May 12, 2009
image by Miguel Claro, Portugal
|With a standard camera lens the Moon is just a small circle in the sky, and sometimes it is so out of mind that it could be non-existent. President Bush's announcement five years ago that the US was going to return to the Moon to stay, and go on to Mars and beyond ignited the second period of human exploration of space. China, India, Japan and various European nations and groups say they too want to send people to the Moon, and may even do it before the US. Although this rebirth of interest in the Moon has been very welcome to some, a larger part of the US planetary scientific community is uninterested in the Moon and wants the US to go directly to Mars. Now President Obama has initiated a review of America's future in space, and the destination and even the trip is uncertain. If the US pulls back from the Moon I imagine that the other up and coming space-faring nations may too. Surviving longer than a week or so on the Moon will be very difficult, but just getting to Mars and back may be beyond our technology right now. When I worked at the Johnson Space Center nearly 20 years ago I heard that at the rate at which the Space Shuttle has breakdowns, we couldn't carry enough spare parts to make it to Mars. And the two year round trip, with 6 months on the surface of Mars, is way beyond our experience. With a voyage to Mars too challenging, and a return to the Moon postposed, the pioneers and witnesses to the first period of human space exploration will all be dead before the next attempt. Perhaps it doesn't matter to history, but would be sad.
Yesterday's LPOD: Beyond North
Tomorrow's LPOD: Northern Arc