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Posts Tagged ‘moon’

The Moon may have the same proportion of water as Earth does [Video]

26 May
Today, a group of scientists announced that beneath the surface of the Moon there may be as much water as we have on Earth. This revelation could change everything we know about the Moon — and pave the way for lunar colonies in the next twenty years. More »
 
 

You’ve never seen the far side of the Moon like this before [Space Porn]

21 Mar
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has provided us with some absolutely incredible images of the Moon — and its crowning achievement might just be this image, which is the most complete view of the far side of the Moon ever assembled. More »
 
 

The Mystery of the Missing Moon Trees

18 Feb

15 years after NASA astronomer David Williams started searching for them, hundreds of trees grown from space-faring seeds are still missing.

The “moon trees,” whose seeds circled the moon 34 times in Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa’s pocket, were welcomed back to Earth with great fanfare in 1971. One was planted in Washington Square in Philadelphia as part of the 1975 bicentennial celebrations. Another took root at the White House. Several found homes at state capitals and space-related sites around the country. Then-president Gerald Ford called the trees “living symbol[s] of our spectacular human and scientific achievements.”

And then, mysteriously, everyone seemed to forget about them.

“The careful records weren’t kept, or if they were kept they weren’t maintained,” Williams said. Williams, whose job includes archiving data from the Apollo missions, hadn’t even heard of the moon trees until a third grade teacher e-mailed him in 1996 to ask about a tree at the Camp Koch Girl Scout Camp in Cannelton, Indiana.

“No one around here had ever heard of it,” Williams said. “This is such a neat story, and no one seems to know about it.”

Williams has made it his mission to find them. For the past 15 years, he has kept a record on the web of every known tree’s location. When he started in 1996, he only knew where 22 trees were found. Now, that number has climbed to 80.

But the climb is slow. Mostly, Williams heard of new trees when a hiker or a park visitor found one and e-mailed him about it. The e-mails are ever fewer and farther between, he says.

“It’s been sort of a trickle,” he said. “Most of the easy ones, the low-lying fruit had already been gathered.”

Although most of the trees are long-lived species expected to last centuries, some have started to die off. According to Williams’ most recent tree count, 21 of the 80 known trees are dead, including the Loblolly pine outside the White House, five sycamores and two pines outside the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and one New Orleans pine that was damaged in Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s kind of sad, to see them going,” Williams said.

The trees’ poor health has nothing to do with their journey to space, Williams says.

“No one knew for sure whether being exposed to weightlessness or radiation would do something to the seeds,” he said. “They grew control trees right next to each other to see if they grew differently. But they didn’t find anything.”

The healthy trees have given rise to a crop of half-moon trees, trees grown from the seeds of a moon tree.

“There’s a lot of second generation moon trees being planted now,” Williams said. “That’s getting to the point where I can’t keep up with it.”

You can even buy half-moon seeds online and plant one in your own yard. Williams’ yard hosts a second generation moon tree, a gift from the National Arboretum.

Although Williams will keep looking, there’s no way to know when he’s found them all, he says. But at least the trees won’t be forgotten again.

“At least now there’s a permanent home for it,” he said. “It can’t be lost now. At least all the information that comes in, we have that.”

Update: If you think you’ve found a moon tree, you can contact Williams at [email protected] Check the Moon Trees website to see if your tree has been reported before.

Image: 1) The plaque labeling the moon tree at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, where Williams works. 2) NASA Goddard’s moon sycamore. (Courtesy Jay Friedlander.)

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The NASA yard sale is awesome [Nasa]

06 Jan
You can buy the flight plan that went to the moon, a lunar meteorite, or Buzz Aldrin's 8th grade report card at an upcoming Nasa auction. If you've got cash to spare, head on over to the preview. [Via BadAstronomy.] More »
 
 

MESSENGER Looks Back at the Earth and Moon

19 Aug

Earth and Moon from 183 Million kilometers. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

A new image to add to the family photo album! The MESSENGER spacecraft is working its way to enter orbit around Mercury in March of 2011, and while wending its way, took this image of the Earth and Moon, visible in the lower left. When the image was taken in May 2010, MESSENGER was 183 million kilometers (114 million miles) away from Earth. For context, the average separation between the Earth and the Sun is about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). It’s a thought provoking image (every one of us is in that image!), just like other Earth-Moon photos — Fraser put together a gallery of Earth-Moon images from other worlds, and this one will have to be added. But this image was taken not just for the aesthetics.
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Read the rest of MESSENGER Looks Back at the Earth and Moon (101 words)


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NASA looking to go nuclear on the moon

11 Sep

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As we've seen, NASA has some pretty big plans for the moon (which may or may not come to fruition), and it's now finally offering up a solution for how it might keep everything powered. Turns out, it's looking at going nuclear -- with a fission surface power system, to be specific. That system, seen above in an artist's concept, would consist of nuclear reactor buried below the lunar surface (which provides some handy radiation shielding), with the engines that convert the heat energy into electricity placed in the tower above the reactor -- those long radiators would "radiate into space" any leftover heat energy that wasn't converted to electricity. All told, the system promises to generate a steady 40 kilowatts of electric power, or enough for about eight houses on Earth, but with NASA's various power-saving measures, they say that'd be more than enough to sustain a serious lunar outpost.
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