Astronaut Props



Makemake, like Pluto, shows a red hue in the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The near-infrared spectrum is marked by the existence of the broad methane absorption bands--and methane has also been observed on Pluto. Spectral analysis of Makemake's surface shows that its methane must be present in the form of large grains that are at least one centimeter in size. In addition to methane, there appears to be large quantities of ethane and tholins as well as smaller quantities of ethylene, acetylene, and high-mass alkanes (like propane)--most likely formed as a result of the photolysis of methane by solar radiation. The tholins are thought to be the source of the red color of the visible spectrum. Even though there is some evidence for the existence of nitrogen ice on Makemake's frozen surface, at least combined with other ices, it is probably not close to the same abundance of nitrogen seen on Pluto and on Triton. Triton is a large moon of the planet Neptune that sports a retrograde orbit indicating that it is a captured object. Many astronomers think that Triton is a wandering refugee from the Kuiper Belt that was captured by the gravity of its large, gaseous planet. It is possible that eventually the doomed Triton will plunge into the immense, deep blue world that it has circled for so long as an adopted member of its family. Nitrogen accounts for more than 98 percent of the crust of both Pluto and Triton. The relative lack of nitrogen ice on Makemake hints that its supply of nitrogen has somehow been depleted over the age of our Solar System. Europa: Planetary scientists generally think that a layer of liquid water swirls around beneath Europa's surface, and that heat from tidal flexing causes the subsurface ocean to remain liquid. It is estimated that the outer crust of solid ice is about 6 to 19 miles thick, including a ductile "warm ice" layer that hints that the liquid ocean underneath may be 60 miles deep. This means that Europa's oceans would amount to slightly more than two times the volume of Earth's oceans. Second, there is the issue of sharing wealth. The Third World wants to redistribute wealth in its favor, and it pursues this end by a combination of moral persuasion and threats of terrorism using weapons of mass destruction. A frontier could make such threats less persuasive. The Third World reaction to a space frontier initiative is unpredictable and possibly violent. This makes pioneering a taboo for Western governments. And that's why they would keep it secret.