Tag Archives: space
An internal review said the space agency doesn’t keep track of the (now) irreplaceable artifacts.
The American space program was riding high when the astronauts from the Apollo missions returned from our planet’s only natural satellite with samples of moon rock. NASA lent out these samples to observatories and research facilities for experimentation and observation – I even remember my high school science teacher showing me a moon rock in class – but after a story came out in 2010 from a Delaware institution’s large sample being lost, NASA performed an investigation on where all its moon rocks had gone. The report from NASA’s inspector general released admitted that many of the moon samples are lost forever and the agency needed to keep better records.
NASA has lent more than 26,000 to museums and scientists over the years. The inspector general audited a quarter of these samples, and reported that more than 500 have either been lost or stolen. 19 percent of the recipient’s in question could not locate the samples, either because they were lost, they had been destroyed or lent to other institutions. Some of these samples can never be gained again, including 22 meteorites and two comet samples from an operation that retrieved them from a comet as it passed by.
In other cases, one scientist admitted to possessing 9 samples he borrowed more than 35 years ago. Others kept samples for 16 or more years after they had finished working with them. Even worse, some scientists said they held onto moon samples that they had never performed any experiments on at all.
NASA’s report doesn’t mean that it will stop lending out moon rocks, but the agency plans to adopt specific measures to track and keep accurate records of where its samples are located. I imagine that NASA will start checking in with these scientists to return the rocks after they are used, and start tracking them with bar codes or another tracking method to keep them all straight.
These rocks are difficult to replace, now that we haven’t traveled to the Moon since 1972 and are likely not to return since the space shuttles are retired from service. Crap, we’re not going to get any more moon rocks any time soon.
SAMPLES STORED IN NITROGEN TO MIMIC CONDITIONS ON THE MOON
- The main repository for the Apollo moon rocks is the ultra-secure Lunar Sample Building at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
- There is a smaller collection at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
- The samples are stored in nitrogen to mimic conditions on the moon and keep them free of moisture.
- The Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions brought back 2,415 samples weighing 382 kg.
- The three Russian Luna spacecraft returned with an additional 0.32 kg of samples.
- In 1972, President Richard Nixon sent moon rocks to 135 foreign heads of state, the 50 U.S. states and its provinces as a goodwill gesture
- In 2002 three young Nasa interns stole dozens of samples from the Houston repository but were arrested as they tried to sell them to an undercover FBI agent
An Apollo astronaut digs for samples (right) and President Bill Clinton shows off a sample of moon rock given to him in 1999
What was most significant about the lunar voyage was not that men set foot on the moon but that they set eye on the earth.
Saturday Event will paint full moon red.
This weekend sky-watchers across most of the globe will have the chance to watch at least some of the last total lunar eclipse until 2014.
The entire lunar eclipse will be visible in East Asia, Australia, and the far western portion of North America that includes Alaska and Canada’s Yukon and Northwest Territories. The spectacle will last nearly three and a half hours, starting on Saturday at 4:45 a.m. Pacific Time.
Totality—when the full moon will be completely blocked from direct sunlight—will start at 6:05 a.m. PT and last until 6:57 a.m. PT.
“Meanwhile, observers across the Pacific region of North America will get to see the sky show low in the western horizon at moonset, in the early morning,” he said.
Watch a live video feed of the total lunar eclipse from the Slooh SpaceCamera. Live broadcast starts at 5:00 a.m. PT on Saturday.
Lunar eclipses can occur only when the full moon, Earth, and the sun are aligned so that the moon crosses through Earth’s shadow.
Due to the moon’s tilted orbit around Earth, lunar eclipses happen only a few times a year, Samra said. The eclipse can be full or partial, depending on how much of the lunar disk falls in our planet’s shadow.
(Watch a moon facts video.)
Rather than going completely dark, the moon takes on a deep reddish hue during a total lunar eclipse.
“As the entire moon passes through the Earth’s shadow cast by the sun in space, sunlight scattering off our planet’s dusty atmosphere and subsequently reflecting off the surface of the moon will make it appear to change color,” Samra said.
Expect to see the lunar disk go from dark grey during the partial phase to reddish-orange during totality, he said.
Partial Eclipses on the Horizon
After Saturday’s eclipse, sky-watchers are in for a dry spell—the cosmic lineup needed for a total lunar eclipse won’t occur again until April 14, 2014.
(Take a moon myths and mysteries quiz.)
But the next partial lunar eclipse happens on June 4, 2012, when a chunk of the moon will appear to be gobbled up by Earth’s shadow.
“The next few lunar eclipses that will occur will only be partial ones,” Samra said, “so this will be our last chance to enjoy a total eclipse in quite some time.”
Courtesy: Andrew Fazekas