David Kirkpatrick

October 21, 2010

The latest moon facts from NASA

Pretty interesting facts at that …

The release very hot from the inbox:

NASA Missions Uncover the Moon’s Buried Treasures

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Nearly a year after announcing the discovery of water molecules on the moon, scientists Thursday revealed new data uncovered by NASA’s Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO.

The missions found evidence that the lunar soil within shadowy craters is rich in useful materials, and the moon is chemically active and has a water cycle. Scientists also confirmed the water was in the form of mostly pure ice crystals in some places. The results are featured in six papers published in the Oct. 22 issue of Science.

“NASA has convincingly confirmed the presence of water ice and characterized its patchy distribution in permanently shadowed regions of the moon,” said Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This major undertaking is the one of many steps NASA has taken to better understand our solar system, its resources, and its origin, evolution, and future.”

The twin impacts of LCROSS and a companion rocket stage in the moon’s Cabeus crater on Oct. 9, 2009, lifted a plume of material that might not have seen direct sunlight for billions of years. As the plume traveled nearly 10 miles above the rim of Cabeus, instruments aboard LCROSS and LRO made observations of the crater and debris and vapor clouds. After the impacts, grains of mostly pure water ice were lofted into the sunlight in the vacuum of space.

“Seeing mostly pure water ice grains in the plume means water ice was somehow delivered to the moon in the past, or chemical processes have been causing ice to accumulate in large quantities,” said Anthony Colaprete, LCROSS project scientist and principal investigator at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “Also, the diversity and abundance of certain materials called volatiles in the plume, suggest a variety of sources, like comets and asteroids, and an active water cycle within the lunar shadows.”

Volatiles are compounds that freeze and are trapped in the cold lunar craters and vaporize when warmed by the sun. The suite of LCROSS and LRO instruments determined as much as 20 percent of the material kicked up by the LCROSS impact was volatiles, including methane, ammonia, hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.

The instruments also discovered relatively large amounts of light metals such as sodium, mercury and possibly even silver.

Scientists believe the water and mix of volatiles that LCROSS and LRO detected could be the remnants of a comet impact. According to scientists, these volatile chemical by-products are also evidence of a cycle through which water ice reacts with lunar soil grains.

LRO’s Diviner instrument gathered data on water concentration and temperature measurements, and LRO’s Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector mapped the distribution of hydrogen. This combined data led the science team to conclude the water is not uniformly distributed within the shadowed cold traps, but rather is in pockets, which may also lie outside the shadowed regions.

The proportion of volatiles to water in the lunar soil indicates a process called “cold grain chemistry” is taking place. Scientists also theorize this process could take as long as hundreds of thousands of years and may occur on other frigid, airless bodies, such as asteroids; the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, including Europa and Enceladus; Mars’ moons; interstellar dust grains floating around other stars and the polar regions of Mercury.

“The observations by the suite of LRO and LCROSS instruments demonstrate the moon has a complex environment that experiences intriguing chemical processes,” said Richard Vondrak, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “This knowledge can open doors to new areas of research and exploration.”

By understanding the processes and environments that determine where water ice will be, how water was delivered to the moon and its active water cycle, future mission planners might be better able to determine which locations will have easily-accessible water. The existence of mostly pure water ice could mean future human explorers won’t have to retrieve the water out of the soil in order to use it for valuable life support resources. In addition, an abundant presence of hydrogen gas, ammonia and methane could be exploited to produce fuel.

LCROSS launched with LRO aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 18, 2009, and used the Centaur upper stage rocket to create the debris plume. The research was funded by NASA’s Exploration Systems Missions Directorate at the agency’s headquarters. LCROSS was managed by Ames and built by Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif. LRO was built and is managed by Goddard.

For more information about LCROSS, a complete list of the papers and their authors, visit:


For more information about the LRO mission, visit:




Web Site: http://www.nasa.gov

September 10, 2010

Single ions crossing a nano bridge

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:11 am

Don’t see any current practical applications — aside from desalination — on this right now (but now with a proof-of-concept I bet this’ll be leveraged in new research), but it is impressively cool.

From the link:

In the Sept. 10 issue of Science, MIT researchers report that charged molecules, such as the sodium and  that form when salt is dissolved in water, can not only flow rapidly through carbon nanotubes, but also can, under some conditions, do so one at a time, like people taking turns crossing a bridge. The research was led by associate professor Michael Strano.

The new system allows passage of much smaller molecules, over greater distances (up to half a millimeter), than any existing nanochannel. Currently, the most commonly studied nanochannel is a silicon nanopore, made by drilling a hole through a silicon membrane. However, these channels are much shorter than the new nanotube channels (the nanotubes are about 20,000 times longer), so they only permit passage of large molecules such as DNA or polymers — anything smaller would move too quickly to be detected.

Strano and his co-authors — recent PhD recipient Chang Young Lee, graduate student Wonjoon Choi and postdoctoral associate Jae-Hee Han — built their new nanochannel by growing a nanotube across a one-centimeter-by-one-centimeter plate, connecting two water reservoirs. Each reservoir contains an electrode, one positive and one negative. Because electricity can flow only if protons — positively charged , which make up the electric current — can travel from one electrode to the other, the researchers can easily determine whether  are traveling through the nanotube.

November 27, 2009

Beautiful nature image — triangular snowflakes

I didn’t know snowflakes come in all sorts of geometric shapes.

From the link:

The beautiful six-fold symmetry of snowflakes is the result of the hydrogen bonds that water molecules form when they freeze.

But snowflakes can form other shapes too when the growth of the crystal is perturbed on one side. In theory, diamonds, trapezoids and other irregular shapes can all occur. And yet the one most commonly observed (after hexagons) is the triangle. The puzzle for is why? What process causes deformed snowflakes to become triangles rather than say squares or rectangles?

December 19, 2008

Astronauts to drink own pee

Actually this is a great thing and will drastically improve the International Space Station.

From the link:

A new comprehensive life-support system for the International Space Station (ISS) centers on a water recycling system whose specially designed filters and chemical processes cleanse waste liquids–notably astronauts’ urine and perspiration–so that they become refreshing, drinkable water.

The system, which can produce 2,800 liters of water per year, is fundamentally important because it allows the ISS to house six crew members, up from three, and reduces how much fresh water must be expensively blasted off from Earth inside the Space Shuttle, says Bob Bagdigian, the project manager for the ISS life-support system project, which includes the water recovery system.

“It is a critical part for the next life of the station,” says Mary Beth Edeen, manager of the hardware projects office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, in Houston. “It is like a sewage treatment plant and a water treatment plant all in one.” Such a system would be a key to future human trips to the moon and, someday, to Mars.

The system was developed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, AL. It went into orbit in November onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour and was installed in the U.S. Destiny Laboratory on the ISS. It is currently being tested–samples were collected and returned to Earth on the shuttle for analysis–and is expected to be fully operational by May 2009.

The system is most notable for its ability to turn an astronaut’s urine into drinkable water. “Distilling urine in space with the absence of gravity is a significant challenge,” says Bagdigian. To compensate for the microgravity environment, the NASA engineers developed a centrifuge-like pretreatment system.

June 20, 2008

H2O on Mars!

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:28 pm

It’s the early report, but if all is absolutely confirmed this is very, very exciting news for mankind and the future of space travel.

From the link:

Scientists in charge of the Phoenix Mars lander are more convinced there is ice near the Martian North pole as they review new images from the Red Planet. Eight small pieces of a bright material “have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago, convincing scientists that the material was frozen water that vaporized after digging exposed it,” said a statement from Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s website.

“It must be ice,” said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. “These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it’s ice. There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can’t do that.”

If you haven’t been following the Mars Phoenix Lander story you might not have heard it’s using Twitter to tweet information back to Earth. Here’s the tweet after the water discovery:

 “Are you ready to celebrate?  Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars!  w00t!!!  Best day ever!!” the Mars Phoenix Lander tweeted at about 5:15 pm.

 Update 7/31/08 — Water on Mars has been confirmed.

From the link:

“We have water,” said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. “We’ve seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted.”

With enticing results so far and the spacecraft in good shape, NASA also announced operational funding for the mission will extend through Sept. 30. The original prime mission of three months ends in late August. The mission extension adds five weeks to the 90 days of the prime mission.

“Phoenix is healthy and the projections for solar power look good, so we want to take full advantage of having this resource in one of the most interesting locations on Mars,” said Michael Meyer, chief scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The soil sample came from a trench approximately 2 inches deep. When the robotic arm first reached that depth, it hit a hard layer of frozen soil. Two attempts to deliver samples of icy soil on days when fresh material was exposed were foiled when the samples became stuck inside the scoop. Most of the material in Wednesday’s sample had been exposed to the air for two days, letting some of the water in the sample vaporize away and making the soil easier to handle.

January 19, 2008

Hey H2O,

Filed under: Science — Tags: , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:15 pm

… you’re not so special after all. Water is something of a marvel among solids and liquids with many unexpected properties, such as expanding when it freezes rather than contracting.

A group of scientists created a virtual, highly simplified molecule that behaves much like water.

From the release:

“The conventional wisdom is that water is unique,” said Debenedetti, the Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science. “And here we have a very simple model that displays behaviors that are very hard to get in anything but water. It forces you to rethink what is unique about water.”

While their water imitator is hypothetical — it was created with computer software that is commonly used for simulating interactions between molecules — the researchers’ discovery may ultimately have implications for industrial or pharmaceutical research. “I would be very interested to see if experimentalists could create colloids (small particles suspended in liquid) that exhibit the water-like properties we observed in our simulations,” Debenedetti said. Such laboratory creations might be useful in controlling the self-assembly of complex biomolecules or detergents and other surfactants.

These findings were published December 12, 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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