The Molten Moon and Other Stories

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The molten moon in all its glory. (Courtesy NASA/SVS)

In recent weeks, I have found myself bookmarking quite a few tweets. These tweets all have to do with outer space. Some of them are news, and some of them are simply popular science publications ruminating and reflecting on ongoing space exploration programs. When I bookmark these tweets, my heart is often brimming with hope. Hope that I will someday have time to read the articles that they link to. Hope that I will have time to research each topic they cover. Hope that, after this thorough research, I will be able to write an irreverent and self-indulgent piece on each topic on a popular blogging platform for minimal monetary gain.

Unfortunately, I do not have time. I have to do ridiculous things like go to work (gross), cook food (absurd), talk to my cat Alfred about his day (very important for his personal development), play on my phone (absolutely necessary), read (I love to read but I do it very slowly and get distracted very easily), finish watching The Americans (this is taking a very long time), do Kakuro puzzles in the new book I bought yesterday (yay), and stare at the wall for an hour or two every day (I think of this as meditating). Meanwhile, my Twitter bookmarks continue to pile up and my extremely basic knowledge of all the coolest things happening regarding outer space begins to decline. At this rate, I’ll never be able to beat the European Space Agency to Europa. Clearly, the only solution is to write a nice little listicle with quick summaries of everything that’s happening among the stars.

The moon used to be a molten land featuring fire fountains.

Can you imagine? Fire fountains! This, as it turns out, is far from breaking news — it’s a fact NASA scientists learned from lunar samples collected during the Apollo 11 mission. Lest you think that this isn’t really all that cool because Earth has volcanoes (also known as murder mountains), I will inform you that the low gravity on the moon allowed the fountains to spray lava “tens of kilometers” into the sky. As an American, it is, of course, completely illegal for me to acknowledge the existence of the metric system, but I can imagine that “tens of kilometers” of lava bursting into the lunar air would be a pretty spectacular sight. Once time travel is invented, I hope that I can travel back to take a picture of this phenomenon in order to earn social media clout.

The Gateway Foundation released plans for a space hotel.

Richard Branson, eat your heart out. It’s called the Von Braun Station, and it’s going to be a big old Ferris wheel flying through space. In an ideal world, of course, it would not be named after a scientist who worked for the Nazi regime, but it’s based on his designs, so what choice did they have? (They had many other choices.) The Gateway Foundation plans to have it ready for travel by 2027, and while they admit that it will only be attainable for the extremely wealthy at first, they hope that eventually it will be just like a trip to Disneyland! You will note, of course, that they said Disneyland, located in southern California, and not Disney World, located in the very humid and cursed state of Florida (Full disclosure: I also don’t really like southern California). These are clearly people who know about the importance of appearances, which is why they seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring that the plans for the hotel’s interior look nothing like 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’m not being flippant — the hotel’s aesthetic, according to Gateway Foundation architect Tim Alatorre, was a “direct response” to the film. Instead of being cold and bleak, the rooms will have things like carpeting and art on the walls and will, basically, look like regular hotel rooms that happen to be in space. I’m not sure why 2001: A Space Odyssey needed to be used as a reference to make this happen, but then, I am not an architect.

Could we feed one million people living on Mars? Probably not.

Haven’t any of these people read The Martian? In summary: A colony of one million humans living on Mars would require tens of thousands of supply ships travelling from Earth, and would only manage to become self-sufficient if they ate bugs and fake eggs. Why are there suddenly one million hungry humans on Mars? Because eccentric and extremely irritating billionaire Elon Musk is going to put them there, of course! Musk’s SpaceX wants to establish a human colony on Mars within the next 50–100 years and, unfortunately, it looks like the brave souls who volunteer for this mission will not be rewarded with endless pizza. This, I think, is an opportunity that I will have to pass up. Why would I live on Mars and eat bugs when I can live on Europa and eat the lifetime supply of ramen that I will bring with me?

If you’re not interested in eating bugs and fake eggs, there’s always the Moontopia.

Remember the molten moon’s fire fountains? Professor Lewis Dartnell, of the University of Westminster, thinks that humans could live inside the tubes that this volcanic activity left behind. These tubes would help protect a human colony from pesky moon problems like space radiation and drastic temperature changes. Before you get too excited, however, there is one drawback: they’re going to seal those tubes up! You’re going to spend your whole life in that moon tube, and you are never going to leave it! Another major moon problem, perhaps the biggest one, is the lack of atmosphere. Sealing up the moon tube would help with this, as it would allow us to make an artificial atmosphere within the tube. We could even put some nice lights on the ceiling to simulate Earth’s night-day cycle! Sure, you’re sealed in a tube on the moon with a very small group of people like some old Twilight Zone episode, but at least you’re not eating bugs!

The UK, forever under the massive cultural influence of Doctor Who, is sending a spider robot to the moon.

To be clear, the UK is part of the European Space Agency and therefore does not have its own space agency, but it does have a startup called Spacebit that is sending a rover to the moon. I’m using the term rover a little bit loosely for my liking — the rover is a spider. It’s a spider robot. It will not rove, but “scuttle” across the lunar service. As someone with a fear of spiders, even writing that sentence gives me shivers. It will explore the aforementioned moon tubes and, apparently, can jump. Why does it need to jump? No one is willing to explain this, and I have no choice but to assume that the spider robot is actually filled with millions of spiders and their eggs intent on invading and taking control of the moon.

There you have it. Some news and snippets from among the stars. I will attempt to keep everyone updated as the spider invasion of the moon commences.

Cat mom, librarian, and writer in Chicago.

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