STARMUS V: Lunar dust allergy, alternatives to planet Earth and how the festival came to Armenia
YEREVAN, AUGUST 13, ARMENPRESS. A historic culmination during the Space Race – the 20th-century competition between two Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union and the United States to achieve superior spaceflight capability – was the American Apollo 11 mission which landed the first man on the Moon in 1969. Years later, in 1972, Apollo 17 became the final mission of NASA's Apollo program, the most recent time humans have set foot on the Moon or traveled beyond low Earth orbit.
In the 21st century, man is again looking up to the Moon and Mars, with dreams to colonize them and transform mankind into an inter-planetary species.
The fifth STARMUS Festival once again brought together the most brilliant minds on the planet to discuss these very ideas.
Ahead of the 6th edition of STARMUS which will take place in Armenia, ARMENPRESS brings you the highlights from the previous festivals.
The fifth Starmus Festival took place in 2019, in Zurich, Switzerland. The festival opened with Hans Zimmer’s homage to the Apollo Missions, Once Upon a Time on the Moon. The musical component of the festival also featured Brian May, Rick Wakeman, Steve Vai and other stars on stage with the 21st Century Orchestra and Choir. The Stephen Hawking Medal was awarded to Elon Musk, Buzz Aldrin, Brian Eno and the documentary Apollo 11, screened during the festival for the first time in Europe. Dedicated to the humanity’s first step on the Moon and Apollo missions, Starmus V featured Apollo astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Al Worden, Charlie Duke, Harrison Schmidt, Rusty Schweikart, Walt Cunningham joined by ESA astronauts Helen Sharman, Claude Nicollier, Tim Peake, former NASA astronauts Garrett Reisman, Sandra Magnus, Nicole Stott and Russian astronauts Gennadiy Padalka and Yuri Baturin. The festival featured more than 50 high-profile scientists, astronauts, engineers and artists including: Buzz Aldrin, Fabiola Gioanotti, Brian May, Donna Strickland, Hans Zimmer, Tony Fadell, Helen Sharman, Peter Gabriel and Nicole Stott.
STARMUS V: A Giant Leap: Homage to Apollo Missions
STARMUS V was dedicated to man’s first steps on the Moon and the Apollo missions.
The festival was titled A Giant Leap – an homage to Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong’s famous words "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" when he became the first human to set foot on the Moon.
Renowned retired astronauts and moonwalkers were again among the speakers, as well as more than 50 scientists, Nobel laureates, artists and engineers. Then-President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian was also among the speakers.
The physicist President of Armenia on stage at STARMUS V
Sarkissian was the first sitting world leader to participate in the STARMUS festival and deliver remarks.
STARMUS founder Garik Israelian invited Sarkissian on stage, who then delivered a speech.
In his remarks, Sarkissian described the festival as a “fantastic event” which unites scientists and artists. “People think that this is no place for us, politicians. But I am here for a couple of reasons. I will name the first one a “dream”, because Garik is a dreamer. He is dreaming of wild things and they become true,” President Sarkissian said.
“We all have dreams. I will tell you a story about a little boy born in Soviet-Armenia, who was dreaming to become an astronaut. When he was 10, he even won a prize for a beautiful drawing of an astronaut on the Moon. That was long ago, in 1963. This dream is still with me….,” Sarkissian said, referring to himself.
Speaking about another component of the STARMUS – art, particularly about the impact of music, he noted that the Berlin wall and other walls were way too low to stop music. “I believe that music had enormous influence on the world, in changing Soviet Union, in making many nations, including my own nation, free and independent.”
He named “STARMUS and Armenia” as the most important reason for attending the festival. “I invite the next, sixth STARMUS to come to Armenia. We will be happy to see you all – scientists, Noble Laureates, astronauts, musicians, artists, and political figures- in Armenia,” President Armen Sarkissian underscored and noted that Armenia is one of the most ancient civilizations of the world. “I will be happy to show you special educational sites because your topics – technologies, music, education, bring science closer to the people.” The President spoke also about Yerevan, which is more than 2800 years old, as well as about the Metsamor – the observatory from the Urartu period and noted in particular, “Armenians were looking into the sky 4500 years ago and registered the data on the stones. I would also like to show you the famous Byurakan observatory. Armenians appreciate science and education.”
Months later the Board of Director of the festival officially approved that the next edition will be held in Armenia.
President Armen Sarkissian of Armenia delivering remarks at STARMUS V
Reaching Mars requires colonizing the Moon
One of the main speakers at the festival was Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon, who dedicated his Forward to the Moon speech to NASA’s Artemis lunar program. The Artemis program is a human spaceflight program led by NASA to explore the Moon, aiming for its first touchdown on the lunar south pole by 2024. Aldrin said that the far-reaching goal of the program is the future mission to Mars.
Retired American astronaut Buzz Aldrin delivering remarks at STARMUS V
Aldrin said that theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once told him that humanity must colonize the Moon before reaching Mars.
“I was in his office and I had been anxious that we should make a continuous orbit between Earth and Mars. He said, in that computerized voice of his, ‘colonize the Moon first’ and I realized that there are so many things we need to do before we send people to Mars and the moon is absolutely the best place to do that,” Aldrin said, as the Daily Star reports. “And hopefully we can do it with international partners so they can help to pay the bills.”
Beware of lunar dust
Future visitors of the Moon should beware of lunar dust, which could cause an allergic reaction, American astronaut Harrison Schmitt from the Apollo 17 (last Apollo mission) said.
During the 1972 mission, Schmitt – a geologist by profession – was responsible for collecting samples from the Moon’s surface. Among them was Troctolite 76535 – the lunar sample which NASA described as “most interesting sample returned from the Moon.”
'First time I smelled the dust I had an allergic reaction, the inside of my nose became swollen, you could hear it in my voice,' Schmitt said, The Telegraph reports.
'But that gradually went away for me, and by the fourth time I inhaled lunar dust I didn't notice that.'
He elaborated on the bizarre reaction and said some people had a more severe reaction than others.
Schmitt said: 'A flight surgeon taking suits out of the Apollo 17 command module, after we had splashed down, he had such a reaction that he had to stop doing what he was doing.
'For some individuals we need to find out whether they are going to have a reaction, if they are going to be exposed chronically to Moon dust.
'Now my suggestion is don't ever let them be exposed to lunar dust and there are many engineering solutions since I was flying to keep dust out of the cabin, to keep it off the suit. It's going to be primarily an engineering problem.'
The same problem is faced by Mars missions, and it may be worse for those landing on the red planet as this may be poisonous due to the high concentration of iron oxide.
The final people to walk on the moon were Eugene (Gene) Cernan and Harrison (Jack) Schmitt.
Before he left the moon, Cernan scratched the initials of his daughter Tracy into the lunar regolith. Since the moon does not experience weather conditions like wind or rain to erode anything away, her initials should stay there for a very long time.
Exoplanets: potential alternative to the Earth
At the last day of the festival, astrophysics Professor Natalie Batalha of the University of California, Santa Cruz delivered a lecture on exoplanets – planets outside the Solar System.
Batalha spoke about the methods of detecting such planets – Doppler method, transit photometry and others. New technologies have naturally allowed scientists to significantly expand their capabilities. By 2009 only 400 exoplanets were discovered, but since the launch of the Kepler space telescope that year the number rose to over 4000.
Natalie Batalha speaking about the exploration of new exoplanets
Batalha noted that the diversity of planets in the galaxy far exceeds the diversity of planets in the Solar system.
She said that the nearest potentially habitable planet is 10 light years away from Earth.
STARMUS V saw the first Lifetime Achievement Award presentation
The Stephen Hawking Medal was awarded to Elon Musk, Buzz Aldrin, musician Brian Eno and the documentary Apollo 11, screened during the festival for the first time in Europe.
Elon Musk made an acceptance speech online from the Kennedy Space Center, where the Falcon Heavy rocket was about to be launched.
The legendary Queen guitarist Brian May said that Musk “has taken the first bold steps towards space travel and the colonisation of other worlds by private enterprise. And whereas he has re-ignited public belief in the world of innovation and exploration of the Cosmos, and encouraged a whole new generation to look to the Stars.”
Elon Musk accepting the award online
The very first Stephen Hawking medal for Lifetime Achievement was awarded to Buzz Aldrin, who “made world history by flying a man-made machine to land on another world – and walk on the Moon. And Whereas he has since that time devoted his life to Science outreach. Whereas he is the ONLY Apollo astronaut with over 1,000 lectures to his name, all inspiring a whole new generation to prioritise missions to other planets. Whereas he is now 90 years old and still tirelessly promoting space science.”
STARMUS coming to Armenia
In two weeks, from September 5 to 10, over 50 astronauts, renowned scientists, Nobel prize laureates, musicians and artists will gather in Armenia for the 6th edition of STARMUS, titled 50 Years on Mars: From Mars 3 and Mariner 9 to Starship.
The sixth Starmus will be dedicated to Mars, from the very first Soviet MARS 3 to the ambitious manned landing plans and spectacular NASA missions. It has been 50 years since MARS 3 performed the first soft landing on the Red Planet and sent back to the Earth the first image of its surface. This milestone was followed by dozens of successful missions by NASA providing us with more accurate images and information from our neighbour in the Solar System. Following the established tradition, the Festival will address pressing issues and screen films about the exploration of Mars.