Astronaut Harrison Schmitt will give special presentation to Arizona Geological Society

A Geological Visit to a Valley on the Moon by Harrison H. Schmitt

Abstract of talk: In December 1972, the Apollo 17 Mission became the most recent field trip to the Moon by human explorers. This 13-day adventure in space took geologist Harrison Schmitt to the Valley of Taurus-Littrow in the southeastern rim of the 740 km. diameter basin filled by Mare Serenitatis. After 72 hours on the lunar surface, including 22 hours outside the lunar module Challenger,the astronauts returned over 250 pounds of samples to Earth.

A number of new insights into the geology of the valley of Taurus-Littrow and surrounding regions of the Moon have resulted from recent synthesis and integration of transmitted field notes, field recollections, and photo-documentation with over forty years of data from sample analysis and geophysical measurements.

Proximity to the Earth, lack of atmosphere, gravity only one-sixth that of the Earth, planetary position as the smallest of the terrestrial planets, and potential life-sustaining resources almost certainly assure a role for the Moon in future lunar activities in support of human exploration, utilization, and settlement of space. The Moon can be considered as a stepping stone towards Mars and beyond and also as the low cost supply depot for deep space exploration and settlement. The first milestone in such an approach would be the development of helium-3 fusion power fueled by lunar helium-3.

Time and place:

Oct. 7, 2014; 6-9pm

Sheraton Tucson Hotel & Suites, 5151 E. Grant Road 85712

Dinner 7-8pm | Cost $30 ($27 for AGS members)

Talk – 8 to 9 pm Free – All are welcome to come hear Sen. Schmitt speak.

BIO: Harrison Hagan Schmitt, a native of Silver City, NM, has the diverse experience of a geologist, pilot, astronaut, administrator, businessman, writer, and U. S. Senator. Schmitt received his B. S. from Caltech, studied as a Fulbright Scholar at Oslo, and attended graduate school at Harvard. Geological field studies in Norway formed the basis of his Ph.D. in 1964. As a civilian, Schmitt received Air Force jet pilot wings in 1965 and Navy helicopter wings in 1967, logging more than 2100 hours of flying time.

Selected for the Scientist-Astronaut program in 1965, Schmitt organized the lunar science training for the Apollo Astronauts, represented the crews during the development of hardware and procedures for lunar surface exploration, and oversaw the final preparation of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Descent Stage. He served as Mission Scientist in support of the Apollo 11 mission. After training as back-up Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 15, Schmitt flew in space as Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 17 – the last Apollo mission to the moon. On December 11, 1972, he landed in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow as the only scientist and the last of 12 men to step on the Moon.

In 1975, after two years managing NASA’s Energy Program Office, Schmitt fulfilled a long-standing personal commitment by entering politics. Elected in 1976, he served a six-year term in the U.S. Senate beginning in 1977. Harrison Schmitt became Chairman of the NASA Advisory Council in November 2005, and served until October 2008. He also consults, speaks, and writes on policy and constitutional issues of the future, the science of the Moon and Planets, history of space flight and geology, space exploration, space law, climate change, and the American Southwest. He presently is Honorary Associate Professor of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison, teaching “Resources from Space.” He is on the staff of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition of Pensacola, Florida. Current board memberships include Orbital Sciences Corporation (lead director) and Edenspace Systems Corporation. In 1997, Schmitt co-founded and became Chairman of Interlune-Intermars Initiative, Inc., advancing the private sector’s acquisition of lunar resources and Helium-3 fusion power and clinical use of medical isotopes produced by fusion-related processes. He is the author of, “Return to the Moon” (2006 Springer-Praxis) that describes a private enterprise approach to providing lunar helium-3 fusion energy resources for use on Earth. Schmitt’s essays on the Constitution are collected on the “Americas Uncommon Sense” web site

NOTE: Copies of Harrison Schmitt’s book, “Return to the Moon” with a forward by Neil Armstrong will be for sale at this dinner meeting for $25. Senator Schmitt will autograph any books purchased.

Help restore the Lowell Observatory Clark telescope

The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff needs funds to restore the Clark 24″ telescope. They are trying to raise $250,000. Tucsonans can help by attending a Science Café at the SkyBar in Tucson.


Join the Arizona Experience at Sky Bar for a stellar evening in an astronomy themed science café. Lowell Observatory Outreach Manager Kevin Schindler will give a brief overview of the first observatory in the southwest and the plans to restore its 117-year old Clark Telescope– the telescope that discovered Pluto and recorded the first observations of the expansion of the universe. Today the Clark delights millions of public viewers. Find out what’s next for this historic treasure with the Restore the Clark campaign. Then, discover stargazing opportunities closer to home from the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and the GLOBE at Night global starcount.

What: Lowell Observatory and Arizona Astronomy Science Café
Where: SkyBar (536 N. 4th Avenue, Tucson)
When: April 25, 6:45 pm

On-street and lot parking is available.

Kevin Schindler: Outreach Manager, Lowell Observatory
Keith Schlottman: Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association
Connie Walker: GLOBE at Night Campaign, National Optical Astronomical Observatory

The Clark telescope went into service at the Lowell Observatory in 1896. The Clark is one of the largest, most productive telescopes of its era and the first large telescope in the desert southwest of the United States. From 1961 to 1969, U.S. Air Force and Lowell cartographers made detailed maps of the moon based on observations made with the Clark Telescope. These maps were critical to the Apollo program, during which men landed on and studied the moon’s surface.

Often called the “People’s Telescope,” more than a million visitors have seen through the world-famous 24″ Clark Telescope in the past 20 years alone and it’s time for it to get a complete overhaul.

Lowell telescope event

National Geographic presents a really stupid program

Disaster movies are popular these days, but National Geographic has produced one of the most stupid pseudoscience scenarios I have ever seen. Their program is “When The Earth Stops Spinning.”

The National Geographic website gives the program premise as follows:

“If the Earth was to suddenly stop our seas and the atmosphere would change so drastically that it would no longer be able to support human life. Looking to a future where one side of the planet is dark and cold for six months at a time, and the other is bathed in deadly solar radiation, this episode explores how long human and animal life might survive in a cruel new, stationary world.” (By the way, did you catch the grammatical errors in the first sentence?)

Earth’s rotation about its axis is slowing down due to the gravitational effects of the moon, as shown in the graphic below.


  The tidal bulges “lead” the moon because the rotation of the Earth is faster than the reaction time of the oceans, rocks, and mantle.

Atomic clocks show that the Earth’s spin on its axis is slowing by 1.7 milliseconds every 100 years. At that rate it would take about 1.9 trillion years to stop spinning.

But the Earth would not actually stop spinning. Earth’s rotation would slow to a point that matches the rotation of the moon around the earth and one side of Earth would continuously face the moon. At that point, one Earth day would be a month long. (See an article about tidal friction from Britannica here.)

I am a fan of science fiction, and the best science fiction is based on some valid scientific principle. The National Geographic program lacks even a remote connection to science. See more comments on the program from Anthony Watts and the full 46-minute program here.

Moon has liquid core says NASA

The Apollo moon missions planted seismometers on the Moon beginning in 1969 and collected data until 1977. Apparently those data were not fully analyzed until recently.

Modern, “State-of-the-art seismological techniques applied to Apollo-era data suggest our moon has a core similar to Earth’s.”



As a result of that analysis, NASA says:

the moon possesses a solid, iron-rich inner core with a radius of nearly 150 miles and a fluid, primarily liquid-iron outer core with a radius of roughly 205 miles. Where it differs from Earth is a partially molten boundary layer around the core estimated to have a radius of nearly 300 miles. The research indicates the core contains a small percentage of light elements such as sulfur, echoing new seismology research on Earth that suggests the presence of light elements — such as sulfur and oxygen — in a layer around our own core.

The inner iron core and fluid outer core explains how the Moon developed and maintains its strong magnetic field. By analyzing how seismic signals from Moonquakes were passed through or reflected, the researchers were able to deduce the composition and location of layer interfaces within the Moon.

A primary limitation to past lunar seismic studies was the wash of “noise” caused by overlapping signals bouncing repeatedly off structures in the moon’s fractionated crust. To mitigate this challenge, …the team employed an approach called seismogram stacking, or the digital partitioning of signals. Stacking improved the signal-to-noise ratio and enabled the researchers to more clearly track the path and behavior of each unique signal as it passed through the lunar interior.

Future NASA missions will help gather more detailed data. The Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory, or GRAIL, is a NASA Discovery-class mission set to launch this year. The mission consists of twin spacecraft that will enter tandem orbits around the moon for several months to measure the gravity field in unprecedented detail. The mission also will answer longstanding questions about Earth’s moon and provide scientists a better understanding of the satellite from crust to core, revealing subsurface structures and, indirectly, its thermal history.