I got two moon stories here – both intriguing or silly, whichever way you look at it.
First, scientists have announced that they have discovered a moon on Saturn that appears to contain the basic ingredients for life — warmth, water and organic chemicals.
The small Saturnian moon is called Enceladus where scientists reported seeing geysers at its south pole continuously shooting watery plumes some 500 miles off its icy surface into space last Wednesday, March 26, 2008.
The plumes were seen through the cameras of the Cassini spacecraft when it flew over the surface of Enceladus last March 12 as part of an ongoing joint US-European exploration of Saturn and its moons.
Scientists working on the mission did not say if they had detected any actual evidence of life on this moon. Obviously, they have not, otherwise they would reported such finds in minute details.
But they said the building blocks for life were there, describing the plumes as a surprising organic brew sort of like carbonated water with an essence of natural gas.
“Water vapor was the major constituent. There was methane present. There was carbon dioxide. There was carbon monoxide. There were simple organics and there were more complex organics,” Hunter Waite of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said.
Organic molecules contain carbon-hydrogen bonds and can be found in living things, scientists say.
Okay, okay, no quarrel with that. Let’s assume that indeed life is feasible on Enceladus – that we can someday build a home there, and lazily sit by the window with a cup of cool Saturn-made soda and watching a grand view of Saturn will all the rings around it.
But what if the place does not have the same gravity as here on Earth, what if there’s no cable TV there, what if there’s no Internet there, what if there are no malls there, no cinemas, no restaurants, etc.? How are we going to enjoy life simply watching Saturn and its rings?
And, in the first place, how do we survive a journey of several months in total weighlessness from Earth to Enceladus?
This is pretty much like daydreaming then. Oh well, the scientists get paid for doing that.
The other “moon story” I have here is the report that came out Thursday, March 27, 2008, saying that a company called Celestis Inc. will soon start commercial service that will send human ashes to the Earth’s moon aboard robotic landers.
A person wishing to send the ashes of his dearly beloved to the Moon will have to pay the company at least $10,000.
“For many people, it would be a romantic notion to look up into the sky and see the moon and know that your mom or dad or loved one is up there memorialized,” said Celestis president Charles Chafer, adding that half dozen people had already signed up for the service.
This is simply lunacy (no pun intended). And how would the people who would be foolish enough to subscribe to this service be assured that the ashes of their loved ones have actually been scattered on the lunar surface? On the company’s say-so?
Well, anybody can do that. I can start an ash-delivery service to whatever planet or star you want in the Universe. I can even “produce” photos of the ashes of your dog Pluto scattered on the surface of the former planet turned asteroid Pluto, if that’s what you want.
(Above) The surface of the Saturn moon Enceladus as viewed from the Cassini spacecraft. (Nasa photo)
(Middle) A view of Earth’s waxing moon.