Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Moon Race is Wrongheaded.

I am still not sure why there is a sudden interest to go back to the moon. Let me give three reasons why a renewed race to revisit the moon is a bad idea.

The first complaint I have is this: it's really expensive. I'm all for going to space and doing exploration, but the kind of money it takes to land people, or even just craft on the moon seems better spent on robotic exploration to other places. I think the current use of technology to build rovers and satellites to visit other planets is the right way to go. (Obviously, I'm happy with the Mars uses of NASA's money.)

The second complaint is that the moon is not that interesting. Contrast that with Europa, a moon of Jupiter. It has an icy crust, and practically no cratering. Ronald Greeley, a Galileo imaging team scientist and a geologist at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ. recently said, "We're seeing evidence of a lot of geological activity on Europa." Try finding a statement like that for the Moon! Geologically speaking, it's just a really boring place. Thus, our efforts at exploration should be refocused on what's most likely to give interesting science.

The third complaint I have regards the possibility for finding life. The moon is a dead place. But there are other, accessible places where there might be life. Take yet another of Jupiter's moons: Callisto. Callisto is about the size of the planet Mercury, so as moons go it's big (third biggest, actually, in the solar system). It has a very stable icy surface -- as in it has WATER -- and though that surface is billions of years old, lacks any sign of volcanic activity, and is populated with rifts and craters, the Galileo spacecraft pass seemed to indicate that its surface overlies a salty liquid ocean. Now what other life-yeilding place has a salty ocean? Hint: you're Mom was born there. Does not Callisto seem a lot better investment of time, labor, and technology than the moon? Of course it does.

Expense, scientific interest, and the importance of the search for life are the three reasons why I think the whole new moon race is just plain wrongheaded.

2 Comments:

At 5:53 PM, Blogger Ed said...

I respond to this in my blog: why go to the moon?

 
At 10:26 PM, Blogger brinticus said...

Ed's rejoinder is excellent, and I encourage others to read his blog entry on the subject.

 

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