Monday, January 22, 2007

Death of Luna: Alarmist or Silly? You Decide..

I was checking out today, when I was startled to read the forboding headline "Earth's Moon Destined to Disintegrate". Naturally, as a long-time moon colonization advocate, I was mortified until I started reading the article. The basic jist of it was that when the sun becomes a red giant, the Moon and Earth will actually be orbiting within a part of the solar atmosphere. As a consequence of (solar) atmospheric drag, the Moon's orbit will drop torwards the Earth until it reaches an orbital radius of about 18,000 kilometers, whereupon it will break up due to tidal stresses, forming a pretty dust ring, before plunging back onto the surface of the Earth from whence it came.

This would be a really huge problem for lunar colonizers, except for a few points:

1) This catastrophe isn't likely to happen for several billion years.

2) It's not likely that anything on Earth would likely care, since it would pretty much look like this... other words, a burnt out cinder of a planet: devoid of oceans, atmosphere, and any vestiges of living organisms. Complete toast. And I'm not entirely sure the rest of the solar system will be much better off.

If there is a lesson here, it is this: Everything is temporary. That we exist at all is due to a four billion year long respite in our little corner of the cosmos. And if we, and by we I mean life in our solar system, are to persist beyond being a vaguely interesting organic chemistry experiment, we are going to have to learn to travel and persist beyond our solar system.