Torn’s Science Fiction, Technology, and Science 5 — 11 February 2023

Short science fiction by Torn MacAlester


Golf and Outgassing by Torn MacAlester

A few years ago, I began think­ing about the return to the Moon in a fic­tion­al set­ting. Most of what I want­ed was a sense of real­ism.  Part of that real­ism cen­tered around a cou­ple unre­solved issues from the past.  In par­tic­u­lar, I thought about find­ing a way to con­nect my sto­ries to the Apol­lo Moon landings.

After some search­ing, I dis­cov­ered a few inter­est­ing mys­ter­ies that were left over from the Apol­lo era.  Some were focused on the expec­ta­tion of igneous rocks that failed to mate­ri­al­ize dur­ing the Apol­lo 16 land­ing. Pri­or to the mis­sion sci­ence sug­gest­ed that the lunar high­lands were vol­canic.  How­ev­er, the rocks found at Apol­lo 16 were brec­cias — com­plex shocked rocks that are the result of mete­or bom­bard­ment.  How­ev­er, that mys­tery was more because of an expec­ta­tion based on the­o­ry rather than from an unre­solved sam­pling issue.  Once the the­o­ry was updat­ed, the exis­tence of brec­cias was eas­i­ly explained.

Anoth­er inter­est­ing mys­tery was the loca­tion of the Apol­lo 11 land­ing.  At the time, Neil Arm­strong did not see the expect­ed land­ing zone once the lunar mod­ule (LM) had tipped to an upright ori­en­ta­tion. He also noticed that they were about to land too close to a large crater and boul­der field. Tak­ing man­u­al con­trol of the space­craft, Neil pilot­ed the LM to a clear land­ing as ‘Buzz’ Aldrin relayed infor­ma­tion of veloc­i­ty and remain­ing fuel.  They were suc­cess­ful, and Apol­lo 11 land­ed. But the loca­tion of the land­ing remained a mys­tery until the lunar recon­nais­sance orbiter (LRO) imaged the land­ing site.

A per­sis­tent mys­tery that remained until the time I began writ­ing Golf and Out­gassing was a water detec­tion from part of the Apol­lo Land­ing Sci­ence Exper­i­ment Pack­age (ALSEP)  exper­i­ments. That detec­tion showed up twice in the data.  How­ev­er, the pre­vail­ing sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus at the time was that the Moon was dry.  I wrote a short arti­cle about Apol­lo 14 in 2022. But, this mys­tery always intrigued me and it led to writ­ing the short sto­ry Golf and Out­gassing.  I also wrote an accom­pa­ny­ing arti­cle Sci­ence of Golf and Out­gassing.



This week’s discord chat

Week of Feb 5 2023 [5th at 1 PM EDT (6 PM GMT), 8th at 9 PM EDT (9th 2AM GMT)]

  • Dis­cus­sion of Torn’s Golf and Outgassing

Currently Reading


2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

The Space Envi­ron­ment: Impli­ca­tions for Space­craft Design — Revised and Expand­ed Edi­tion by Alan C. Tribble

Lunar Source­book: a Users Guide to the Moon edit­ed by Grant H. Heiken, David T. Van­i­man, and Bevan M. French

A new novel by Torn MacAlester

The long awaited sequel to Thunder Moon Tussle:

Mask of the Joyful Moon

Coming Soon

Thunder Moon Tussle Trailer

Thunder Moon Tussle by Torn MacAlester available on

This Week’s Short Fiction by Torn MacAlester

This week, I offer the vignette Rejec­tion.


Extrasolar Planets

When I first start­ed study­ing Astron­o­my, my book brought me up the state of knowl­edge about 1940.  How­ev­er, I also was very aware of the space pro­gram that was rewrit­ing those books. Mars was dis­cov­ered to have craters. Venus was an oven the melt­ed lead. And, astro­nauts walked on the Moon.

We always had sus­pi­cion of plan­ets orbit­ing oth­er stars, but we were left to sci­ence fic­tion to image those. Now through advanced optics and big new obser­va­to­ries, extra­so­lar plan­ets have become a real­i­ty of sci­ence. Some have been imaged, but now we have a video of plan­ets cir­cling anoth­er star:

Video of plan­ets cir­cling anoth­er star


By study­ing mete­orites, we can esti­mate the con­stituent parts of Ter­res­tri­al plan­ets. In Paul Voosen’s arti­cle from Sci­ence Week­ly, we find that water and oth­er volatiles are present.  Since mete­orites are the build­ing blocks of plan­ets, it sug­gests that Earth like plan­ets can form around oth­er stars.




Here is anoth­er exam­ple of a close orbit­ing ‘Earth like’ exo­plan­et in a video from Dr. Becky Smethurst.


Dust grains are the for­ma­tion of plan­ets.  Here is an effort to under­stand those grains:

For more ref­er­ences and videos see my page: Extra­so­lar Plan­ets.

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