Help Wanted to Sift Through Martian Clouds

Image (Credit): Hubble space telescope image of the icy blue clouds swirling over the Martian mountain Syrtis Major (far right). (NASA Goddard)

NASA is looking for assistance to answer a few questions about Martian clouds:

  1. What causes the atmosphere to get cold enough for carbon-dioxide to freeze out?
  2. How do clouds change from day to night, or during different seasons, or in some years more than others?
  3. What are the clouds made of?

You can help by searching through data acquired by the Mars Climate Sounder (MCS) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) collected during Mars Year 29, which was from December 2007 to October 2009. Using an entire Martian year of identified clouds will allow NASA to determine how mesospheric clouds change during different seasons on Mars, and assist with future machine-learning algorithms for other years’ worth of data.

Visit the Cloudspotting on Mars website to learn more about how you can help. It’s a fun way to be part of the scientific community as it gains a greater understanding of the one planet in the solar system we hope to visit in person in the near future.

Television: The Earlier Moon Mission on PBS

Image (Credit): Artist’s impression of Apollo 11 approaching the Moon. (PBS)

If you really want something interesting to watch regarding the Moon, catch these two PBS programs (stations and times may vary). Yes, they aired earlier, but as noted earlier, I would rather rewatch the good stuff than waste my time on some of the new stuff.

American Experience: Chasing the Moon, July 2 at 7pm (6 hours):

“Chasing the Moon,” a film by Robert Stone, reimagines the race to the moon for a new generation, upending much of the conventional mythology surrounding the effort. The series recasts the Space Age as a fascinating stew of scientific innovation, political calculation, media spectacle, visionary impulses and personal drama. Utilizing a visual feast of previously overlooked and lost archival material — much of which has never before been seen by the public — the film features a diverse cast of characters who played key roles in these historic events. Among those included are astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Frank Borman and Bill Anders; Sergei Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet premier and a leading Soviet rocket engineer; Poppy Northcutt, a 25-year old “mathematics whiz” who gained worldwide attention as the first woman to serve in the all-male bastion of NASA’s Mission Control; and Ed Dwight, the Air Force pilot selected by the Kennedy administration to train as America’s first black astronaut.

8 Days: To the Moon and Back, July 9 at 8pm (1 hour 25 minutes)

Join Apollo 11 on its historic journey. The film seamlessly blends mission audio featuring conversations among Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins with new footage, NASA archive and stunning CGI to recreate the first moon landing.

Television: Moonhaven is Coming in July

Image (Source): Moonhaven’s Garden of Eden on the Moon. (AMC+)

While NASA is working on the first permanent base on the Moon, the AMC+ television series set 100 years in the future already has a Garden of Eden on the lunar surface. Here is the general story from AMC+ on the new series Moonhaven, which premieres on July 7th:

Moonhaven focuses on Bella Sway (Emma McDonald), a lunar cargo pilot and smuggler 100 years in the future who finds herself accused of a crime and marooned on Moonhaven, a utopian community set on a 500 square mile Garden of Eden built on the Moon to find solutions to the problems that will soon end civilization on Mother Earth. A skeptic in Paradise, Bella is sucked into a conspiracy to gain control of the artificial intelligence responsible for Moonhaven’s miracles and teams with a local detective to stop the forces that want to destroy Earth’s last hope before they are destroyed themselves.

Yes, the Earth is a toxic waste (again) and it is easier to build a future on the dead Moon than get our act together here on Earth. But even that is too easy, because the Moon colony appears to be a cult. Could it be a SpaceX colony based on the principles of Musk. I hope NASA did not pay for that.

I do not have any high hopes, but that may be it for this summer outside of Star Wars and Star Trek series. I may just go back and rewatch The Expanse this summer.

New Double Crater on the Moon

Image (Credit): Double crater from a rocket body that impacted the Moon on March 4, 2022, near Hertzsprung crater. (NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University)

Remember all of the chatter earlier this year about whether a SpaceX or Chinese rocket booster was about read to hit the Moon? Well, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter recently located the crater created by this object – a strange double crater. NASA reported it found an eastern crater (18-meter diameter, about 19.5 yards) superimposed on a western crater (16-meter diameter, about 17.5 yards).

While NASA has not seen double craters when other booster rockets hit the Moon’s surface (yes, it does happen occasionally), it tried to explain this one:

The double crater was unexpected and may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end. Typically a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank. Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the double nature of the crater may indicate its identity.

Now we just need to go back to Space X and the Chinese and ask a few more questions about the rocket booster in question. It is still doubtful we have an Elon Musk crater on the Moon. Time will tell.