Cosmic archeology and archaeologists

At the suggestion of the journal GEO has compiled a review of real space archeology. The text of the stat is the result of a long collaboration in editing, so you can consider it written in collaboration with Borislav Kozlovskii.

The frame where the astronaut Buzz Aldrin sticks the American flag into the lunar ground has probably been seen. Less is known that there were six such flags in total - according to the number of American expeditions to the moon. The very first one was hit by a jet from a take-off ship, and the rest, in theory, should stand to this day. “In theory,” because no one really knows what has become of them for almost half a century. Flags were made of nylon fabric, not adapted to the conditions of the cosmos. There is a hypothesis that the paint has long collapsed under the influence of solar ultraviolet - then the flags, at best, are just white. The worst case is if the fabric has crumbled and bare flagpoles stick out of the lunar soil.

Finding out how things are with the flags is an intriguing task for archeology. At first glance, what does this science have to do with it? Simply, it is she who studies the most varied results of human activity.On Earth, archaeologists are interested in almost everything that human hands touched: swords and necklaces, bridges and aqueducts, temples, mausoleums and sunken galleons. And what about the spacecraft left on a nearby planet, worse, for example, ships with pirate gold on the seabed?
The very first space archaeologists can be considered Charles Conrad and Alan Bean from the crew of the Apollo 12 spacecraft - the second in a series of American landings on the moon. They came along in the Ocean of Storms in the immediate vicinity of the place where NASA had sent the autonomous probe Surveyor 3 two and a half years before. In 1966, it worked for two Earth weeks, turned off - and became an archaeological monument on the surface of the Moon, although For years, no one took him in that role.

And in 1969, people flew to him. The astronauts not only filmed the monument from different angles, but also actually looted it, twisting several parts from the module. Despite a rather gross violation of the standards of archaeological research, this “robbery” served earth science, demonstrating the survival of some terrestrial microorganisms in space.Although the credibility of this discovery is disputed, subsequent studies have shown that microorganisms - and even some multicellular - are indeed able to survive in space. So the rovers are now carefully sterilized before shipping, so as not to infect Mars with terrestrial microbes.
More in the history of the cases when people or robots flew to visit an outdated spacecraft, there was not. People from the 1970s have not landed on the surface of other celestial bodies. As for the rovers and moon rovers, then they have no chance to look at their predecessors. Such devices are trying to send as far as possible from each other in order to ensure the greatest coverage of the studied area on other bodies of the Solar system. When they talk about a couple of probes working somewhere on Mars at the same time, imagination draws them side by side - but in reality there are thousands of kilometers between them, and the meeting is impossible.

In open space, things are not simpler: even if some incredibly valuable probe for history flies only 300 kilometers above the Earth, it is hard to touch it. You can, however, recall the repeated repair by the crews of the space shuttles of the Hubble space telescope in orbit orrestoration of the Salyut-7 station and the complexity of these missions only underlines that such incredible tricks are required. It is only in the cinema between spaceships that you can move with the help of a fire extinguisher: released a jet - and slowly flew in the opposite direction to a station hanging in a vacuum. Everything on the video from orbit smoothly approaches, in reality, resembles a Formula 1 racing car, rushing at the same speed on a straight stretch of the track. Only speeds in orbit are hundreds of times greater. It is worth a hundredth of a percent to make a mistake with the direction, inclination of the orbit, or altitude - and a crushing collision is inevitable. Although convergence and inspection of satellites in near-earth orbits are possible, they are interesting primarily to the military, and work in this direction is classified.
Why raise galleons laden with gold from the bottom is understandable. And why be interested in the old cosmic iron, to which even it is impossible to really reach? To save hundreds of millions of dollars, preventing future accidents. Analysis of successful and unsuccessful landing missions allows you to better prepare for new launches and landings.

Planes crashed are assembled by fragment and laid out in hangars so that engineers, digging at the same time in burnt pieces of plating and records of black boxes, can find one of the millions of theoretically possible causes of the crash - and eliminate it from those planes that are flying or just being developed. With interplanetary probes flying somewhere in the direction of Jupiter, such a focus will not work: an accident means that at one point, the signal simply stops coming. And no debris, no opportunity to visit the crash site.
In the late 1990s, a group of British scientists set about developing a small Martian landing module, whose task was, no less, to find the Martian life. Since the funds for the project were not allocated, they called for help from the general public and were able to raise approximately $ 40 million. It took twice as much to complete preparation, and the state added the second half. Despite the substantial amount, it is significantly less than the United States spent on the search for Martian life.
The module was called Beagle-2 in memory of the Beagle ship, on which Charles Darwin traveled around the world.The device was a flat bowl the size of a small umbrella, which, after landing, had to be self-repacked: remove and spread around, like petals, solar panels, a radio antenna and a manipulator arm with a unit of research equipment.
In 2003, the apparatus went to Mars, but after entering the Martian atmosphere, it no longer gave signals.
How to find out what happened to the station, which disappeared at a distance of one hundred million kilometers from Earth? Twelve years after the disappearance of Beagle-2, he was able to be found by enthusiast Michael Krun from Germany. Scientists knew the approximate landing site, and this place took a Mars Reconaissance Orbiter, NASA probe. During the search for Beagle-2, the space archaeologist was able to identify the elements of the landing system: a parachute, a brake shield, a descent capsule and the device itself. It turned out that the module was able to carry out a soft landing, and the failure occurred when he deployed his petal solar panels. Two of the six petals were able to unfold - they glittered brightly on satellite frames.

Looking at a spacecraft that has been standing on another planet for decades, one can learn a lot about this planet.For example, the famous Martian dust storms proved incapable of burying a bright white parachute of the Soviet Mars-3 under a layer of dust, which is clearly visible from space 45 years after landing.

The moon - at first glance, just a giant cold stone in a vacuum - was not as simple as previously thought. Scientists noticed that the laser angle reflectors on the surface (they were delivered there by the Apollo team and the Soviet lunar rovers) eventually got worse and worse the laser beams fired from the earth returned. The result of this study was a better understanding of the atmospheric conditions on our natural satellite. The atmosphere of the moon is almost the same as vacuum, but due to static electricity clouds of fine dust rise above the lunar surface, which gradually cover the reflectors with a thin layer.
At the end of 1971, the Soviet spacecraft Mars-3 arrived on Mars. A few days earlier, his backup Mars-2 entered the atmosphere at an off-design angle and collapsed during landing. And "Mars-3" with the angle guessed. All elements of the landing system worked according to the program: the brake shield extinguished cosmic speed to supersonic,the brake parachute reduced the speed of falling to 300 kilometers per hour, and the solid-propellant rocket engine turned on in front of the surface itself, allowing the descent module to practically hang. The final blow to the surface took over the foam casing of the module. After landing, the protective cap bounced off to the side, and the device unfolded its four petals. The camera began shooting the first panorama of another planet - the transmission went through the orbiter to Earth. But after 14 seconds it all stopped. The reasons for the failure are unknown.

It was suggested that the landing was not perfect: the module fell on its side. But how to test such a hypothesis? The discovery was made possible by photographs of the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter. He conducted a survey of the proposed landing site, and enthusiasts from the Forum of the News of Cosmonautics magazine and the community of the social network on VKontakte Curiosity — the rover. And they found!

The first was a parachute. I was lucky that he successfully lay down on the surface and now looks like a seven-meter light orange spot, strongly standing out on the surrounding terrain. A more thorough search made it possible to find almost all the elements of the descent system: brake shield, parachute, brake motor and protective cover.To accurately identify the parts found, we had to turn to the drawings of the device and ask the specialists who took part in the development of Mars-3. The efforts of enthusiasts from the VKontakte community eventually led NASA to re-survey the site to confirm the finding.
Future space archaeologists are still waiting for "Mars-2", "Mars-6" and Mars Polar Lander. Although the latter is likely destroyed by seasonal polar ice. The Mars-6, which is known to have managed to deploy the parachute, presents the greatest riddle, but the landing became an emergency one, and no longer sent signals from the probe surface. The MRO satellite repeatedly filmed the intended landing site, and a group of enthusiasts repeatedly looked at them, but could not even find a parachute.
If the archeology of Mars is more than that of lovers, then the study of the traces of human activity on the moon is put on a professional track. True, it is not archaeologists who do this, but planetary scientists and geologists who are interested in the Moon in principle, and not only the economic activity on it.
A good help to the researchers of the Moon is the satellite Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter, the younger brother of the apparatus in the orbit of Mars.On the surface of the moon, you can see the details of the size of 50 centimeters, and in exceptional cases, 30 centimeters.
Planetologists are interested in local details in which the spacecraft of the past found themselves - the so-called geological context. Alexander Bazilevsky with his group from the Moscow Laboratory of Comparative Planetology GEOKHI RAS not only found the crashed Luna-23 station on the lunar surface, but also with the station developers to understand exactly what details are visible in the pictures and what happened after the fall.

"Moon" - a monument to the space race of the last century, and here too there is still something to do for the pioneers: "Luna-2", "Luna-9" and "Luna-13" have not yet been found.
But the detection of "Lunokhod-1" and "Lunokhod-2" made it possible to measure the distance to the moon with an accuracy of centimeters. On both moon rovers special mirror reflectors were installed, similar in principle to the action of bicycle katafots, which always reflect the beam to where it came from. And now, to calculate exact distances in two moon rovers, inactive since the early 1970s, they have been shining a laser beam from the Earth (there are still three reflectors,set by Apollo commands). Who needs it? First of all, physicists who refine the theory of gravity or are looking for dark matter. Conclusions on the basis of such measurements will be not so much about the Moon, as about the Universe as a whole.

To search for spacecraft of the past, it is not necessary to use satellites. Especially when the subject of the search is the satellites themselves. Using the open database of near-Earth space objects NORAD, with the help of a telescope and a reflex camera you can independently shoot the flight of some spacecraft launched during the Queen’s time. The oldest artificial body in space is the American satellite Vanguard 1, which is already 58 years old. But since he himself is the size of a grapefruit (minus the antennas sticking out in different directions), you can’t see it in the amateur telescope from the balcony, although with a lot of zeal you can try to catch its sunny glare.
Sometimes a satellite can not only be discerned - and with something such stories resemble the case of a tank that had stood on the pedestal with a monument for 50 years, but it was easily moved as soon as it was refueled and brought. The interplanetary detector of plasma and cosmic particles ICE launched in 1978 to observe the sun and several comets.

In 1997, NASA stopped sharing data with it.But in 2014, a group of enthusiasts raised money for the necessary radio equipment (by modern standards it is as outdated as tube TVs) and was able to re-establish communication with the satellite again with the help of NASA experts and the 300-meter “Arecibo” radio telescope. It turned out that the spacecraft still understands commands from the Earth, but the engines have already failed.
One of the most original discoveries of satellite archeology is associated with the same lunar US program. In 2002, astronomers discovered a small near-earth asteroid, which was given the name J002e3.

On the Internet, it is called "an asteroid that could not."
In terms of a number of characteristics, it was not similar to any other natural object in space: the spectrum of the asteroid corresponded to aluminum and two colors - white and black. An analysis of the orbit of J002e3 showed that this is the third stage of the Saturn 5 rocket that once brought the Apollo 12 into the departure orbit to the Moon.

Archaeological finds outside the Earth create an interesting legal case. On the one hand, each archaeological monument is given an official status, bales of documentation and state (or international) protection.
On the other hand, the main document of space law - the “Agreement on Space” of 1967 - explicitly states that extraterrestrial territories “are not subject to national appropriation either by proclaiming sovereignty on them, or by use or occupation, or by any other means”. So the question of the status of archaeological sites outside the Earth has not been discussed at the international level.
In 2011, in the wake of the popularity of the Google Lunar XPrize contest for launching a private lunar rover, NASA recommended that teams not sit down near historical landings so as not to fall asleep dust and stop trails of astronauts.

And in 2013, the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act (which, however, did not become law) was even introduced into the US Congress, declaring all those sections of the Moon where the Apollo crews left their traces in US national parks.
While the legal and international status of archaeological monuments in space is not defined. Extraterrestrial archeology can not even be called an officially recognized science, and the phrase itself is more associated with the search for crashed flying saucers and the Martian pyramids. But since people continue to fly into space,then some time ago, there will also appear their own museum workers, summer practices for students, signs “do not fit, excavations are under way”, black diggers — and surprises are no worse than Troy.

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