Saturday, July 18, 2009
That's the gist of an article from space.com here, asking whether anyone would even care if we landed people on the Moon again since it was already done before 40 years ago. The short answer is: yes, but no one at the moment sees it happening in the near future so it simply doesn't register on the radar of public consciousness any more than any other target, such as Mars, asteroids, Ceres, Venus, and the rest.
What is important, though, is making sure that people back home are able to feel as if they are experiencing the trip themselves, so in order to keep up public interest were we to go back to the Moon, we would want ways of giving people interesting footage and updates of progress on the Moon, probably through lots of uploaded videos, Twitter updates, and interviews. Mark Polansky right now has 35,000+ followers on Twitter (he's in space right now), and an astronaut from the previous Shuttle mission named Mike Massimino has over 650,000. The first astronauts on the Moon after 40+ years away...definitely millions and millions.
Now let's take a look at two probes: Lunar Prospector and Kaguya. Both went to the Moon. Lunar Prospector had no visual camera though and was basically ignored. Kaguya got quite a bit of attention (and it wasn't even an American probe). The reason why: eye candy. Here you are.
See, that's what a mission needs. Lots and lots of eye candy. And hopefully some human interaction. Provide both of these and there will be interest. Imagine an astronaut on the Moon for example heading outside and snapping a picture of the "backyard" then uploading it to Flickr or somewhere.
Finally, don't forget that the huge length of time between Apollo and now means that for anyone under 40 we might as well have never been to the Moon. We've never seen news of anyone going to the Moon, our missions there haven't left any infrastructure. It's pretty much exactly the same as before we went there and we can't get there now. It's pretty much like that hour or two you spent at the airport one day while waiting for a plane in a country that you'd like to visit again. That hour or two was a lot of fun and you kind of feel like you know something about the place, but you don't know anyone there and would like to really visit it one day. That's pretty much the extent of humanity's exploration of the Moon.
Well, we did get off the ship and walk around. Okay, so it was like landing at the airport and spending the night at the hotel next to the airport before your flight the next day. You probably talked to a few hotel employees and watched some TV, ate some food. No more than that.