Tag Archives: moon

This Stunning Image Of Saturn's Rings Contains A Surprise

This Stunning Image Of Saturn’s Rings Contains A Surprise

If youre confused by this image, we dont blame you. What youre seeing here are the rings of Saturn and the gas giant itself. But the planets rings are, well, rings. Why do they appear to be criss-crossing each other here?

The answer is a pretty awesome illusion, snapped by the Cassini spacecraft thats currently in orbit around Saturn. The bulk of the image is the rings itself, while in the background is the planet Saturn. The lines going the other direction to the rings are actually the shadow of the rings on the planet, visible because the rings are semi-transparent.

Thats not the only surprising thing about this image, though. Take a look just below the middle, and youll spot a gap in one of the rings with a white dot in it. This gap is known as the Encke gap, and the white dot is the moon Pan (28 kilometers/17 miles across). Moons like this form gaps by cleaning out debris from the rings.

Now you see it… NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini took this image from a distance of 1.9 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) from Pan on February 11, 2016, with a scale of 10 kilometers (6 miles) per pixel. The spacecraft arrived in orbit around Saturn in 2004, and since then it has provided uswith incredible views and data from Saturn and its various moons, including Enceladus and Titan.

But, sadly, all good things must come to an end. On September 15 next year, the spacecraft will be sent to its death in the atmosphere of Saturn. This is because, as it runs out of fuel, NASA wants to ensure it wont accidentally hit one of the potentially life-harboring moons and contaminate it with material from Earth.

Dont despair too much, though, because this final death plunge will see Cassini return some groundbreaking science to Earth. Itll be sending back data constantly until its final moments, so well get incredible data from within Saturns rings and from its upper atmosphere as well something weve never gotten before.

Until then, bask in the glory of images like these. With no other spacecraft to Saturn currently in the works, we really shouldn’t take Cassini for granted.

Here’s the full image in all its glory.NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/stunning-image-saturn-contains-more-one-surprise

Does the Moon Have Levitating Lunar Dust?

Does the Moon Have Levitating Lunar Dust?


Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon? Great food, but no atmosphere.

While that wisecrack has been floating about in space circles for decades, a NASA lunar orbiter will gather detailed information about the moon’s atmosphere next year, including conditions near its surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is to depart the Earth for the moon in August 2013. LADEE is loaded with science gear, including instruments that can address a lingering question that’s rooted in space history: Are electrostatically lofted lunar dust particles present within the moon’s tenuous atmosphere?

Twilight Rays on the Moon

In the 1960s, several NASA Surveyor moon landers relayed images showing a twilight glow low over the lunar horizon persisting after the sun had set. Also, a number of Apollo astronauts orbiting the moon saw twilight rays before lunar sunrise or lunar sunset.

In addition, some have floated the theory that the glowing transient lunar phenomenon seen from Earth might stem from sunlight reflecting off of suspended lunar dust.

LADEE will investigate this moon magic trick of levitating lunar dust. The spacecraft has the tools it needs to address mysteries and questions that have been around since Apollo, said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Ames is responsible for managing the mission, building the spacecraft and performing mission operations.

Elphic told SPACE.com that among its duties, the LADEE mission can further investigate tantalizing hints about the dust and the moon’s exotic atmosphere.

“If we fly LADEE through the regions where the Apollo command module observations were made, we will know right away if there are small grains there or not,” Elphic said. LADEE’s Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX) is a very sensitive dust-detecting instrument, he said, and scientists may be able to place new upper limits on the dust in the first week of the spacecraft’s orbiting operations.

Nagging Moon Question

“If LADEE never sees levitated dust, that settles the question for the high-altitude observations, at least for its mission time frame,” Elphic said.

Still, there’s the nagging question about what Surveyor saw, the near-surface horizon glow. “That might be something else entirely, and can only be addressed with a surface mission,” Elphic said.

“If LADEE does see dust, we will then have a basis for expecting the same phenomena at all other ‘nearly-airless’ bodies around the solar system,” Elphic added.

This dust may not pose much of a hazard, Elphic added, but the physics will need to be explained. Right now, no one has a good end-to-end model for getting dust to loft and secondly, stay suspended for long periods, he said.

“If LADEE observes levitated dust, then scientists will have to explain it. Right now, no one can,” Elphic said.

One-Way Trip Off the Moon

One scientist ready for the new data to be gleaned by LADEE is Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Apollo 17 moonwalker and geologist. He and astronaut Eugene Cernan walked the lunar surface in December 1972 — the last mission of the Apollo moon landings.

“I do not know if LADEE will see lunar dust in the lunar atmosphere, but I will not be surprised if there is none,” Schmitt told SPACE.com. “We know about several transient gases in that atmosphere, and these may be what causes the horizon glow at sunrise and sunset.”

Moon dust, Schmitt added, was always been on his mind.

“My concern about levitated dust has always been that levitation, if it occurs at all, probably has to be a one-way trip off the moon … because many flat rock surfaces are essentially free of very fine dust, as I personally witnessed on Apollo 17.”

Schmitt said that if dust has been levitated and then dropped again, he would expect the rock surfaces to be covered with such dust.

“Nonetheless, LADEE data on this question, as well as various gases, should give us a lot to think about,” Schmitt said.

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/20/nasa-ladee-levitating-lunar-dust/

Exoplanets Explain Why the 'Dark Side' of the Moon Has No Face

Exoplanets Explain Why the ‘Dark Side’ of the Moon Has No Face


A composite image of the Moon.
Image: NASA

Heat radiating from the young Earth could help solve the more than 50-year-old mystery of why the far side of the moon, which faces away from Earth, lacks the dark, vast expanses of volcanic rock that define the face of the Man in the Moon as seen from Earth, researchers say.

The Man in the Moon was born when cosmic impacts struck the near side of the moon, the side that faces Earth. These collisions punched holes in the moon’s crust, which later filled with vast lakes of lava that formed the dark areas known as maria or “seas.”

In 1959, when the Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 transmitted the first images of the “dark” or far side of the moon, the side facing away from Earth, scientists immediately noticed fewer maria there. This mystery — why no Man in the Moon exists on the moon’s far side — is called the Lunar Farside Highlands Problem.

“I remember the first time I saw a globe of the moon as a boy, being struck by how different the far side looks,” study co-author Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, said in a statement. “It was all mountains and craters. Where were the maria?”

Far Side of the Moon

The farside of the moon, taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera.

Image: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Now scientists may have solved the 55-year-old mystery; heat from the young Earth as the newborn moon was cooling caused the difference. The researchers came up with the solution during their work on exoplanets, which are worlds outside the solar system.

“There are many exoplanets that are really close to their host stars,”lead study author Arpita Roy, also of Penn State, told Space.com. “That really affects the geology of those planets.”

Similarly, the moon and Earth are generally thought to have orbited very close together after they formed. The leading idea explaining the moon’s formation suggests that it arose shortly after the nascent Earth collided with a Mars-size planet about 4.5 billion years ago, with the resulting debris coalescing into the moon. Scientists say the newborn moon and Earth were 10 to 20 times closer to each other than they are now.

“The moon and Earth loomed large in each other’s skies when they formed, ” Roy said in a statement.

Since the moon was so close to Earth, the mutual pull of gravity was strong. The gravitational tidal forces the moon and Earth exerted on each other braked their rotations, resulting in the moon always showing the same face to Earth, a situation known as tidal lock.

The moon and Earth were very hot shortly after the giant impact that formed the moon. The moon, being much smaller than Earth, cooled more quickly. Since the moon and Earth were tidally locked early on, the still-hot Earth — more than 4,530 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 degrees Celsius) — would have cooked the near side of the moon, keeping it molten. On the other hand, the far side of the moon would have cooled, albeit slowly.

The difference in temperature between the moon’s halves influenced the formation of its crust. The lunar crust possesses high concentrations of aluminum and calcium, elements that are very hard to vaporize.

“When rock vapor starts to cool, the very first elements that snow out are aluminum and calcium,” study co-author Steinn Sigurdsson of Penn State said in a statement.

Aluminum and calcium would have more easily condensed in the atmosphere on the colder far side of the moon. Eventually, these elements combined with silicates in the mantle of the moon to form minerals known as plagioclase feldspars, making the crust of the far side about twice as thick as that of the near side.

“Earthshine, the heat of Earth soon after the giant impact, was a really important factor shaping the moon,” Roy said.

When collisions from asteroids or comets blasted the moon’s surface, they could punch through the near side’s crust to generate maria. In contrast, impacts on the far side’s thicker crust failed to penetrate deeply enough to cause lava to well up, instead leaving the far side of the moon with a surface of valleys, craters and highlands, but almost no maria.

“It’s really cool that our understanding of exoplanets is affecting our understanding of the solar system,” Roy said.

Future research could generate detailed 3D models testing this idea, Roy suggested. The authors detailed their findings June 9 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/06/16/farside-of-the-moon/

China Plans To Land The First Probe On The Far Side Of The Moon By 2018

China Plans To Land The First Probe On The Far Side Of The Moon By 2018

Earthlings have been sending probes to explore the Moon since 1959.But in those 57 years, the far side of our satellitehas remained untouched by human footsteps and probes alike. Now, China hopes to change that.

According to Chinese state mediaXinhua News Agency, China aims to go to the farside of the Moon by 2018, as reported byReuters. Change-4 an unmanned probe named after a mythological Chinese goddess of the Moon will explore and survey the geology of the uncharted lunar lands.

This side of the Moon, which never faces Earth, has been seen in imagery taken from spacecrafts. The first-everphotographs were taken in 1959, when the Soviet Union deployed their Luna 3 spacecraft.

We havent been to the far side of the Moon yet as crucial communication signals to and from Earth are essentially blocked out.This means thatin order for a probe to be in contact with Earth, a satellite or spacecraft would also have to be launched into lunar orbit so that signals can be relayed.However, it is precisely for that reason that Chinawants to build a basethere, as being sheltered from the constant stream of Earths radio interface could give a radio telescope a clearer view of the universe.

President Xi Jinping has made space exploration a top priority for China,hoping to use the space program as a demonstration of their increasing economic and technological prowess. As of yet, their missions have been accused of merely mimickingprevious missions by the Russians and Americans. However, if Change-4 is a success, China will cement its place as a major new player in the space explorationgame.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/china-aims-visit-far-side-moon-2018

Jupiter’s Largest Moon Gets Mapped For the First Time

Jupiter’s Largest Moon Gets Mapped For the First Time

Galileo discovered a point of light near Jupiter in 1610, which he initially thought was a star. A few days later he corrected himself and named the satellite Ganymede, which is not only the largest moon around Jupiter, but the largest in the entire solar system.  Over 400 years later, scientists have finally been able to complete a geologic map of the entire moon. The study was led by Wes Patterson from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and was published by the U. S. Geological Survey.

Ganymede is the third of the Galilean satellites and takes about a week to revolve around Jupiter. Its diameter is actually larger than the planet Mercury but it has just one quarter of Mercury’s mass. Ganymede also has a special property that no other moon in our solar system has: a magnetosphere. Scientists believe that Ganymede’s core is made of molten iron, just like Earth.

Ganymede has been imaged thoroughly during the Voyager and Galileo missions, images which were integral to making the geological map. This is the fourth map of its kind to be created, which categorize differences of the terrain which formed at different times. Geologic maps exist of two of Jupiter’s other moons, Io and Callisto, as well as Earth’s moon. The information will be used in order to help understand how the moon was formed and how it changed over time due to collisions.

Ganymede’s surface is composed mostly of ice with a mantle of rock surrounding the molten core, but there are incredibly interesting geological features. The darker areas are the oldest regions of the moon. There is a considerable number of craters due to impacts over the course of the solar system’s history. The lighter regions are relatively younger and are thought to have been formed by tectonic activity which was influenced by a dynamic gravitational relationship with Jupiter’s other satellites. The gravitational pull likely caused tectonic friction, which heat up the ice enough to crack it and for water to escape out. Once at the surface the water could freeze over again, essentially making ice scars. 

Scientists have noted that nearly every geological feature discovered on an icy moon can also be found on Ganymede, making this map an incredibly useful tool in understanding how the surface topography formed and evolved.

The full map, which includes several other images and an extensive legend, can be viewed on the website for the U.S. Geological Survey. Image credit: USGS

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/jupiter%E2%80%99s-largest-moon-gets-mapped-first-time

Dating The Moon

Dating The Moon

The moon was born when a Mars-sized body impacted Earth during its very early days. The debris from both objects spewed into space and ultimately coalesced into our moon. Scientists trying to date this moon-forming impact have come up with a wide range of ages: from as early as 30 million years after the birth of the solar system to as late as 100 million years after the Milky Way was formed. 
By creating a “geologic clock,” researchers now show that the moon-forming impact must have occurred 95 million years after the start of the solar system, plus or minus 32 million years. 
That makes the moon millions and millions of years younger than some previous estimates, which were based on radioactive dating of elements like uranium. When you have an element with a known rate of radioactive decay, you can back-calculate a time for when collected moon rocks were formed. But geochemists disagree about these numbers a lot. 
To achieve this revised date, an international team led by Seth Jacobson from Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur in Nice, France, devised a new method based on measurements of the Earth’s interior combined with computer simulations of the protoplanetary disk from which the Earth and other planets formed. 
They started by simulating the growth of the “terrestrial planets” Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars from the planetary building blocks orbiting the Sun. By analyzing the growth history of those planets from 259 simulations, they discovered a relationship between the time the Earth was impacted and the amount of material added to our planet after that collision.
You see, after the big moon-forming impact, proto-Earth was smashed into by other, smaller objects — these caused the Earth to gain some mass later on. So they constrained their model with the concentration of highly “siderophile” elements (elements like platinum and iridium that like to be chemically associated with iron). Previous work has shown that these are proportional to the mass accumulated on Earth post-impact.
“When the moon-forming event occurs, this melts the entire surface of the Earth,” Jacobson tells National Geographic. All the iron present near the surface sinks into the Earth’s core, taking iron-loving, siderophile elements along with it. So, any of these metals present on the surface arrived on objects that hit our planet after its core formed.
Together, all of these revealed a relationship that works like a “geologic clock” to date the moon-forming event. Basically, when was the last time Earth was completely molten
Their calculations show that the moon formed between 63 million and 127 million years after the beginning of the solar system. It seems like wide range, yes, but it rules out an early moon-forming event.
Plus, this is the first geologic clock of early solar system history that doesn’t rely on interpretations of the radioactive decay. “We were excited to find a ‘clock’ for the formation time of the Moon that didn’t rely on radiometric dating methods. This correlation just jumped out of the simulations and held in each set of old simulations we looked at,” Jacobson says in a news release
The work was published in Nature earlier this week. 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/dating-moon

These Award-Winning Images Capture The Awesomeness of Science And Nature

These Award-Winning Images Capture The Awesomeness of Science And Nature

The winners of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’sannual Cool Science Image contest have just been chosen, placing the spotlight on some of the most stunning natural phenomena that escape our gaze on a regular basis. Open to the university’s faculty and students, the winners include 10 images and two videos, covering the full spectrum of scientific disciplines, from microbiology to astronomy.

Chosen for their scientific value and aesthetic beauty, the victorious entries were captured by both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as staff members. Praising the incredible quality of the winning images, contest judge Kevin Eliceiri said they represent not only the great research of UWMadison but remind us of the great creativity and artistic eye so many of our scientists have.

Here’s a selction of the winning entries. You can view all the winners here.

Wei-hua Lee

Postdoctoral fellow Wei-hua Lee created this image using a technique called immunostaining to mark antibodies and proteins involved in an immune response in human tissue.

Sarah Swanson

Botany department staff member Sarah Swansons environmental scanning electron micrograph of the hypostome or mouth of a tick was selected as one of the winning entries.

Scott Bachmeier

This satellite video of a massive storm system moving across the Atlantic was captured by Scott Bachmeier from the Space Science and Engineering Center.

Garrett Frankson

Using nothing more than a basic pinhole camera, physics and astronomy undergraduate Garrett Frankson traced the Suns transitions across the sky from solstice to solstice.

Ethan Heyrman

Captured in September 2015, undergraduate Ethan Heyrmans image shows the incredible result of a coincidence of a super moon and a total lunar eclipse. The Moon appears blood red because the light falling on it has been refracted through the Earths shadow, shifting it towards the long wavelength end of the spectrum.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/these-award-winning-images-capture-awesomeness-science-and-nature

Who Owns The Moon?

Who Owns The Moon?

Whether you’re into mining, energy or tourism, there are lots of reasons to explore space. Some “pioneers” even believe humanity’s survival depends on colonising celestial bodies such as the moon and Mars, both becoming central hubs for our further journey into the cosmos. Lunar land peddlers have started doing deals already – a one-acre plot can be yours for just £16.75.

More seriously, big corporations, rich entrepreneurs and even US politicians are eyeing up the moon and its untapped resources. Russia has plans for a manned colony by 2030 and a Japanese firm wants to build a ring of solar panels around the moon and beam energy back to Earth.

We need to be clear about the legal validity of extraterrestrial real estate as the same ideas that were once used to justify colonialism are being deployed by governments and galactic entrepreneurs. Without proper regulation, the moon risks becoming an extra-planetary Wild West.

A lunar base, as imagined by NASA in the 1970s. NASA

To figure out whether “earthly” laws can help decide who owns what in space – or if anything can be owned at all – we must first disentangle sovereignty from property. Back in the 17th century, natural law theorists such as Hugo Grotius and John Locke argued that property rights exist by virtue of human nature but that they can only have legal force when they are recognised by a sovereign government. Within the context of space law, the big question is whether sovereignty reaches infinity – how high must you go to escape your country?

Galactic commons

When the US was confronted with this query in the early 1950s, it lobbied for the recognition of outer space as a global commons. The Soviet Union was difficult to infiltrate to gather intelligence, so open access to Soviet air space was crucial for the US during the Cold War. Perceiving outer space as a commons was also another way of preventing national sovereignty in space. But neither the USSR nor the US was keen to fight out the Cold War on yet another front. Geopolitics dictated the decision to treat outer space as being non-appropriable.

This principle can be found back in Article II of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which clearly forbids “national appropriation by claims of sovereignty, means of use or occupation by any other means”. It has been widely accepted: no one complains the various moon landings or satellites in space have infringed their sovereignty.

However, legal commentators disagree over whether this prohibition is also valid for private appropriation. Some space lawyers have argued for the recognition of real property rights on the basis of jurisdiction rather than territorial sovereignty.

Historical records of the Space Treaty negotiations clearly indicate people were against private appropriations at the time, but an explicit prohibition never made it into Article II. Lessons have been learned from this omission and the ban was far more explicit in the subsequent Moon Agreement of 1979. However only 16 countries signed the agreement, none of which were involved in manned space exploration, leaving it somewhat meaningless as an international standard.

Consequently, space entrepreneurs such as Dennis Hope from the Lunar Embassy Corporation seem to think that there is a loophole in Article II which allows private citizens to claim ownership of the moon. Most space lawyers disagree however. They point out that states assume international responsibility for activities in space, whether by national companies or private adventurers, and therefore that the same prohibition extends to the private sector.

So while the idea of buying some lunar real estate might be fun, in order for these plots to be recognised as property there needs to be legal recognition by a superior authority such as a nation state. As states are not allowed to claim sovereign rights in outer space, landed property on the moon and planets will in all likelihood be outlawed.

Not recognised by any state. Moon Estates

Legal commentators are hopeful that states will remain loyal to the treaty and refrain from recognising or endorsing a private property claim. If there is a precedent, it lies at the bottom of the ocean. In 1974, the US government refused to recognise the exclusive mining rights of Deepsea Ventures to the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Lunar takeover

But all of these arguments are rather theoretical. If you just simply occupy a place and no one else can access or use it, aren’t you the de facto owner? Lawyers call this corporate possession (corpus possidendi) and it represents another reason why title deeds cannot be a legal proof of lunar ownership – no one is physically there. In order to possess something, both mind and body need to be involved. Intention alone is not sufficient; possession also requires a physical act.

The difficulty of physically establishing an act of possession on the moon should protect it from private development, but it seems technology is once again outsmarting the law. Back in the late 1990s commercial firm SpaceDev intended to land robotic prospectors on an asteroid to conduct experiments and claim it as private property. The project eventually ran out of funds and was shelved, but advocates of such “telepossession” point to cases of salvage companies claiming undersea wrecks as property after exploring them with robots. After all, if an undersea probe with a TV camera was all that was required to take possession of a (previously owned, earthly) shipwreck, why shouldn’t a space probe be enough to take possession of an unowned and unclaimed patch of celestial real estate?

Though legal ownership of the moon or Mars is prohibited, the appropriation of material is a whole different matter. It looks like entrepreneurs could claim something like “enterprise rights” that allows them to explore and exploit natural resources in outer space.

I get the uncomfortable feeling of a déjà vu. Was it not Locke’s property theory that justified possession over nature and vacant land and eventually led to the colonisation of the Americas?

Let’s hope that the international community and individual states come to their senses before it’s too late and get to sign and ratify the Moon Agreement which might give us a little bit of hope that we can avoid another enclosure movement.

Recent conflicts over Ukraine, the South China Sea or Syria have raised talk of a “new era in geopolitics”. They may also rekindle the realisation that outer space should not become the next playground for conquest.

Saskia is a Senior Lecturer at the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University.The Conversation Saskia Vermeylen receives funding from research councils.

The Conversation

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/who-owns-moon

NASA Reveals The Origin Of Lunar Amino Acids Collected In Apollo Missions

NASA Reveals The Origin Of Lunar Amino Acids Collected In Apollo Missions

When the Apollo missions brought back lunar samples, scientists were surprised to find traces of organic matter in the form of amino acids.The origin of these molecules was shrouded in mystery, and no explanation had enough evidence to back it up. Over 40 years later, a team of NASA-funded scientists has identified that most of those amino acids were due to contaminationfrom Earth.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They are made of hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen elements that are relatively common in the universe. They are mostly formed by living creatures, but can also formthroughnon-biological processes.

In the lunar samples, scientists found amino acids at very low concentrations (105 to 1,910 parts-per-billion). Nothing can survive on the Moon, so ateam of researchers came up with four different possible explanations for how they got to the Moon.

The first possibility is that solar wind might have formed them on the surface of the Moon. The solar wind is a stream of plasma blown from the surface of the Sun thatcontains all the components of amino acids.

The second cause could have been asteroids. Amino acids can form inside asteroids and the lunar surface has been bombarded enough to leave a significant amount of these molecules.

The third scenario considered contamination from Earth as the cause. Amino acids could have been present in the instruments used on the Moon, or they could have made their way into samples back on Earth during analysis.

The last explanation blames the presence onthe Apollo rocket exhaust, which contains precursor molecules that could potentially have combined to form amino acids.

Lab technology has made enormous leaps forward since the samples were collected, allowing scientists to look at the origin of the atoms in these amino acids. Elements exist in slightly different versions called isotopes. Carbon, for example, can be carbon-12, which is the most common version, or the rarer carbon-14, which is used for carbon dating. Isotopes are formed in very specific ways, so by identifying the isotopes they knew where the amino acids were formed.

The amino acids found were mostly made of carbon-12, which is the preferred form for life on Earth, rather than carbon-13 which is found in the solar wind and in asteroids. Another characteristic typical of Earth’s amino acids is that they have a particular orientation: organisms make amino acids that are “left-handed,” while non-biological processes on asteroids canmake bothleft- and right-handed molecules. Most amino acids found were left-handed. Fuel contamination was excluded, too, because the sample near the landing had a similar contamination to the one far away.

“People knew amino acids were in the lunar samples, but they didn’t know where they came from,” Jamie Elsila, lead author of the study,said in a statement. “The scientists in the 1970s knew the right questions to ask and they tried pretty hard to answer them, but they were limited by the analytical capabilities of the time. We have the technology now, and we’ve determined that most of the amino acids came from terrestrial contamination, with perhaps a small contribution from meteorite impacts.”

The discovery is important for future missions that aim to recover organic molecules from celestial bodies. The possible contamination should be taken into account before any analysis is conducted.

The research was published by Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.

Top Image Credit: Astronaut Alan J. Bean Samples The Ocean of Storms by NASA via Flickr. CC-BY 2.0

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-reveals-origin-lunar-amino-acids

This Space Elevator May Someday Reach the Moon

This Space Elevator May Someday Reach the Moon


A space elevator capable of shuttling robots or humans from the Earth to space remains decades away. But a company headed by a former NASA researcher says it can build a space elevator on the moon using today’s technology.

The LiftPort Group wants to raise $8,000 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter for its first step — creating a floating balloon platform tethered to the ground so that a robot can climb 1.2 miles into the sky. But the fundraiser also marks the return of a company that had closed during the 2007-2012 economic recession.

“About six months ago we had a fundamental breakthrough — a breakthrough we think will transform human civilization — and we want you to be a part of it,” says Michael Laine, president of the LiftPort Group.

The breakthrough will allow the LiftPort group to build a space elevator on the moon using existing technology and a single-launch rocket solution that has “Sputnik-like simplicity,” Laine says, adding that the concept could become a reality within eight years.

Staying Down to Earth

A space elevator on the moon would face fewer complications than a space elevator on Earth because the moon has less gravity and practically no atmosphere — factors that would otherwise place great stress on whatever material makes up the space elevator’s tether.

Laine worked on space elevator concepts with the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts research team from 2001-2003. He went private with the LiftPort Group in 2003 and experimented with robots that climbed as high as 1 mile up a tethered balloon platform, before the company shut down.

Such balloon platforms don’t just help aim for the moon. They could also act as cheap communications “towers” on Earth to help provide wireless Internet, monitor crops, watch out for forest fires or even carry cameras to provide an eye in the sky in the aftermath of natural disasters.

The newly resurrected LiftPort Group has set a relatively modest fundraising goal because it’s still training a new group of volunteers. Many former LiftPort members have gone on to other projects — Tom Nugent, a former research director for LiftPort Group, co-founded a company called LaserMotive that has experimented with using lasers to power climbing robots and drones.

Laine also emphasized his vision of Kickstarter as being more important for gathering a community rather than simply raising money. He pointed out how most people contributing to the top Kickstarter projects contributed relatively little in terms of money, but instead brought their enthusiasm to the projects.

Shooting for the Moon

Still, modest steps have not prevented the LiftPort Group from planning what to do in case it raises more than the $8,000 in its first Kickstarter project. Its list of “Stretch Goals” pegged at successively higher funding targets include adding more sensors and having the robot climb to almost 19 miles up.

The most ambitious goal of raising $3 million — a target Laine doesn’t expect to hit in the first Kickstarter — would allow the LiftPort Group to carry out a one-year feasibility study for the moon space elevator project. But Laine did express the wish to hit a $100,000 target.

“If we ‘only’ hit $8,001, then we are going to remain a ‘hobby’ team,” Laine said. “If we can hit this number, then LiftPort is a ‘…before this decade is out…’ Lunar Elevator company!”

The LiftPort Group is not alone in its long-term space elevator quest. Seattle-based LaserMotive has previously won the Space Elevator Games, a NASA-sponsored contest. Across the Pacific, Japan’s Obayashi Corp has set the goal of building a space elevator by 2050.

This article originally published at InnovationNewsDaily

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/29/liftport-space-elevator/