Water on the Moon — Part 3

If you go back to one of the earliest posts found on this website, you can read about the importance of water to the Apollo Moon missions. The story below relates to a device that was developed for the Apollo backpack, but never included in the final versions.

Just as a quick reminder, you may remember that water was boiled off into the vacuum of space by the Sublimator in the Apollo backpack. Since the water quantity left in the backpack reservoir was then a crucial issue, we thought that adding a water quantity sensor would be a good idea. That way an astronaut using the backpack could tell how much time he had left before he had to return to the Lunar Module from walking on the Moon’s surface. So, one of our designers designed one, and it was built and tested. It worked as planned, but…

When tested, it always overestimated the amount of water used by quite a bit. That came as a surprise, a very disappointing surprise, and one that took a while to figure out. And then one day it dawned on one of our engineers just why it happened. Unfortunately, it made perfect sense, and there was nothing we could do about it.

If you remember, there was nitrogen dissolved in the water held in the Reservoir of the backpack. And, as the water was released for use in the Sublimater, the pressure of the water dropped dramatically as this happened, and the nitrogen would come out of solution and form bubbles in the water, much like the formation of bubbles when you open a soda. Well, that now happened inside the newly designed Water Quantity Sensor. The Water Quantity Sensor then counted the volume of bubbles as it did the volume of water that passed through it. As a result, the sensor was always wrong on the high side. Given that sort of reading, an astronaut on the Moon’s surface would always stop his moon walk quite early. That wasn’t acceptable, so the wonderful little mechanical Water Quantity Sensor was never used in the final design of the backpack. The astronauts then had to limit their walks by timing them.

Another great idea down the drain, if you’ll excuse the pun!


As a kid, I lived on Long Island, NY. I’ve actually spent two thirds of my life living on islands and still do. However, when you look at Long Island you realize it is sizable, 110 miles long and about 30 miles from south to north at roughly the middle. It’s hard to think of it as an island when you live there.

On Long Island there are two counties that are a part of New York City, Queens and Brooklyn. I was born in a hospital in Queens in 1940. A couple of days later I went with my new parents back to our home in Hicksville, a village in the town of Oyster Bay, which is in Nassau County, outside of NYC.

Given all that geometry, I should mention that there was a Major League baseball team in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Dodgers. One would think that as a boy I would root for the Dodgers, but my parents were from southern New Jersey, and although they did not follow baseball, my Uncle Arthur did. He was a Philadelphia Phillies fan…and so was I.

Our TV was black and white in those days. I never saw a game in color on TV. And then my Uncle took me to Connie Mack stadium in Philadelphia to a night game between the Phillies and the Dodgers. I was probably around ten at the time.

I cannot tell you who won, but it was the time of the Whiz Kids, and Philly could certainly have won. What I can tell you is that I will always remember the colors of the uniforms and the color of the grass. Both were a sight to be seen for a boy who had watched games only in black and white. I was a little disappointed to see that the uniforms of the Dodgers stood out in the bright lights of the night game much more so than the uniforms of my team.

And there was one other thing I saw. It was simply amazing. A Dodger swung, and the ball climbed like a rocket, easily lifting itself over the very high double decker left field stands and out of sight into the streets of Philadelphia.

The man who did it was named Jackie Robinson! I can still see it happening.

The Problem With Little Green Men

So here is my problem with little green men, not the fictional ones, the real ones:
  1. Regardless of your perceptions of probability, there is no evidence of life elsewhere in the universe.  That bothers many people.  They WANT there to be life elsewhere.  Recordings of data have a way of being distorted to meet the WANTS of the data takers and interpreters.  Wait for the truth.  Don’t devalue it with WANTS.
  2. War is almost a law of Nature in itself.  I do hate to say it, but the will to survive leads to competition to survive, which leads to wars.  If there indeed is life elsewhere, it will be as warlike as we are on this planet.  There is no reason or evidence to support any other theory.  We are the only DATA, and we are pretty convincing.  It may not be what we WANT, but DATA is FACT.  Oh, did I mention that war is expensive?
  3. Space travel is expensive.  For that FACT, we have overwhelming DATA.  To think that it is different on some other planet falls into the WANT category.  Our DATA predicts that their economics are similar to ours.  We have no other DATA.  One should expect that they have debt crises, just like ours.  They have other priorities, just like we do.  Even if the technical challenges were easy, they can’t afford to get here anymore than we can afford to get there.  Show me a real wormhole that can bypass the economic reality we live in, and I will reconsider the issue.  Just keep in mind that its life cycle costs have to be low, very low.  It must cost only a very small percentage of the GNP, not the whole thing.  I will not vote for anything that bankrupts planet Earth just so two guys and a woman can travel beyond the speed of light, only to be eaten by the little green men when they get there!
So, keep on with the fictional little green men.  They’re the only ones who don’t require reality.  Nature and your wallet do!