Logbook #75

AS11-37-5459
AS11-37-5459

Zara raised her eyes and slowly took in the vault of the heavens. Dots and shimmers of light beckoned to her from every which way. Sighing, she wondered how so few stars could raise such strong emotions and vibrant conjecture. She remembered an earlier class where the instructor had said that with the bare eye people could see only a few thousand stars at best. And somehow those few stars drew aspirants on. She could spend and has spent countless hours contemplating the dots, the Earth and her existence. While no grandiose schemes miraculously appeared in her mind, she happily felt humbled and devinely curious as to what lay in store for her and the heavens.

She traced her eyes through the familiar constellation of the Southern Cross and down to the patch of regolith in front of her.

“It’s much as we’d imagined” she reported back to Xu in the Hab. “This patch of lunar dust looks exactly like every other dust heap around” she continued, then laughed. “Perhaps their maid’s taken the day off. Or the last few billion years off.”

“Keep looking” implored Xu’s voice over the intercom. “There may be shards of glass or a slight depression.”

Xu was hoping to find the impact spot of a small asteroid. Their local seismographs had triangulated a recent disturbance somewhere nearby. The equipment’s accuracy wasn’t great, probably due to its lack of sensitivity. From a few previous events the colonists had build a log lunar strikes versus seismograph readings. They didn’t have enough points to have a reliable sample so they valued every chance to add another. The latest event could have been from a tennis ball sized bit of asteroid. If they could find it then they could add one more point to calibrate the seismograph as well as learn a bit more about ‘heavenly’ particle interactions.

Zara was undertaking the standard ground sweep pattern. Nearby, Woof helped by setting a reference point from which she could stay on course. She was slowly stepping through, or really shuffling through the regolith. Trying to use her feet to detect the expected cone-shaped depression. Given the low angle of the Sun she was also keeping an eye out for oddly shaped depressions at the surface of the regolith. Yet, as she continually found when doing assaying, the Moon’s surface was for the most part oddly shaped in every which way. There were shallow depressions and abrupt, sharp holes. Cliffs would tower nearly straight up above her while others gently sloped like a primordial shield volcano. And immediately adjacent to these were flat lands or marias that spread across from horizon to horizon. This variety held sway with little attention to rock composition. After the weeks on the Moon, Zara was getting much more used to selenology, associating various ground patterns with rock types and chemical compositions. She knew that she was in a slight depression and even though there was no atmosphere to move dust around, the depression had a greater depth of regolith in the centre than on the edges. Actually the northern edge had no regolith and was likely the lip of an old, small impact crater. So, in a sense, she was looking for a crater within a crater. Not an easy task.

She paused and looked up again. She was sad that she would never see a meteor shoot across the sky. Without an atmosphere, any asteroid would either strike the Moon or go sailing directly by. Unless the Sun glinted off its edges, no human on the Moon would ever know of its existence. She had once imagined herself standing on a lunar mountain top and holding up a hand to try to grab one as it flew by on its long elliptical orbit about the Sun. She knew that she could never stop an asteroid. And even the impact of a speck of dust could prove lethal. But, if the opportunity ever presented itself, she would raise her hand and try.

 

KRUSTY

NASA: Kilopower project

Energy is the most critical of commodities whether on Earth or on the Moon. Humans eat to obtain energy to power their bodies. Humans release stores of energy to power their technology. One of the most amazing, controlled releases of energy occurs whenever we launch platforms into space.

Living on the Moon will require great amounts of energy. In comparison, consider the International Space Stations. Its solar arrays provide about 100kW of power. That ‘s a lot. While solar arrays will certainly provide some power on the Moon, they need to always be aimed at the Sun. And be dust free. This may not always be practicable. We have other, higher density power sources. For example, NASA is developing KRUSTY. This little fission reactor could provide 10kW of baseline power for up to 10 years.  One or more KRUSTY reactors could provide local power for locations on the Moon or even remote locations on the Earth. These sources of controlled energy could make the lives of humans on the Moon very resourceful.

For those interested in a little history, check out the TOPAZ reactor for a different, Soviet design.

In any case, remember the human need for energy. It is critical to our bodies and our technology. On the Moon we will be relying upon machines for recirculating air, growing plants, and cleaning water. And the machines like us, won’t function without energy.  So we have to have an assured source of controlled energy. Before we set foot back upon the Moon.

Bulletin #53

Logbook #74

AS12-48-7043
AS12-48-7043

Xu continued staring at the image on the screen. Their hill top telescope, designed to look at far-away stars and planets, was instead imaging the Earth’s surface while it slide slowly past. Now, the image showed an island. And a massive grey smear that was spreading from the island. As if a great, dirty tear was sliding down the cheek of a cherubic child. But it wasn’t a tear. It was the effects from the volcano. The volcano on the island. The volcano that had erupted overnight in a cataclysmic eruption. An eruption exceeding that of Krakatoa in 1883. An eruption that was causing a great deal of concern to the global authorities. An eruption that was as magnificent to watch from the Moon as it was terrifying to comprehend.

Behind Xu, Desai saw the image and let out a soft low whistle of awe and concern. “How big is that thing?” he asked.

Xu didn’t take her eyes away. “It’s about 500km long,” she answered, “and growing.”

“Wow,” replied Desai, “that must have been some explosion.”

“Actually, it’s still exploding,” responded Xu “and it may not be stopping any time soon. The volcano continues to spew lava. Still interacting with the ocean. Still growing and shrinking as if there’s a massive series of lava channels linked to the surface. Each taking turns to erupt. Go quiet. Be dormant for a brief moment. Then, erupt again.

This is a live shot from our telescope. If you stare long enough you’ll see a prick of light at the apex of the cloud. It’s a tiny flash to us. But it’s a violent, massive release of energy to anyone unfortunate enough to be within viewing distance on the Earth’s surface. Here on the Moon, we happen to have the best vantage point of anybody.”

“What do the volcanologists have to say about that thing?”

“They’re still coming to a consensus. No one expected to see that volcano erupt in their lifetime. Given what they’ve seen so far, the initial estimates are that it’s as least as large as the Krakatoa event.”

“Wow again. That old one went global. It caused one of coldest and hungriest years on record. Could this one do the same?”

“That’s one of the fears. If enough ash gets high enough then the Earth’s climate will experience one heck of a change.”

Xu turned away from the screen and squarely faced Desai.

“Do you know what this means for you and I?” she asked.

“Not much.”

“I hope you’re right. But it may mean that the Earth will experience a few years of extreme food shortage. And if they`re hungry down there then you can be sure that they won’t be sending much in the way of food up to us. We may end up being just as hungry as they are. Or worse, we may be forced to return to Earth if no resupply vessels are launched.”

“Return to a planet that’s self-destructing? And a planet that’s covered with billions of underfed humans? I don’t think so. I’d rather stay right here. On this boring, desolate chunk of rock called the Moon. At least this chunk of rock doesn’t keep rebuilding its surface in some sort of dervish dance of tectonic plates.”

Xu softened her stance a bit. She had to lead by example and this was going to be a very significant example.

“When the time comes, we’ll make a decision. Together. Let’s just hope that we make the best decision for our species as well as for ourselves.”

Desai was half listening to Xu. The other half of Desai was thinking feverishly about the possible opportunities and risks that this posed to his plan to manage the Earth’s food supply. If his genetic strains were cold-hardy then he could do alright. Better than alright actually. However, if his plants were heat seekers, and he knew that some were such as the recently developed varietals for South Africa, then he might be having a bigger challenge.

He walked away from the wall-screen that Xu was staring at and he started parsing his varieties in his head. As he wisely had planned, his copyrighted seeds covered most of the common agricultural conditions on Earth. He wasn’t worried about having appropriate strains. What he was worrying about though was whether he could and should begin mass producing the cold-hardened ones. He sat down at a terminal and started contacting his team back on Earth.