Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds

Just what will be the effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds?

Europe may be "shrinking" on nearly every cultural front, faced as it is by challenges new and ancient, but, in case no one noticed, you might want to look in your rearview mirror.

The Ariane V booster, gone from white elephant to expensive success, is mute mockery of NASA budgetary battles over Constellation and the loud talk about Ares. Considering that ESA will roll out and launch the second of a planned eight multi-payload missions from Kourou this weekend, perhaps the United States should take another look at the Atlas hybrids and equally proven Deltas. Does the United States really need another booster?

ESA is a long way from equally skunking NASA's basic research, and the news that marigolds thrive in mock moon regolith, when properly treated with soil-borne bacteria, seems a small achievement in basic experimentation. The ATV Jules Verne is not a glamorous vehicle, and NASA is correct to find a cheaper way to accomplish the Progress duty supplying the International Space Station - but it can't be denied that the European Space Agency appears to be doing a significant part of things NASA is merely planning for.

Being able to create an ecosystem on the Moon is big news, just as the bare-bones budgeted Prospector hearing the faint signature of hydrogen in the back-scatter from impacts of Cosmic Rays at the lunar poles has shaped far more expensive LCROSS/LRO lunar mission, later this year. Human living on the moon will, after all, will be wanting both to eat and drink, as well as breathe. This is a big deal, even if it seems a small thing.

Just a word to the wise. Do not despise the time of small beginnings. This is a competitive environment, not just a ridiculous "Zero-Sum" competition for taxpayer dollars or the challenge of space itself. The Ariane V launch this weekend will be carrying a Lockheed-Martin (read: "American-made") ComSat built for the poorest nation on Earth, Vietnam.
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