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What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 11:52 pm UTC
by ruurdjan
Distant Death

A little masterpiece I think.

Is the "Planetary Protection Officer" also accountable for moons, planetoids etc.? Or does she have "Minor Celestial Body Protection Officer" reporting to her?

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 12:39 am UTC
by ilduri
I was kind of hoping he would address the possibility of microbes surviving inside material ejected from impact events. Some of that material could eventually have been ejected from the solar system altogether. If it's possible that microbes can survive for "thousands or even millions of years," than it's remotely possible, however unlikely, that a few earth things have made it all the way to other stars before dying.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 12:44 am UTC
by ruurdjan
ilduri wrote:I was kind of hoping he would address the possibility of microbes surviving inside material ejected from impact events. Some of that material could eventually have been ejected from the solar system altogether. If it's possible that microbes can survive for "thousands or even millions of years," than it's remotely possible, however unlikely, that a few earth things have made it all the way to other stars before dying.

That reminds me of the book by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter "The Long Mars". There are infinitely many parallel earths (that can be reached using a Stepper - powered by a potato; Portal, anyone?). Anyways... the earths all are an outcome of all possible events that could have happened to our earth. In places, there is no earth as it has been destroyed by a cosmic collision. In those universes, it is found that Mars bears life due to microbes having arrived there from the destroyed earth.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 1:23 am UTC
by dtilque
If you read the NASA article at the link that's just below the Planetary Protection Officer image, it says in part

Scott Hubbard, the former "Mars Czar" for NASA Headquarters in Washington.


I submit that Mars Czar is a cooler job title, although not by much. But it's most likely not an official title, unfortunately. In fact, I don't believe anyone actually has the word "Czar" in their actual job title, even if everyone calls them the Drug Czar, Ebola Czar, or whatever Czar.


In the last image, I noticed the word "sproluation" [sic]. Very interesting. Adjacent letters swapped is common, two sets of adjacent letters in a row being swapped is not so common.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 2:19 am UTC
by Pfhorrest
dtilque wrote:In the last image, I noticed the word "sproluation" [sic]. Very interesting. Adjacent letters swapped is common, two sets of adjacent letters in a row being swapped is not so common.

I was wondering about that word! Is is supposed to be "sporulation"?

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:08 am UTC
by rhomboidal
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Like supernova remnants and binary pulsars! Ooooohhh..."

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:09 am UTC
by ruurdjan
dtilque wrote:In the last image, I noticed the word "sproluation" [sic]. Very interesting. Adjacent letters swapped is common, two sets of adjacent letters in a row being swapped is not so common.

This is obviously a reference to the 2012 Hops Scouting Presentation.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:02 am UTC
by Mikeski
dtilque wrote:I submit that Mars Czar is a cooler job title

No way. You know everyone called him "The Mars Bar" behind his back.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:00 am UTC
by dtilque
Pfhorrest wrote:
dtilque wrote:In the last image, I noticed the word "sproluation" [sic]. Very interesting. Adjacent letters swapped is common, two sets of adjacent letters in a row being swapped is not so common.

I was wondering about that word! Is is supposed to be "sporulation"?


Of course it is. The O and R are swapped, followed immediately by the L and U being swapped.

Mikeski wrote:
dtilque wrote:I submit that Mars Czar is a cooler job title

No way. You know everyone called him "The Mars Bar" behind his back.


Perhaps he should change it to Czar of All the Marses.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:31 am UTC
by Neil_Boekend
All hail the Metal Lord and follow his 1 command: "God needs Booze".

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 7:00 am UTC
by rhuagh
The ethical one is that we don't want to accidentally introduce Earth life that disrupts and/or destroys a native ecosystem.


Accidentally being the operative word here, I guess. Because adding humans to a native ecosystem isn't disruptive in the least. ;-)

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 8:28 am UTC
by firehawk
Am I the only one who started jonesing for a "MICROBE, ACTUAL SIZE ->" T-shirt as soon as I read this one?

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 8:32 am UTC
by dtilque
rhuagh wrote:
The ethical one is that we don't want to accidentally introduce Earth life that disrupts and/or destroys a native ecosystem.


Accidentally being the operative word here, I guess. Because adding humans to a native ecosystem isn't disruptive in the least. ;-)


That's why we're not allowed to land on Europa...

Mars has already been contaminated, despite NASA's attempts to avoid it. The USSR had three landers reach Mars back in the 70s and they made no attempt to keep their probes sterile. Two of them had crashlandings, which may have, but probably didn't destroy all the microbes. The other had a successful soft landing, although the radio failed within a few seconds of landing. That didn't inconvenience the bacteria in the least.

There's also all the orbiters that have reached Mars. I imagine most will eventually have their orbit decay and either burn up in the Martian atmosphere or crash into the surface. But even if they burn up, major parts should reach the surface relatively intact, as happens to Earth satellites. Since Mars has a much thinner atmosphere, there should be more of these intact parts than would be the case on Earth. Eventually there'll be Earth microbe spores all over the planet.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 8:54 am UTC
by Klear
Mikeski wrote:
dtilque wrote:I submit that Mars Czar is a cooler job title

No way. You know everyone called him "The Mars Bar" behind his back.


I dunno. I think I'd like to own a bar on Mars, serve space-beer to astronauts and aliens. I might do that once I retire.

What if - title text of the Yet! picture wrote:It's pretty hard to come up with a scenario where you outlive your skin AND gut bacteria, but you can always aspire to die in a manner so abrupt that you all share the record.


You could die on the way towards Earth, though it may be impossible to make sure none of your skin-cells die before you.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:10 pm UTC
by stoppedcaring
I wonder if the Apollo 13 astronauts had any minor gut parasites that expired while they were rounding the dark side of the moon. Would've claimed the title for most distant non-microbial death.

EDIT:

...suffered a depressurization accident while returning from Earth.

Shouldn't it be "while returning TO Earth"?

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:49 pm UTC
by Mikeski
Klear wrote:
Mikeski wrote:
dtilque wrote:I submit that Mars Czar is a cooler job title

No way. You know everyone called him "The Mars Bar" behind his back.

I dunno. I think I'd like to own a bar on Mars, serve space-beer to astronauts and aliens. I might do that once I retire.

That would make you "the Mars Barkeep", not "the Mars bar."

Klear wrote:
What if - title text of the Yet! picture wrote:It's pretty hard to come up with a scenario where you outlive your skin AND gut bacteria, but you can always aspire to die in a manner so abrupt that you all share the record.

You could die on the way towards Earth, though it may be impossible to make sure none of your skin-cells die before you.

I think Randall meant that as "(skin and gut) (bacteria)", not "(skin) and (gut bacteria)". I hope my skin cells count as "me".

So you just need a way to get out past Voyager while alive, and a way to turn both Voyager(s) around so they don't pass you again, if you want to keep the record for a while. I assume finding a way to die on the way back into the solar system is trivial compared to those steps.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:00 pm UTC
by stoppedcaring
What means of death would ensure you survived longer than your skin and gut bacteria?

Decapitation followed immediately by instant incineration of your lower body, followed by slower incineration of your head, so your brain is the last thing destroyed?

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 5:31 pm UTC
by rmsgrey
stoppedcaring wrote:What means of death would ensure you survived longer than your skin and gut bacteria?

Decapitation followed immediately by instant incineration of your lower body, followed by slower incineration of your head, so your brain is the last thing destroyed?


Stringent disinfection? Also there's an interesting question about whether or not one's intestinal flora count as part of one or not...

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:22 pm UTC
by stoppedcaring
rmsgrey wrote:
stoppedcaring wrote:What means of death would ensure you survived longer than your skin and gut bacteria?

Decapitation followed immediately by instant incineration of your lower body, followed by slower incineration of your head, so your brain is the last thing destroyed?


Stringent disinfection? Also there's an interesting question about whether or not one's intestinal flora count as part of one or not...

Even assuming that my intestinal flora is part of me (which I don't think is quite viable because it can survive and flourish apart from me, e.g. in another person's body), you'd still have to deal with bacteria in your mouth and sinuses; I don't think it would be possible to "disinfect" that. Except maybe drowning in bleach?

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Sat Oct 25, 2014 12:16 am UTC
by ilduri
dtilque wrote:That's why we're not allowed to land on Europa...

Really? I thought it was because the monoliths said not to...
Spoiler:
ALL THESE WORLDS
ARE YOURS EXCEPT
EUROPA
ATTEMPT NO
LANDING THERE

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Sun Oct 26, 2014 4:17 pm UTC
by Cloudster
While Planetary Protection Officer is cool, for a decade my wife has dealt with a NORAD officer whose job title was Space Battle Commander.

She's an astronomer at Apache Point Observatory and runs a lunar laser ranging program called APOLLO, bouncing the laser off of the five retroreflectors that are on the lunar surface (stupid Chinese couldn't be bothered to mount a retroreflector on the Jade Rabbit!). Whenever she's going to do a laser run, she has to get a list of blocks from the SBC that prevent the laser from firing during certain time periods, presumably when a sensitive satellite or maybe that long-orbiting unpeopled space plane is moving through the laser window. Twice we've done nigh-continuous laser runs during lunar eclipses, very awesome to watch.

I did a ten minute documentary on APOLLO at my photography page, WayneWestPhotography dot com.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:03 am UTC
by dtilque
stoppedcaring wrote:I wonder if the Apollo 13 astronauts had any minor gut parasites that expired while they were rounding the dark side of the moon. Would've claimed the title for most distant non-microbial death.


Considering all the medical exams and whatnot they had to go through before being launched, I'd be surprised if any of them did.

In order to find the most distant non-microbial death, you'd have to look at all the missions with animals that Randall avoided looking into. I'm not sure any went further out than the ISS, though.



ilduri wrote:
dtilque wrote:That's why we're not allowed to land on Europa...

Really? I thought it was because the monoliths said not to...
Spoiler:
ALL THESE WORLDS
ARE YOURS EXCEPT
EUROPA
ATTEMPT NO
LANDING THERE


There was a reason they didn't want humans on Europa and it's what we were talking about there (disrupting the native ecosystem). Hence my comment.

tldr: whoosh

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 2:29 pm UTC
by cellocgw
firehawk wrote:Am I the only one who started jonesing for a "MICROBE, ACTUAL SIZE ->" T-shirt as soon as I read this one?


Well, I read the title-text for that drawing and got really worried, because as I scrolled the page, the microbe moved with it! If microbes can move that fast, we're all DOOOMED!

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 1:11 am UTC
by gmalivuk
stoppedcaring wrote:I wonder if the Apollo 13 astronauts had any minor gut parasites that expired while they were rounding the dark side of the moon. Would've claimed the title for most distant non-microbial death.
What's special about 13? Humans from all the later Apollo missions went around the far side of the moon. Was it farther away during 13 than the others?

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 7:26 am UTC
by dtilque
gmalivuk wrote:
stoppedcaring wrote:I wonder if the Apollo 13 astronauts had any minor gut parasites that expired while they were rounding the dark side of the moon. Would've claimed the title for most distant non-microbial death.
What's special about 13? Humans from all the later Apollo missions went around the far side of the moon. Was it farther away during 13 than the others?


Apollo 13 went around the moon on a free return path, rather than going into orbit like the rest. I don't know what the difference in distance from the moon would be between the two different trajectories, so it's possible that it went further from the farside of the moon than the others. Probably didn't, though.

However, it's likely that any distance difference for that was minor compared with the difference in distance of the moon from the Earth during the missions. Someone would have to see where the moon was in its orbit for all 8 manned lunar missions and see which was furthest from the Earth. Someone's probably already done this, but I'm not sure what search terms to use in google to find out.

BTW, I just realized tonight that it's almost certain that one or more of the astronauts (and possibly all of them) had eyelash mites during their mission. Some of these would no doubt have died while orbiting around the backside, so that would be the answer for the furthest non-microbial death. Once you find out which was furthest away.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 8:14 am UTC
by tms
stoppedcaring wrote:I wonder if the Apollo 13 astronauts had any minor gut parasites that expired while they were rounding the dark side of the moon. Would've claimed the title for most distant non-microbial death.

Apollo 13 seems to be the farthest. 400 000 km is quite close to the 405 000 km Moon apogee. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-far ... -earth.htm

Distant Death wrote:And each one sets a new record for the most distant Earth thing to die.

As measured from the Sun. :wink:

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:34 pm UTC
by stoppedcaring
gmalivuk wrote:
stoppedcaring wrote:I wonder if the Apollo 13 astronauts had any minor gut parasites that expired while they were rounding the dark side of the moon. Would've claimed the title for most distant non-microbial death.
What's special about 13? Humans from all the later Apollo missions went around the far side of the moon. Was it farther away during 13 than the others?

Yeah, 13's free-return path took it significantly farther above the far side of the moon than orbital missions. That's why Apollo 13 is considered to hold the official altitude record. 400,171 km, a full 254 km above the lunar surface. The "typical" Apollo mission profile had a command module lunar orbit which never went more than 110 km above the far side of the moon, even though it was initially elliptical with an apogee 310 km above the near side of the moon. 144 km might not seem like much, but it's enough.

dtilque wrote:any distance difference for that was minor compared with the difference in distance of the moon from the Earth during the missions. Someone would have to see where the moon was in its orbit for all 8 manned lunar missions and see which was furthest from the Earth.

IIRC, lunar mission launch windows were specifically chosen for when the moon was as close as possible to Earth so as to reduce fuel costs. And by fuel costs, I mean weight cost, not dollar cost. They weren't worried about money.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 9:25 pm UTC
by dtilque
OK, if the Apollo missions were launched near lunar perigee (362,600 km), I'm not sure how Apollo 13 was at 400,000 km. Even allowing for the radius of the Moon (1700 km), the 254 km above the surface, and the fact that the mission was meant to last several days so they probably went around some time before perigee, it still doesn't quite add up for me.

But that may be irrelevant for the question of furthest non-microbe death, since I've found that the Soviets launched a lunar-free-return mission with a variety of animals aboard. This was Zond 5 which had "A biological payload of two Russian tortoises, wine flies, meal worms, plants, seeds, bacteria, and other living matter". Since its closest distance to the Moon was 1950 km, it probably was further from Earth than Apollo 131. So maybe one of those wine flies or meal worms died out there in the lonely depths of space and has this dubious distinction.


1 Not necessarily, since Apollo 13 probably went around the Moon a couple days or so before perigee and (I assume) Zond 5 right at perigee.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 9:54 pm UTC
by stoppedcaring
dtilque wrote:OK, if the Apollo missions were launched near lunar perigee (362,600 km), I'm not sure how Apollo 13 was at 400,000 km. Even allowing for the radius of the Moon (1700 km), the 254 km above the surface, and the fact that the mission was meant to last several days so they probably went around some time before perigee, it still doesn't quite add up for me.

But that may be irrelevant for the question of furthest non-microbe death, since I've found that the Soviets launched a lunar-free-return mission with a variety of animals aboard. This was Zond 5 which had "A biological payload of two Russian tortoises, wine flies, meal worms, plants, seeds, bacteria, and other living matter". Since its closest distance to the Moon was 1950 km, it probably was further from Earth than Apollo 131. So maybe one of those wine flies or meal worms died out there in the lonely depths of space and has this dubious distinction.


1 Not necessarily, since Apollo 13 probably went around the Moon a couple days or so before perigee and (I assume) Zond 5 right at perigee.

Hmm. An Apollo moon landing mission was about 8 days in duration and lunar orbit was maintained for 2.5 days or so. You'd want perigee to hit right at the time you left lunar orbit because that's where you want to use the least amount of fuel (the less fuel you have on your final stage, the less fuel you need at all other stages). Even so, it doesn't seem to add up. Maybe they didn't use perigee at all?

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2014 12:52 pm UTC
by ThirdParty
stoppedcaring wrote:What means of death would ensure you survived longer than your skin and gut bacteria?
Why do you need to? If you want to be sole holder of the record, can't you just die while heading toward the Earth? (Or, better, at the apex of an elliptical trajectory. Set up a computer to fry your brain at the precise millisecond that your spaceship will be furthest from Earth.) Your bacteria will outlive you and so die closer.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2014 3:06 pm UTC
by stoppedcaring
ThirdParty wrote:
stoppedcaring wrote:What means of death would ensure you survived longer than your skin and gut bacteria?
Why do you need to? If you want to be sole holder of the record, can't you just die while heading toward the Earth? (Or, better, at the apex of an elliptical trajectory. Set up a computer to fry your brain at the precise millisecond that your spaceship will be furthest from Earth.) Your bacteria will outlive you and so die closer.

Well, there are 100 trillion bacteria in your gut. Bacteria are, in some sense, immortal...but they divide every 10-20 minutes, so if that is considered their "lifespan" then if it takes you more than one billionth of a second to die, at least several thousand bacteria will "die" simultaneously with you.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:42 pm UTC
by Klear
stoppedcaring wrote:
ThirdParty wrote:
stoppedcaring wrote:What means of death would ensure you survived longer than your skin and gut bacteria?
Why do you need to? If you want to be sole holder of the record, can't you just die while heading toward the Earth? (Or, better, at the apex of an elliptical trajectory. Set up a computer to fry your brain at the precise millisecond that your spaceship will be furthest from Earth.) Your bacteria will outlive you and so die closer.

Well, there are 100 trillion bacteria in your gut. Bacteria are, in some sense, immortal...but they divide every 10-20 minutes, so if that is considered their "lifespan" then if it takes you more than one billionth of a second to die, at least several thousand bacteria will "die" simultaneously with you.


I guess you need to cut your head off and vaporize your body instantly a tiny bit before you reach that farthest point after all...

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Thu Oct 30, 2014 1:47 am UTC
by dtilque
stoppedcaring wrote:Hmm. An Apollo moon landing mission was about 8 days in duration and lunar orbit was maintained for 2.5 days or so. You'd want perigee to hit right at the time you left lunar orbit because that's where you want to use the least amount of fuel (the less fuel you have on your final stage, the less fuel you need at all other stages). Even so, it doesn't seem to add up. Maybe they didn't use perigee at all?


Now that I think about it, the time of the lunar day they landed was the most important timing parameter. They wanted to land in the early morning after the sun rose but before the temperature got too high. So perigee was probably not a significant factor. At least for the landing missions; it may have been the main factor for the two orbit-only missions.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Thu Oct 30, 2014 3:49 am UTC
by ilduri
dtilque wrote:
ilduri wrote:
dtilque wrote:That's why we're not allowed to land on Europa...

Really? I thought it was because the monoliths said not to...
Spoiler:
ALL THESE WORLDS
ARE YOURS EXCEPT
EUROPA
ATTEMPT NO
LANDING THERE


There was a reason they didn't want humans on Europa and it's what we were talking about there (disrupting the native ecosystem). Hence my comment.

tldr: whoosh

Ah. Gotcha :)

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Thu Oct 30, 2014 2:08 pm UTC
by stoppedcaring
dtilque wrote:
stoppedcaring wrote:Hmm. An Apollo moon landing mission was about 8 days in duration and lunar orbit was maintained for 2.5 days or so. You'd want perigee to hit right at the time you left lunar orbit because that's where you want to use the least amount of fuel (the less fuel you have on your final stage, the less fuel you need at all other stages). Even so, it doesn't seem to add up. Maybe they didn't use perigee at all?


Now that I think about it, the time of the lunar day they landed was the most important timing parameter. They wanted to land in the early morning after the sun rose but before the temperature got too high. So perigee was probably not a significant factor. At least for the landing missions; it may have been the main factor for the two orbit-only missions.

But even that doesn't seem like a terribly major consideration...can't you just land anywhere that it's early morning? I mean, it's early morning SOMEWHERE on the moon all the time. The window of time in which an early-morning location can contact Earth has got to be large. Or had they limited themselves to only a couple of landing sites?

There's more discussion of this here, though it devolves into mudslinging over Galileo comparisons before too long.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Thu Oct 30, 2014 2:44 pm UTC
by gmalivuk
Pretty sure they had picked the place they wanted to land.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Thu Oct 30, 2014 2:44 pm UTC
by ubikuberalles
ruurdjan wrote:Is the "Planetary Protection Officer" also accountable for moons, planetoids etc.? Or does she have "Minor Celestial Body Protection Officer" reporting to her?


No doubt this "Minor Celestial Body Protection Officer" spends most of her time orbiting around her boss, the "Planetary Protection Officer". ;)

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Fri Oct 31, 2014 1:16 pm UTC
by mathmannix
gmalivuk wrote:Pretty sure they had picked the place they wanted to land.


Wikipedia wrote:The Apollo 13 mission was to explore the Fra Mauro formation, or Fra Mauro highlands, named after the 80-kilometer-diameter Fra Mauro crater located within it. It is a widespread, hilly selenological area thought to be composed of ejecta from the impact that formed Mare Imbrium.

The next Apollo mission, Apollo 14, eventually made a successful flight to Fra Mauro.

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Thu Jan 01, 2015 3:06 pm UTC
by OP Tipping
Can inactive bacterial spores be said to be "alive"? If not, is their destruction "death"?

Re: What-If 0117: "Distant Death"

Posted: Sat Aug 05, 2017 5:15 am UTC
by dtilque
Looks like the Planetary Protection Officer position is open. Now don't everyone jump up and apply; please note you will have severe competition.

Personally, I'm going to wait for the Mars Czar position to open up. My first act, of course, will be to change the position's name. I think I'll go with High Jeddak of Barsoom....