Adventures in Everyday


Cave Exploring and Europa-Drilling
March 20, 2008, 3:30 pm
Filed under: science

The Unreal Underground

For those of you who have not had the breathtaking pleasure of watching part 4 of BBC’s Planet Earth documentary, Caves, here is a music video featuring some of its content [edit: link corrected]. By the way, Caves is the only part of Planet Earth that shows any human beings at all.

Caves is one of the most amazing documentaries I have ever seen, so when Bill Stone, cave-explorer and robot designer extraordinaire, showed up in a TED Talk about exploring the depths of Europa‘s extraterrestrial ocean, I got excited.

Exploring Europa with Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

Being an Engineering PhD, NASA provided funding for one of Bill’s projects to develop autonomous, deep-sea robots capable of discovering and analyzing signs of life in some of Earth’s most inaccessible locations. This robot was to be a prototype for an advanced robot capable of exploring Europa’s 100km deep ocean, where scientists believe extra-terrestrial life may exist. A mission like that may still be a ways away, but it is looking more and more possible every day.

Regarding NASA’s plan to return to the moon in 2024 and the later, infrequent return trips by government scientists and pilots,

“It will leave us no further along in the general expansion of humanity into space than we were 50 years ago. Something fundamental has to change if we are to see common access to space in our lifetime.”

Bill then presents some “controversial ideas.”

Gas Station on the Moon?

Bill indicates that there is very strong evidence for the existence of a fuel surplus available near our moon’s southern pole. Roughly 90% of the cost of escaping Earth’s atmosphere comes from the weight of rocket fuel. Accordingly, a lunar refueling station would be function as a revolutionary milestone towards common access to space.

“Boldness is Required to Move Forward”

But what is the cost of building a lunar mining base? Incredible. However, in 7 years (6 now), Bill thinks we can do it – if we bring only enough fuel for a one-way trip.

Holy crap. “Remember Cortez?” he remarks.

But he intends to lead such a bold mission himself.

“There was once a time when people did bold things to open the frontier. We have collectively forgotten that lesson. Now we are at a time when boldness is required to move forward.

“I intend to plant an industrial flag on the moon and complete the final piece that will open the space frontier in our lifetime, for all of us.”

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great series. You should all watch it. I don’t know about this guy’s gas station on the moon idea. I think there are better ideas to be explored in the other whats-his-face science videos you linked to. An outer space industrial revolution much like the one we went through here not that terribly long ago just doesn’t seem like a good feasible long term answer to anything.

Comment by Jen

There are people in the mountains one too, though not for very long.

Comment by Allison




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