Thursday, July 23, 2009
The Moon has been getting quite a bit of attention lately, and that can only be a good thing. The soul-searching that accompanies it and the discussion over whether the US and its partners in space should go to the Moon again, or Mars first, or somewhere else, is a worthwhile one to have. For the record, I believe we should go with the Moon first simply because there's nowhere else with as convenient a location as the Moon, regardless of the harsh environment.
One good example of an article talking about the subject can be seen here. As always, the problem is always with funding.
I am of the opinion though that we should not treat this as "going back" to the Moon, for two good reasons:
1) The trips we've made to the Moon so far add up to a mere 13 days or so, over six missions. What we know about the Moon from the surface is the equivalent of what you know about a country you've passed through six times for a day or two without ever getting the chance to spend some real time there.
2) It's been almost 37 years since we've been on the Moon.
Reason #2 means that nobody not in their 40s even has a memory of the event, and only those in their 50s and above actually have more than hazy childhood memories, especially considering the reduced media coverage the later events had. Add ten years (plans thus far call for a return to the Moon by 2020) and now even people in their 50s have nothing more than hazy childhood memories of the event. So in a sense we're kind of like Europe in the 15th century when maps like this one of the Viking expeditions to North America were available:
Yes, that's North America on the left, and yes, people had to go there to find it in the first place and roughly map it out, but no, it doesn't do any good for those of us that want to go there again.
Saying that we'll be "going back" to the Moon is actually doing a bit of a disservice to those under 40 who don't remember any of the thrill of actually visiting there but are still given the unconscious impression that they kind of do remember it and were a part of it. That reduces the thrill, and makes the Moon seem like a done thing when really we haven't done anything there whatsoever.
So what should the standard be by which we can say that we've explored the Moon? That's easy - one full month. Until we've directly experienced 14 days of day and 14 days of night there, there's just no way to make the claim that we've explored it. Passed through, perhaps. But we haven't really done anything there, and pretending that we have does a great disservice to those that would like to and are planning to truly explore it for the first time.
And in case you missed it, here's the Daily Show yesterday on Apollo.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Moon Landing Anniversary|