Skiing That Soft Lunar Powder
In the past year, the US, India, China, Japan and the European Space Agency have all made plans to head to the moon sometime in the next two decades. An recent NASA article is chock-full of valuable tips from Apollo astronauts on an alternative means of lunar travel first suggested by Robert Heinlein - namely, skiing.
"Oh, boy, it's beautiful out here! Reminds me of Sun Valley," Apollo 15's Jim Irwin declared from the Hadley Rille. With lunar soil like "soft powder snow" Mount Hadley Delta strangely resembled "Dollar Mountain at Sun Valley, a practice hill with great skiing conditions."
(Mount Hadley Delta [Jim Irwin - NASA])
Apollo 17 geologist Harrison "Jack" Schmitt actually lamented "too bad I don't have my skis!" from the mountaneous Taurus Littrow Valley. Eventually, he perfected a kind of "lunar cross-country style" that worked like this:
"In the moon's low gravity, you can ski above the moondust--and I did. Imagine swinging your arms and legs cross-country style. With each push of your toe, your body glides forward above ground. Swing, glide, swing, glide. The only marks you leave in the moondust are the toe-pushes."
(From Jack Skis the Moon)
(Skiing on the Moon [Ulrich Lotzmann])
It's not as far-fetched as it sounds; after all, people do "ski" down the dunes at places like the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado. However, moondust is even more abrasive than sand. Earth-sand grains measure about 250 to 500 microns across, and have rounded edges; moondust is about 100 microns across and has sharp edges. Astronauts will need new materials; Teflon is probably too soft. But, with at least fifteen years to go before anyone returns to the Moon, we've got plenty of time for development.
The Apollo astronauts were not the first to refer to skiing on the moon. That honor appears to go to Robert Heinlein; he refers to it in his 1939 story Requiem:
MacIntyre bent down without a word and picked up the wide skis necessary to negotiate the powdery ash. Charlie followed his example. Then they swung the spare air bottles over their shoulders, and passed out through the lock.
(Read more about moon skis)
You might also enjoy learning about the Lunocycle, a specialized lunar bicycle, from Heinlein's 1952 novel The Rolling Stones. Recent moon stories related to science fiction works include Moon dust substrate for solar panels and lunar dust fountains as predicted by Hal Clement.
Find out more at Apollo Chronicles: Jack Skis the Moon; thanks to Fred Kiesche at The Eternal Golden Braid for the tip on this story.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/17/2006)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...' - Jack Williamson, 1933.
Pent-Up NASA Scientists Simulate Life On Mars
'That gives it complete isolation.' - David H. Keller, 1932.
Dust Movement On The Moon, Saturn's Rings Solved
'...The dust normally on the surface picks up and keeps a charge.' - Hal Clement, 1956.
Axiom - The World's First Private Space Station?
'So Webb Foster had built his space laboratory... It was a great crystal sphere, a thousand feet in diameter.' - Nat Schachner, 1937.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Keith Laumer's Bolo Autonomous Tanks Right On Schedule
'I cannot lie idle under attack.'
When Computers Develop Their Own Language, Will They Talk To Us?
'The curious absent look of a robot talking on the TBR circuits - the Talk Between Robots radio...'
LipNet Reads Lips - Until Disconnected, That Is
'We'd have to cut his higher brain functions... I'm not sure what [HAL} would think about that.'
Eterni.me - To Skype With The Dead
'Nothing... left of Jeserac but a galaxy of electrons frozen in the heart of a crystal.'
Wearable MRI Is Former Occulus/Facebook Exec's New Project
'Your cephalochromoscope... that you always turn on and play when you get home...'
Ford Stratasys Infinte Build 3D Printer
'He proudly indicated his Buick... Almost as good as the original it was printed from...'
The Space Suit As Personal Spaceship
'Darn clever, these suits...'
Dune Fans! Your God Emperor Is Ready
'If one held a sandtrout in the hand, smoothing it over your skin, it formed a living glove.'
Robot Strolls Field, Examines EVERY Plant
'The great machines that did the work ... required but a few dozen men to cultivate an entire county.'
Sweden Outlaws Drones
'An eye that could not only see, but fly, roam, travel at speeds and in directions to suit its operator...'
Wear Your Self-Powered Generator
'It's basically a micro-sandwich...'
TITAN-III Spider Robot Is WAY Too Quick (Video)
'My little friends can find you wherever you go!'
Bill Gates Suggests Tax On Robots
'A worker replaced by a nubot that 'appears or pretends to be human' had to be compensated...'
Handle, New Wheeled Hopping Robot
'the hopper sprang thirty feet into the air...'
Matrix Sentinel Ancestor, The Pipe Inspector Robot From Krakow
Watch out, Keanu!
Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories