do violence, they are upsetting, unbalancing nature. So if a meteor causes a crater on the moon, that is one thing to me, but if people deliberately do violence to the moon, that is quite another to me--on an ethical level. On Earth, it's like comparing a hurricane (a natural occurrence) to dropping an atom bomb. Though they might both cause enormous damage and loss of life, they are not both ethically the same. The first is part of the natural order of things, the second is not. Another thing that concerns me is that there doesn't seem to be any overwhelming scientific need for this information AND even if there were, they don't seem to have investigated other, less violent ways of getting the same info (Amy suggests one, sending a couple of people up there to dig; I'd suggest another--send a robot (like LEM)to dig.) I also remember that scientists in WW II were not aware of how much damage an atomic bomb would cause and I wonder how accurate the NASA scientists estimate of damage to the Moon are. After all, the Moon is responsible for the ocean tides. If that gets thrown out of kilter, the effect of global warming on the ocean is going to look like small potatoes. These concerns are in addition to the symbolic image of doing violence to a planetary object that represents beauty to so many and is sacred to some.

At Thursday, October 08, 2009 4:10:00 PM, Blogger Marion said...

Important to realize that "NASA is planning to send missiles to the Moon" is incorrect...they already did. The crafts were launched in June 2009 and are scheduled to "arrive" this friday.

Another very real concern is the use of plutonium in rockets developed by NASA.
I'm not a 'rocket scientist' (which means that I have more sense than to send objects into outerspace to explode) so I don't know if all rockets developed by NASA contain plutonium, but my guess is that they do.
The following is an excerpt from Derrick Jensen's book, A Language Older than Words, about NASA's Cassini Space Probe:

"Here's the danger: in order to power its instruments, the probe contains 72.3 pounds of plutonium, mainly plutonium-238, which is about two hundred times more deadly than plutonium-239." (230-231

Jensen goes on to write: "The Cassini Probe was not the first to carry plutonium. It will not be the last. In 2002 the Comet Nucleus Mission will lift off carrying 25.5 kilograms of plutonium. In 2003 the Pluto Flyby will carry the same amount. Five launches to Mars will carry a total of seventeen kilograms, and four launches to the moon will carry another 42.5 kilograms." (231)

If there is life out there...will it survive our destructive actions? At the rate we are going, nothing will survive.

At Thursday, October 08, 2009 7:14:00 PM, Blogger Steve Caldwell said...

Medusa wrote:
"After all, the Moon is responsible for the ocean tides. If that gets thrown out of kilter, the effect of global warming on the ocean is going to look like small potatoes.

Newtonian mechanics is a well-developed branch of physics -- we can look at what this probe might do to the momentum of the moon. I haven't cracked a physics textbook since college in the 1980. However, I'm not going to lose sleep over this space probe hitting the Moon.

The LCross probe is a small man-made object that is trivially insignificant compared to the size of the moon.

The LCross probe will be 2.249 x 10^3 kg at impact vs the Moon's mass (7.347 7 × 10^22 kg).

The LCross probe's velocity will be 2.5 km/sec at impact. The Moon's orbital velocity is 1.022 km/sec.

Momentum = mass x velocity and this is conserved in any impact between objects.

Given that the Moon is 3 x 10^19 times heavier than the space probe and their velocities are nearly the same, the impact is not going to throw the Moon off-kilter. We may be able to calculate the change in momentum but I doubt that we can measure the change in mass and velocity of the Moon after the impact.

Part of the free and responsible search for truth and meaning that we Unitarian Universalists hold dear means that one should do some basic research on something like this before becoming alarmist.

A quick phone call to a friend or relative who teaches physics or who is an engineer would have debunked the scientific illiteracy in the Huffington Post article. From a scientific point of view, Amy Ephron has done the same thing the Obama "birther" conspiracy folks have done -- she's making up stuff without any basis in fact or established scientific theory.

At Monday, October 12, 2009 10:35:00 PM, Blogger annyikha said...

@Steve You are absolutely right about that. Behold the amazing power of physics!

NASA does not have a lot of money. In fact, its budget keeps getting slashed in favor of other programs. Sending sophisticated drilling equipment to do the test would have been more expensive than using an explosion.

If you are concerned about any materials being put into space, contact your Congress(wo)man or Senator and ask them if they will consider moving for a study conducted by someone independent. (The government doesn't always trust what NASA says. They commission independent studies all the time to check NASA proposals and programs.)

I spent a summer researching planetary protection protocols (both for Earth and the planets we visit) to avoid organic contamination. The amount of research and planning that goes into decisions is extensive. Quite honestly, from what I've read about the amazing sterilizing power of space's natural radiation (hooray for Earth's atmosphere!), I don't think a few kilos of plutonium will increase the threat. Gods, Deinococcus radiodurans couldn't even survive the radiation present in outer space, and it's an organism that repairs its own radiation-damaged genes.


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