Company that created biosphere for the ISS to create one for the Moon as well

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The distance between the Earth and the Moon, to scale.

Here's the article.
The Paragon Space Development Corp. is the company that is currently working on sending a mini-greenhouse to the Moon, preferably by 2014, according to company officials. The constructions will hitch a ride to Earth's natural satellite on the back of a rover/lander currently being constructed by Odyssey Moon, as part of the Google Lunar X Prize competition. Details of this collaboration will be presented today in Tucson, Arizona, at a news conference held by Paragon.
The idea is not that far-fetched, considering the fact that plants already seem to grow very well in the zero-gravity environment of the space. That is to say, the atmospheric conditions on the Moon will not pose too great of a threat to the mini-biosphere. The only things that could interfere with the growth of the plant would be if an asteroid fell on top of the crystal container, or if a severe storm tipped it over and broke it. Sand could also cover it during large storms and prevent the sunlight from hitting it.
This reminds me a bit of how the Moon does have its own atmosphere but it's so tenuous that the Apollo missions actually increased it by a number of times thanks to the rocket exhaust:
...keep in mind that each Apollo landing, with the exhaust from the LM descent engine, added more gas to that lunar atmosphere than had been there to begin with, i.e., an increase greater than 100%. Now, spread out the gas from about 18,000 lbs of propellants all around the Moon, and you get an idea of just how thin that stuff has to be...
If we ever get around to settling the Moon over the long term then there should be an excess production of gases that will get released into the "atmosphere", though this time it won't be just rocket fuel. In practical terms it won't make a difference of course since the end result will be pretty much the same as a complete vacuum, but it's interesting to think about. In the very long term though it could become a problem. If lunar settlement eventually becomes a permanent thing and we begin to see thousands and millions of people on the Moon, we'll have to be careful that it doesn't end up with a tenuous atmosphere of rocket fuel and exhaust and other unpleasant things.

There's also a bit of discussion as to whether having a bit of atmosphere would be good for the Moon or not. On the plus side it would provide protection against micro-meteors, because at the moment if you're on the surface of the Moon you never know when you're going to be struck by a tiny pebble coming in at a couple kilometres per second. Even a tiny bit of atmosphere though would prevent the tiniest strikes, which would be a good thing since it's the smallest pieces of rock that are the hardest to detect. On the other hand, having an atmosphere would make mass drivers unworkable, so too much would be a bad thing.

We had a discussion on this subject a bit over a year ago on the forums, but the whole site has been reworked so many times that I doubt I can find it anymore. Let me know if there's a good discussion out there on this subject to reference and I'll include it in this post.


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