Tuesday, August 02, 2005
A silly commentary on Bush’s fantasy Mars Mission by the New York’s Times’ new conservative Op-Ed writer drew my attention this morning.
Like a NYT version of Victor Appleton I, II or III, John Tierney writes in a manner reminiscent of 1962’s Tom Swift and His Megascope Space Prober with a light presentation that avoids the major problem confronting any human presence within the interplanetary environment.
Tierney regales us with his own spacesuited jaunt inside a Canadian crater and seemingly mocks NASA’s no doubt foot-dragging lefty scientists for a failure to achieve rotational gravity inside America’s spacecrafts.
Come on NASA, do you want Tierney and Stanley Kubrick to do all the work for ‘ya?
In spite of Tierney’s not fully researched silliness, he correctly snares the primary conservative capitalist reason for Mr. Bush’s Martian push in his first sentence, “Mars… the best undeveloped real estate left in the solar system.”
Showing my innate fairness and balance, I emailed Mr. Tierney with my first NYT pundit love note since my January 15, 2004 missive to Maureen Dowd:
Sir, While funding and weightlessness are problems with a flight to Mars regardless of Mr. Bush's on the cheap fantasy, the real difficulty, previously reported by your paper's excellent science reporters and recommended for your information, is the shielding of human tissue from interplanetary radiation and the occasional solar flare.
I would particularly recommend an article by Matthew L. Wald printed, I think, on December 10, 2003 that graphically described basic interplanetary radiation as "every element on the periodic table up to iron (No. 26), moving at a substantial fraction of the speed of light, and approaching from distant stars in all directions."
A 1999 NASA study believes a 5 meter thick wall of soil encasing an interplanetary craft "may be able to provide adequate protection" to human occupants.
Then, of course, there is the mind-churning problem of the "bremsstrahlung effect".
According to a Joint USAF/NASA study (Combined Release/Radiation Effects Satellite Mission) no longer available online:
A second major issue in shielding is the "bremsstrahlung" effect. Laboratory tests have shown that when shielding for a system is increased beyond a certain point, the secondary radiation produced in the shielding by the primaries increases, actually leading to higher doses of the radiation.
The word "primaries" refers to Heavy and Light Primaries...highly destructive remnants of the Big Band and stellar explosions that can even penetrate Earth's magnetic field.
So, Bush and Halliburton's lust for interplanetary business models and lucrative Martian mining contracts face difficulties far greater than the featuresque Tom Swiftian turmoil outlined in your commentary.
I don't expect you to toss "hot" water on Jr's plans, but a story examining the current state of interplanetary radiological studies by the NYT's excellent science writers could be very informative.
"One angel", as you write, might be able to pay for a Mars expedition but a legion of the little buggers will be required to solve the real difficulties facing a human flight to the 4th planet.
If only America's current Mars or Bust crowd could draw upon the assistance of Tom Swift, Jr's friends from Planet X!