Jun 9, 2009 | 6
As private enterprises set their sights on space, once the sole domain of the superpowers, questions are arising about who will protect historical sites and artifacts on the moon.
In an editorial last week for the Los Angeles Times, a pair of scholars from Louisiana State University (LSU) raise the point that well-meaning but inexperienced private entities targeting the moon could accidentally wreak havoc on the historic Apollo program landing sites, for instance. (Though less than 40 years old, those sites qualify as ancient in the brief history of space travel.)
Jill Thomas, an LSU grad student, and Justin St. P. Walsh, an art history and archaeology professor at the university, take aim at the Google Lunar X Prize, which offers a $20-million purse for the first privately funded team to land a robotic rover on the moon and use it to complete certain objectives. The prize's guidelines include a "Heritage Bonus Prize" of an unspecified amount for the first team whose rover photographs or videotapes a man-made artifact on the moon.
Apr 20, 2009
Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt called it the biggest environmental problem on the moon. His crewmate Eugene Cernan said it was "probably one of our greatest inhibitors" to lunar operations. What could pose such a dire threat? The pervasive, abrasive culprit: lunar dust.
The tiny grains cling to spacesuits and scientific instruments, causing myriad problems—clogging, abrasion, inhalation, obfuscation—for lunar visitors and the experiments they leave behind. In a new study using data from instruments installed on the moon in 1969, Brian O'Brien, a now-independent researcher in Floreat, Western Australia, and a former professor of space science at Rice University in Houston, determined that the angle of the sun in the lunar sky modulates the clinginess of the lunar dust. O'Brien's paper is set to be published in Geophysical Research Letters.
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