Monday Mysteries

Remember the hub-bub about the discovery of water and hydroxyl molecules on the lunar surface?

Well, it looks like we have a technique to ‘live off the land’ so to speak, if we decide to go back to the Moon:

American boffins say they have developed a viable process for making oxygen out of moon dirt, which could allow humans to live for long periods in lunar bases. The new tech has been tried out under the equivalent of the moon’s one-sixth-G gravity aboard NASA’s famous “vomit comet” low-gee simulator plane.

A long-term moonbase, which is still officially part of NASA’s plans for the coming decades – though the whole US manned space programme is seriously imperilled by lack of funds – would surely require a means of producing oxygen locally. Astronauts need the precious gas to breathe, of course, but the need to refuel rockets on the Moon is perhaps even more critical. If all the fuel to be used on the Moon-to-Earth return trips must first be hauled up from Earth to Moon – requiring the burning of huge amounts more rocket juice to do so – the vast majority of the programme’s budget and activity will be eaten up simply moving propellants through space.

A sustained moonbase programme would still be hugely expensive with lunar fuel production, but not nearly as much so: and a source of rocket fuel on the Moon could in time make the further exploration of the solar system much more economical as well. Fuel for voyages to Mars or the asteroids, rather than having to be hauled up through Earth’s heavy gravity, could be fired up relatively easily and cheaply from the lunar refineries.

So the human race – assuming it would like to explore personally beyond its home planet* – would like to have rocketfuel refineries on the Moon. With current chemical rockets, the mainstream spaceflight technology, this also means oxygen. So how to make oxygen out of Moon dirt?

Well, according to boffins at Case Western Reserve uni in Ohio, the way ahead is to scoop up moon dust (probably using a robotic digger machine) and dump it into a hopper. Metal oxide particles of the correct size would be sifted from the dirt and heated with hydrogen at 1000°C, so breaking out the oxygen and attaching it to hydrogen to form water, which could then be used to produce oxygen easily via electrolysis.

It is yet to be seen if this discovery will impact what the Obama Administration’s decision to increase NASA’s budget or not.

NASA has been dying the death of a thousand cuts for decades.

Will this make a difference?

Oxygen-from-Moon-dirt passes vomit comet test

Who says amateur astronomers don’t see UFOs through their telescopes?

Check out what this amateur astronomer sees here.


Was the cigar-shaped object seen in sky by photographer a UFO?

Is human civilization far older than mainstream science cares to admit?

In the past ten years, many sites in Turkey have pushed back the dates of civilization to perhaps 10,000 years instead of the 5,000 that is currently taught.

One of these sites pushing the envelope of antiquity is Gobekli Tepe:

The discovery of the biblical town of Jericho and its stone walls, dated to c. 8000 BC, was the first to push back the date of the birth of “civilisation”. ‘Ain Ghazal is often seen as a sister site of Jericho and, with its 15-hectare area, is the largest Neolithic site in the Middle East and four times as big as Jericho. American Gary O. Rollefson, its principal archaeologist, was able to date the town to 7250 BC, and there is evidence of agriculture in the area dating back to c. 6000 BC—later than the establishment of the town itself. In its heyday, 2,000 people lived at ‘Ain Ghazal. However, by 5000 BC the town was completely deserted. Thirty statues have been found there, measuring between 35 and 90 centimetres; they are human in appearance but may represent deities or the spirits of ancestors. Jericho’s discovery added weight to the argument that the Bible is history, not myth. But when it was next learned that there are even older sites than Jericho, “unfortunately” not located in Palestine but further north in Anatolia, southeast Turkey, media interest in these new discoveries seemed to wane.
The most famous of these sites is Çatal Höyük. It was discovered in 1958 by British archaeologist James Mellaart, who began excavations in 1961 and eventually dated the site to 7500–5700 BC. It is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. Mellaart described it as “a Neolithic Rome”, and it is indeed worthy of the name “town”. Its constructions show clear signs that its inhabitants possessed a religion—labelled by some to be a Mother Goddess cult, although this theory has been the subject of much controversy. What is known is that the dead were buried beneath the floors of the buildings, and that several of these structures contain depictions of bulls. Some people have gone so far as to suggest that there is likely a common origin between Çatal Höyük and the Minoan civilisation on Crete, despite the fact that 3,000 years separate the two.
Çatal Höyük was the first of several discoveries to slowly unveil the Turkish region’s ancient history. Göbekli Tepe is but one of several extremely old sites and is the oldest discovered so far. However, the existence of these sites has only been reported within the specialised press, although each site has a wow factor.
The site of Çayönü, located around 96 kilometres from Göbekli Tepe, conforms to a design that is known as a “grill plan”, as it looks like a grill. This reveals that careful planning went into its construction. Americans Linda and Robert Braidwood, together with Turkish archaeologist Halet Çambel, began to excavate Çayönü in 1964 and found that the floors of the buildings were made of terrazzo (burnt crushed lime and clay), although at the time of the discovery it was thought that this had first been used by the Romans. The site also revealed the use of metals and the earliest evidence of the smelting of copper, though some nevertheless argue that the copper was originally cold-hammered rather than smelted. The use of copper should not come as a total surprise, as the site is within range of copper ore deposits (as well as obsidian) at Ergani in nearby Diyarbakir Province. And all of this in a site dated to 7500–6600 BC. Çayönü is often seen as the site that began the epoch that would culminate in Çatal Höyük.
Çayönü presented evidence of the first farmyard pigs, but it also revealed a hoard of human skulls, one found under an altar-like slab and stained with human blood. Some have concluded that this is an indication of human sacrifice, while others have been unwilling to go that far based on a single type of artefact. Other archaeological evidence suggests that some people were killed in huge death pits, while children were buried alive in jars or roasted in large bronze bowls. Çayönü is therefore civilisation, but perhaps not as we like to know it.
Another important site is Nevali Çori, in Hilvan Province between Diyarbakir and Sanliurfa. Here, Harald Hauptmann began excavations in 1979 and was able to uncover large limestone statues. In 1991, the site was submerged with the construction of Lake Atatürk Dam. It shares many parallels with Göbekli Tepe and is dated to 8400–8000 BC. All the artefacts retrieved are now in museums, including a life-sized egg-like head with crude ears and a carved ponytail, found in a niche at the centre of a north-western wall. Interestingly, the ponytail is actually a curling serpent that ends in a mushroom-like cap. Whatever being the figure is meant to represent, German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt believes it was worshipped as a deity.
Nevali Çori set the stage for Göbekli Tepe: shortly after its disappearance under the waters, Göbekli Tepe emerged from the sands. Many people highlight the T-shaped pillars of Göbekli Tepe as the “signature” of the site. However, such T-shaped pillars were also found in Nevali Çori. Site-wise, Nevali Çori is more square than circular in design, although a square precinct has been found at Göbekli Tepe, too. Although there are several parallels between the two sites, Nevali Çori’s pillars are nevertheless smaller and its shrine is located inside a village.


Even with hard-core physical evidence, the kind that scientists scream all of time that is needed to verify claims, cannot change the minds of mainstream archeology!

It just proves the saying that physicist Max Planck once noted:

New scientific truth usually becomes accepted, not because opponents become convinced, but because opponents die, and because the rising generation is familiar with the new truth at the outset.

I wonder if Planck himself was guilty of such?

Göbekli Tepe: the world’s oldest temple


4 responses

  1. For the near-term I don’t think that the finding of trace amounts of water or hydroxyl groups on the top surface of the Moon makes much of a difference. It doesn’t fundamentally affect the Mars vs the Moon debate. If we go to the Moon first then we’ll still want to go the the lunar south pole as the concentration of water is likely much higher there. So the latest news doesn’t change that.

    I think that the key issue which nearly everyone seems to be overlooking is that the main purpose for going to the Moon or Mars needs to be to establish a self-sustaining off-Earth colony just in case someone develops self-replicating technology which destroys humanity on Earth. We’re talking either biotech, nanotech, AI, or self-replicating chemicals. This concern is not as far fetched as one might think. Each of these areas have a number of scientists actively moving us down that road, publishing their work openly, and that progress is not slowing but arguably is accelerating.

    All that we care about (life, family, progress, etc) is at risk. Think about it!

    So the questions should be this, “At which destination (Moon or Mars) can we develop a self-sustaining colony first?”. After we achieve that, then we can have the luxury of exploration, science, tourism, industry, etc.

    The martian atmosphere is helpful for aerobraking thereby reducing the need to bring extra propellant. Both Mars and the Moon presumably have sufficient water. But Mars has the advantage of readily available carbon & nitrogen – the Moon doesn’t. But sufficient C & N for a lunar colony can be transported with about two heavy launch vehicles.

    The proximity of the Moon is a big plus. Trips don’t have to be on a two year schedule. If something bad happens, lunar astronauts are only a three day trip away. Proximity also allows for remote-controlled robotic exploration, excavation, assembly, construction, etc. A three day trip also would require fewer supplies and simpler life-support system. Finally, the danger from radiation during transit would be less.

    Right now I think that the Moon has the advantage over Mars as the place where we can develop a self-sustaining colony the quickest.

    1. Now that the hub-bub about the water and hydroxyl have died down, maybe the debate has returned to its original level; Should Congress invest in human space flight?

      There’s alot of politicians who don’t care about it, and others in states who have contracters, or centers that employ many in government space activities. And they obviously do.

      Your argument has altruistic overtones that ordinary people will ignore; they simply don’t feel threatened enough to visualize building Moon colonies to save a portion of humanity just in case something bad happens.

      But perhaps greed eventually will, if some corporation feels it can make some money mining the Moon, if not for water, then something else.

      IMHO, I can’t understand why our military isn’t clamoring to build bases there, despite the treaties against it. We spent the last eight years ignoring such treaties and the Moon is the most logical place to have the ‘high ground!’

  2. I can see where the access to oxygen would be a benefit for unmanned missions, but I wonder how long an Earthbound critter could survive, especially on the Moon. In the minimal gravity of such an environment, a whole plethora of health conditions would soon arise, like osteoporosis, organ degeneration, that would affect the settlers, not to mention the psychological effects of living in a different set of vibrations `or lack thereof.

    It’s interesting to me that real estate is already sold on the Moon, but I won’t be ready to visit untill there are a few trees and an organic garden growing there along with a gravity compensator…


    1. I think the human body can adapt to the lunar gravity with minimal alteration Geez, but since I’m not a physiologist or geneticist, this just my opinion.

      I truly believe that mankind must expand out into the Universe, or we’ll go extinct like the dodo bird. The environments of the different worlds of the Solar System are hostile to be sure, but humans have expanded into hostile areas before. For example Cro-Magnon Man colonised Europe just before the end of the last Ice Age that was inhabited by Neandertal People, which was very hostile for certain. The environment anyway.

      It’s not clear whether the Neandertals and Cro-magnon fought each other or not. Circumstantial evidence shows that the Cro-Magnons had the Neandertals over for ‘dinner’ occasionally.

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