There is currently much gnashing of teeth and rending of garb in my office. The reason for this is that, at 8:00 a.m. on Monday August 29, I have a call scheduled with a super-important customer whose moniker I may not mention to discuss a project I may not reveal about a product whose name must remain shrouded in secrecy. But I fear I’ve said too much. Suffice it to say that if I told you the name of this customer you would exclaim in disbelief, “You write for them?” And I would smugly reply, “Why yes, I do!” We will return to this topic in a moment, but first…
I recently read an amazing book called The Story of Earth: The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet by Robert M. Hazen. As far as I’m concerned, this is a must-read tome, and I will be adding it to the next installment of books that stand proud in the crowd (see Let’s Read Our Little Cotton Socks Off! Part 1 and Part 2).
Early in this tale, we hear a well-established theory of how the Moon was formed when another protoplanet called Theia crashed into the nascent Earth ejecting vast quantities of material into space shortly after our home world became worthy of the name. Some of the debris returned to Earth as a rain of molten rock, while much of the remainder coalesced into what became the Moon. At that time, a day on Earth was only around 5 hours (so there were around 1,750 short days per year), the Moon was only 15,000 miles away (it’s now 239,000 miles away receding from us at a rate of around 1.5 inches a year), and it orbited the Earth approximately every 3.5 days (it now takes around 29 days). In addition to the fact that “the Moon’s surface would have appeared black, with glowing red magma-filled cracks and volcanic basins easily visible from Earth,” the result on Earth included mile-high tides of molten lava (“surf’s up!”).
As an aside, I just ran across an interesting article on Science.org about how “A team of scientists has a provocative new proposal: Theia’s remains can be found in two continent-size layers of rock buried deep in Earth’s mantle.”
Humans first visited the Moon with Apollo 11 in 1969. The final Apollo mission was Apollo 17 in 1972. By that time, a grand total of 12 people had walked on the moon. It’s been 50 years since we said a sad farewell to our nearest celestial neighbor. It’s time for us to return. Moreover, it’s time for us to establish a permanent base there, possibly to use as a steppingstone on our way to Mars, the asteroid belt, and the moons of Jupiter.
One of the big problems with setting up a long-term base on the Moon is water, which would be horrendously expensive to transport from Earth in terms of fuel and money. Energy will be plentiful via solar panels or other means. We can extract metals and other elements out of the lunar material. But we need water to drink (and bathe) and grow food.
For a long time, it was assumed that the Moon was as dry as a bone. More recently, we’ve discovered water ice in permanently shadowed regions of the Moon like the edges of craters at the poles (see this brief history of the discoveries leading up to the confirmation of water on the Moon).
Now we are poised to return. I’m sure you’ve heard about Artemis, which is a human spaceflight program led by NASA to explore the Moon, aiming for its first touchdown on the lunar south pole by 2025. The Artemis I mission—which will feature the combination of a super-heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle (rocket) called the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion for short)—will be an uncrewed test flight. This three-week mission to the Moon and back will test all of the rocket stages and spacecraft that will be used in later Artemis missions.
The Artemis I launch window is currently scheduled for 8:33 a.m. to 10:33 a.m. EDT on Monday, August 29th.The reason I’m waffling on about this here is that I just heard that Emmy award-winning production studio, Felix & Paul Studios, will be broadcasting an immersive livestream called Space Explorers: Artemis Ascending of this historic event starting at 7:33am EDT at participating domes and planetariums near you.
“Who me?” I hear you cry. Yes, you! In addition to streaming live on Venues in Horizon Worlds via Meta Quest Headsets and Facebook 360 on the Space Explorers Facebook page—and also live and on-demand on Orange Immersive Now and LG Uplus’ U+DIVE—this program will also be livestreamed at 200+ domes and planetariums around the world live and/or on-demand post-launch such as Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium (Canada), Telus Spark Science Center (Canada), US Space and Rocket Center (US), Virginia Air & Space Science Center (US), Liberty Science Center (US), Adler Planetarium (US), Discovery Place Science (US), Planetário da Unipampa (Brazil), Planetarium of the Royal Observatory (Belgium), Museon-Omniversum (Netherlands), Tycho Brahe Planetarium (Denmark), Hamburg Planetarium (Germany), La Coupole (France), Lucern Planetarium (Switzerland), Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (Ireland), Netanya Planetarium (Israel), Rangsit Science Centre For Education (Thailand), Museum Victoria (Australia), and Live on an 8K high-resolution 20-meter LED dome at the Cosm Experience Center in Salt Lake City (US) (for more details on where to watch visit www.explore.space).
Did you notice the US Space and Rocket Center in that list? It’s literally 10 minutes from my office. If you visit their website, on the landing page you will see a reference to this event. Also, you will see a big sign that says: “SOLD OUT.”
Do you remember how we started this blog with me having a super-important conference call scheduled with a customer at 8:00 a.m. on Monday August 29th? The reason for my gnashing of teeth and rending of garb is that I was just invited to attend the US Space and Rocket Center event as a VIP guest (which means I would have plonked my pert posterior on one of the posh seats). All I can say is that my lower lip is quivering and a little tear is rolling down my cheek as I pen these words because I’m just about to email the organizers of this screening to decline their kind offer. I tell you… the things I do for my customers… we can but hope they appreciate my dedication to the cause.
Apropos of Artemis, I recently read a book called “ Artemis” by Andy Weir (author of The Martian”). It about the first settlement on the moon built to support mining. The background technology seemed very well thought out and eminently feasible. I thought the story line a little thin, but well worth the read for the thought of how moon settlement might be attained.
Hi Aubrey — I’ve heard of the book but not read it because I heard it wasn’t up to the standard of “The Martian” — but if you recommend it, I’ll read it 🙂