SPEAKER 1: This is a production of Cornell University.
DR. JAMES BELL: Good evening. Good evening, everybody. I want to welcome you all to the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society 40th annual meeting public lecture. And tonight we're going to recognize the achievements of a very, very special scientist in our field, Dr. Jeff Taylor. Before doing that, though, I want to welcome you all here to Bailey Hall at Cornell University, and I have the distinct pleasure of introducing tonight's MC, an alumnus of Cornell '77, Bill Nye the Science Guy sitting right here in the front row. Welcome, Bill.
Bill is an engineer by training, a scientist by the forces that motivate him deep inside, and, of course, a great, great public communicator of science, carrying on the tradition of public communication of science that has been so steeply ingrained here at Cornell. Many of you know Bill from his fabulously successful Bill Nye the Science Guy show on PBS, which I was a fan of, as well, as were my kids. And most recently Bill has been exploring other aspects of science, and society, and how things work in his Discovery channel Planet Green series on Stuff Happens. And so maybe some of you have seen that on television, as well. Tonight's MC is also the vice president of the Planetary Society, and I'm sure he'll be telling you a little bit more about that very important organization in space exploration. So without further ado, let me welcome Bill Nye the Science Guy.
How are you, sir? And I can put this--
BILL NYE: Hi play.
DR. JAMES BELL: There.
BILL NYE: Well done.
DR. JAMES BELL: Good to see you, man.
BILL NYE: Dr. Jim Bell, ladies and gentlemen.
As you may know, Dr. Bell was instrumental in bringing me back to Cornell just about exactly 10 years ago. And I have been closely involved ever since, and tonight we are honoring the Carl Sagan Medal winner. Now, if you are of a certain age, you're very familiar with Carl Sagan, and the guy taught here. I took astronomy from him. If you're of another certain age, this is just a name that you've heard, but let me say the guy was a brilliant scientist, a brilliant astronomer. He won a Pulitzer Prize, and he was a great public communicator of science. So I am very much-- I'm very honored to be here tonight to address the Carl Sagan Medal lecture of the 40th Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting of the American Astronomical Society. I know it does sound like a crazy party when you tell people about--
You mean the 40th DPS of the AAS? Oh, man. Yeah.
So my grandmother was very excited to go to College Park, Maryland to see the Wright brothers in 1909. Now, 1909's approximate, but that's the way the story was handed down to me. So it's around 1909. Very excited to see the Wright brothers. She was a young girl. She wanted to get a ride. The Wright brothers were giving people rides in these airplanes.
I know. Cool, right? And apparently it was fantastic to watch. No one had ever seen such a thing-- a vehicle that could fly. And she was enamored of the takeoff, but apparently my great grandmother, her mother, would not let her get a ride with the Wright brothers based on apparently the way these aircraft came down. That had sort of an unreliable quality that she didn't want her daughter getting on the plane, but my grandmother lived long enough to be an air traveler herself and to see airplanes built big enough that the entire first flight of the Wright brothers if there were a headwind inside a 747 or A380 Airbus-- the entire first flight of the Wright brothers could take place inside.
So there have been a lot of changes in those decades, and aviation has led to the tools of space exploration and is in many ways why we're all here tonight. Without aviation, we wouldn't have, for example, this picture. And this picture is supposed to be the most recognizable image to anyone on Earth. If you are from the United Kingdom, or Botswana, or Papua New Guinea, or a remote island in the tropics-- what we think of as remote-- you are familiar with this image, and this image is a result of science. It was a result of the process of science, of people wanting to achieve things and explore the world around us.
Now, if you are a young person here-- and I see a few of you. I used to say us.
This business of aviation is just part of your world. Every day, you see a weather report. In fact, weather reports from spacecraft are so common that we are now all experts, watching the Weather Channel and giving our opinions about what those people ought to be doing down there about that hurricane and so on. And navigation of airplanes and ships is just routine. Nothing to it.
And if you told my grandmother that you could steer an airplane using information that at an energy level considerably smaller than that of the weight of a falling feather-- to navigate airplanes around the world, tens of thousands at a time, she would think that you were just out of your mind, that such a thing was just not possible. Yet if you grow up in the aviation generation, this stuff is routine.
Now, if you were born after the 4th of October, 1957, you are what we like to call a member of the space generation. So the space generation began with the first flight of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite put in orbit around the Earth, but now space exploration like that is routine. And I hope you'll all take it for granted up to a point, because right now, at the beginning of the 21st century, it's been 40 years almost since people walked on the moon.
I hope you are asking scientists and engineers involved in space exploration-- as a voter and a taxpayer, I hope you are asking, what's next? What is next for us? Because this is the important thing. This is the important thing right now.
And to a limited extent as vice president of the Planetary Society-- now, I'll just tell you about that. I was graduated from Cornell, and then these three people started this organization called the Planetary Society-- Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, who was later considered by Time magazine to be the admiral of the solar system, because he was the head of the Jet Propulsion Lab, and then and then Lou Friedman, who's an old-- he went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he's an old planetary-- he's an orbital mechanician. Anyway, these three people started this organization, and I got on the mailing list, and I joined. And then many years later I was asked to be on the board, which I thought was quite an honor. And then at one point, I left the room, and I came back, and then I was vice president.
So through this I have been able to travel the world, and I know that not everyone here is from the United States, but many people who are attending the Department for Planetary Science meeting are from the United States, and many of whom are going to influence NASA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Now, when you meet people from the Indian space agency, the Chinese space agency, the Japan space agency, they are all looking to NASA to lead. Even though China, I'm sure, has plans to send people to the moon, they're still wondering what the United States is going to do next in space. And this, my friends, is what I want all of us to think about, whether you're a young voter, a future taxpayer, or whether you're a current scientist or engineer working in space exploration.
It's very important that we think hard about what we're going to do next, because this carries a huge responsibility, but, of course, with a responsibility comes opportunity. Now, as you may have heard, the global economy is a mess. Things have collapsed in an astonishing way, and people have come basically, among other things, not to trust each other. And this can be, for many of us, very distracting, but I encourage everybody to keep focused. We're going to get through this, and we're going to have to make decisions about space exploration that are largely influenced by the budgets that are still available for this enterprise.
Now, along with the global economy, we have what I would call global worries. We are all living at a time when the world's climate is changing. Now, if you're born after the 23rd of June, 1988, you are what I like to call a member of the climate generation. June 23rd, 1988 is when Dr. Jim Hansen first presented his ideas about the dangers, and risks, and changes associated with climate change to the United States Congress. It was only 20 years ago, and this change is global, and it's going to affect everyone on Earth. And it's going to take international cooperation to make changes.
And this is, to me, every way intimately connected with space exploration. See, space exploration is no longer going to be a one country thing or two country thing. The reason people walked on the moon in many respects is because of the Cold War. It was a race to see who could get there first and do this one thing first. By the way, if you're scoring along with us, the former Soviet Union did all kinds of things on the moon first. I mean, the first sample robot sample return, first lander, first soft lander, I think, but the big prize was to get humans walking around there. But those days are gone.
In those days, the NASA budget was about 5% of the US budget. Now it's around 0.7%-- or, if you will, in astronomical terms, an order of magnitude less. It's just a few billion dollars. So it's about an order of magnitude less. And so it is scientists' responsibility to lead the way.
Once again, along with space exploration, when it comes to climate change, I strongly believe the United States has to be a leader. We have to make the first changes. We have to make the first steps that will get the world to a more comfortable lifestyle for the many billions of people that expect to keep going for the next century.
So to my fellow engineers and science colleagues, I'd say I really want you to lead. I really want you to step up and show the world that the United States is thinking about these things so that we can have a better quality of life for everyone. This is a big responsibility, but also, of course, a great opportunity.
Now, Dr. Bell approached me on an airplane to Ithaca 10 years ago, and he asked me to go to a meeting about Mars. Which, Bill, would you like to come to a meeting about Mars? Yeah! Yes. So I went to a meeting, and I got involved with the Mars team. And I, along with other people, realized that we had an opportunity in the great tradition of Carl Sagan to, along with the science instruments that were going to be sent to Mars-- the Spirit and Opportunity rovers before they had that name. We were going to send a little message to the future, and I can tell you firsthand that the administrator of NASA didn't know anything about this, but on Mars right now it says, to those who visit here, we wish a safe journey and the joy of discovery. It's in little writing, but I hope one of you one day will go up there and read it.
And that, my friends, is the essence of this enterprise. That, my friends, is the essence of the best idea humans have ever had, and that is science. That's what we're here to celebrate. If we can find ways to get everybody in the world to embrace science, we can change the world. You see, what's happened-- science has, to a large extent in the United States, become a special interest group. It's like the people that promote green beans.
And I'm one of them. I love green beans. I think green beans make everybody's life better, but there's a lot of other vegetables, and green beans are important to me, but they're not important to everybody. But when it comes to science, it's got to be important to everyone. To all the scientists and engineers who are here for this meeting and all the students who are here, I say we've got to work together to make the world aware of the great benefits and the great future that science can provide us.
Now, science isn't a thing. Science is something done by people. Science is an idea, a process that humans came up with to embrace and enjoy the joy of discovery. And that, my friends, is part of what I like to call the P, B, and J-- the passion, beauty, and joy of science.
So as you know, when you look at the Earth in a picture like this, you can hardly see the atmosphere. You have to look really closely to see it, and it is that thinness of the atmosphere that makes it so important to the future. And part of what makes the earth so special is that it has a moon, a moon that's just about the same diameter as the sun when viewed here from the earth. And so tonight, Dr. Jeff Taylor will give you the passion, beauty, and joy of the joy of discoveries made on the moon, but in the meantime, it is my great privilege and honor to introduce the outgoing chairman of the Department for Planetary Science. Everybody, please welcome Rick Binzel.
RICHARD BINZEL: Thank you. On behalf of all my professional colleagues who've enjoyed a great week and are enjoying a great week, we thank our hosts here, particularly Jim Bell and the other organizers. So thank you for having us. Tonight's speaker is a natural communicator. He began writing children's books just after he was finishing his scientific training, and his first children's book was written in 1978. And since 1990, he's been at the University of Hawaii studying things that begin with the letter M-- the moon, Mars, and meteorites.
In 1996, together with Linda Martel, they began working on what they call an online science magazine called Planetary Science Research Discoveries, which today gets 80,000 hits a month. This organization that's meeting here this week, which was founded by Carl Sagan, as was mentioned, the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences, has about 2,000 members internationally. And after Carl's death in 1996, we wanted to remember Carl and his amazing ability to communicate science to the public.
And so to do this, an award was created to recognize planetary scientists who are outstanding in their ability and their effort to communicate science to the public. And that's about 10 years ago the Carl Sagan Medal was created as an award to recognize outstanding individuals. This award, this medal is not awarded every year. We review candidates and possibilities every year, but it is infrequent that it is awarded.
Only when a candidate of the highest caliber, the level of communication, and dedication, and effort exemplified by Carl Sagan-- only such a deserving person receives this medal. Well, it's my great pleasure and my great privilege to introduce to you tonight the 2008 recipient of the Carl Sagan medal for outstanding communication in planetary science to Dr. Jeff Taylor.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Thank you very much. This is the actual medal right here, and I'm going to keep wearing it until someone says I look really too goofy to keep wearing it. The website Rick mentioned-- everyone memorize that URL at the bottom. Now, as you know, it's a great honor to get an award named after Carl Sagan, who was such a great communicator and an imaginative scientist. There is a downside, and that downside is that people expect you to actually give a good talk.
So we'll see how that goes. This is my first talk after having been declared a winner of the Sagan Medal. So what I want to talk about is settling the moon, why we're going to do it, and then talk about what it enables in terms of the lunar science it will do. There's plenty of other science that we might do on the moon, but I'm going to focus on the thing I know best, and that's lunar science.
Now, here's the same picture, but it's of some kind of thriving lunar settlement on the moon. And when we will have something like this that might have tens of people or more working and living on the moon, which is the goal of space exploration and the goal of the US-- official NASA goal is to learn to live and work in space, explore the moon, go on to Mars and other destinations. Well, let's look at some of the reasons why you might actually explore it.
One, it's what humans do. We have explored the entire Earth, and this particular group of explorers I like-- the Polynesians who discovered Hawaii. They were great voyagers throughout the South Pacific. They decided there was islands to the north, and they did this on savvy by seeing bird migrations, and they figured we can find these islands. We don't know how many they lost as they were searching, but they found them, and once they found them, they were such great navigators by the stars-- no GPS-- they could get back to where they came from and had trade back and forth for hundreds of years. So they are just the greatest explorers, but they set out to do it, and we have set out throughout human history to explore. That's why, I mean, every time some Westerner discovers a new place, there's people there.
So it is also important to challenge ourselves. Now, Kennedy-- Bill mentioned that this was a battle in the Cold War, and indeed it was, but Kennedy did inspire us for other reasons. And one of those reasons is because it's hard to do. And I think those are the reasons we do these things. We go. We send those rovers to Mars. That is not easy to do, and it's not easy to operate them. It's not easy to interpret the data from them, but it is fascinating. It is worth doing. Challenges like going to the moon, again, to settle it, to learn how to go to Mars-- those are difficult things, but it is essential as a society, and in this case, a world society, to do it.
We want to engage and inspire our children. That big bear is not related to me, but the little bears beneath it are, and those grandchildren I want to grow up in a world, as Bill put it, that cares about science and not only embraces it-- embraces it as much as we do so many other things that are easier. And maybe someday we will have kids born and raised on the moon and Mars.
There is global partnerships. Now, this is very important. It's a picture of the space station, the International Space Station. It has not been completely smooth sailing to have this international venture, but it is basically working, and it showed us how we-- the kinds of mistakes you can make when start to do a big project with more than one nation, but it also I think leads the way for how we need to explore the moon, how we need to settle it. Besides the fact that the bill might be pretty high, it is important to do it just together. It is critical, I think, to do it together.
And then we do want to prepare the way to go to Mars, and to go there with people, and to explore it at length. And there are plenty of other future destinations to go to, and while we're doing it with people, we will have to explore Mars intensely with robotics as we are now, but even more so to know how safe is it for humans to go there.
We want to establish-- I don't think this can be done without commercial involvement. Now, sometimes commerce does not serve us, like the banking industry of late has not been that good, except they're being greedy. They are very good at being greedy, but the fact of the matter is we need-- there are businesses that are successful and have enriched our lives, and that includes the entire computer business, as many of us get on the web daily, hourly, fanatically too often. And those discoveries are important, and they were ideas developed and commercialized.
The same thing will be true-- I don't know what those commercial ventures-- everyone has ideas, by the way, of mining the moon to produce a product you might export to Earth or to use in Earth, moon, space, and the space between Earth, moon, and these balancing points called Lagrange points where telescopes might go in other facilities. There may be business. I don't know really what they will be, but if there aren't businesses, it will be more difficult to do this.
And then what might be even more important-- here's the same picture Bill showed. It is the perspective it gives us on the Earth and on our problems on the Earth. Many times I've given talks about space exploration, and you get a question-- and not an unfair question-- why are you doing this? This is costing a lot of money. And we've got a lot of problems here on earth. And besides the fact that, in fact, the amount of money isn't so small when compared to the entire federal budget, which is only 0.6% of a percent of the federal budget, not counting the bailout money. And that is a small amount, but what really counts is when we go and explore the moon, and look back on the Earth, when we will go on to Mars, what we have is a body that is, as Carl Sagan called it, that pale blue dot.
In the early '70s, when we went to the moon repeatedly, starting in July of '69, we took these pictures. It was a whole new way of looking at the globe. It was a little blue dot that is sitting out there isolated that says to us, and said to the environmental movement at the time, and still speaks to that-- it said we're by ourselves, and we ought to take care of this body we live on, and maybe we ought to take care of each other.
Well, we don't know always, do we? We don't always take care of the planet, but it did raise our consciousness, and it has helped considerably. So that is one important perspective.
There's also other ways we may get perspective. In the upper left there you see that's a fairly gross looking mining facility. It's the tailings pond of a mine. It's very acidic water. It is, however, I might add at least-- the water is being trapped there rather than just being dumped into oceans now, but it is kind of a gross looking thing. We will begin to mine the moon for some products to be used on the moon first, and maybe there will be products to use in space or even exported back to the Earth, and these are ideas. What I like about these ideas-- and this sort of makes my point that-- oh, that's the recorder.
Is there a laser pointer up here? Doesn't matter? They're outdated anyway. The upper right and the bottom picture are just mining facilities-- the artist's conceptions. What's cool about them is how neat looking they are. See how neat they are?
I think that everything is so valuable in space that you don't want to waste anything, and that lesson-- it's another lesson. This isn't just mining. It applies to everything that, when you do something in an environment where everything matters, where it costs so much to get it there, you really want to make sure we use it. And that's the lesson here that the perspective gives us not only technology that might be developed. It is the attitude you use everything. It's the attitude that farms used a long time ago that, when they slaughtered a cow, everything was used from that, even those parts that some of us consider a wee bit gross.
So these new perspectives might help us understand new ways of whole looking at these monumental problems we have, such as poverty, warfare, how we have equitable distribution of health care, our energy considerations, and it isn't-- again, not just technology. It is attitude. And if, by doing big space ventures together-- really big space ventures-- having some of us live on other planets, it just is a whole new way of looking at ourselves, and our world, and each other.
It is important to become, as Ansel Adams said, in this-- I didn't take this picture of Hernandez, New Mexico. It is important to become part of something larger, and that's what we do. When we had astronauts on the moon, we've become part of that bigger adventure. The rovers on Mars make us part of that bigger adventure, and that is an essential reason for space exploration.
There is the science stuff, and I'm going to talk mostly about science because that's what I know, and here's a few pictures of it. And I want to just point out one thing. The bottom right one where we-- those are low frequency radio antenna-- our artist concepts-- and laid out on the far side of the moon. It is a really cool idea to probe deep into the history of the universe. I'm told the first 300,000 years can be probed by low frequency radio observations that cannot be made from the surface of the Earth or in Earth orbit because of radio interference from the Earth. The moon will block that, we think. It will also benefit astronomy just by having the infrastructure to allow really sophisticated telescopes in high earth orbit or in these Lagrangian points, but the important thing-- I am going to talk about geoscience because it's what I know.
Now, you know we did do some great robotics. Bill alluded to this, and he actually didn't mention this really cool Russian-- or Soviet Union accomplishment. The big picture is an Apollo picture of the far side of the moon, and the first one-- the little one is a 1959 Russian spacecraft, the first one to fly around and view the far side of the moon. Talk about new perspectives just scientifically-- this thing flew around-- the far side was all of these heavily cratered highlands rather than the dark maria that we see on the Earth facing side. It was a whole new planet suddenly, a whole more complicated thing.
I'm going to show you here a series of my favorite robot pictures-- or pictures taken by robots, not pictures of robots. The surface of Venus-- these are another Soviet Union accomplishment. They landed these things on a place that's 600 degrees-- it's high enough to melt lead. The pressure is about 100 times the surface of the Earth, and they have spacecraft that operated about an hour, and they did chemical analyses. They took pictures, and we know much more about Venus-- not enough, but more about Venus than we had before they did these quite amazing voyages.
This is Impact with Comet. This deep impact mission was first a cool idea to throw a 500 kilogram chunk of copper at an object, and who can argue with that idea? But it tells us about comets, and we have other comet missions. And so we have explored pretty far and wide in the solar system. There are active volcanoes, which we knew. It was predicted, by the way. And then a few months later, they found them when Voyager passed by Jupiter, and then Galileo took this picture of active vulcanism on this little moon.
Then we have a rogues gallery of asteroids that come in all shapes and sizes. And we are beginning to get to know them. There's actually one of these missing now. And then there's the surface of Mars, and if you want to know a lot about the surface of Mars with a great accompanying text, you go and buy Jim Bell's book, Postcards from Mars. When you read it, and if you liked it, send him a postcard, and say, Jim, I really liked your book. But the surface of Mars is a fascinating place. I mean, we are finding out vast amounts about it and will continue to do so.
But there is something different about human exploration. Here's a picture of the moon-- barren, nothing there, lifeless, but it did come alive for something like 10 days total-- 10, 12 days total of people living, doing field work on the moon. And they collected rocks. They stepped on it to make the famous footprints, and it changed the moon. It wasn't just a remote object. It was part of human experience, and it stays that way, even though we haven't been back for 40 years, but we are hoping to go back. And we go back just to keep that spirit up.
The same is true of Mars. It is a beautiful place. It's barren. We have been there sort of. You see the tire tracks. You can see the tire tracks in the right hand side there coming down, and so we are sort of there, but it's really different if some of us are actually there to inhabit the Martian surface, to be there in person, to be our representatives to study this quite beautiful place.
Now, let me just do-- this is mister doesn't-know-anything-about-finances will talk about it for two slides.
Now, exploration, I think, involves ultimately some go of settling space. We don't have to do it all at once, and we can do it slowly, but if we do that, there are several things besides political will-- several things involved. One is you're going to do science when you get there, but science helps us understand the resources we need to do that. You can't bring everything up with you. And I'll return to this point later, and resources might help actually finance this if there are businesses that can be created.
I'll be happy to talk about ideas in a question and answer period, and I'll actually answer the question instead of saying I'll get back to you. Hope that didn't offend anyone.
Anyway, we do need money. There has to be a commercial involvement, and here's my view of how this could happen, though the dollars may not be right. Look, there's a graph of years. And this is NASA's spending, and you can imagine if the whole world got involved maybe the whole numbers could be doubled or something like this, but the idea here is that the gray area on the bottom is the government spending on moon exploration with the intent that the government establishes an infrastructure, and after that it knows how to go to Mars. It feels safe. Once it decides I know how to send humans to Mars, and it will be safe-- it's a three. It's something like a two and a half year trip without any resupply. And we do not know how to do that yet, nor do we understand how the effects of radiation-- things like that. So there are very-- it's a very tricky problem, but once we know how-- say, less than 27, it says here. Boy, that's really made up.
But who knows what the year is? It could be. If we committed ourselves to it, it could be. And if that money decreases, the red area increases because that's the government spending on human exploration of Mars. Earlier it is robotic exploration of Mars. Then that green area picks up, because that's commercial involvement. If there is no commerce, like selling fuel to spacecraft in Earth orbit or whatever else-- for space tourism-- if there is no other market, well that doesn't happen, but we still have learned how to go to Mars. So you really haven't lost much, and you've learned a lot from it, and, I think, inspired a generation or two.
So anyway, that's the idea. The government funds it. The private sector takes over. The government goes to Mars.
Now, the rest of this is going to be science-y stuff. Now, a sustained presence on the moon-- you got to build all this stuff, can't drag everything up. You have to build it from local materials, and the only way to do-- and look at this long list of stuff. You actually have to have life support systems and places to live. You have to grow crops, and you have to process foods. You have to have energy. You have to have industrial gear to make any products that you're going to do, and including making all the things I just mentioned, and you have to have transportation system communications. It's pretty tricky, and you can't bring it all from Earth.
And so how do you do it? You have to use space resources, and it turns out the science and resource explorations are synergistic. And by that, I mean, for example, you're going to prospect for resources in space. You have to know what's there. Well, we're already starting that process. We have-- here's a map, in this case, on top of iron oxide concentration at the surface of the moon. And the bottom one is the element thorium. These both track-- especially thorium-- other elements, so we know the abundance of other elements in different places.
The pictures are-- the left hand globe in each case is the near side-- the moon keeps one face towards the Earth at all times-- one hemisphere-- and the one on the right is the far side hemisphere in both cases. And you can see there are big chemical variations around the moon, which we are beginning to understand. Do not fully understand them, but what's important for this point is we have started prospecting. We know where iron is high and elements that might go with it. We know with thorium is high and elements that might go with it.
And so this gives us a leg up, plus there's a whole bunch of other elements we have measured and also minerals-- all done by the magic of remote sensing. I mean the science of remote sensing. Although if you ever look at SPECTRO when they come back, and then you see some table and a paper, there's some magic in between. I'll tell you.
Now, here's another interesting one where resources in this case actually help us understand science. There are these areas at the poles, and the picture on the left-- the map shows a hydrogen content as measured by a thing called the neutron spectrometer on the Lunar Prospector mission, which flew in the late 1990s. I know it's so last century, and the idea is that there might be-- there's a big enrichment, and it corresponds to about 1% water equivalent conceivably in the poles. And there might be dark areas that contain much more. We don't know this for sure, and the diagram on the right simply shows that the moon, it turns out-- I could go through it, but I don't have a laser pointer. Oh, man, but there is a laser pointer.
Thank you. You know you can't walk out before I end my talk without losing your laser pointer. You know that? What this diagram shows-- the Earth is real tilted to its orbit. This is the plane of the Earth's orbit, and the sun is to the left. And the moon is tilted a bit to the Earth's orbit, but it's kind of straight up and down. And it turns out it's a really tiny inclination to the sun, and it varies a little bit, but it turns out that the sun's grazing angle to this ball is really so slight that big craters at the polar regions, both north and south, have areas in them that are permanently in shadow.
So if anyone has ever said to you that you could take something and place it where the sun don't shine, that's what they were talking about. So there are areas that are in permanent shadow. A mission that will fly in April of 2010 will actually map the distribution of those quite carefully, and so we understand that-- actually, curiously enough, there are permanently illuminated areas. Well, these volatile regions are completely unexplored.
On the left is a picture of what we know about the moons in the equatorial region, which is quite a bit. It's familiar to us. We really do understand, and the science is mature. We don't know everything, but at least we know sophisticated questions and the resource potentials to find. This is what we know. See this close up of permanent shadow region?
We have a very high coefficient of [INAUDIBLE] for our knowledge of this. We don't know much. It's enigmatic. It's very cold. The shadows regions might be as cold as 50 degrees Kelvin. And the science is only ideas at this present time. We barely know anything in fact about it, and who knows what the resource potential is, but the science potential is really high.
How did it get to the poles? Here's a cold trap. This is in this little refrigerator that is outside the-- is in the common space shared by my colleague Paul Lucey and me. And it sometimes seems to soak up-- maybe if we closed it more often it would help, but if your refrigerator looks like this, by the way, you are really wasting energy and money. So buy a new one.
Anyway, it traps the cold because it is colder than the condensation temperature of water. Well, that's what happens here. And in this case, though, a comet might impact, or a wet asteroid, or water escapes from the inside of the moon, or some other process, and it bounces its way to a cold trap. And it bounces. It stops until it gets excited again by the sun, goes flying over until it gets to the poles, and then once it's in the shadowed region, there's nothing that will-- there is actually something, but there's no temperature driven process that will remove it.
There is this ultraviolet light that actually is really efficient at removing things. That's why we don't know how much there is at the poles. But there is very cool science to be done, science that turns out not to be so easy to sell because it's ambiguous, and we don't know the source of the stuff. It could be-- here's a list of-- a rogues gallery of possibilities. It could be from comets, asteroids. It might be from Interstellar dust particles, many of which come from comets and asteroids. It could be solar wind products from the sun. It could be actually from the Earth's upper atmosphere and by some weird process involving the Earth's magnetic field. It could even be a giant star forming regions in the galaxy which the Earth and this solar system pass through every few tens of millions of years.
Well, who knows where this stuff comes from, and to unravel which one it is is a very difficult science task. And when my friend Lucey put in a proposal to send a mission to these polls to analyze it, and we tried to argue that, yeah, we'll be able to say-- give the history of comets through time-- the reviewer said, well, you can't tell them apart. And it may be true, but this is an area we have never explored before. We should go just for that reason, but you know why we might go? Because there might be water there that is useful for life support and propellant production by people on the moon. That will drive us there.
So here's a case where this human exploration program is driving scientific exploration. We might develop new exploration tools. Here's a drill. We have drill holes on the moon-- natural ones in the form of impact craters. And just like geologists walk around and study all these gorges that there are-- have you noticed that in Ithaca that there are gorges?
Well, they reveal a lot of rocks. On the moon, impact craters serve much of that purpose, but nevertheless geologists do love to drill because it's a more controlled sample. And I'll tell you, a deep drill for science-- it's one of those things beyond the science budget, but it's not for resource exploration, especially if you get commercial involvement.
And here's more exploration tools-- I just show this because I sometimes promote this idea of teleoperation operating from astronaut geologists on the moon or on Mars. I think it's a really great way to explore. You don't have to go outside. It's a very hostile environment. You've got no air. You've got radiation. I mean, it's a dangerous place, but if you stay safe and sound inside, you can still get into a device through teleoperation and especially this process called telepresence, where you sense you're in it, and do field work, fix things, whatever else you're going to do. For these kind of exploration tools, very valuable for science-- probably are likely to be developed more because we're sending humans there permanently than it is just for science.
Now here's-- I'm going to give you a few case studies of way cool science that are enabled simply because we have people living on the moon for sustained periods, meaning we have permanent crews there for years at a time-- maybe decades for some of these problems. But they really do enable our scientific study of the moon. They all focus around the basic idea that we want to understand the origin and geological evolution of the Earth and the other planets, and here is this picture-- the Ansel Adams picture. I love the one on the left-- it was taken by one of the Apollo 14 crew-- of the Earth taken from the moon.
And it is these both sides. They're two sides of the same coin. Their origin is related to each other. The moon tells us about the early history of the Earth, as well. And you cannot avoid-- it's hard-- the pair of them together is so much more powerful than studying just one.
So let's talk. The first problem is the origin of the moon, and the favorite idea at the moment-- things do come in and out of favor, remember-- is a big impact. An impactor the size of Mars whacks into the Earth, and the moon forms from some of the debris that ends up in orbit. Most of the projectile ends up accreting to the Earth. Its metallic core goes to the center of the Earth, and its mantle ends up forming most of the moon, so the models show. And I'll show you a simulation of this.
It's a very important problem, because the thing that's whacking into the Earth-- there were a lot of things whacking into each other to make the planets. They grow by small things creating together to make bigger objects like the size of asteroids. The asteroids rapidly accrete to make a whole series of objects the size of, say, the moon to Mercury or Mars. And they interact then to form the final terrestrial planets. Now, this has been simulated in computers.
Here's the impact model on the right, and this is one of the original simulations done by a guy named Al Cameron. And the red is rocky mantle. The blue is the core, and you see the core ends up mostly in there. It looks like little individual dots, but that's a matter of the resolution of the computer code and the computing time, but you see you end up forming stuff around the primitive earth that doesn't have much metal in it, which actually answers one of the key questions about the moon.
The painting on the left is by Bill Hartmann, and Bill, by the way, was the first Sagan Award winner, and what he has is this great gift. He co-founded this idea with Al Cameron in separate papers, and Bill has this great gift to be able to paint his ideas instead of express them in words or very convoluted graphs. And he had an idea of a big impactor-- and actually we think it's twice the size as he's painting-- hits the Earth.
Now, this painting-- there was a meeting in 1984 in Hawaii that I, with Bill Hartmann and Roger Phillips, organized that followed a DPS meeting. And in between the two, we had a field trip hosted by the University of Hawaii people-- but I was not there at the time-- to Kilauea volcano. At the summit of Kilauea, there is a thing called the volcano art center, and Hartmann was selling his painting there.
So a guy named Paul Warren from UCLA bought the painting for $300, he told me recently, which was a lot more money in 1984 than it is now, but also it was a lot of money for Warren at the time because he was just a young upstart. And he bought the painting. By the end of the meeting, this idea of a big impact had really taken hold with all the attendees, except the few. One of those few was Warren. So he bought the painting, but did not buy into the idea, and he is still somewhat skeptical. Still owns the painting, keeps it in a place of honor away from direct sunlight in his house, and admires both Hartmann's work and his painting, but still skeptical about the idea.
Anyway, this is a simulation done by John Chambers, where it starts with-- don't worry. This will keep going more times than you would want, but we can change slides. Starts with countless asteroids that are about-- what this plot is distance from the sun going from left to right here in astronomical units. So the Earth ends up here, and then this is the mass relative to the Earth. So these are Mars size here, and these are bunches asteroids 1% the size of the Earth.
Now, what I want you to see is what's cool about this is, when they start to interact, and these things accrete bigger objects, and this first set becomes bigger, watch how much sideways motion there is. That sideways motion is an indication that there is a lot of mixing going on in-- they're in planet formation. If that is true, then you would think the planets might be more similar in composition than they are.
And what is most important for the origin moon-- the thing that hits the Earth to make the moon-- the moon is made mostly from that. It is one of these planetary embryos, as we call it, along the way to planet formation. So it gives us a clue to how much mixing there is.
And the environment is wild. This is a simulation by Robin Canup of Southwest Research Institute. This is just two distant scales here, and this is a Mars size object hitting the moon. The scale here, which is the colors correspond to, is a temperature scale. The bottom one, hard to read, is 2,000 degrees Kelvin, which is what? In round numbers, 4,000 Fahrenheit. And the top is 7,000 Kelvin. So it's very hot. It starts at 2,000 because the bodies are molten.
What really counts, though-- you see this very messy impact. Things come around. A little moonlight thing forms, but it gets recaptured, and there's a disk around the perimeter of Earth that's really hot. It's 4,000 degrees Kelvin. That vaporizes rock.
And this leads to a picture in cross-section of the environment of a very hot Earth, almost certainly basically totally melted, and surrounded by-- and surrounding a disk around it of silicate vapor-- rocky vapor. And then there starts to form in it a molten lead in the spinning disk, from which the moon forms. Now, there are a few processes. We don't have to worry about them-- what goes on in this disk, and in this condensing cloud, and how the heat is lost, but what is really interesting about this to me is that this is a whole area that the-- the previous model showed you of things whacking into each other-- that's really been studied quite a bit, but this whole environment has not been studied well, and it must affect the composition of the moon.
Well, how much do we know about the composition of the moon. Let me show you one simple example, the answer to which is we don't know much about the composition of the moon, so it's very hard to test these ideas for how the moon-- the details of the processes-- how much mixing, what's the deal with this hot environment around the Earth when the moon formed, or is that idea even right?
This is a graph of the number of papers published against the amount of aluminum oxide in the moon divided by the Earth. Now, you would think, well, why would anyone actually even try to figure this out. Well, aluminum is what we call a refractory element, along with a whole bunch of others, one of which is thorium. And the thing is that some of these answers come out to be-- when it's one, it's just like the Earth like on the left hand side here-- over here. And on the right, they're not like the Earth, and they're enriched.
Well, I always figured, well, it was good that the hot origin-- that makes sense. You got a hot origin. You get enriched in those things, and it might be that. The trouble is we actually have no idea whether this is right or not. I have a paper that's one of these, so therefore that's likely to be right.
Anyway, here is my take. I like this diagram because I thought it up. And it's in a paper by Taylor, Taylor, and Taylor. There's three of us. And what it shows-- I'm going to say this really fast, and the only reason I'm saying it fast is because I'm not really going to explain the diagram to you. I just want you to know how complicated it is to get an insight into my psychological makeup.
If you assume-- and we actually know this. We think that this is fairly well established that there's 27% aluminum oxide in the crust. It's in the form of-- it's in minerals, and if you plot assuming this, you plot the aluminum oxide in the mantle and against thorium in the crust, and assume they're in a ratio that they are in what we call chondritic meteorites, which is a safe assumption.
The thorium in the mantle has to lie along one of these lines or a line parallel to them, and then the dash lines are the enrichment factor relative to the Earth. So these Taylors guys got together and made an estimate of where we think the thorium-- the aluminum in the mantle and the thorium in the crust are, and you see it straddles this 1.5 line, which means it's enriched [INAUDIBLE] elements, but notice that there is a prediction of 0.05% thorium in the mantle. And if we understood the mantle better and got samples of it or more rocks from it, we could test this idea.
I can tell you-- I will guarantee you I could write a paper that will drag that bottom of the box right down to there. And so we really don't know that very well, and we need much more information. This square here-- let's look at Paul Warren again. He thinks that the Earth and moon have about the same composition, and you cannot-- it looks like there's some big difference, and there is a big difference, but you cannot really prove him wrong, or we cannot prove that big box right.
Now, what does that mean? It means we have to find out more, and we need more rocks of various kinds. We need the full range of rock types. We need to understand how those rocks formed. We need to understand the interior of the moon, and that requires a truly global seismic network. And probably-- no, not probably. Almost certainly we need humans there for a long time to do field work in different places to unravel all those rocks.
Well, that implies sustained presence, and it isn't sustained for a two month mission. On the Earth, we keep finding out more and more about the Earth, and we've been studying it for over 200 years. So we may have to be on the moon for as long as certain presidential candidates think we should be in Iraq.
Then another cool problem is the early bombardment history of the Earth-moon system, and the moon records this. It has these huge craters here. See that big hole there. You've got a hole there, a hole there. There's actually 40 of these really big things the size of Texas and bigger, and if you look at rock ages, there's a sharp peak. This is simply a histogram of the number of samples against age, and there's a real sharp peak with most of the samples falling in an age range of 3.85 to 4 billion years. And the idea developed that there was an increase-- called the cataclysm-- in the bombardment rate of the moon, and therefore of the Earth. This may have had real stunting effect on the origin of-- or the survivability of life on Earth until that was done if it happened.
Some people have thought that here's the ages of these five basins here-- that the youngest is-- Orientale may be less than 3.85, but Imbrium is 3.85, and there's 3.87, and these data really stink. We don't know. Any rock we dated comes from a basin. We don't know the date of these basins, though we do argue that we do and argue about what we really know. The fact is we do not know this, but it is a very important idea, and we don't know if it's one peak, or could there be another one out here? Could there have been that? We have to end up dating more-- we have to date more of these basins, but let me tell you first why it's important.
Here's another simulation done by this group of people listed here that are an international group, including some more from Southwest Research Institute. They must have a big computer bill there. This is simply distance in astronomical units against two scales, and this is the solar system early on, the orbits of the outer planets. And so this is Jupiter and Saturn, and out here is this big collection of icy objects that are really big and beyond 15 AU.
When Jupiter and Saturn reach a situation where-- and they actually migrate, which is kind of spooky. They move around. When they reach a case where Jupiter goes around once for every twice Saturn goes around, when they're together, they're gravity adds up, and it scatters the stuff in the outer solar system, including mixing up the positions of Uranus and Neptune. So if you look at this blue line and this purple line change places, and then it scatters those things in, and it scatters it in a really short time interval. And the guys who do this are pretty certain that the general concept is right. Here's just stills of the same thing. It's a sudden onset of bombardment of the inner solar system.
Well, what's interesting is that this is testable if we really knew the lunar bombardment history. And if it says, no, this didn't happen, there is something wrong with this very well developed theory. It's a very interesting idea, but it needs to be tested, and it needs to be tested now with more computer models, although you can keep refining them. But it needs to be tested with a record. The moon has that record.
So here are a bunch of basins. They can be dated. And once again, dating one of these things, such as everyone's favorite-- here's the south pole Aitken basin. It is 2,500 kilometers across. It's 2/3 the size of the continental US, or as I like to call it, the eastern US.
And to understand the impact melt-- you have to date impact melt to find it. You're going to have to do some huge amount of fieldwork. I think in the long run you'll find out a lot by robotic sample returns, but you really do need to visit it.
Finally, there's the couple of other little examples. There's the dirt. It's called the regolith-- unconsolidated debris on top of the moon. We have unconsolidated debris on the Earth where traditional soils reside, but also so does other stuff. And we don't know much about this material, but it contains very important information about the history of the moon, maybe the Earth, maybe the sun.
We have drill cores through the regolith, and they're hideously complicated. I studied one, and I determined the abundances of everything in it in centimeter by centimeter intervals and by a method in microscope called point counting. And I identified-- I counted to 18,000 points. It's way more than 1,000 points of light, and this-- it's very complicated. The layering is real complicated. The only way to really unravel it is to look at big things like this mining operation is revealing-- big wedges in the regolith to see how far can you trace a layer? How does it pinch out? What's the nature of the interface of the rocky debris with the bedrock underneath? We don't know any of these things.
And we would never get a pure science mission to understand it, and I don't think I'd advocate it. You can't go and drill a one, two meter hole and think you can understand it. You need to look at it in three dimensions, and that won't be done until we're there for a long time.
What we can find in it is-- here's a couple of cool, interesting ideas. The regolith contains possibly ancient pieces of the Earth. Now, I don't know if they'll have fossils in it, but they will contain any big impactor in the bombardment period of the Earth. They will throw stuff to the moon. That stuff will hide in the regolith, and it's a long shot to find it, but it is not impossible, if you're mining the regolith here, to set up some automatic devices to say good or bad. That is done in the diamond industry to reject or not reject certain quality of diamonds. You kind of do it automatically.
It also contains the history of the sun. There will be layers that can be dated, and when you when the layer can be dated, the stuff below it is older. The stuff above it is younger. That means the stuff below it was exposed to the sun during one time interval-- the stuff above it, a different one. You might be able to, by looking at solar wind isotopes, understand the history of the sun better.
Then there's the history of life on Earth. There's this idea that the dinosaurs were killed by a huge impact 65 million years ago, and this is likely to be correct, but how many other times did we have big impacts? And are these big impacts episodic or periodic? Do you get spikes at 65 million years, and then 30 million years, and 100 million years? Do you do that, or is it really just pure random events?
Well, we can test that on the moon, and it's actually easy to test it. It's just hard to get the data. You can date craters. We have dated two. This one is South Ray crater at the Apollo 16 landing site. It's a half a kilometer across, and it is two million years old. We know from samples thrown out of it and their cosmic ray exposure ages. This is Tycho crater, which is 80-- it's 65 or 80 kilometers across. Doesn't matter. It's kind of big when you get to that size.
You can date the impact melt on that, but we think we've dated it at about 105 million years from debris at the Apollo 17 landing site because of rays from Tycho. Well, we've dated five craters. You'd probably have to date 500 of them. If you're there for a long time, every time a crew goes to visit a new crater, get samples, and you'll be able to determine the age, but again, it requires people living there.
And then finally there's environmental lunar science. One of the best things we can do in a big lunar base is to first make sure we do not-- lunar environments are really fragile. Bill mentioned this fragile atmosphere that we have that's so easy to change. The moon doesn't really have an atmosphere, but it has stuff in it that escapes. It's called an exosphere. You can mess that up, but you can also monitor what happens really well. So you can monitor a leak of organic materials, and by setting up a monitoring network, understand how all of our equipment, all of our human activities mess up this environment, so that we know how to fix those problems and not mess up Mars when we send people there to work and to live.
So there are numerous scientific things that we can do to study the moon, but in general to study the origin of the Earth-moon system and the whole entire solar system. The record is recorded on the moon. It is not going to be easy to extract completely by simply sending robotic spacecraft, though we will make progress. We need to have people living and working there. It is one of the reasons for going, and don't forget the other ones-- gives us a new perspective on ourselves and where we are, and it's what we do. We're humans. We explore. Thank you.
BILL NYE: Oh, you may need that.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: [INAUDIBLE].
BILL NYE: So now, ladies and gentlemen, we're going to take time to take questions from you. So anybody who has questions-- they're here already. My goodness. Anybody who has questions, please come on up to these two microphones, and we will gain great insight and, dare I say it, change the world.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: I'll get back to you. Just practicing. Just practicing my evasive answers.
AUDIENCE: What do you think about companies like SpaceX that have successfully, as a private company, launched a rocket into space? And do you think that it is a better choice for NASA to use them in the interim between the shuttle and Constellation to get to the space station?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Yeah. Did everyone here that? I don't know if the microphone was on. He asked, what do I think about companies like SpaceX, which has now launched successfully, completely privately a satellite into orbit and had a successful launch? And should NASA use those kind of companies in the interim and while the shuttle is retired before we have a replacement instead of using other alternatives, one of which is the Russian space agency?
My answer is I think these companies are great, and I think their approach is really good. It's nice and clean. It's nothing too fancy. It is meant to get payloads into orbit and to do it cheaply. And it's almost their attitude that counts, too. They are going to be able to lift bigger and bigger payloads, I would predict, over the years. And they want to do it inexpensively to grab a lot of business, and yet not gouge everyone.
And I don't understand-- let me say I'm not a rocket scientist, though I give talks like this. It seems to me that we could have a replacement to the shuttle through expendable vehicles now, and I don't understand why we're not doing it. The Bigelow Corporation-- this company-- this guy, Bob Bigelow-- he made a huge amount of money in the hotel business, and he wants hotels in space, and he wants them on the moon. And he, I thought I understood, was working with Boeing or Lockheed to human rate a big expendable like the Delta IV or Titan V to go to really take things, big payloads into space.
So I think the hard job in space that most-- a lot of the cost comes from getting things off the earth into Earth orbit. If you can solve that problem, you will open up space much more than we do now. It's energy that really is killing the whole-- makes the whole problem so expensive.
BILL NYE: If I may speak to that, as vice president of the Planetary Society representing members in 130 countries, the largest non-governmental space organization in the world-- please, everybody, join, yes. But with regard to the gap-- this is where the United States will not be able to send astronauts. I'm supposed to have a microphone on, Jim. Is it OK? The United States will not be able to send astronauts to the moon-- rather, to the space station, and this is going to be horrible-- to gap.
Just to remind everybody, both times the space shuttles crashed or wrecked, we couldn't get-- the United States couldn't go to the space station. And if I may, pun intended, the world kept turning. If you want to go to the space station, you go on a Russian--
BILL NYE: --rocket, and they work very well. They're very reliable. This business that took place in the country of Georgia I think is in everybody's best interest not to let it affect people. We will go to the space station internationally on rockets made in Russia. Meanwhile, there are big plans to build the Ares rocket system, enormous things that are going to replace Apollo. But I would like everybody to consider, as taxpayers and voters, this other system where the idea would be to put a new nose cone on the main space shuttle booster-- an idea so crazy it just might work.
So I just want everybody to consider that, because this is the kind of thing we get from our members. So please let's take the next question from the other side. Thanks.
AUDIENCE: Hi. My name is Lauren. I apologize if this is slightly off topic, but I'm just curious if any information culled from the Large Hadron Collider might help with the dating in the lunar-- you were talking about the ability to date the craters. Or is that just the large solar system in general?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: It's an interesting question. There is-- before I answer, let me point out there is a great rap video about the big collider.
AUDIENCE: Oh, yeah. I've seen it. Yeah, it's awesome.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: No, that is really doing something very different. However, there are people, including one of my former colleagues, who's now at Southwest Research Institute-- Scott Anderson-- who's working on methods of dating rocks in situ on the surface without bringing them back that saves a lot of money if you can do it. Some problems can be done with it, like dating the relatively young craters, dating surfaces. You can't do this big early bombardment one because the accuracy has to be so good at the present time and not in the foreseeable future, but I think the big collider is going to-- it's looking at the universe in a different way and a very important way, but it is really not the-- doesn't fit in quite with what we're doing.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: The picture you have up there kind of exemplifies the amount of risk that it took to explore new places, especially in ancient times, where a lot of the people who went didn't make it or never came back. Now, when we approach, especially space exploration, entire systems go offline for years when something bad happens. And do you think that with the attitude of space should be risk free will impede our ability to explore, or that we have to readjust our expectations to accept more risk and accept when things go bad instead of trying to ensure that it never happens.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: I think this is a very, very good question. The risks are high, and we are terribly risk averse in the country. On the other hand, any of us here who might say, oh, we should take bigger risks, may not do it ourselves. And it may not make the decision ourselves, because it's a very-- you're risking someone's life. And I think that's the problem with human exploration-- is that we put so much-- thank goodness-- value on human life.
I would imagine that, when we get commercialized that-- and you have completely non-government missions, that the risks will be different. I mean, some, like space tourism-- that risk is-- people won't get terribly upset so much, but a company is going to get sued. But most people won't go until they're as safe as airliners are. So you've got all these trade offs, and I think the risk is-- all this exploration has led to a lot of risk. And I don't think that with big prominent government programs that we are ever going to get away from it, and I don't know if we should really get away from it.
BILL NYE: Well, let me ask you this. How many people would go into space if you had a 1 in 120 chance of not coming back? So you all would fly on the space shuttle right now? How many people would go to Mars if you weren't going to come back? See, there's a few.
But I was at the international Astronautical Federation Congress last week, and they had a panel of astronauts. And the guys made, I thought, a very compelling point about risk. The way the Russian astronaut Alexi-- oh, boy. Help me.
BILL NYE: Kirkalov? Kirkalov? Krikalev, I think it is-- Krikalev-- said, as a professional, we pride ourselves in coming back. We get starry eyed or Mars-y eyed, and we think, wouldn't it be cool to go to Mars, and live there, and live off the land? And as he said, if you really want to do that, go to Antarctica, and try it, and see how--
And you guys laugh, but the environment is not that different, except in Antarctica they do have air. And so this idea sounds very romantic at first, but there's great skill and excitement in making a mission where you come back. That's of great value.
And so I'll just say, as an aerospace engineer, making a fighter plane is a lot of fun. If things go wrong, the guy is just supposed to eject and find a place to land, hoping to avoid power lines. That's a big thing for when you are in a parachute.
But it's quite a bit more difficult, in a way, to make a plane that you're sure will always come back. And so the idea of risk can be evaluated two ways. Either people are out there willing to take chances, mavericks willing to kill themselves because they haven't really thought about it.
Or people who think about it to the point where they're pretty sure they're going to come back. So next question, please.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Let me add one other thing-- that all of us probably also have lists of people you'd like to send on a one way trip to Mars.
BILL NYE: There might even be a few in this room.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Yeah?
AUDIENCE: Hi, thank you for the talk, by the way. That was fantastic.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: I just had a question. You mentioned that most of the things that are going to be required for setting up these settlements on the moon we're going to have to make out of the stuff there. Based on what we know about the chemistry of the surface of the moon, what sorts of things can we build from the stuff out of the moon? And what things would we absolutely have to haul over from Earth?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Good question. We can make-- first of all, first and foremost, we can make bricks. You can use the loose regolith for shielding. You can make glass from them, but we have done experiments to extract-- from dry lunar dirt extract water by hydrogen reduction, and there's even hydrogen on the moon, too, though you might, in that case, have to bring-- assuming no ice, you have to bring hydrogen up with you, but you could reduce it and use it again. You actually produce water by reaction with iron oxide, and from that, you can produce metallic iron.
So you can make steel. You can make life support and propellant all from handling-- by heating the lunar regolith, and there are 22 ways to extract oxygen from the lunar regolith that people have worked on. And a couple of them have been done in the lab with lunar samples, and all of them have been worked on through other simulants. You can use other techniques-- they become energy intensive-- to extract all the other metals, too, like the aluminum from it. So you can make the metals that you need to make.
And again, this has to build up pretty slowly, because you just suddenly can't do it. And the lunar regolith also contains everything you need for agriculture, and in fact, every cubic meter, which is about the size of this lectern here, of lunar regolith contains enough hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon from the solar wind-- plus, of course, plenty of oxygen-- to make lunch for two. A good cheese sandwich I hope on whole wheat bread, and a moon cola, and a piece of fruit-- and there is enough for that in each cubic meter so that there is even enough of these elements that are needed for biology.
BILL NYE: So let me ask you this. What's the energy source for that?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: The energy.
BILL NYE: I mean, mining 16 tons barely got-- of coal-- of number nine coal barely got the guy in the song enough to eat for a day. This is an old song. Mining a cubic meter of regolith sounds like a lot of work.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: It does sound like a lot of work, and the energy-- energy is important. Maybe it's another one where perspective-- doing this space thing gives new perspectives on energy, too. One of the things that drives us to look at these lunar polar regions for settlement is that there are areas that are not completely, but substantially continuously illuminated and that, when they are not illuminated, it's for short periods of time.
Some areas of the poles-- and the North Pole might be illuminated 100% of the time. That means you can put solar arrays there. You've got to stand them up and have them rotate, but you can put big solar arrays and cover a lot of real estate. That's one thing the moon has-- is real estate.
And the other alternative is to put solar arrays and build them right on the lunar dirt, and have both limbs of the moon so that some array is always illuminated and produce massive amounts of electricity. It is very power intensive to do some of these functions, and we don't have easy access to diesel fuel and diesel engines. Yeah, I mean, a lot of that has not been worked out, but you know what? We actually haven't completely understood how you're going to dig down into a meteor of lunar regolith because it's very dry. It's porous.
When you dig on the Earth, a front end loader or a stem shovel comes in, it sends a pressure wave of air through the porous spaces that help lift things up. The moon-- everything is going to push against each other, so it's momentum transfer, and it's really tricky to dig. And all those things haven't been worked out, but again, to me, I think it's great they haven't been worked out, because, as I said before, it's hard. And you want challenges like this. And even if you do not figure it out and some techniques don't work, you're bound to have learned a lot and probably developed new tools or some other alternative.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Yeah?
AUDIENCE: I have another question. Earlier you mentioned the hard part about space exploration was getting off the Earth. So far, all we've used are chemical rockets. Are there any other proposals for using different types of energy sources to get off the Earth? And if so, what do you think would be the most effective?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: At the risk of sounding like a vice presidential candidate, I don't actually know the answer to that question, although that would make me not a politician. I'd answer anyway. I don't know. Do you, Bill, about alternatives to chemical rockets?
BILL NYE: Well, the big thing everybody's excited about is the space elevator.
BILL NYE: There we go. Yeah, space elevator. So all you do is invent this material that doesn't exist yet. Then you negotiate with all governments around the world so in case the thing breaks loose, and starts whipping around, destroying stuff, they're fine with that, too. And then you just take an elevator into space, you know, the way you would do.
With that said, maybe that's not such a bad idea. Maybe some day this could be done. This is the magic idea of carbon nanotubes. These things are 10,000 times stronger than steel and weigh 1/6 as much, but we can only make them 50 nanometers long. Just got to make them 10,000 billion times longer. So why not? The longest journey starts with a single nanometer.
So then I am not a proponent. I am not involved with the Tau Zero Organization. Are any Tau Zero people here? So this was a pun, but the time zero-- the idea that we would build rockets where you explode a-- this is from recollection, but about a 30 megaton nuclear weapon every three seconds behind the rocket, and then you could just go anywhere.
So with that said, do you know about the beer can problem?
BILL NYE: I am thoroughly charmed with this, and if you want, for political correctness--
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: It's when they're empty.
BILL NYE: Yeah, well we can change it to the soda can problem, but can I say specific impulse? Can I say specific impulse? So this is where you take the-- how fast a rocket is going to go depends largely on how fast you can get the exhaust to go out the back and then how much that exhaust weighs, or if you will, how much mass it has. So it turns out that, if you're just using rocket fuel and the oxidizer that's in the rocket, which traditionally would be liquid nitrogen like you have at home--
You shoot this out the back really fast, and the rocket goes up. Great. But what's a good trick is to use the atmosphere and throw not just the rocket fuel out the back, but to throw air out the back at the same time. And this is where a jet airplane in a way is a lot-- in a way, in a way-- is a lot more efficient than a rocket. So if you could take the rocket up with a jet airplane type thing high in the altitude and then shoot the rocket, you might be way ahead. And people have talked about this for a long time, and indeed SpaceShipOne, this rocket that won the X Prize-- so the system that won the X Prize-- that's the idea.
And when I was young, the coolest thing in the world was the X-15 rocket plane, and it was taken up when a B-52 bomber, the Stratofortress-- and so the idea may come back, where you really take advantage of using so-called air breathing engine to get the thing you want to send into space [INAUDIBLE]. The trouble is it's just a lot more hardware and things to go wrong, but big picture thinking like that is how we're going to change the world. It's a great question. Is it time to go?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: I have something to say about [INAUDIBLE].
BILL NYE: Is that what they're telling-- oh, get up to a microphone, because I'm wearing a microphone.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Are you leaving? My sister and her husband are leaving.
Let's give them a hand.
I agree it's the challenge, but we have something to start with now with the chemical rockets. Do that, but in the meantime, we really have to work on other ways of doing it.
BILL NYE: Well, now that they're gone, we can talk about it. [LAUGHTER]
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Yeah, thank goodness.
BILL NYE: So is there another question?
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
BILL NYE: Here she goes. Here we go.
AUDIENCE: Hi. Back to your risk versus reward, Apollo 1 with Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White would not have made landing on the moon possible. It was what we learned. I think they were three of the best heroes ever amongst many others, but because of what happened to them, we were able to learn and retool the Apollo-- Gemini, Apollo, Mercury, and get to the moon.
So in that vein, back to the Hadron Collider, I know this is maybe sounding science fiction. I apologize, but it's theoretically possible. If we could open a wormhole, and control it, and time travel through the wormhole, is there any-- I mean, there would be your energy to get to wherever we needed to go. And in the same vein, if this is too science fiction for you guys-- not you, but, you know, whatever.
BILL NYE: Who's not you? Me, or?
AUDIENCE: You, sir. I bow to you.
BILL NYE: Oh, good. Let's hear it. All we need is a wormhole. Get on that, people!
BILL NYE: Well, as soon as it gets back online, they may do it.
BILL NYE: Oh, the Hadron Collider, yeah.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, but also one last thing, which is more actual and probably more scientific. What about using the electromagnetic field of our own Earth to generate energy?
BILL NYE: Well, if you ever read-- now, one can confuse the two books. You've read Atlas Shrugged?
BILL NYE: That was the premise, and so people have tried to harness lightning for a long time, but I claim that's a little more straightforward problem than discovering the physics associate with wormholes, but imagination is how you get places. Maybe you'll come up with it. Who knows?
And by the way, just to talk again briefly about--
I will be on Stargate Atlantis--
--the second week in November. And the premise of the show is they decide to go to a physics conference back on Earth, so they just jump through the wormhole and just go down. It's big stupid fun. It's me and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
We're wearing tuxedos and talking about-- it's just great. And it's-- what the guy has-- the physicist has is a way to violate the second law of thermodynamics and send excess climate change heat to another part of the universe at another time, but I'm just warning you right now. If you get involved in watching this show, stuff goes wrong. It takes us like 54 minutes to keep the world from ending.
It's all we could do. But science fiction is how you start thinking about things. We got one more question, please.
AUDIENCE: I wonder, have we brought parts of the Earth--
BILL NYE: Get in the microphone there. Party on.
AUDIENCE: Have we brought elements or parts of the Earth up to the moon to study how it reacts to that atmosphere?
BILL NYE: Get on the microphone, please. No, I'm wearing one. I'm wearing one. So you're--
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Are you wearing one?
BILL NYE: Yeah, yeah.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Gee. Is this working? Or should I have to wear it?
BILL NYE: Try it.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: It is working. There are things up there already that we left behind, and those are really worth going to study. We did it once on Apollo 12, the second lunar lander. Three years before, a robotic spacecraft had landed at the same site the Apollo 12 went to. They went over, collected bits and pieces of it, and studied the materials on it for, I understand, the space environment, and also even found viruses brought up from the earth. Very important lesson, especially searching for life on Mars. You don't want to go back 10 years later and say, oh look, we found it. It's the flu.
But there are experiments planned that will go on lunar landers to understand things like, for example, the effects of radiation and dust on biological organisms. And there are these tissue cultures and things like that that I don't know enough about the biology, but to bring it up and really understand this in different doses of radiation and things like that.
AUDIENCE: What type of radiation is it?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: The radiation environment is-- there is two major sources. One is cosmic rays, which the atmosphere and magnetic field, especially atmosphere for the hydrogen for the protons shields us from, but those come slamming in, but the flux is not too high, but an astronaut on the surface receives something like twice the dose of radiation nuclear reactor power plant people are allowed on the Earth.
AUDIENCE: Could that cause cancer?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Over some time, yes. That's why they have to be shielded. That's why we have to figure out this-- if we're going to Mars, you have to understand the radiation effect and either develop medicines to mitigate it or to develop spacecraft that shield you. And then the solar flares, which are even worse because of the tremendous number of particles-- lower energy than cosmic rays, but a tremendous number of them, and they penetrate deeply. And those are also very dangerous, but we don't even fully understand the amount of shielding necessary, but there are people really actively working on this now.
So now the benefit of having a plan to go to the moon, even if it takes you another 10 years or 15 years, you will have learned a lot about how to mitigate these things. And there's a whole bunch of other ideas people have for understanding granular flow-- you know little grains, how they flow? It's a big deal in the whole physics area on how particular matter flows.
And in the case of the moon, you have it without air. The grains themselves are very unusual grains. They have surface coatings that are made on the moon because of micrometeoroid impact, and the interaction of that with solar wind implantation-- and it's this different kind of chemistry. The effect on humans in your lungs is another important thing-- just they're going to get dusty, and some of the particles in the regolith are so small that it enters your bloodstream without-- I mean, directly from your lungs to the bloodstream. So it's really a dangerous place that only the bravest hope other people go.
BILL NYE: Along that line, one more plug for the Planetary Society. We're sponsoring the LIFE, the Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment. We're going to send some bacteria and a piece of the tundra in the Russian Grunt mission. Grunt is Russian for soil. And we're going to have this thing go around Phobos and back, and see if the stuff can make the trip and stay alive. It would be kind of cool.
And so if you want to support this effort, join the Planetary Society-- planetary.org. So thank you all very much. I thought thought I'd mention that because we're going to try this, because people have speculated that living things can make interplanetary journeys. So next question, please. By the way, how long do we have?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: So one thin, this Bill Nye guy-- he sure plugs himself, doesn't he? I would never plug myself.
BILL NYE: So here we have another question. Is this the last two questions? Are you next? Are you? Yes, she's next. Sorry, my mistake.
AUDIENCE: No, no she's before me.
AUDIENCE: No, I'm next.
BILL NYE: Oh, she was. OK, good. Last two questions-- penultimate.
AUDIENCE: You can respond to it if you wish. It's more of a sort of a thought, connection of thoughts. My first love was actually astronomy. My parents are from Greece, and I would always look up at the sky. And I was born in New York, where you can't see many stars, but when I'd go to Greece, I fell in love with the night sky.
I was hesitant to come up here tonight and share this, but I felt it's very important. I do like science, and I do like certain types of space exploration. I find it very hard to put energy into going to Mars or even going to the moon when our Earth is dying. We are losing our forests. Our waters are being poisoned. We might not have life on Earth. We have such a thing as global warming, and I'm very concerned that the energy needs to be put in such a dire circumstance we're in into saving our planet.
We don't know much about the depth of the ocean, as Cousteau would say. There's so much to learn about our own Earth. So I struggle with it. I came here tonight because I wanted to see what science is doing, and like I said, I'm not all against science, but I'm also very concerned about our Earth. And we have seen images, and those images are very powerful. And I love the images that we get back, but I struggle with the enthusiasm of doing all the things you're talking about while we're losing everything here.
And this is, as we know, such a precious planet, such a precious piece of life in an area surrounding nothing but rocks. And maybe there's some water, but to me, our Earth is such a gift. So I would like to know, how do you feel about that? And also, one last thought, because you're all here, you're all these astronomers here, I have to plug this thing in.
I've always had a beef with Cornell and other entities in the city that just blare their lights. The stadium lights are so bright. If you are on the other side of the town and you look this way when those lights are on-- no, this is very serious, folks. I've been trying to do something about it for a long time. And I think in honor of [INAUDIBLE] in honor of the town that talks about astronomy we need to do something about the light pollution in our community.
BILL NYE: That's a good idea. So let me say-- well, hang on. Hang on. No, we're going to support you. Let me say this technology exists. We should be able to stop wasting light into the night sky, and that should improve the quality of life for everybody. And the way we would do this is by voting. And so you'll meet so many people who don't want to vote, and that's the one chance you get, and it has everything to do with your point.
If you are a politician and you're asked to make a choice between, let's say, for example, building a new stadium for a New York baseball team or feeding poor people, I should hope that would be an easy choice. I should hope you would be able to figure out that you should feed poor people. There.
Should you build a new stadium or raise salaries of teachers? Well, then you raise salaries to teachers. There's no new baseball stadium. But if you want to have a quality of life for everyone in the city that's high and people want a new baseball stadium, well, then you have to find a way to build the new baseball stadium to feed poor people to raise teacher salaries to get the sewers to flow properly to get fresh water, clean water to everybody, to have electricity to everybody, to have television stations not take over airwaves so that cell phones don't work. You have to do everything all at once if you're a politician.
So in the same way, when you are a voter, you have to find ways to influence the people that are working for you, the politicians, to do everything all at once. I'm glad you brought up the light pollution problem. I, as alumnus Bill, will bring this up. I was not really aware that the Ithacanians had a problem with white pollution from the stadium.
First of all, it's just unaesthetic. Right here we have this glorious night sky. You can't see it. Secondly, it's got to be wasting energy. And thirdly, it's an opportunity. It's an opportunity for someone, let's say, in the architecture school to find a way to not waste all this energy and make life better for everyone. So thank you. Last question.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Let me say something to that, too. I would put it all in a somewhat different way, and to get back to the main point that this is-- it is a political issue and issue of political will to take care of important problems on the Earth. I argue that the space program helps us understand those problems better, but it is fundamentally-- take, for example, world poverty. That issue is complicated, but it can be solved by political will of countries with money and with energy. And it's a matter of all of those people getting together.
And I don't know how we, as citizens-- first of all, if you're a US citizen, or you're a citizen of France or Germany, you can only influence that country really well. But we do have to somehow get people to understand that these problems are all interrelated. Poverty is caused by-- and people living in bad climates-- that does hurt it, but there's no hygiene because there's no money. There's no energy, or there's expensive energy, and energy-- actually the availability of cheap energy is related to the poverty rate. And then there's bad government.
You might complain. You might complain about our government. The system is not at fault, though, and other countries, though, just simply have dictatorships. And somehow we have to deal with them to get them to not build stadiums, but at least to take care of the water supply, and the infrastructure, and the energy needs, and the food supply. And all those things have to be worked on, and it's a big complicated problem.
And I think in part the space program is some small thing off to the side, but that we cannot lose sight of all those things. I think there is a big education connection with the space program. For every kid that gets inspired for the space program, there's probably 10 of those people-- 10% of them might go into space science, space engineering. The rest go into some other science and engineering. Some of them run for office and take this other perspective with them.
So this is not an easy thing to answer, and it is a big ticket item. And by the way, we should increase the budget of the agencies that fund studies of the Earth. At the University of Hawaii, where I'm from, we have, because of energy costs, a decrease in ship hours. We have oceanographic research vessels, and we can do only so many voyages. And that let's us understand the oceans less than we would otherwise. And I think that we need to put more money into those kinds of things as well, but it really isn't an either/or, not counting we do get these aberrations, too. This big bailout is something that gets added to the debt, and so there are complicated things, but it's got more complicated than I want.
BILL NYE: Well, let's take our last question of the night. Here it is.
AUDIENCE: Hi, I have a question for you and Bill as communicators of science. So most people I talk to outside of the planetary science community are unaware that NASA has plans to go back to the moon. And when I tell them that we do, they're not that excited. So is a public excitement a requirement for returning to the moon? And how do we rally that kind of enthusiasm that we had in the 1960s without the political climate of a Cold War?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: Don't think a lot of us haven't tried to figure that one out. I mean, in democracies you do want public support for things, and there are two ways of going about getting what you want done. There's the lobbying way, and that's very successful for some enterprises. Another way is to keep the budget low enough it's under the radar screen, and the NASA back to the moon effort is actually in that category, but it's also too little money. So how do you then increase it? How do you say that this science enterprise is so good?
And I think the answer comes in not separating space science from any other science. It is the entire scientific enterprise, and all sciences are on missions of discovery. And that's what we need to do. And we need to sell that, and all of it needs to be adequately funded, and it doesn't have to be lavishly funded like some agencies end up being-- no scientific agency. But that's what we need to do. It is the entire thing together that we need to boost up. And without science, we will, both in this country, but without science worldwide-- we will not help-- we will not have answers to some of the problems that face us.
BILL NYE: So you're saying science has great value, and I want you to have the last word, but as a citizen and taxpayer, how about this? The United States has already been to the moon. Done that. I've been to the Smithsonian. I've held a moon rock. I'm just some guy. I've touched a moon rock, but other space agencies around the world really want to go back as a part of national pride.
How would you feel about letting other countries, other space agencies do this, the return to the moon effort, and redirect the United States's budgets and efforts to go to new places, new adventures?
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: With people?
BILL NYE: It's up to you. You get the last word. Take it, Jeff.
DR. JEFFREY TAYLOR: I think it is going to be an international venture. The thing is that everyone who wants to go someplace else with people now-- I'll go back to robotics in a second. Anyone who wants to go to Mars specifically has to know how to do it, and we have not developed the systems to allow us. Now, there are people-- Bob Zubrin, who can argue quite passionately that we do know how to go send people to Mars, and we can do it in 10 years, but most every single other aerospace engineer I've ever talked to just says we just don't know how to do it. It's too hard, but we can learn how to do it. And doing it on the moon is one way to learn that.
The robotic exploration program, you can argue, especially if we share data-- and we have guest investigators from different countries on different missions, which we do on ours and other nations do on theirs. In fact, there's a great international mission to be launched [INAUDIBLE] go up? Whenever it is, it's in within a week, or 10 days, or something-- an Indian mission with payloads from Europe and the United States. I think. Maybe. I don't know if there's a Japanese one or not, but they have-- it's an international mission.
That is the other way to do it and to do it in a massive way to-- and the moon is the easiest place for countries to learn how to do this, but they're not going to stop there. They'll go on to Mars, too, and we'll have little rovers-- not just those two that are still working, but we'll have plenty of others all over Mars, all over the moon. We'll visit more asteroids, but I think all of this should be encouraged, but I would-- and if I knew that not going to the moon by sending US astronauts-- or the US space program focus would still have us learn that we could go to Mars I'd be all for it, because then we could really start working on that, but I don't think we know how to start yet. I mean, that's the thing.
But I think as long as there's some international program-- and I don't know how you'd collaborate these countries. I mean, they have to have enough trouble getting together on a financial rescue plan. But it's worth doing for that. Is that the last word? Wait, there's one more word. Thank you for coming.
BILL NYE: Thank you all very much. Thank you.
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Exploration is what humans do. We have explored the entire Earth; now it's time to colonize the moon and establish a human presence on Mars.
So said planetary scientist Jeff Taylor, astronomy professor at the University of Hawaii and the 2008 recipient of the Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science, during his public lecture "Lunar Settlements, Lunar Science," Oct. 12. He was speaking to a Bailey Hall audience of local space enthusiasts and scientists visiting Ithaca for the 40th Division of Planetary Science Meeting.
Introduction by "science guy" Bill Nye '77.