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One small step, again?

December 19, 2008

It’s been four decades since man last walked on the moon, but a new race to its craterous surface may be in the works. The cold war was behind the last space trek that saw U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong become the first to set foot on the lunar surface. This time, it may be simple pride that propels the next landing.

China and India have made important strides in space in recent months, and that has spurred talk of a new race – something the aerospace industry wouldn’t mind at all.

“The idea that the next boots on the moon are probably going to be Chinese is something that the public has not realized,” Marion Blakey, chief executive of the Aerospace Industries Association, said at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit.

Becoming a laggard in space exploration simply because of economic woes would sacrifice technology opportunities and the ability to inspire future generations, said Blakey.

What do you think? Should America return to the moon?


Why? I’m in favor of continued exploration of space and the advancement of space related technologies but a trip to the moon should only be done if it is in the context of much bigger goals. Simply for something as cheap as geopolitical considerations is a waste.

Posted by Kevin | Report as abusive

> as cheap as geopolitical considerations is a waste.

That’s what they said about the original space race. Yet when the soviets beat the USA into space it was a shocking loss.

The USA is (still) the most technically advanced nation in the world. Space is a big, big part of the future of technological innovation. America should continue to lead the struggle outward into space.

Posted by dirk diggler | Report as abusive

Besides prestige the technological benefits, the guarantee that the moon will not be used as a launching platform to attack us or anyone else; the fact that the moon may be needed for use as a launching platform to Mars or wherever makes it imperitive that we reestablish our presence on the moon before China gets there.


Are we sure the United States, or any other country has actually made it to the moon (humans – not photographic drones)?

I have seen, in many different places, very intelligent discussions relating to many aspects of the so called moon landing that provide scientific evidence that the so called photographs and video from “the moon landing” having been filmed in a studio. Not sure I believe one way or another, but some of the information has yet to be challenged intellectually or scientifically.

Furthermore the Chinese indicated, when launching their lunar exploration drones and satellites some years ago, that they were out to prove that the US never made it to the moon.


No! Not until we get our house in order!

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

Joe wrote:
“Are we sure the United States actually made it to the moon? . . I have seen scientific evidence that the so called photographs and video from “the moon landing” having been filmed in a studio.”

As Apollo 12 moonwalker Al Bean said, if the US faked a moon landing, why would they fake it more than once? Just doesn’t make sense.

We need to return to space, not just to (hopefully) ensure that uses of space remain peaceful (could you imagine the havoc if another nation decides to take down our communications satellites?), but to explore the possibilities of unleashing Helium 3 from the moon as a powersource on earth. China and India are serious about its development, and we should be too.

Posted by Neil A. | Report as abusive

First, to Joe. Please note that China gave up that line a long time ago — just about the time the government decided to go for the gold in lunar exploration — including *manned* exploration. Also, I find it impossible to believe that hundreds of thousands of people, not least the astronauts themselves, all could have been forced to conspire at all, much less for decades, to hide some trick Hollywood photography. I remember an old farmer up the road when I was a kid, who insisted the airplanes we occasionally saw flying overhead were figments of our imaginations — induced by chlorine in the water the government had introduced.

As for the value of space exploration, it’s impossible to dispute the many benefits that have come out of the space programs — the Soviet Union and now Russia derive benefits from their own, let’s not forget — whether the lunar landings were propaganda or not. Let me draw an analogy.

I happen to fall in the camp that says (a.) global warming is happening, and (b.) humanity is playing some role in that warming. A substantial number of very intelligent friends of mine dispute both. My approach to them is, “Fair enough. Forget global warming and so on. Wouldn’t *you* like to see Bangkok’s [where I live] filthy skies cleaned up? It doesn’t even matter if you believe such pollution presents health hazards — we all like blue skies.”

And that’s my approach to the space program.

Should we return to the Moon simply for the sake of doing so? I don’t think so; that’s a PR move of limited scientific value. As has been noted already, it is worth it in the framework of a larger program with the goals of establishing some sort of presence on first the Moon and later Mars — in no small measure for a reason my fellow fans of space exploration don’t like to think about: “Is it *worth* it?”

I suspect the answer will be “yes.” But even if it’s ultimately decided we haven’t any realistic chance in inhabiting other worlds in substantial numbers on a permanent basis, the material benefits to humanity can’t even be imagined now. Consider just three areas that have benefited from the existing program: material science, biomedical developments, and computer science. In the instance of the last, about ten years ago I bought a new desktop computer just before running across an article online that compared my exact computer — exact in every detail (brand, size of the hard drive and RAM, quality of motherboard, etc.) –with what Mission Control had when we made our first lunar landing. That article claimed my lone desktop had more computing power than *all* the computing capability Mission Control had available at the time.

Yes, let’s continue pushing outwards. Heck — do it just for the heck of it, if nothing else, to please our inherent wanderlust.

Posted by Mekhong Kurt | Report as abusive

I absolutely agree with pushing for space exploration. A lot of technology and commonplace medical and personal items came from the space program. Doing something like establishing a research colony on the moon would pose technological obstacles that would require solutions extremely beneficial to humans on earth as well. It’s a good move to also move our mode of thinking into a planetary level, rather than its current nation level. There are obviously pros and cons of a colony on the moon, but something as ambitious as that in the service of science and humanity would be invaluable.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

“Are we sure the USA ever made it to the moon?” No. Get used to it; take a look at philosophy of science and epistemology. What are the odds; that’s what to figure out. I wouldn’t put a fake at over a couple of percent probability. If I had friends to talk to in NASA, that would probably go down by a factor of 1,000. What’s heartbreaking is the people who, for a buck or just for prestige or even mischief, knowingly make up stories, greatly embellishing the legitimate doubt with fiction.

Posted by Pete Cann | Report as abusive

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