Happy Anniversary Yuri & Columbia

Today is the 50th anniversary of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, and marks the 30th anniversary of the first flight of the Space Shuttle, STS-1.

It is remarkable that only 20 years separated the two events, and that so little has changed in the most recent 30 years. In that short initial span of time, space technology advanced at an incredible pace.

Yuri Garagin flew one orbit of the earth on April 12, 1961 (Vostok-1). So little was known about space at the time that the controls of his capsule were locked to prevent him from operating them – it was thought that zero-G would induce madness.

About three weeks later, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, although with a sub-orbital, 486 km flight (Mercury-Redstone 3 aka Freedom 7). Less than three weeks later, US President John F. Kennedy publicly set the goal to putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade. It was an incredible challenge. The US had less than 16 minutes of manned space flight experience at the time of the speech.

Mercury 12B (boilerplate spacecraft)
Mercury 12B (boilerplate spacecraft)

The American manned space programs moved at a breakneck pace. The Mercury program completed 2 years later. There was a 2-year gap before the first Gemini flights, which saw the first American two-man crews, the first American space walk, the first spacecraft rendezvous and docking, and much longer flights (Gemini VII was 13 days, 18 hours). The Gemini program wrapped up at the end of 1966, making way for the Apollo program.

The first manned Apollo flight, Apollo 7, was 2 years after the end of the Gemini program. Part of the reason for the gap was the deadly cabin fire on Apollo 1 in January 1967, which was being tested for a possible first flight in February. The fire and investigation, combined with program challenges for the Apollo CSM and LM landers, led to the delay. Boldly, the Apollo 8 mission actually reached moon orbit – a daring objective for only the second manned flight of the program.

With the goal of a manned landing on and returning from the moon accomplished on July 16, 1969, winning the moon-landing race against the Soviets, the funding for Apollo was drawn down. It was only 8 years and 3 months from Gagarin’s flight to the touchdown of Apollo 11 in the Sea of Tranquility on the moon.

Apollo 14 Command Module
Apollo 14 Command Module

The final flight to the moon was Apollo 17 at the end of 1972. Some of the Apollo equipment was used for the Skylab space station, manned for 171 days in 1973 and 1974, followed by the mid-decade Apollo-Soyuz flight. From that point, there were no manned American space flights until STS-1 on April 12, 1981.

The early designs of the Space Shuttle systems date back even before the moon landing. President Nixon approved the program in 1971. It took 10 years to build and test the first two Shuttles – Enterprise, which was only used for approach and landing tests from a converted Boeing 747, and Columbia which was a fully functional orbiter. It looks less time to move from the first manned suborbital space flight to landing on the moon.

STS-132 Atlantis
STS-132 Atlantis

Since the start of the Shuttle era, I feel the US manned space program has stagnated. For 30 years, the US has entirely depended on the shuttle for all manned flights. Again, that’s three times longer than it took to go from Yuri’s flight to landing on the moon. I feel that the US should have been spending more on trying out new technologies.

While I am fully supportive of the International Space Station, and feel that it should be the springboard for any future above-low-orbit manned missions, it hasn’t really pushed forward the manned program. It has provided a workspace for research of course, but it’s not about manned flight really. It’s about a zero-G research facility. It’s also not the first space station – it’s been done before.

Without producing any new vehicles for the past 30 years, it would be like the aviation industry stopping creating new planes with the Boeing 707, or if computer science stopped once IBM created the System/360.

In the future, I would like to see the US exploring new ways and new vehicles for its manned program. Allowing private space companies to provide services is an interesting direction but I am concerned that NASA would be without any space program, should these private companies (who are doing it for a profit) either fail or decide that it is not financially viable for them to continue. Then what will NASA do? It seems directionless at the moment.

I have some strong opinions and I’m working on an essay about the future of NASA.

Fukushima and Chernobyl

It is somewhat ironic that the second worst nuclear disaster might have turned out differently had the worst disaster not been associated with a test at Chernobyl that might have prevented the escalation of the problems at Fukushima Dai-ichi.

The disaster at Fukushima was due to a failure of the cooling systems. The root cause was the loss of power to drive the pumps. When the earthquake hit, the reactors were SCRAMed immediately. This terminated the on-going critical reaction. All that was left to do was to cool the reactor from the residual or decay heat is dissipated (typically a few months).

Normally at that point the plant would have been switched over to the electrical grid becoming a consumer of power instead of a producer. However, the earthquake damaged the grid in that area. And even had the grid escaped unscathed, many other power plants had shut down after the earthquake, and it is not likely that there was enough power available.

Satellite view of Fukushima I
Satellite view of Fukushima I

The next level of safety equipment were the back-up diesel generators. The generators kicked in almost immediately at Fukushima. However, due to design flaws, the generators were not protected against the tsunami. The seawall was only 5.7 metres tall, which was easily topped by the 15 metre tsunami. The generators were located in the non-water-tight turbine room instead of inside the watertight reactor building. The Fukushima II plant had the reverse layout and it better survived the tsunami.

The final line of safety was to go to batteries to power the cooling equipment. The batteries ran out after about 8 hours.

This is when the cooling stopped and the nuclear crisis really began.

The disaster at Chernobyl was caused by a bad reactor design and a badly created test plan.

It was well known that the loss of power can cause problems for reactor cooling after the plant is no longer generating power. The Chernobyl Reactor 4 was being shutdown for normal maintenance that night, nearly 25 years ago. A test was planned to see if there was enough steam left after a shutdown and from the residual heat, to power the turbines and generators to provide power for the cooling systems during the time from emergency shutdown until the diesel generators are up to full power. This can take a minute or two.

The test was to be run during the day shift; they had been trained on the procedure. However, an unexpected shutdown at another plant meant that the power from Reactor 4 was still required for the city of Kiev, so the test was postponed until later in the evening. This meant that the test would happen with the next shift, who were not trained on the procedure.

Around 1AM, the power levels were reduced at the plant to prepare for the test. However, due to the design of the old reactor, power levels fell too far to start the test, so the control rods preventing the reaction were withdrawn. Poisoning of the reaction by accumulated xenon-135 meant that the decision was made to remove more control rods to increase the reaction back to the level required for the test.

This, and changes to the flow rates of the cooling pumps, caused more water in the core to turn to steam. This had the detrimental effect of increasing the reaction (positive void coefficient of reactivity). This is because water is denser and can absorb neutrons, but steam is much less dense (and less mass per volume) and thus the neutrons are free to continue the nuclear reaction. More reactions means more heat. This caused more steam, which meant more reactivity. The reactor was nearly out of control at this point.

The final step occurred at 1:23AM. For reasons not fully explained, the reactor was manually SCRAMed. It might have been an accident, or it might have been to attempt to control the reactor; many alarms had been sounding in the control room during the test.

This is where the final, fatal design flaw sealed the fate of Reactor 4. The first 4.5 meters of the control rods used in the RBMK reactor were not made of neutron absorbing materials such as boron, but rather graphite which does not absorb neutrons. As the rods were lowered, the graphite tip displaced even more water, which greatly increased the reaction. The power levels quickly rose to over 30 gigawatts, over 10 times the normal operating maximum. This massive spike in power flashed the remaining water into steam in a runaway reaction.

Chernobyl Disaster
Chernobyl Disaster

This caused the steam explosion that destroyed the reactor and the building. It blew the 2,000-ton upper plate off the reactor and utterly destroyed the reactor building.

And here is the irony. Had the test been successful (combined with correcting the design flaws at Fukushima I), it might have provided a method to temporarily power the cooling systems at Fukushima. It seems inconceivable, but it is possible that the best solution at Fukushima might have been to let the reactor continue to operate, in order to power its own pumps.

This of course would not have been the safest course of action, based on the lack of hard data at the reactor in the hours after the earthquake. While continuing the reaction to power the cooling at Fukushima would seem like a good thing, it also meant that a large aftershock could further damage an active nuclear plant. Shutting down and stopping electrical generation was the safer option, based on the vast number of unknowns in the hours after the earthquake.

Moving to Blu-Ray

I decided that it is time to move to Blu-Ray.

My current (old) TV and receiver do not support high definition. However, my Dell U2410 LCD monitor does support 1080p high definition so I choose to get a Blu-Ray drive for my home PC.

I choose the LG BH12LS35 12X Blu-Ray Burner. It will compliment my existing Samsung SH-S203B DVD-RW burner. The Blu-Ray burner is on order and should arrive in a few business days from RB Computing.

I also chose to upgrade my video card. My current card, a Sapphire Radeon HD3870, was fine for my current usage, but it did not have HDMI out. It did support a DVI to HDMI converter, but I thought it doesn’t hurt to move to a newer card anyways. My HD3870 was 3 years old.

I selected the Sapphire Radeon HD6950 2GB GDDR4 as the replacement. It is the mid-range of the new AMD HD 6900 series.

I benchmarked my HD3870 before I removed it, using the Unigine benchmark tool.

Antec P182SE (Mirror edition)
Antec P182SE (Mirror edition)

Next, it was time to open the case. I have the wonderful Antec P182SE with a mirror-finish. It looks great, and it is so nice to work with. It has screwless access to almost everything, separate removable drive cages, cable organizers and even an interior light when working inside the case.

I had to remove my Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty Pro to get access to the plastic PCIe lock on the motherboard. I pulled out the old card and went to put in the new card. Wow! The HD6950 is huge. I had to remove two hard drive rails from the middle drive cage to make room for the card. I connected up the two 6-pin power leads, reinserted the sound card and booted it up.

After checking that I had the latest drivers from AMD, I ran the Unigine benchmark again. My scores doubled compared to the older card. Very impressive.

I can’t wait for the drive to arrive. I’ve already bought my first Blu-Ray: IMAX: Hubble.

The continuing efforts at Fukushima

As with everyone outside of the Middle East (where people are dealing with the continuation of the Libyan civil war and the invasion of Bahrain by foreign troops), I’ve been watching the events at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant.

Earthquake and Tsunami damage-Dai Ichi Power Plant, Japan
Earthquake and Tsunami damage-Dai Ichi Power Plant, Japan

Firstly, the on-going heroic effort to contain or reduce the damage at the plant is incredible. Unlike Chernobyl, where the disaster was complete in just seconds (a massive explosion) and the rest of the effort was to contain the damage already inflicted, the cascading disaster at Fukushima is about trying to stop further damage. In my mind, it is more like Apollo 13, where one issue was resolved just in time for a new issue to arise. At Fukushima, the loss of power, then the loss of backup power led to overheating, which required steam releases, which caused hydrogen explosions, which damaged the other cooling apparatus for other parts of the plant, which was impacted by an oil fire, and so forth. The three reactors that were operating at the time of the earthquake are possibly damaged, but to what extent no one seems to know for certain. Now the cooling pools that I mentioned yesterday are overheating. In one report, the pool has boiled dry, a very bad situation.

There is so much conflicting information about what is really happening there. In that respect, I have to say it is eerily similar to the lack of good information during the early days of the Chernobyl disaster. Timely information about Chernobyl was not freely available as that event happened near the end of the cold war and the communist control of the country did not allow a free press.

Secondly, I am surprised at how many people have offered their own definitive opinion on the issue, which is often formed without little hard data.

MIT professor Dr Josef Oehmen posted a blog message entitled “Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors” (which has since been modified). He made the claim that “there was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity from the damaged Japanese reactors.” It was a stunning act of hubris considering the lack of reliable, available information. It turns out that he is not a nuclear specialist, but rather a risk management specialist. In my opinion, no one can predict what new fault will occur. Predicting that nothing more will happen when there is not enough information at present seems like a poor risk assessment technique to me.

Others in the US and Europe have also chimed in on their opinions. France’s ASN nuclear safety authority said that the incident should be classified as Level 6 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). Some have speculated that the situation is both worse and better than is being reported. It seems few are being honest that they do not have enough information.

Lewis Page at The Register posted today that “Still No Cause for Alarm” where he claimed that “there remain no grounds for anyone to fear for their health.” The New Scientist published, “Why Fukushima Daiichi won’t be another Chernobyl” while Scientific American published “Fukushima Will Be [a] Wasteland” which has the statement “This is going to be like Chernobyl.”

On CBC Radio this morning, during the 9:00am hourly news, the newsreader claimed that 5 workers at Fukushima had died, at least one of them from radiation. I believe that was a mistake by CBC or the reader.

In Japan, reports over the past few days indicate that radiation levels are up to 400 or 800 times higher than the legal limit, depending on the day and source of the report. Helicopters were being used to dump water on the plant, but had to stop because the radiation levels were too high. Some airline passengers arriving from Japan have been found with low levels of radiation.

According to Salon.com: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko is saying the cooling pool is completely dry, without giving any details on how he came to this conclusion. Tokyo Electric Power, which owns and runs the plant, is saying it is not empty. The difference in opinions is itself newsworthy.

There is unexplained white smoke coming from one of the reactor buildings. There was an explained “loud noise” at the plant. How can anyone truly feel they can predict that everything will be fine (Dr Oehman, Lewis Page) if all the current facts are not even available?

I just don’t understand how there can be so many opinions when there are just not enough facts.

Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant – continued

Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant
Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant

I continue to follow the events at the nuclear power plants hit by the 2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami.

I had one of those d’oh moments. Whereas yesterday I was confused by the continuing issue with cooling a subcritical reactor, today I realized I should have known this all along. D’oh.

The heat currently being generated in the subcritical reactors is from decay heat. It’s not from the primary nuclear reaction that is used to generate heat and power. But rather it is because of the products of the nuclear power generation.

The fission of the uranium (and in some cases plutonium) is the process of the large unstable atomic nucleus splitting into two lighter nuclei and releasing neutrons (which then can continue the reaction by causing other uranium nuclei to split) and energy (following the famous E=mc^2 mass-energy equivalence equation).

The smaller nuclei produced by fission are often also radioactive. Meaning they also decay by fission over time. The description of how frequently the smaller fission products themselves decay is measured by the half-life of the isotope. The description of the chain of radioactive decays is called the decay chain. For nuclear fuel, this decay chain ends with the stable lead nucleus.

The heat being generated in the subcritical core is simply the natural process of the fission products decaying down to a stable nuclei. This natural fission also produces heat. Over time, the heat produced will decrease, at a rate defined by the half-lives of all of the products and sub-products.

Carso Fuel pool
Carso Fuel pool

The d’oh moment was when I realized that that is why the used fuel rods are always kept in a cooling pool next to the reactor. Otherwise, if there was not ongoing heat from the spent fuel, the used fuel rods could just be left in a secure warehouse. I knew about the cooling pools, but never connected it to the heat from the decay chain.

Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant

After the “Arab Spring” events in Middle East and northern Africa, comes the devastating quake in Japan. I’ve been glued to the major news websites for weeks.

The horrific Sendai quake and tsunami in Japan is stunning. There is so much video available of the event – certainly one of the most recorded natural disaster I can remember.

Today, the focus is on the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, a complex with six BWR (boiling water reactor) reactors. Just minutes ago, BBC was reporting that the cooling for reactor #3 has completely failed.

I’ve been very confused by what’s happening at the plant over the last 36 hours. The confusion is because I did not understand some of the nuances in reactor design.

I knew from previous reports and from general knowledge that the reactors would have been SCRAMed immediately during the earthquake. That would lower the control rods into the reactor core, thus stopping the chain reaction. The rods control the amount of neutrons that are moving around the core. The rods are there to prevent the self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, and thus lower the amount of power and heat generated.

So the problems at the plant were confusing. If the rods had been lowered, why was cooling still a problem?

Searching the web and wikipedia, I discovered that even if the reactor is shutdown (“subcritical”), there is still residual heat in the core that must be cooled. This is the cause of the problems in Fukushima. Although the chain reaction has stopped, there is still some spontaneous fission occurring, plus the heat that was in the core at the time of the SCRAM.

Something else bothers me about the first day of the crisis. On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that “We just had our Air Force assets in Japan transport some really important coolant to one of the nuclear reactors.” She used the past-tense instead of future tense, meaning that it had already been done. The Reuters report about her statement was posted only 10h 19m after the quake; the White House web page does not have a timestamp. A video of her remarks is here: http://www.state.gov/video/?videoid=822710919001.

So far, I have not seen anyone in the press ask further questions about this. I have lots of questions.

1. What coolant was sent? Japan uses light water, which is basically normal water. It is different from heavy water used in other reactors; heavy water is where all of the hydrogen in the water molecules have an extra neutron to form deuterium. Is that what was sent?

2. Where did this coolant come from? Was it just sitting around on hand? Next to an air base?

3. How was it transported? In thousands of Evian bottles? What sort of container or containers? How much was delivered to the nuclear plant(s)?

4. How did the Air Force deliver the coolant? Was it a plane or a helicopter? The Secretary specifically said “so Air Force planes were able to deliver that”. If it was delivered by plane, then where did the planes land? Are there airstrips next to the nuclear plants? If the plants were hit by the tsunami, then any airstrip nearby would have also been hit and most likely useable. It is possible that it was a CV-22B Osprey, which can land vertically, but the Air Force only has 12 of them, none of them in Japan as far as I can tell. The Air Force also has two types of helicopters in inventory – the UH-1N Huey/Iroquois and the HH-60 Pave Hawk search and rescue helicopters. The HH-60 can sling about 8,000 pounds, and the UH-1 can sling about 5,000 pounds. That doesn’t seem like a lot of coolant capacity per helicopter, if that was actually the delivery mechanism. Another possibility is that Clinton said Air Force, but meant Marines, as they do have more inventory of helicopters and Osprey. I suppose to a politician, all planes are Air Force planes.

As I said, what Clinton said just seemed odd, although I cannot specifically tell what are the actual facts. Strangely, the Air Force web site makes no mention of this activity all. I would think that if they were involved in an important mission like trying to save a reactor, it would be all over the Air Force news web page.

Mac Hack Attack


Over the past few days, I have not been able to properly see the imdb.com web site. It comes out garbled. I tried it on my Macintosh using three different browsers. I started to worry that I might have been hit by some sort of cross-site scripting attack. I even looked up the DNS entry and went directly to the IP address That didn’t work either.

I also had a problems with a few other pages. The Boeing NLA page on the Wikipedia seemed to have a similar problem that lasted 2 days. The B+H Photo web page had the same problem yesterday, but it is fine today.

I tried the same sites on my PC, and got the same results (again, using two browsers).

I tried on my iPhone while on 3G, but it went to the mobile web page and it was fine.

Since it was impacting multiple computers at home, I then worried that there was something going on with an IP-redirect. Once, just for a fraction of a second, I thought I saw something that looked like “parkeddomain.com” on the address line before it changed to imdb.com. That had me very freaked out.

Finally, after much googling, I found that the root cause was not a hack attack against my Mac. The Rogers DNS was borked.

I switched to Google DNS, and everything is working fine again.

Breath that lifts

When I was reading Moonfire, one statement really jumped out at me and made me think.

“What a vehicle was the spaceship! A planet-traveler massive as a destroyer, delicate as a silver arrow. At the moment it lifted off from the earth it would be burning as much oxygen as is consumed by half a billion people taking their breath – that was twice, no, more than twice the population of America. What a deep breath must then have been concentrated into the liquid oxygen they were passing into its tanks right now, a liquid oxygen cooled to 297 degrees below zero and thereby turning air to cloud at every hint of contact with the pipes which were in turn contained within other pipes two feet think to insulate the fuel.”

I had never thought about comparing the volume of oxygen used by the Saturn V engines to the breath of millions of people. So, I wanted to look into this in further detail.

F-1 engine from Saturn V (S-IC first stage)
F-1 engine from Saturn V (S-IC first stage)

The human lung has an average total volume of 4 to 6 litres at sea level. That’s the total volume of both lungs combined, including residual volume that cannot be exhaled. Of that volume, an average breath (tidal volume) is 500ml, or about 10% of the total capacity.

Oxygen is about 21% of the air at sea level. Meaning that an average breath contains 105ml of oxygen. Humans breathe an average of 20 times per minute (10-20 resting, I’ll use the higher number as a guesstimate for a daytime office worker). That is a per minute average of 2.1 litres of oxygen.

The first stage of the Saturn V rocket, the S-IC stage, burns liquid oxygen (LOX) and RP-1 (refined kerosene) rocket fuel for the first 160 seconds of flight, and pushes the 3,039 ton rocket from the launch pad to a height of 56km and a speed of 8,530km/h. The thrust is generated from five F-1 engines. Each F-1 engine consumes 93,920 litres of liquid oxygen per minute. The total capacity of the LOX tank in the S-IC stage is 1,204,000 litres (which can also be derived by multiplying 93,920 litres/minute by five F-1 engines by roughly 160 seconds of flight).

Liquid oxygen has an expansion ratio of 860.6:1, meaning that gaseous oxygen at sea level has about 861 times larger volume than the liquid phase.

Translating 93,920 litres per minute of LOX into the gaseous form means that that a single F-1 engine uses the equivalent of 80,827,552 litres per minute of gaseous oxygen (at sea level). The entire S-IC stage would therefore consume 404,137,760 litres per minute of gaseous oxygen (sometimes abbreviated as GOX) equivalent. A human uses 2.1 litres per minute, so the S-IC stage is consuming LOX at the same rate as 192,446,552 adults and one baby. If the lower rate of 10 breaths per minute were used, it would increase to nearly 400 million people.

Brazil has the fifth largest population in the world, 190,732,694 (August 1, 2010, estimated). So the S-IC stage LOX consumption rate is equivalent to the entire population of Brazil breathing. The world’s population in 1969 was 3.6 billion. 192 million people would be more than 1 in every 20 people on the planet.

The island of Manhattan in New York city has a population density of 71,201 people per square kilometre. At the same population density, the S-IC would consume the same amount of oxygen as a city like Manhattan 62,057 square kilometres in size – a little less than the area of the island of Sri Lanka. That’s a city with a radius of 140.5 kilometres (281 kilometres in diameter).

Another interesting statistic is the weight. The F-1 engine burns LOX and RP-1 at the rate of 1,789 kilograms and 788 kilograms per second, respectively.

BMW powered Saturn V
BMW powered Saturn V

My (red) 2003 BMW 330Ci is 1,490 kilograms, unloaded. The weight of the S-IC stage decreases at a rate that is nearly equivalent to 8.6 BMWs per second. Imagine that as a stream of BMWs blowing from the bottom of the Saturn V at 2,989 metres per second to lift the massive 3,039 ton rocket out of the Earths gravity well. The high speed is required. Newton’s Third Law (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction) means that to push a much heavier weight up, a smaller weight needs to be pushed down at a much greater speed, proportional to the difference in the weights.

Or maybe I’m just getting too silly now.

The Most Expensive Book

Moonfire by Norman Mailer
Moonfire by Norman Mailer

I just finished reading the book “MoonFire: The Epic Journey of Apollo 11” by Norman Mailer. It’s a beautiful book published by Taschen. Taschen publishes some of the best photo books in the world.

This was the first Norman Mailer book I’ve read. I’ve been very tempted to read some of his other books, such as “The Naked and the Dead“, but I lack the time. I’m already about a dozen books and a dozen magazines behind.

This book, “Moonfire”, was originally serialized in Life magazine under the title “Of a Fire on the Moon”. It tells the story of the Apollo 11 mission from the point of view of a reporter named “Aquarius” (also the name of the Apollo 13 LM, used as a lifeboat after the explosion). The writing is quite poetic, although a little less technical than I was hoping for (as an aerospace nerd).

When I first saw the book at Chapters Indigo I looked up the book on the Taschen web site.

That’s where I discovered the most expensive book in the world.

When I was a teenager, my mother owned a bookstore in New Minas called “Between Covers”. I worked there some evenings and weekends until my first years of university. Once, a dentists’ wife ordered the complete The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for her husband. It was 12 volumes and cost a few thousand dollars (in 1988; now on Amazon.ca: $10,251 Cdn). That was pretty damn expensive. I has also never heard of a dictionary that required more than one volume before. When the full set arrived, it stood multiple feet high.

However, Taschen has trumped the OED with limited editions of the “Moonfire” book.

My copy was less than $30, which is a good price for such a large book.

More expensive than the basic edition is the Cdn $1,360 edition that includes a framed print of Buzz Aldrin on the moon – the iconic photo of the Apollo program. There are only 1957 copies of this edition available. It weighs 12 kilograms, four times heavier than the edition I have.

Not available on Chapters or Amazon are the 12 “Lunar Rock” editions. These include an actual piece of moon rock. Since NASA is not going to give up any of its extremely valuable collection, and there have been no private lunar return missions yet, how did Taschen manage to do this? They used lunar meteorites. When large meteors impact the moon (not slowed by any atmosphere), some of the molten rock debris from the impact will actually have enough energy to escape the lunar gravity well. The debris, now solidified rock, will most frequently get pulled into the Earth’s gravity well. If the lunar impact debris survives the passage through our atmosphere, it can be collected on the ground as a meteorite.

The 12 editions each includes a lunar meteorite. Each edition is priced by the size of the meteorite. The smallest one was discovered in Algeria and it weighs 1.40 grams, 20% less than a Canadian dime. This edition was priced at €60,000 (Cdn $81,000).

The top of the line edition includes a 348 gram (1/3 of a kilogram) meteorite found in Morocco. It costs a jaw-dropping €480,000 (Cdn $648,000)!!!

I could buy a huge house and a Lamborghini for that. All for the cost of a book and a rock.