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NASA Space Science

NASA's More Obscure Lunar Research 59

Posted by Hemos
from the peering-into-the-crevices dept.
MickDownUnder writes "Ever wondered what the moon smells like (and no it's not like wensleydale) ? Or how good the skiing is there? If you do decide to hit the lunar slopes you may want to take a torch with you in case you run into your own shadow."
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NASA's More Obscure Lunar Research

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  • gunpowder.
    • *Spent* gunpowder. It smells different than unspent gunpowder.

      I wouldn't want to be breathing that stuff in, though.
      • *Spent* gunpowder. It smells different than unspent gunpowder.

        I wouldn't want to be breathing that stuff in, though.

        Why not? Burning gunpowder smells great. Really wonderful. I may just associate it with lots of great memories, but it's certainly not repulsive, by any means, even to someone who's never smelled it before.

        • Re:Mmmmm....... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rei (128717)
          It's not the smell that's the problem. It's the fact that moon dust is mostly what is effectively powdered glass. Do you want that in your lungs?
  • but the Low Gravity would be fun.
    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:22AM (#14651196) Journal
      moondust is much more abrasive than sand." Typical grains of Earth-sand measure 250 to 500 microns (millionths of a meter) across and have rounded edges. They easily slip, slide and roll. A typical grain of moondust, on the other hand, measures less than 100 microns wide and has very sharp edges. The fine grains lock together "like Velcro," says Schmitt, "and scratch anything that comes in contact with them." A Teflon ski-coating might not last long.
      Sand is not nearly as abrasive, because we have things that don't exist on the moon.

      Water and wind to be specific. All that tumbling around takes the sharp edges off the sand grains.

      I imagine the sand/dust on Mars will be closer in quality to the sand & dust on Earth, than the Moon's.
      • I would have expected the sand on earth to be finer, if it's subject to abrasion a lot more, no? why is moon dust smaller?
        • erosion? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Quadraginta (902985)
          I think the superfine stuff on Earth gets picked up by our ubiquitous flowing water and turned into mud, which over geological time gets turned into shale, sandstone, and other sedimentary rock. That is, what we call "sand" on Earth consists of grains too large to be suspended in water. There's a lower limit on the size of "sand" on Earth that doesn't apply to "sand" on the Moon.
          • Not exactly (Score:3, Informative)

            by djward (251728)
            While you are correct that water will preferentially suspend finer grains, sand is commonly suspended in any flow that's fast or deep enough. Sand blows through river systems pretty quickly on geologic timescales.

            Your are right to point out, though, that this eventually ends up in rock again in some form or another. And this rock gets exhumed and eroded into big particles, some of which may break further down to sand, silt, clay...

            So the answer lies in the fact that on earth, additional large debris is gene
  • by jferris (908786) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:14AM (#14651122) Homepage
    ...that was one of the things they used on the set when they filmed the moon landing. ;-)
  • Lunar Snowmobiles? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:17AM (#14651144) Homepage Journal
    It's extremely interesting how the Apollo 15 astronauts went skiing on the moon. It might suggest a better mode of transport than the buggy they used. Instead of bothering with four wheels, perhaps they really need a Snowmobile? (Or would that be a lunarmobile? Perhaps a dustmobile?) Skiing along like that might allow them to expend less battery power on locomotion, and move from place to place much faster. Having retractable treads so that they can glide might not be such a bad idea either.

    I'll have to patent this now and then charge megabucks for the idea when Moonbase Alpha goes in. At least I'll be able to collect up until the moon gets blown out of orbit. :-P
    • Unless your wheels are very badly lubricated, you're going to get a lot less friction from wheels than from skis.
      • Unless your wheels are very badly lubricated, you're going to get a lot less friction from wheels than from skis.

        You're assuming that the wheels can stay (mostly) above the surface. If they're digging and displacing a lot of ground (i.e. slipping constantly), you might as well use skis, as there's no reason to waste the energy in rolling resistance if you're going to slip no matter what.

        Of course, the lunar rovers didn't seem to actually slip that much, so for most of the Moon, they're probably fine.
    • I think a modified pogo stick would be a cooler way to get around, those 15-25ft hops would make traveling more fun and help astonauts keep in shape :)
    • Don't you know Moonbase Alpha's been in operation for decades? We put it there to defend ourselves against the cosmo-terrorists that we all know are after our oil.
    • Skiing along like that might allow them to expend less battery power on locomotion, and move from place to place much faster.

      That might be true as long as you only need to go downhill. Of course, unless someone puts a ski lift at the bottom of every crater, you might have a reasonably exhausting walk upslope.

    • perhaps they really need a Snowmobile?

      I vote for dog sled.

      Of course, they'd have to be robotic dogs, because as we know there is no dog food on the moon.

    • I'll have to patent this now and then charge megabucks for the idea when Moonbase Alpha goes in.

      I'd wait for at least Moonbase Beta... preferably Moonbase v1.0.
  • by Oms (16745) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:23AM (#14651207)
    I can't believe how TFA goes on about the moon dust being "formed by violence." This is not not proven fact; it is opinion. It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the nature of moon dust that discounts intelligent design by a creator. And a benevolent creator would certainly not form anything by violence!

    This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most.
  • by DoraLives (622001) on Monday February 06, 2006 @11:26AM (#14651224)
    if we presume that people are eventually going to establish a permanent presence on the moon, and their numbers increase as the colonies become well-established and fully self-sufficient, then a point will eventually be reached where the "skiers" will have successfully managed to push all the best "powder" downhill to where it no longer resides on a "skiable" slope.

    Since the weather on the moon will not replenish the "powder" upslope in anything resembling a useful timeframe on the scale of human lives (or even human civilizations), that will be the end of that. No more "powder" on the slope and no more "skiing."

    Which, I suppose, is by way of wondering what other unwitting long-term effects the presence of people on the moon may wind up causing.

    • They'd just need to invest in groomers, like there are on terrestrial slopes. The same problem happens on earth-based snow-skiing mountains. At the end of the day, a lot of the snow has been pushed around, and there isn't a nice surface to ski on. The snow machines level out the bumps, smooth out the surface, and push snow to places where there is no snow.

      Of course, the dust would be compacted a bit, and it wouldn't be nice powder per se, but I'm sure if that's what the moon skiers really want, it won't
    • Think of it as dredging a lake to restore the beaches. Just push all the powder back up to the top of the hill. Of course, push too hard and it'll go into orbit...
    • Assuming over-ski every hill on the moon, couldn't we just use a dust-plough to push it back up.
    • if we presume that people are eventually going to establish a permanent presence on the moon, and their numbers increase as the colonies become well-established and fully self-sufficient, then a point will eventually be reached where the "skiers" will have successfully managed to push all the best "powder" downhill to where it no longer resides on a "skiable" slope.

      Since the weather on the moon will not replenish the "powder" upslope in anything resembling a useful timeframe on the scale of human lives (or


    • Since the weather on the moon will not replenish the "powder" upslope in anything resembling a useful timeframe on the scale of human lives (or even human civilizations), that will be the end of that. No more "powder" on the slope and no more "skiing."


      Considering the moon has about the same surface area as Africa, I wouldn't really worry about a few Astronauts ruining the "skiing" for everyone else just yet.
  • Some of NASA's most obscure research has been in the area of what to do about human waste products (including and especially the resulting methane gas) in a spacecraft environment. There still isn't a good solution, AFAIK.
  • I would presume that the moon smelled like moldy cheese.
  • But if shadows are so dark, why is the back-lit capsule not dark in the first picture?
    • Notice how the upper portions, facing the sky, of the module are dark, while the parts angled downwards are bright? It's reflecting the light bouncing off of the surface of the moon- but the surface doesn't reflect light onto itself, and thus when it is shadowed, it is rather dark.
    • Very interesting question. Perhaps the camera used to capture the image had a light source that was strong enough to be caught on the extremely reflective material on the lander, but not strong enough to bounce enough light off of the particles on the ground to produce a visible image on the film/CCD.

      You'll notice that there are parts of the lander that look pitch black like the shadows, such as inside the folds of the reflective material and the underside.
    • Good eye :) The lower part of the LEM is covered in gold foil, which is reflective to help prevent direct sunlight from cooking the inhabitants. The "lit" portion of the LEM which appears gold is the foil reflecting the sight of the white landscape like a mirror.

      The upper portion of the LEM is not as reflective, but you can still see bright panels where they are aligned to reflect light back toward the camera.
  • by sarlos (903082) on Monday February 06, 2006 @12:40PM (#14651955)
    The same reason everything tastes like chicken. The designers of the Matrix did not expect Humans to go sniffing moon dust so there was no pre-determined smell for it and some agent panicked and smacked the "spent gunpowder" smell instead of the "it's just a rock" smell.
  • The Moon has "electrically charged dust". Is the net charge of the lunar surface zero, like the ground of the Earth? Is the charge positive or negative, and where did the extra electrons come from (or where did they go)?
    • The net charge of the lunar surface is zero, relative to the moon. Relative to the Earth, it may be and probably is something different. The problem is that the net charge of the Earth being zero is only relative to the Earth. What if we compare the net charge of the Earth's surface to another planet's surface net charge? Will it be zero? Why or why not? Basically, a charge of 0V means there is no potential for eletrical charge to migrate from one location to another. If we put the Earth and the moon
      • Maybe you're thinking of voltage?

        Charge isn't relative. Charge is either positive or negative, in some number of coulombs. Which reflects the balance of electrons per atom, a real physical quantity.

        The Earth's charge is zero (at least at or near the surface, where we've measured it). The Earth's capacitance and conductivity (at least in the crust) is great enough that it remains effectively zero, even when charges are applied to it. That's why electrical devices are "grounded" by connection to "earth": the
  • by tsa (15680) on Monday February 06, 2006 @02:50PM (#14653380) Homepage
    Many people in my surroundings tell me I'm mad when I tell them that we msut certainly send people to the moon and to Mars, just because it's cool and we can do it. They tell me that it is risky and costs a lot of money. Sure they are right, but we wouldn't be where we are now if we didn't undertake expensive and risky projects now and then. In my opinion going to the moon is the coolest thing humans have ever done, and I can't wait until people will travel to Mars, or back to the moon. Apart from the coolness factor, maybe it's good to have an event that will be followed worldwide by people of all religions and backgrounds, just to bring us a bit closer together again. The world needs that.
    • The world needs that

      Well, if you pay, why not?

      • It's cheaper than this war against Iraq, you know. And a lot more useful I might add. I would gladly pay taxes to put a man on Mars. I'm from europe and I'd love to see ESA do something like this, but for some reason the EU is always busy fighting about REALLY unimportant things so we can't expect much from them unfortunately.
        • Well, I have some really bad news for you. War misteriosly correlates with decline of terrorism within US, so you can't call it useless unless you're ready to prove that it's just a coincidence (that doesn't make war cheap/effective/whatever else you can grieve about, of course). Getting people to other celestial bodies, in contrast, is utterly useless. The only thing that people can do outside our planet is research. Not that it's only thing that we want to do, but alas - we're limited by how successful ou
          • War misteriosly correlates with decline of terrorism within US, so you can't call it useless unless you're ready to prove that it's just a coincidence

            Why don't you prove to me that you're right? It seems to me we have a lot more terrorism outside the US since Bush started his `war against terror.' But what do you care, you live in America.

            The usefulness of space exploration as such can indeed be debated, but don't forget about all the spin-offs such an operation produces. We take a lot of things that were o
            • It isn't much more terrorism outside US. It's much more terrorism being shown on CNN, because nowdays CNN spends more time where the terrorists are. And no, I don't live in US. As for spin-offs, they're a drop in the sea of useful products, and I can't come with a single reason why they wouldn't be developed without manned space missions anyway.
  • by wcrowe (94389) on Monday February 06, 2006 @02:51PM (#14653391)
    That was one of the more interesting articles I've ever seen featured on Slashdot. Too bad it was relegated to the back burner.
  • When I was little I liked to break little rocks into dust with a hammer. The resulting dust often smelled like spent gunpowder.
  • "The astronauts could see Surveyor 3 from their lunar module Intrepid. "I remember the first time I looked at it," recalls Bean. "I thought it was on a slope of 40 degrees. How are we going to get down there? I remember us talking about it in the cabin, about having to use ropes."

    But "it turned out [the ground] was real flat," rejoined Conrad."

    Good news, no need to find yourself a job at Apple Computer anymore to experience the Reality Distortion Field, you just gotta go to the moon

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