Remember that big shiny thing up in the sky? Americans once went to the moon. I am just barely old enough to remember the moon landing in July 1969. I was 5. My grandfather watched the moon landing in our hotel room in Wyoming where we were on vacation. The rest of my family was more interested in visiting Jackson Hole and the tourist attractions, but I remember my grandfather sitting in front of the TV entranced with the grainy pictures coming from so far away. He was born just before the turn of the century, 20th that is, and this event had to be like some far fetched fantasy come to life.
Now, we've left that all behind. Our space agency is so inept that in a few years, we will no longer be able to send a man into space and our portion of the International Space Station will be lost to us. We'll have to beg rides from the Russians.
Or maybe we can ask India. On Wednesday, India will launch its first mission to the moon. They plan on sending an unmanned craft to orbit the moon for 2 years. They join China and Japan in sending missions to the moon.
While these missions are unmanned, they point the way to a greater exploration of the moon and the eventual return of man. There is much to be gained from the exploration and exploitation of the moon. India hopes to find Helium 3, an isotope that holds the potential to become a new source of energy through nuclear fusion.
Not only is India sending up this probe to the moon, they have sent 10 satellites into orbit from a single rocket and are well on there way to making their space agency a money making venture. There are of course those critics who wonder how India can afford to put so much time and money into space when so many of their people live in such abject poverty. The answer given in the article above is a poor one. Corruption may play its part but the idea of going into space once held such allure for the world that they watched in awe as Americans and Russians rode high explosives into the sky in search of glory. What the world needs to realize is that the journey is worth the effort and the sacrifice in more ways than can easily be counted.
What did we gain by going to the moon? Lots of things. Knowledge, for one. Pride. One can reasonably argue that the space race catapulted the study of circuitry and computers so far ahead of the pace it was on that the things we take for granted now would not be here.
Why go back? There's a long list of reasons. First and foremost in my mind, and remember I grew up under Reagan and the shadow of nuclear annihilation, is the moon can be a safety valve, a safe haven and a place to shelter the human race. It will not be easy. It will not be pretty. But there is much to gain. A foothold off our planet. Clear skies to view the universe with. Minerals to mine. A base station towards exploring the rest of the solar system.
Should we go back? Absolutely. NASA says they want to go back by 2020. China, Japan and India may beat them to it.
But will we? I cannot answer that question. I only hope that I am not my grandfather when we do.