Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mysterious Saturn

courtesy NASA

Ralph Buttigieg

Sydney NSW


Saturn never ceases to amaze, it has the famous rings, a moon with methane lakes and another satellite with water geysers. The latest astounding discovery is a hexagon feature at its north pole. From NASA.

Pasadena, Calif. -- An odd, six-sided, honeycomb-shaped feature circling the entire north pole of Saturn has captured the interest of scientists with NASA's Cassini mission.

NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft imaged the feature over two decades ago. The fact that it has appeared in Cassini images indicates that it is a long-lived feature. A second hexagon, significantly darker than the brighter historical feature, is also visible in the Cassini pictures. The spacecraft's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer is the first instrument to capture the entire hexagon feature in one image.

"This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six nearly equally straight sides," said Kevin Baines, atmospheric expert and member of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We've never seen anything like this on any other planet. Indeed, Saturn's thick atmosphere where circularly-shaped waves and convective cells dominate is perhaps the last place you'd expect to see such a six-sided geometric figure, yet there it is."

The hexagon is similar to Earth's polar vortex, which has winds blowing in a circular pattern around the polar region. On Saturn, the vortex has a hexagonal rather than circular shape. The hexagon is nearly 25,000 kilometers (15,000 miles) across. Nearly four Earths could fit inside it.

The new images taken in thermal-infrared light show the hexagon extends much deeper down into the atmosphere than previously expected, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) below the cloud tops. A system of clouds lies within the hexagon. The clouds appear to be whipping around the hexagon like cars on a racetrack.

"It's amazing to see such striking differences on opposite ends of Saturn's poles," said Bob Brown, team leader of the Cassini visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, University of Arizona, Tucson. "At the south pole we have what appears to be a hurricane with a giant eye, and at the north pole of Saturn we have this geometric feature, which is completely different.".......

No one has much of an idea of whats causing the feature and the sensible thing to do is to wait for more information. However I doubt we will have to wait long before independent thinkers like Richard Hoagland come up with an explanation, probably involving Hyperdimensional Physics. I'm not sure what hyperdimensional physics is but it sounds good. The alien conspiracy types are just going to love this.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Polaris B Is A Winner!

The Atlantica Expeditions located the probable site for the placement of the Leviathan Habitat and the 80 day world record mission to begin in 2009. On a survey mission Saturday, the team discovered the location on a bathymetric survey of possible underwater habitat placement locations.

The site appears to be absolutely ideal for many key siting reasons and I see no reason why this will not be the ultimate place the Leviathan is located. We do have to make underwater surveys, of course, before we commit Polaris B as a final decision. But all indications point to a successful solution to where Leviathan will be situated. Polaris B was the name given to the survey site among four possible candidates sites.

It was an incredibly exciting day. We had mapped out these locations using satellite imagery, then Google earth to pinpoint the latitude and longitude boundaries and GPS to guide us right in. It was textbook 21st century technology at work. Then, when we actually arrived, we saw a dolphin playing in the basin and it was the perfect omen for an awesome day and the perfect spot!

The bottom soundings looked very interesting. In the next few months before we commit the site for development, we are going to have some fascinating exploring to do and in actually pinning down the final footprint for Leviathan. I must say, we all breathed a big sigh of relief as we saw this beautiful, near perfect location for the Atlantica I mission.

Friday, March 23, 2007

World's Longest Underground River Discovered

Robbie Schmittner
Ralph Buttigieg
Sydney NSW

I previously mentioned explorer Bill Stone and his recent robotic explorations of Mexican cave systems. Well, it looks like those old fashioned carbon based entities can still make important discoveries. Two cave divers, Stephen Bogaerts, and Robbie Schmittner have recently found the world's longest underground river system.

From National Geographic

Divers exploring a maze of underwater caves on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula have identified what may be the longest underground river in the world.

The waterway twists and turns for 95 miles (153 kilometers) through the region's limestone caverns, said British diver Stephen Bogaerts, who made the discovery with German colleague Robbie Schmittner.

In a straight line, the system would span about six miles (ten kilometers) of land.

Bogaerts and Schmittner spent four years exploring using underwater scooters and specially rigged gas cylinders to find a connection between the Yucatán region's second and third longest cave systems, known respectively as Sac Actun and Nohoch Nah Chich (Mexico map).

"We expected to have done it by December 2004," Bogaerts said. "But, unfortunately, we were unable to make the connection in the area we were looking in, so we had to look somewhere else."

The team scoured the passages, marking each new twist and turn with carefully labeled rope.

On January 23 the pair headed toward the final connection from opposite sides and used an unopened bottle of champagne to make the final tie-off between the two systems.

"It's a little bit like planting a flag on the moon or the top of [Mt.] Everest," Bogaerts said.

The pair celebrated with a second bottle of champagne on the surface. .......

Read the whole thing. More here, and here.

On a related note, the newspapers have been carrying reports of a huge underground “ocean” . Sorry. Some slightly moist rocks do not make an ocean. However, can organisms make use of such water? Could the biosphere extend down as far as Earth's mantle?

Monday, March 19, 2007

POLARIS B Survey Mission Scrubbed

The Atlantica Expeditions mission to survey a potential underwater site for the placement of the Leviathan Habitat for the world record 80 day mission was scrubbed on Saturday to weather concerns. This second mission was to survey a potential site called POLARIS B. The water was choppy and the air temperature uncomfortably cool as the season’s last cold front blew through the area on Friday. The mission has been rescheduled for Saturday, March 25th.

The first survey mission to the POLARIS A was conducted successfully last week. The Atlantica Expeditions will not post results until all sites have been evaluated both with soundings and dive teams have visited the potential habitat locations.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Martian Ice Prophesy - Abyss of Elysium

In February 2005, European Spacecraft Mars Express reported discovering a “sea of ice” lying beneath the desert sands of the Martian Elysium Desert. But more than a year earlier, I had already announced that discovery!

It was fictional, of course, not having my own orbiting spacecraft around the Red Planet. In my book, Mars Wars – Abyss of Elysium, I ended the tale with the discovery of this vast, frozen underground water supply lying beneath the deserts of Elysium. This discovery was what saved the day in the end. And that’s not to mention Aaron Seven flying in just at the last second with a nuclear reactor in tow... but THAT is the parallel story that is still in writing called ABYSS OF SPACE – stay tuned, dear readers…

Such fictional-turned-fact discoveries are not unheard of in fiction. But pinpointing in fiction the exact find of a resource in the exact place it is discovered – well, that is more rare. Indeed, water on Mars is more important and more valuable than had they discovered gold. Why? Because water on Mars means life. And life means human colonies. Now there is likely to be a human colony on Mars, placed at just about the same place as was BC1! That's not bad storytelling - even if I do say so myself!

Lucky guess? You tell me!

Shown above is the orbital photo of the Elysium Desert and underlaid water ice fields.

Here’s the link to the book and its video trailer.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Godson's Underwater Mission Begins!

Lloyd Godson’s underwater mission began yesterday in Australia with the submergence of his habitat. He is now in the shakedown and system's testing phase before his actual public mission starts in a week or so. Shown above is there photo of the habitat being lowered into the water with a crane.

Here is an email I received from him this morning:

G'day Dennis,

I am one big step closer! The habitat is underwater and awaiting its occupant! The sinking was very successful, no leaks thus far and the only thing we need to correct is the slope from one side to the other. We will do that next week early. I sat inside and had a chat to myself and it felt VERY good!!! Thanks for all of your help up until now and I will keep you posted on how it progresses.

Cheers Dennis,


Lloyd’s Project is funded by the Australian Geographic Society. You can follow his progress during the mission by clicking here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The First Atlantica Expeditions Mission

The Atlantica Undersea Colony Expeditions accomplished its first mission on Saturday with a bathymetric survey of a potential site for the world record breaking underwater mission scheduled in April 2009. Shown here is a satellite view of the potential site surveyed by the Atlantica Team. According to Expeditions Leader Dennis Chamberland, no definite conclusions have been made about the site dubbed POLARIS A, that this first expedition was as much a team and equipment shakedown cruise as anything else.

Next week, weather permitting, the team will move to another potential site called POLARIS B. “At least four or five more in-depth surveys have to be accomplished before we can draw any definite conclusions about the suitability of either site. However, it was more than exciting to finally get at least a small Atlantica Expeditions team wet and underway!”

Show here is team member Eric M. Chamberland, a certified Aquanaut and teammember, during the survey mission.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Godson's Mission About Ready

Australian marine scientist and explorer, Lloyd Godson has completed his underwater habitat he calls Biosub and is ready to begin his expedition in just a few weeks hence. Shown here is the photo of Godson’s Biosub habitat just after painting. The mission is described in greater detail here.

The BioSUB project is the winner of the Australian Geographic “Live your dream” Wildest Adventure Competition. Marine scientist and diver, Lloyd Godson, will live his dream of surviving in the world’s first self-sustaining underwater habitat for up to two weeks. Lloyd aims to demonstrate a number of scientific principles involved in providing a self-sustained underwater habitat. It will require the same specially designed regenerative or recycling technology needed for any long term manned mission to Mars.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Islands in the Methane Stream

It is one of the most incredible images yet seen in the solar system. From the largest "moon" - in the solar system - Titan - (actually a planet in its own right that just happens to be orbiting Saturn) – the Cassini spacecraft has sent back photos of an expansive lake of liquid methane and in its middle, a huge island the size of Hawaii’s big island, completely surrounded by the liquid hydrocarbon. The scene is far colder than any temperature the earth has ever experienced – hovering at or below -289 degrees Fahrenheit. (Compare that to the lowest temperature ever recorded on earth – Vostok Station in Antarctica logged -129 Degrees F. on July 21st, 1983.) Here is NASA’s press release:

“The island (shown) is about 90 kilometers (62 miles) by 150 kilometers (93 miles) across, about the size of Kodiak Island in Alaska or the Big Island of Hawaii. The island may actually be a peninsula connected by a bridge to a larger stretch of land. As you go farther down the image, several very small lakes begin to appear, which may be controlled by local topography.

"We've always believed Titan's methane had to be maintained by liquid lakes or extensive underground 'methanofers,' the methane equivalent of aquifers. We can't see methanofers but we can now say we've seen lakes," said Jonathan Lunine, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Since lakes come and go with the seasons, they wax and wane over time. Winds might alter the roughness of their surfaces. Repeat coverage of these areas is expected to provide more information on these lakes. By passing over a lake in a different direction, Cassini may see the effect of prevailing winds in the changing brightness of the lake surface. On later passes toward the end of its prime mission, Cassini might see changes in the shape or size of lakes as winter yields to spring in the northern hemisphere.