Japanese soft drink manufacturer will deliver a can of ‘Pocari Sweat’ to the lunar surface in 2015

The Tokyo-based Otsuka Pharmaceutical (their drinks are sold for their health benefits, but they also develop their own drugs) says it wants to use private space companies to deliver a 1kg ‘Dream Capsule’ in the shape of a can of their most popular soft drink, Pocari Sweat, to the lunar surface.

As well as a small amount of Pocari Sweat in powdered form, the titanium can will also contain numerous disks with “messages by children from all over Asia” etched into their surfaces. “The time capsule contains the childrens’ dreams,” claims the company.

Children who submit their messages to the company will also be given a ‘dream ring’ – a special ring pull that opens up the can. Otsuka say that they hope this will inspire the young people to become astronauts and travel back to the Moon to one day re-read their dreams (and drink some tasty Pocari Sweat as well).

Despite the overt or even extreme commercialism of the project it also has a serious scientific goal, and in addition to delivering Pocari Sweat, Otsuka will be hoping to place the first privately-launched lander on the Moon.

The company will be working with a Pittsburgh-based firm named Astrobotic Technology to send their capsule on the 236,121 mile trip to the Earth’s satellite, with the mission planned to take place in October 2015. Astrobotic will use a Falcon 9 rocket to make the trip – the hopefully-reusable launcher under development by Elon Musk’s private space company, SpaceX.

If Astrobotic and Otsuka manage to complete the mission they’ll also be able to claim the multi-million dollar bounty offered by Google’s Lunar X competition. The search giant announced the prize back in 2007 as a spur for private space companies, offering $20 million to the first team to “land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth.”

Astrobotic’s involvement in the project is particularly ironic as the company, which reportedly charges upwards of half a million dollars to send items to the Moon, is mainly interested in developing technologies designed to clean up debris in space – instead they’ll be dumping what some will view as trash on the lunar surface.

Although Otsuka’s ambitions sound like the extreme end of the PR stunt spectrum (althoughm how does it compare to projecting a loaf of bread onto a beloved public sculpture?) space advertising has a storied – if controversial – history.

In 1993, an American company named Space ­Marketing Inc proposed launching a 1 kilometre squared illuminated billboard into low orbit, which would have appeared as big and as bright as the Moon in the night’s sky. Public outcry scuppered the plans and the US government subsequently introduced a ban on advertising in space.

However, the legislation was later amended to allow “unobtrusive” sponsorships, a change that meant Pizza Hut was ablle to pull off an advertising coup in 2001 by delivering a vacuum-sealed pizza (it was salami flavour – pepperoni didn’t have the necessary shelf life) to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Otsuka and Pocari Sweat have also tried this sort of stunt before, and in the same year as Pizza Hut made the ultimate home delivery, the Japanese company created the first high-definition commercial in space, filming two Russian cosmonauts drinking Pocari Sweat and gazing pensively out of the window at the surface of the Earth below. In this context, delivering a can to the Moon’s surface seems like a small step for advertising, rather than a giant leap.


Evidence of water on the moon discovered in samples obtained from original Apollo missions

Called the “Genesis Rock,” this lunar sample of unbrecciated anorthosite collected during the Apollo 15 mission was thought to be a piece of the moon’s primordial crust. In a paper published online Feb. 17 in Nature Geoscience, a University of Michigan researcher and his colleagues report that traces of water were found in the rock. (Credit: Photo courtesy of NASA/Johnson Space Center)

Traces of water have been detected within the crystalline structure of mineral samples from the lunar highland upper crust obtained during the Apollo missions, according to a University of Michigan researcher and his colleagues.

The lunar highlands are thought to represent the original crust, crystallized from a magma ocean on a mostly molten early moon. The new findings indicate that the early moon was wet and that water there was not substantially lost during the moon’s formation.

The results seem to contradict the predominant lunar formation theory — that the moon was formed from debris generated during a giant impact between Earth and another planetary body, approximately the size of Mars, according to U-M’s Youxue Zhang and his colleagues.

“Because these are some of the oldest rocks from the moon, the water is inferred to have been in the moon when it formed,” Zhang said. “That is somewhat difficult to explain with the current popular moon-formation model, in which the moon formed by collecting the hot ejecta as the result of a super-giant impact of a martian-size body with the proto-Earth.

“Under that model, the hot ejecta should have been degassed almost completely, eliminating all water.”

A paper titled “Water in lunar anorthosites and evidence for a wet early moon” was published online Feb. 17 in the journal Nature Geoscience. The first author is Hejiu Hui, postdoctoral research associate of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences at the University of Notre Dame. Hui received a doctorate at U-M under Zhang, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and one of three co-authors of the Nature Geoscience paper.

Over the last five years, spacecraft observations and new lab measurements of Apollo lunar samples have overturned the long-held belief that the moon is bone-dry.

In 2008, laboratory measurement of Apollo lunar samples by ion microprobe detected indigenous hydrogen, inferred to be the water-related chemical species hydroxyl, in lunar volcanic glasses. In 2009, NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing satellite, known as LCROSS, slammed into a permanently shadowed lunar crater and ejected a plume of material that was surprisingly rich in water ice.

Hydroxyls have also been detected in other volcanic rocks and in the lunar regolith, the layer of fine powder and rock fragments that coats the lunar surface. Hydroxyls, which consist of one atom of hydrogen and one of oxygen, were also detected in the lunar anorthosite study reported in Nature Geoscience.

In the latest work, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy was used to analyze the water content in grains of plagioclase feldspar from lunar anorthosites, highland rocks composed of more than 90 percent plagioclase. The bright-colored highlands rocks are thought to have formed early in the moon’s history when plagioclase crystallized from a magma ocean and floated to the surface.

The infrared spectroscopy work, which was conducted at Zhang’s U-M lab and co-author Anne Peslier’s lab, detected about 6 parts per million of water in the lunar anorthosites.

“The surprise discovery of this work is that in lunar rocks, even in nominally water-free minerals such as plagioclase feldspar, the water content can be detected,” said Zhang, the James R. O’Neil Collegiate Professor of Geological Sciences.

“It’s not ‘liquid’ water that was measured during these studies but hydroxyl groups distributed within the mineral grain,” said Notre Dame’s Hui. “We are able to detect those hydroxyl groups in the crystalline structure of the Apollo samples.”

The hydroxyl groups the team detected are evidence that the lunar interior contained significant water during the moon’s early molten state, before the crust solidified, and may have played a key role in the development of lunar basalts.

“The presence of water,” said Hui, “could imply a more prolonged solidification of the lunar magma ocean than the once-popular anhydrous moon scenario suggests.”

The researchers analyzed grains from ferroan anorthosites 15415 and 60015, as well as troctolite 76535. Ferroan anorthosite 15415 is one the best known rocks of the Apollo collection and is popularly called the Genesis Rock because the astronauts thought they had a piece of the moon’s primordial crust. It was collected on the rim of Apur Crater during the Apollo 15 mission.

Rock 60015 is highly shocked ferroan anorthosite collected near the lunar module during the Apollo 16 mission. Troctolite 76535 is a coarse-grained plutonic rock collected during the Apollo 17 mission.

Co-author Peslier is at Jacobs Technology and NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The fourth author of the Nature Geoscience paper, Clive Neal, is a professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences at the University of Notre Dame. The work was supported by NASA.


Gardening On The Moon



Gardening in space! Chinese astronauts may grow fresh vegetables in extraterrestrial bases on Moon or Mars in the future to provide food and oxygen supplies to astronauts, an official said after a successful lab experiment.

Deng Yibing, deputy director of the Beijing-based Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Center, said that the recent experiment focused on a dynamic balanced mechanism of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and water between people and plants in a closed system.

According to Deng, a cabin of 300 cubic metres was established to provide sustainable supplies of air, water and food for two participants during the experiment, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Four kinds of vegetables were grown, taking in carbon dioxide and providing oxygen for the two people living in the cabin. They could also harvest fresh vegetables for meals, Deng said.

The experiment, the first of its kind in China, is extremely important for the long-term development of the country’s manned space programme, Deng added.

The cabin, a controlled ecological life support system (CELSS) built in 2011, is a model of China’s third generation of astronauts’ life support systems, which is expected to be used in extraterrestrial bases on the Moon or Mars.

The introduction of a CELSS seeks to provide sustainable supplies of air, water and food for astronauts with the help of plants and algae, instead of relying on stocks of such basics deposited on board at the outset of the mission.

Advance forms of CELSS also involve the breeding of animals for meat and using microbes to recycle wastes.

Scientists from Germany also participated in the experiments.


Famously Reclusive Neil Armstrong Gives Exclusive Interview to Australian Accountant

It was one small interview for astronaut Neil Armstrong … and one giant scoop for an Australian accountant, of all people.

In the year’s most out-of-this-world get, the first man to step foot on the moon sat down with CPA (Certified Practicing Account) Australia’s Alex Malley to narrate his historic lunar landing in an extremely rare interview.

Armstrong was the commander of NASA’s three-man Apollo 11 mission that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin spent about two hours on the surface before returning to the Eagle lunar module.

The 81-year old American is famously reluctant to discuss the moon landing and has granted very few interviews in the last 40 years — so why choose to open up to CPA Australia? Malley thinks he knows the answer.

“I knew something a lot of people didn’t know about Neil Armstrong — his dad was an auditor,” said Malley in the first of the four part interview with Armstrong posted on the CPA website.

In the 45-minute interview Commander Armstrong discussed his childhood in Ohio, walking on the moon, and what it’s like to sleep on a spaceship.

Armstrong also recounts the moment he got the call to ask him if his crew were ready to land on the moon.

“The bosses asked, ‘Do you think you and your guys are ready?” Armstrong recalled. “I said it’d be nice to have another month, but we’re in a race here and we had to take the opportunity when we had it. I had to say we are ready, we are ready to go.”

“I thought we had a 90% chance of getting back safely to Earth on that flight, but only a 50-50 chance of making a successful landing on the first attempt.”

Armstrong also details the crew’s harrowing 12-minute descent to the moon, when he realized that the Eagle lunar module’s auto-pilot was preparing to land the crew on the slope of a huge moon crater.

“The computer showed us where it intended to land, and it was a very bad location, on the side of a large crater about 100-150m in diameter with very steep slopes covered with very large boulders — not a good place to land at all,” he said.

Armstrong took over the craft manually and managed to land it like a helicopter in a smoother area to the west with just 20 seconds of fuel left. “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” were Armstrong’s words to mission control on earth.

As for “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong says he didn’t think of those immortal words until after they’d landed safely.

The first few moments when Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped out of the Eagle and onto the surface of the moon were tender, he remembers.

“We recognized that we wouldn’t have been there if it hadn’t been for our competitors in the Soviet Union — it was a competition that made both of our programs able to do what we achieved. We put medallions for our fallen colleagues on both sides, and that was a tender moment.”

Armstrong laughed off the conspiracy theorists who believe the 1969 moon landing was faked, telling CPA Australia’s Malley that “800,000 staff at NASA couldn’t possibly keep a secret.”

“People love conspiracy theories, but it was never a concern to me — because I know one day someone’s going to go fly back up there and pick up that camera I left,” he said.

As for the future direction of space travel, Armstrong worries about cuts to NASA’s budget, and says the space program remains an important source of motivation for young Americans.

NASA’s 2013 budget for the exploration of Mars was cut by 38%, and the budget for planetary exploration overall was reduced by $300 million — a major concern, according to Armstrong.

“NASA’s been one of the most successful public investments in motivating students to do well and achieve all they can achive, and it’s sad that we are turning the program in a direction where it will reduce the amount of motivation it provides to young people.”


Did the Earth Once Have 2 Moons?

With mountain ranges topping 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) and deep craters, the farside of the Moon bears scant resemblance to the smoother surface and shallow lava-filled maria, on the nearside visible from Earth.

Scientists have hypothesized many explanations, such as uneven tidal heating (process by which energy from rotation and orbit deform a planet’s outer crust) or lopsided bombardment by asteroids.

Researchers from the University of California at Santa Cruz, Martin Jutzi and Erik Asphaug, however, have now published a new theory in Nature. 

The Moon is thought to be composed of the debris cast off by a collision between Earth and a Mars-sized body over 4 billions years ago, an event called the giant-impact hypothesis.  This impact probably created other, smaller, moon-like bodies as well.  As our solar system evolved toward its current configuration, none of these lesser orbs were likely to have survived very long — unless they landed in a sweet spot called an Earth-Moon Trojan point.

Jutzi and Asphaug have calculated that at least one such mini-moon, about a third the diameter of the one we see today, could have been suspended between the gravitational pulls of the Moon and Earth for tens of millions of years.  Eventually, however, it would have lost its moorings and crashed into the Moon.  At high speed, planet-scale collisions create monstrous craters and vast amounts of vaporised debris.  However, the mini-moon, due to its position, would have been moving at a much slower speed — about two-to-three kilometres per second — and the impact would have left a rim of mountains.

Read about it here:  http://posttrib.suntimes.com/news/6866333-418/earths-two-moons-not-lunacy-but-new-theory.html


Thanks to Mr. C for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.