ESA opens oxygen plant, making air out of moondust


In the upcoming novel TAC Force – Sons of Khan, Moon Base alpha utilizes technology to convert moon regolith into oxygen, hydrogen, and other trace gases.

Science is catching up to this science fiction, although in the story the conversion of regolith into gases and metal alloys happens on a much larger scale than is achievable today.

Oxygen and metal from lunar regolith. Credit: Beth Lomax – University of Glasgow

ESA’s technical heart has begun to produce oxygen out of simulated moondust.

A prototype oxygen plant has been set up in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory of the European Space Research and Technology Centre, ESTEC, based in Noordwijk in the Netherlands.

“Having our own facility allows us to focus on oxygen production, measuring it with a mass spectrometer as it is extracted from the regolith simulant,” comments Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow, whose Ph.D. work is being supported through ESA’s Networking and Partnering Initiative, harnessing advanced academic research for space applications.

“Being able to acquire oxygen from resources found on the Moon would obviously be hugely useful for future lunar settlers, both for breathing and in the local production of rocket fuel.”

ESA research fellow Alexandre Meurisse adds: “And now we have the facility in operation we can look into fine-tuning it, for instance by reducing the operating temperature, eventually designing a version of this system that could one day fly to the Moon to be operated there.”

Samples returned from the lunar surface confirm that lunar regolith is made up of 40–45% percent oxygen by weight, its single most abundant element. But this oxygen is bound up chemically as oxides in the form of minerals or glass, so is unavailable for immediate use.

Credit: European Space Agency

ESTEC’s oxygen extraction is taking place using a method called molten salt electrolysis, involving placing regolith in a metal basket with molten calcium chloride salt to serve as an electrolyte, heated to 950°C. At this temperature, the regolith remains solid.

But passing a current through it causes the oxygen to be extracted from the regolith and migrate across the salt to be collected at an anode. As a bonus this process also converts the regolith into usable metal alloys.

In fact, this molten salt electrolysis method was developed by UK company Metalysis for commercial metal and alloy production. Beth’s Ph.D. involved working at the company to study the process before recreating it at ESTEC.

“At Metalysis, oxygen produced by the process is an unwanted by-product and is instead released as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, which means the reactors are not designed to withstand oxygen gas itself,” explains Beth. “So, we had to redesign the ESTEC version to be able to have the oxygen available to measure. The lab team was very helpful in getting it installed and operating safely.”

Scanning electron microscope view of lunar simulant particles before the oxygen extraction process. Credit: Beth Lomax / University of Glasgow

The oxygen plant runs silently, with the oxygen produced in the process is vented into an exhaust pipe for now, but will be stored after future upgrades of the system.

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A Record Close Shave: Asteroid 2020 VT4 Just Skimmed by Earth

Didn’t I say that it could happen at anytime and we might not even see it coming?

Well, last Friday the 13th (11/13/20),asteroid 2020 VT set a new record for the closest asteroid near-miss. It zipped past Earth at just 240 miles above our heads. For reference the ISS Space station orbits 250 miles up. Oh…and we discovered it after it passed.

Luckily 2020 VT is only about 20-30 feet in diameter so if it did fly into our atmosphere it likely would have just been a bright fireball in the sky as it burned up.

Keep your aluminum foil hats handy! The next one could be bigger and not miss!

If you want to read about and asteroid storm that does not miss, read ASTEROIDS – Bridge to Nowhere. This highly rated novel is available on Amazon for only $1.99

From Universe Today: Wow. A low-flying space rock set a record last Friday (appropriately, the 13th), when 2020 VT4 passed just under 400 kilometers (250 miles) over the Southern Pacific.

The asteroid was spotted by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) survey at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii in the early morning hours of Saturday, November 14th, just 15 hours after approach. This is not uncommon for fast-movers, especially asteroids that are coming at the Earth from our sunward blind-spot, like 2020 VT4.

The asteroid- 2020 VT4 is estimated to be 5-10 meters (16-32 feet) across, about the size of a small house. Earth juuust missed occupying the same space as the perihelion point for the asteroid, which occurred just 20 hours prior to Earth passage.

This sets a record for the closest documented non-meteoric asteroid pass versus the Earth. This record was already broken once this year, with the passage of asteroid 2020 QG 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) from the surface of the Earth on August 16th. A brilliant bolide was captured on video on the afternoon of August 10th, 1972, as it became a brilliant daytime fireball over the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming before skipping back out of the Earth’s atmosphere. Another recent record was set in October 2008, when astronomers spotted 4-meter (13 foot) asteroid 2008 TC3 19 hours prior to impact,and later recovered fragments in the Nubian Desert in northern Sudan two months later, making 2008 TC3 the first asteroid that was documented before and after impact.

Unfortunately, the close passage of asteroid 2020 VT4 seems to have gone unwitnessed; closest approach occurred at 17:20 Universal Time (UT) on Friday November 13th over the South Pacific near the Pitcairn Islands under daytime skies, and it followed the edge of the Earth’s shadow outbound. For context, the International Space Station also orbits 400 kilometers (250 miles) above the surface of the Earth, and is 109 meters (358 feet) from tip-to-tip… 2020 VT4 would have certainly been visible as a fast-moving +3 magnitude ‘star’ on its out-bound leg south of Tasmania in the pre-dawn sky, had any island-bound observer or early morning sailor happened to be watching.…

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Tunguska Explosion in 1908 skipped like a rock on a pond

Scientists now theorize that an iron-based asteroid over 600 ft. in size, skipped like a rock on a pond causing the Tunguska explosion that leveled 800 square miles of Siberian forest in June 1908.

The asteroid was traveling at 12 miles per second or 720 miles per minute. That means if the meteor had stayed aloft 4 minutes longer, it would have wiped out London.

My question is when can we expect this asteroid to complete its orbit and visit Earth again? Maybe next time, the rock won’t skip.



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Virgin Galactic Spaceship Cabin Reveal

Want to catch a ride to space?

Virgin Galactic revealed today a first look at the cabin passengers will ride into weightlessness.

For a mere $250,000 per person you can a trip with five friends in a space plane to an altitude of 50,000 feet that lasts 90 minutes from takeoff to landing.

The cabin features 12 windows for passengers to gaze at all the lowly Earthlings below. The windows include LED mood lighting that change colors at different stages of the flight.

There are 16 cameras to capture memories of your exciting joy ride.

There are already 600 people who have reserved seats so if you want to catch a ride, you’d better sign up quick!

No details released yet on when these tourist flights to the upper atmosphere begin.


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MASSIVE Crater Discovered under Greenland Ice

An international team of researchers, including a NASA glaciologist, discovered a large meteorite impact crater hiding beneath more than a half-mile of ice in northwest Greenland. The crater — the first of any size found under the Greenland ice sheet — is one of the 25 largest impact craters on Earth, measuring roughly 1,000 feet deep and more than 19 miles in diameter, an area slightly larger than that inside Washington’s Capital Beltway.

They estimate the meteor was a kilometer in diameter and may have impacted as recently as 12,000 years ago. Curiously that is around the time the Younger Dryas theory estimates a comet hit Earth (possibly several impacts) causing massive flooding and later hurtled Earth into the last Ice age.

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What’s Wrong with NEOWISE?

What if the scientific data collected by NASA and JPL on 164,000 asteroids was wrong?

This article reviews what happened when a renowned scientist challenged NASA and JPL.

If the data is wrong, is Earth at a greater risk of an asteroid impact?

Why would NASA cover up the truth?

First let’s start with some background


NASA’s WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) spacecraft was an infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope active from December 2009 to February 2011. WISE scanned the entire sky twice with infrared light snapping pictures of a billion objects including remote galaxies, stars, and asteroids. Its primary mission ended in October 2011.

NASA extended the mission in Oct. 2011 and renamed NEOWISE and scanned the sky’s for four months searching for Near Earth Objects – During its primary and extended mission it had discovered over 35,000 new asteroids and comets and over 154,000 solar system objects.

When the mission was complete in 2011 WISE was put to sleep.

Then the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded over Russia in February 2013 and the world woke to the threat of asteroid impacts – Earth needed to step up efforts of asteroid detection.


WISE was brought out of hibernation in September 2013. Since its cryogen coolant was depleted the operating temperature of the telescope was reduced by having it stare into deep space. It’s instruments were re-calibrated and began taking pictures in December 2013.

From December 2013 and May 2019, the telescope made 640,000 observations of over 26,000 known asteroids and comets.

  • NEOWISE hunts near-Earth objects from low-Earth orbit.
  • The spacecraft orbits Earth once every 95 minutes,15 times per day.
  • NEOWISE is still scanning the sky’s today

As of mid-August 2019, NEOWISE is 36% of the way through its 12th coverage of the sky since the start of the Reactivation mission,” according to the spacecraft’s project page. “Over 840,000 infrared measurements have been made of 34,889 different solar system objects, including 1,030 NEOs and 176 comets.”

But NEOWISE’s success at its second career was due to luck, not design, and the luck is running out. “It turned out to be pretty good at picking up asteroids,” Amy Mainzer, who was principal investigator for NEOWISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California at the time, said during a media briefing in March. “Because it was never designed for that purpose, it is near the end of its life.”

NEOWISE mission is expected to end around mid-2020, although he emphasized that timeline is an estimate, and the instrument’s tenure could last longer.

So, what’s wrong with NEOWISE?

NASA began releasing NEOWISE data in March of 2015. A renowned scientist named Nathan Myhrvold studied the data and found scientific, methodological, and ethical problems with the NEOWISE Asteroid project, its results, and published papers. He went to great lengths to examine and analyze the published data.

For those who may not recognize the name here is a short introduction:

Nathan Myhrvold is described as a polymath or person of wide-ranging knowledge. He is a fascinating man.…

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A Black Hole Discovered Close to Earth – predicted in 2017

The news has been filled this week with the discovery of the closest known black hole to Earth—a cool 1,000 light-years away from our planet, hiding in plain sight. Some reports have said the two-star system called HR 6819ry orbiting this black hole can be seen with the naked eye. Astronomers believe there may be a lot more of these elusive celestial objects hiding in plain sight.

“There must be hundreds of millions of black holes out there, but we know about only very few,” lead study author Thomas Rivinius, of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), told NPR.

‘A black hole could cause an asteroid storm that destroys Earth’

Startlingly, the idea that a Black Hole could come close to our solar system was predicted in the novel ASTEROIDS – Bridge to Nowhere.

The concept of how a black hole could cause an asteroid storm that destroys Earth was provided to the author by Dr. Joe Nuth of the Goddard Space Flight Center.

This section of the novel was written in January 2017 with help and guidance from Dr. Nuth

Snippets from Chapter 14:

“A fast-moving stellar black hole could pass beyond the Kuiper belt, unseen. A black hole doesn’t give off any light. We’d never see it coming!”

“When you hear the words black hole, most people jump to the conclusion that black holes are always massive monsters chewing up planets, solar systems, and galaxies with all matter being dragged into its super-dense gravitational jaws. Surely, if a black hole passed near Earth, we’d be sucked into oblivion. Not necessarily. It depends on many factors; black holes come in all sizes and densities. The purpose of my grant is to conduct the research, to gather data, and to prove a black hole caused the increase in activity being observed. I hope to determine its size, density, and track the orbit of the black hole to determine the potential danger to our solar system and Earth.”

“…not all black holes are stationary. Some move through space. They can move at incredible speeds, up to five million miles per hour. Can you imagine the mayhem a fast-moving black hole might cause as it jets through space sucking up all matter in its path? I believe a black hole passed through the outer solar system moving in a retrograde, or a clockwise, orbit—which is the opposite direction of our solar system. The gravitational attraction of the black hole caused the typical pro-grade orbital velocities of comets, and other Kuiper belt objects, to slow causing them to lose orbit and drop into the inner solar system.”

“…the Kuiper belt lies beyond the orbit of Neptune. It includes forty thousand objects larger than sixty miles in diameter, not to mention dwarf planets and a trillion other objects. As the black hole passed beyond the Kuiper belt, it would have disrupted and slowed the orbit of the belt’s objects, causing them to drop into the inner solar system. Millions of objects could have suffered this gravitational misfortune, sending a vast cascade of comets and rocky bodies to the inner solar system.

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Are we Seeing an Increase in Asteroid Close Calls with Earth?


Asteroids have been in the news lately. For months, the internet was buzzing with interest and anticipation of 1998 OR2, the 2 kilometer(1.5 mile) wide asteroid that made its closest approach to Earth on April 29th at a distance of 3.9 million miles.

1998 OR2 was never on course to impact Earth, but if it did, it would be a Global Impact Event.

But while everyone was waiting to see if 1998 OR2 might go off course and slam into Earth, a small asteroid named 2020 HS7 made a much closer flyby passing just 26,550 miles above Earth. It was so close that it passed below a geostationary satellite, missing it by 750 miles. The Pan-STARRS observatory in Hawaii discovered the asteroid that is 13 to 26 feet (4 to 8 meters) in diameter just one day before it flew past us Earthlings. 2020 HS7 rates as one of 50 closest passes on record, making it somewhat more interesting than the big rock 3.9 million miles out in space.

Not to be outdone, asteroid 2020 JJ gave astronomers no advance notice. JJ was discovered as it zipped past Earth on May 4th at an elevation of just 4,350 miles (7,000km). JJ is no larger than 20 ft (6m) in size so it likely would have burnt up in the atmosphere if it’s trajectory aimed it closer to Earth. 2020
JJ comes in as the sixth closest approach ever recorded.

The top 10 close approaches have all come since 2004. This could be a result of astronomers getting better at spotting and tracking asteroids, or could it be that there are more and more asteroids making close approaches?

2020 has been a busy year already for close approaches. 2020 JJ is the 40th known asteroid to fly within 1 LD(Lunar Distance) (flying between the Earth and Moon) since the start of the year and the second this month.

2019 had 67 asteroids pass within 1 LD, but only 20 by May of last year. That means there were 47 close flybys in the last 7 months of 2019, and we’ve seen another 40 close passes in the first four months of 2020.

We’ve had 87 near misses in the past eleven months!

Is the frequency of flybys increasing?

Is this the beginning of an asteroid storm like the one described in the fictional novel ASTEROIDS – Bridge to Nowhere?

Hold on to your hats….there are sure to be more surprise close calls in 2020.


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Asteroid Discovery

Below is a presentation about asteroid discovery, government mandates to disocer threatening asteroids, asteroid close calls and what would happen if a 500 ft. asteroid impacted Earth.

What event spurred the development of NEOWISE, the only space telescope searching for asteroids?

What finally got NASA to fund a new space telescope called NEOCAM?

NEOWISE is currently our only space telescope looking for asteroids. What if the data it collected was incorrect?

Could we be in more danger than we are told?

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