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Astro/Cosmo-naughty Pee Pee: From Cold War To Bowl War (But first, a correction)

March 31, 2009
Mission Patch from Apollo I

Mission Patch from Apollo I

One more space post and then I’ll stop. For now, anyway. But it has two things.

So my braniac space-fiend friend Kev says to me, “I take issue with one of your comments” in relation to my last post, and you know what? He was right that I was misguided. I mistakenly thought that because of the anaerobic conditions of the lunar atmosphere, the objects that were left on the surface by the Apollo missions would be preserved without any intervention. But he thinks I could be wrong about this because there are so many other factors. I was going to just edit the post, but I want to know if any of you science dorks can help me out.

He says that he remembers reading that the picture of the Duke family started to blacken not long after it was deposited there, and that while yes, the conditions are not like Earth, where a paper object would disintegrate fairly quickly, there is no ozone layer on the moon to protect objects from direct light exposure. There’s no magnetic field to protect from charged particles, no atmosphere to protect from micrometeorites, and there’s a massive temperature fluctuation every month, from almost total darkness to blazing light (insert joke about periods here).

So, space geeks, can you help? Do any of you dorks know about how something would or wouldn’t decompose on the moon? They drive the moon buggy around the desert because it’s as close to the texture of the surface as they can get, but what about the atmospheric conditions? How am I going to get my shot at crash-testing the moon buggy and how loud is the stereo for my AC/DC tapes?

I also found this artefact list on this site about historic preservation on the lunar surface. Because I don’t come from a science background, I had mostly thought about the cultural issues here, that because heritage is (generally, not always) the property responsibility of the country on whose territory it is situated, and no one owns the moon, these are rather complicated, and I naively assumed that the preservation conditions were not really an issue. I was wrong and actually it’s much more interesting than I’d thought, even if science does make me think about math, which gives me a rash. Thanks Kev, for pointing it out.

There’s been a push to ensure the preservation of the Tranquility Base site for quite some time, but for one, most of the discussion of this stuff is in academic journals and I’m no longer lucky enough to have library access, and two, a lot of this push is by anthropologists. It’s like there’s this common ground here, and yet a huge gulf in the way the space and its issues are being approached, the future science versus the past cultural history.

Anyway, speaking of common ground with huge holes in it, it looks like the International Space Station would make the best reality show ever. Turns out, the American astronauts have made a line down the ISS with space-masking tape and told the Cosmonauts that they can’t use nice new space toilet (which may or may not be named after Stephen Colbert), or play on their space-gym.

The Space Toilet: from brown hole to black hole

The Space Toilet: from brown hole to black hole

Toilet? Here’s a nice little piece on how you poop when you’re in the sky, but you see, the Russians’ toilet isn’t as nice because the Russians don’t have the kind of money that NASA does, and so, according to one guy on the ISS, they are allowed “only to use national toilets”. Here’s one about pooping on the MIR. Of course, they can’t always rely on the availability of the space toilet, since getting in and out of a space suit is serious business, and I’m not pulling over, so you all better make sure you go before we go, and then hope that adult diaper you’re wearing holds up and doesn’t chafe. Next time you’re envying a zero-gravity spacewalker, just remember that otherwise very lucky bizzatch or bastard may or may not have done a number two. I saw a man on Wexford St once, moments after doing one, and you could tell by the way he was going around bowlegged and distraught, but it’s hard to say how you’d be able to tell if someone had dropped a weightless load.

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