Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lunar Science Pt. 1


Moffett Field was built in the 1930's as an airship base. The immense Hangar One was built to house 800-foot Zeppelins. The airships were so huge that they carried their own fighter planes. After WW2 the NACA built immense wind tunnels, big enough to house entire aircraft. With the arrival of supercomputers, wind tunnels were replaced by computational fluid dynamics. Un the 1980's Ames even built some prototype Spacesuits. Moffett was a base for military Orions, experimental aircraft and the Kuiper Airborne Observatory.

July 20-23 NASA Ames was host to the NLSI Lunar Science Conference. Hundreds of researchers were attracted by talk of reaching the Moon. Sunday was a public day celebrating the 39th anniversary of Apollo 11. Monday morning began with addresses by Ames Director Pete Worden, representatives from the NASA Lunar Science Institute and the Exploration Systems Directorate. Later in the morning we heard from planetary scientist Paul Spudis, who also spoke at ICES.

During the conference Paul announced that he is joining Odyssey Moon Limited, competitor for the Google X-Prize. Odyssey has also signed on former SMD Director Alan Stern, with whom we talked at AGU in December. They have also partnered with the International Lunar Observatory. With friends like these, Odyssey stands a good chance of winning Google's 30 million.

Monday afternoon Japanese researchers talked about the Kaguya mission. We heard from the LCROSS group about an upcoming mission to search for water. The International Lunar Network announced plans to connect science instruments across the lunar surface.

Tuesday was filled by meetings of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group. Their themes:

1) Pursue Scientific Activities to Address Fundamental Questions About the Solar System, the Universe, and our Place in Them.

2) Use the Moon to Prepare for Future Missions to Mars and Other Destinations.

3) Extend Sustained Human Presence to the Moon to Enable Eventual Settlement.

LEAG is soliciting input from us scientists to maintain support.

Speaking of Google, their present headquarters (below) is a brisk hike from Ames. Eventually they will move to a new complex at Moffett Field, which today hosts Page and Brin's jets. We caught a glimpse of the Google Earth car, which has a black periscope for photographing your street. Don't feel bad about photographing Google's home, they already have a photo of your home.

Tuesday evening the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics hosted a talk by Dr. James Walker, expert on Shuttle foam strikes. In the aftermath of Columbia, his group at Southwest Research Institute figured out that a piece of foam damaged the left wing. TPS damage is a continual worry with Shuttle reentry. Retiring an Orbiter in Space and returning its crew by Soyuz would be a very logical step.

UPDATE: The US, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea and UK have signed an agreement for cooperation in exploring the Moon. With spacecraft from several nations already on the way, this is becoming a world effort.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Rich Smith said...

Interesting post, I just wanted to clarify your comment "With the arrival of supercomputers, wind tunnels were replaced by computational fluid dynamics."

Though we in the Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) industry would like to believe that CFD is the only option in aerodynamic design evaluation, the fact is that wind tunnels still play a significant role. For example as well as having the latest CFD software running on some of the worlds most powerful computers, most Formula 1 teams (where performance is dominated by aerodynamics) also either have their own, or access to, state-of-the-art wind tunnels. The same is true of NASA.

Typically CFD and wind tunnels are considered complimentary aerodynamic analysis methods.

4:12 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Thanks, your expert comments are always appreciated. In an age of computers it is easy to forget the value of scale models and wind tunnels, which are still used extensively.

I heard that the auto industry is offering a big prize for a solution to the Stokes Equations. Do you know about this?

5:19 AM  
Anonymous Rich Smith said...

I wonder if the prize you refer to is related to one of the Millennium Prize Problems posed by the Clay Mathematics Institute?

$1,000,000 is waiting for the first person to prove or disprove there is an analytic solution to the Navier-Stokes equations.

You are probably aware, but for those that aren't, the Navier-Stokes equations accurately describe the flow of fluids, such as air and water, and all the turbulent complexity, even beauty, that makes fluid flow so fascinating. It is these equations, or more accurately approximations to them, that underpin CFD.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Rich, once we have sorted out General Relativity and the Riemann hypothesis, maybe we'll move onto Navier-Stokes.

8:53 PM  

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