Silver Springs

I like that they’ve found silver on the moon. It is right and meet that silver should be there, for people have associated silver with the Moon for a long, long time; just as they have associated gold with the Sun.

The association probably began with the similarity in color: “by the light of the silvery moon.” Alchemists referred to silver as Diana or Luna, Roman names for the goddess of the Moon; silver’s alchemic symbol was a crescent moon, and it was associated in the art with birth. Quite rightly, because the Moon has long been regarded as female, as the Sun is male.

Selene is a name of the Moon, from the Greek, denoting light, radiance, brightness. Selene as deity was the daughter of Hyperion and Theia, sister to Eos and Helios. Come nightfall, Selene pulls her chariot across the heavens, pausing only to kiss her lover Endymion, the setting sun.

The power associated with the Moon, and with the deity Selene, is en-chantment. The Moon, and silver, and Selene, also symbolize the soul, eternity, immortality.

The Chinese believe there are silver palaces on the Moon: “Then they entered the spreading halls. The silver stories of the castle towered one above the other, and its walls and columns were all formed of liquid crystal. In the walls were cages and ponds, where fishes and birds moved as though alive. The whole moon-world seemed made of glass.”

Silver for eons has been the metal of choice in most all mystical traditions. Silver objects are said to empower the wearer with psychic abilities, or other intuitive perceptions; silver objects are used to “draw down the moon” during pagan lunar ceremonies. Silver is believed to be calming and protective; it can reflect the light of both the Moon and the Sun, and so can work as a shield against negativity.

So I like that they’ve found silver on the Moon. I don’t, though, really like how they found it: by bombing the place.

First, a word from the Fats man:

Okay. Now on to the news.

The bombing of the Moon commenced in October of 2009, when NASA smashed a two-ton rocket hull the size of a bus into the lunar surface. Four minutes later, a second probe, also hurtling through space at twice the speed of a rifle bullet, kamikazed into the Moon.

The bus-bomb attack, on a two-miles-deep crater at the Moon’s south pole, was supposed to send a plume of debris into space that could be analyzed for the presence of sub-surface ice.

Science Men had determined there was water on the Moon, and they wanted to know How Much. Bombing was selected as the preferred alternative.

The Science Men, as ever, didn’t discover exactly what they thought they would.

LCROSS  was an empty rocket stage that was deliberately crashed into the moon last year, while a small satellite trailing it took chemical measurements of what it kicked up. Its target, a crater called Cabeus, was chosen because it is so deep that sunlight never reaches the bottom—and any ice there, mixed in the soil, would never have a chance to vaporize. The ice might have remained frozen there for billions of years.

“To our surprise, some of the permanently shadowed regions had no water, but some of the areas that receive sunlight occasionally did have water,” said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, a member of the research team.

Well, imagine that.

How much water did they actually find? The researchers said the satellite measured about 41 gallons in the debris from the 60-foot crater gouged out by the crashing rocket.

Extrapolating from this find, Science Men are guesstimating that there may be “up to a billion gallons of water ice in the floor of [the] permanently-shadowed crater near the moon’s south pole. That’s enough, said researchers, to fill 1,500 Olympic-size swimming pools, all from one crater.”

The Cortez contingent of human beings is rarin’ to get up there and start sucking that water dry.

Finding large amounts of water on the moon could be important, not just for science, but for future exploration by astronauts. Water, essential for human survival, would be heavy and expensive for spacecraft to bring from earth. But if astronauts land near ice deposits, as NASA has long hoped, they could, in effect, live off the land.

The ice could be melted and purified for drinking and cooling of spacecraft systems—and beyond that, it could also be broken down into its components, hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen could be used as rocket fuel; oxygen could be used for breathing.

But that’s not going to happen. Because that Mean Muslim Socialist, Destry, has taken all their money away.

There is no saying whether astronauts will get to use that ice any time soon. The Obama administration early this year canceled the Constellation project, which had been proposed by President George W. Bush, to return astronauts to the moon and eventually send them on to Mars. They will still go to Mars, someday, but the moon plans, when given another look, appeared unaffordable.

Destry, being a Sane person, has no doubt noticed that 2 billion people here on Terra do not have access to safe drinking water, and that people are presently dying of cholera down there in Haiti, because their water supply is contaminated. So maybe something should be done for these folks, here on the homeworld, before we start gallivanting into space, to begin slurping up other people’s water.

But the October 2009 bombing of the Moon meanwhile revealed that there’s more than water up there. The bombs also kicked up “a kitchen sink of other stuff,” says NASA lunar chief Michael Wargo.

One of the big surprises was two strong ultraviolet emission lines of silver. Because they appeared a few seconds after impact, [researchers] suspect that the silver might be in a layer of rock buried below the surface.

To create the observed spectral lines, the silver would have to be much more concentrated than the 100 parts per billion measured in rocks returned by the Apollo astronauts. On Earth, silver is concentrated by geologic processes such as flowing water, but such processes do not operate on the moon.

So what might be concentrating the silver? One theory holds that volatile elements, such as mercury and magnesium, may hop along the moon’s surface one atom at a time until they hit a “cold trap”—such as the permanently shadowed crater LCROSS smashed into—and stick.

Silver is not usually considered a volatile, but Robert Wegeng of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, who is not a member of the mission team, says it probably behaves like one in the vacuum and temperature conditions on the moon.

A grumpy Science Man from the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, Paul Spudis, is not really convinced that there is actually silver on the silvery Moon.

“We really need a surface rover mission,” he said.

“We can argue about emission spectra from now until doomsday, but I want an on-the-spot measurement before I’ll finally believe it.”

Well, no. We don’t really need people driving around the Moon, looking for silver. The Moon is already plenty peeved, I would imagine, about being bombed. So I don’t imagine the Moon would take too kindly to people showing up to run their hands over her without her permission. Silvery Selene is perfectly capable of hurling curses. And people here on Earth already have enough problems, without the Moon on their backs.

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