Moon and Mars

StarDate: September 19, 2012

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.



According to the old cliché, the three rules of real estate are location, location, location. And if the human race ever settles on other worlds, that rule will apply there as well.

Two examples huddle in the southwest early this evening — the Moon and the planet Mars. Mars looks like an orange star a little to the right of the Moon.

The best locations on the Moon are at the poles, where some craters appear to offer abundant resources. The rims of the craters are in perpetual sunlight, so they’d offer a limitless supply of solar energy. And the bottoms of the craters are in perpetual darkness, so they preserve large amounts of frozen water. The ice could provide not just drinking water, but its hydrogen and oxygen could be separated to make rocket fuel.

On Mars, though, you’d want to stay away from the poles. They do offer huge amounts of frozen water, but in wintertime the water is topped by frozen carbon dioxide. In spring, the CO2 vaporizes, rushing into the atmosphere and stirring up giant dust storms.

Instead, the best places on Mars are close to the equator. They’re easier to reach, and temperatures don’t get as cold. And there’s plenty of ice mixed with the soil across much of the planet, providing a good resource for colonists.

Neither Mars nor the Moon is going to be settled for decades, and perhaps even centuries. Still, if and when people do head there, at least they’ll know where to look for prime real estate.

 

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

The one constant in the Universe: StarDate magazine

FacebookTwitterYouTube

©2014 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory