Thursday, 7 May 2009

Love On The (Lunar) Rocks

Bonking. Among. Moon rocks...

I lead such a boring life in comparison.  Also, of course, I am not in jail, and could still get a job anywhere that trust is required...

Things which annoy me about the story, in no particular order:

  • They stole something that had cost literally billions of dollars and considerable risk to people.
  • NASA hadn't done anything more with the rocks, they were sitting there being dead weight.
  • The rocks they stole, they contaminated and rendered useless, so now these are the world's most expensive useless rocks.
  • Collectors might still end up getting those rocks, sealing them into another dead space where they will once again achieve absolutely nothing. Because they forced NASA's hand really - the rocks can now sit and waste resources, or they can generate an income for NASA.  Either way they will now be as useless to science as they were before the robbery.
That's the real crime here - all that material sitting in a sterile vault, doing precisely nothing for our knowledge. The interns are guilty of a crime too, but NASA in its buck-passing bureaucratic way has just made a shrine out of those rocks, no-one wants to use them for research because of the cost, but it's costing millions to keep them just doing nothing too.

A decision needs to be made that weighs the cost of maintaining that vault against the cost of using the rocks up to further scientific knowledge and progress.  To me it's pretty obvious - those samples were brought home to study.  Study them.  If we want more samples, let's go get them.  That way, we keep the space program alive and tuned-up, we have activity and things happening.  What we have now is stasis.

On the idea of stasis.  Just a thought, but suppose those rocks had had a trace of a virus or bacterium on them, then the interns would have had the first Space Flu...  And on that idea, we know that a few decades ago our sterilisation procedures can't have been as good as they are today, and we know that bacteria and viruses have been shown to be capable of surviving in space.  So if we went back for more moon rocks now, would they perhaps have a mutated strain of some organism on them that we put there decades ago?

When they put a moon base down and these organisms find some warmth and moisture (which they will, given that no airlock or decontamination procedure is repeatably perfect) then will we experience Lunar Flu when these future astronauts come back to Earth after a shift?  Also keep in mind that if interns could steal and smuggle rocks out of that facility, how easily some staffer on the moon could sneak one down to Earth...

Basically - the story has shown that no matter what it is, no matter how good/bad/disastrous a result something may occasion, someone, somewhere, will do it, for some reason that seems valid for them.  The human race is, indeed, screwed...

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professoryackle said...

It's wrong to steal anything, not just moon rocks. Except, possibly, food - if you need it to survive.

'Course, if it's true that we never went to the moon, then what did the interns steal? NASA would still have had to get their worthless beach-pebbles back and prosecute the thieves in order to maintain the lie.

teddlesruss dat who! said...

Interestingly, amateur astronomy will soon be at the point where the resolution of terrestrial scopes MAY be able to resolve a bootprint on the moon. (Or so I believe, anyway - I heard a few amateurs were combining images, giving a much better aperture. I may have been misinformed. But if true, then eventually the bootprint will either be seen or not...)

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