UnNews:Scientists to create methane-based lunar atmosphere

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16 April 2009

Paragonthingy
Paragon's miniature lunar greenhouse.

TUCSON, USA -- Arizona-based Paragon Space Development Corporation has announced plans to create a methane gas-based atmosphere on the moon, writes UnNews science and space correspondent Gilbert McGheekie. But why methane instead of oxygen?

"We got the idea from a Stephen Baxter sci-fi novel," says Paragon project leader Brian Overloade, "which features a race of extra-terrestrial beings called the Qax who survive inside the convection cells of gas giant planets and swamp gas. Basically, the Qax are a peaceful race who concentrate on trade and we hope that by establishing lunar colonisation by them, followed by communications with them, we will be able to avoid the hostile Qax occupation of the Earth which Baxter tells us will occur in 5088AD, during which they will deny us anti-aging treatments. That occupation also leads indirectly to war with the Xeelee, a race which possesses technology far in advance of our own, and which eventually confines humanity to Earth before enveloping the planet within a pocket universe. Befriending them may also lead to humans being allowed to travel onboard the sentient Spline ships, with which the Qax have a long-standing alliance."

Paragonthingy02
Artist's impression of the Paragon lunar lander in action.

The scientists plan on using a very simple method to create the methane atmosphere. "We will first need to get some people up there," Overloade told us. "Once that's done, they will deploy the miniature greenhouses we have been developing. These are especially suited for growing members of the brassica family of plants such as cabbage and brussels sprouts, which are particularly ideal since they go from seed to flower in just a fortnight, allowing each individual plant to complete a full flowering cycle in a single lunar day." Paragon plan on installing the greenhouses by 2012, beating NASA's planned return to the moon in 2020 by eight years - though precisely how NASA are going to get there is unclear since the space agency will be retiring its antiquated space shuttle fleet in 2010 and they haven't invented anything or done very much since the early 1970s.

452px-Stephen Baxter 2005
Baxter: "Erm...these people do understand the difference between fact and fiction, right...?"

Once the greenhouses are in place, methane production is a relatively simple process utilising Paragon's patented AF technology. "AF stands for Astronaut's Farts," explains Overloade. "Spacecraft are fitted with suction toilets, which form an airtight seal around the user's buttocks so as to avoid any floating poo unpleasantness in zero gravity. This allows us to recover and store gaseous emissions which can then be pumped out of the lunar lander. Of course, if they were surviving on a normal diet, this would take centuries - however, on a cabbage-and-sprout diet, we estimate it will take just weeks."

Paragon will have to act fast though, because the Indian Space Agency plans a similar programme. "Our plan is to install a group of astronauts who will live on curry alone," says spokesperson Lakshmi Joshi. "We are aware of Paragon, but feel our method has advantages over theirs as we do not need to set up greenhouses to carry it out. Curry can be made from anything - even lunar dust. All you need to do is add chilli and there you go - curry. What's more, if we use very hot chilli powder, we will only need to send a few kilograms as this will be sufficient to last many years. Once the astronauts are established, we will look into growing food crops to enable us to raise cows there. Cows can produce as much as 200 litres of methane per day." The Indians also have the advantage of being able to use spacecraft made out of old tin cans and other recycled objects, since their designers originally made a living by creating spare parts for cars out of litter on the streets of Calcutta.

UnNews wondered why it is that Paragon wishes to promote the establishment of a relatively unknown alien race instead of something like the Klingons, which would surely bring press attention, riches and fame, perhaps even leading to a few of them having a chance at getting girlfriends for the first time in their lives. "Klingons?" says Overloade, "Don't even get me started on that bullcrap. We're hardcore geeks, not Trekkies. Star Trek...pah!"

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