To The Moon

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.

5 thoughts on “To The Moon”

  1. Ah, a purist. Geoff, you miss the point, even if you are correct. The problem is that most of the people who will look at that picture will mot see a thing wrong with it at all. They expect shadows and would likely take issue if there were NOT any shadows. Sadly, those are probably the majority and that is who they need to appeal to in order to make this idea work. I just think back to “Space 1999”. Not for the fantasty behind it, but for being able to believe they would store nuclear waste on the moon.

  2. Not strictly true. Although shadowed areas are not in direct sunlight, they will still receive reflected light from the sunlit objects around them. Rocks, mountains and in some locations, even the earth which can be far brighter than our full moon will contribute to the illumination of places out of direct sunlight

  3. Geoff,

    You need to take another look at the panoramic you posted

    I can see details in the shadows on the white surfaces to the right of the astronaut. The white object on the ground to the left of the astronut that is half in shadow also shows some detail in the shadow area. I am suspecting that some of the very dark shadows have to do with the photo technology at the time. Color film will resolve only about 5 stops of light. Since the scenes have so much contrast, and the whites are not blown out this would tend to drive the shadows into deep black. I still enjoyed the post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *