There’s a big buzz today over NASA’s announcement yesterday that they plan to send men back to the moon – in essence establishing a colony with a permanent presence.
I’ve railed against the shuttle program and manned space flight in general, yet my initial reaction to this isn’t negative.
Certainly, I’m skeptical. Long ago NASA lost ‘the right stuff’ they had when we sent Apollo to the Moon. Our shuttle program is a foolish embarrassment, with little upside. Our greatest scientific breakthroughs have come from unmanned missions.
And, as my former producer at Inside Space, Dave Brody, said – NASA’s budget for everything else has pretty much been cut to the bone. There’s not much else they’re funded to do. They probably only have enough money to study, not build, a moon program.
Here’s one reason for skepticism, from NASA’s “Why the Moon?” page.
Six lunar exploration themes evolved from the recent Global Exploration Strategy discussions. NASA engaged the global space community to develop the themes by asking the question, “Why should we return to the Moon?”
If you think a governmental bureaucracy is inefficient, hold onto your hats for a multi-government bureaucracy!
Use the International Space Station as an example. While we play nice, attempting to build the station, Russia sells tourist flights! My sense is, in the spirit of cooperation or to hide the terrible partnership we forged, we’re subsidizing them.
I’ve looked through the objectives reached by the Global Exploration Strategy discussions. Couldn’t most of these be done better without people?
A notable exception is, “Understand the impact of extreme isolation on individual psychological health and group dynamics.” That one goal might be scary enough to keep people here on Earth.
Not every NASA proposal makes it off the drawing board. This is a big ticket item, and I’m unsure if Congress is willing to make the monetary commitment necessary.
Like I said, I’m not dead set against it, just skeptical.
Blogger’s note: The rendering at the top is from NASA. Here’s a larger version. I’m astounded they posted it, because it’s flawed in a way NASA should have spotted immediately.
On the Moon, with no atmosphere, shadows are pure black. Same thing in space. There are illuminated areas and there is total darkness. There is no mid ground.
Our ‘grayed’ shadows on Earth are caused by atmospheric scattering. There’s no lunar atmosphere, hence no scattering on the Moon.