Subscribe  Subscribe to Comments  Follow me on Twitter  Circle me on Google Plus  Friend me on Facebook  Follow me on StumbleUpon

≡ Menu

Should we declare the Moon the celestial equivalent of a national park, or strip mine it to the core for everything it’s worth?

One small step ...

Start: Recently, an article from Digital Journal, “China could own the Moon by 2026, U.S. space entrepreneur warns,” caught the attention of a Facebook friend, Sue Spencer Mitchell, and prompted a lengthy discussion: should we preserve the wilderness — on the Moon?

In the article, aerospace entrepreneur Robert Bigelow makes the case that China, with their eyes on becoming a world power in the heavens, may soon take the lead in exploiting space, and specifically the resources of the Moon.

Susan’s argument is, basically, that she would hate to look up in the sky at night and think of our celestial sister, a source of wonder since before the human race was even capable of it, degraded into a a colossal strip mine or nuclear waste dump in the sky.

Even though I’m a hardened space program buff, Susan’s sentiment is not lost on me. The Moon has been a presence in our collective consciousness for the entire existence of our species, a companion to which we have deified as a goddess in numerous cultures through the ages. We have attributed its influence over the menstrual cycle (Menses, from the Latin mensis [month], which in turn comes to us from the Old English mona and the Gothic mena: moon). Less seriously, we honor it as an object of romance for swooning couples.

And ask any police officer — they’ll tell you the time of the full Moon, for whatever reason, is consistently a time of greater lunacy.

So, here we are in the 21st Century, being given this dire warning that the Evil Empire of China will take the Moon away from us and rape it/her for whatever it/she has to offer.

(That is … before the rest of the world has the chance to do likewise?)

Should the lunar wilderness be protected?

Protecting the Moon

Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, NASA is in the process of declaring the landing sites of Apollos 11 and 17 off limits so that “we can inspect them historically and scientifically.”

[click to continue…]

Start: An article on the Telegraph news website from February of this year noted a chill in the relationship between Russia and the United States, and hinted at the possibility of a new Cold War in space. Adrian Blomfield’s piece “Russia sees moon plot in NASA plans” reports that Russian officials claim their nation’s offers the the United States to participate in a cooperative Moon effort have been rebuffed.

Why?

Because. The ice on the Moon is better.

And why is that?

Though it would be easy to imagine a customer of a Star Wars cantina making this odd comment (in subtitles), the real reason is that, assuming there is any ice there, it should be, unlike earthly ice, chock-full of an isotope of helium called helium 3.

A plentiful supply of helium 3 — rare on Earth, but abundant in space — combined with an as-yet unperfected nuclear fusion technology, could potentially provide an efficient source of power and a meaningful, clean alternative to fossil fuels for an energy-hungry Earth.

The Russian claim is that the United States wants to control it.

[click to continue…]