A Little Closer To Earth
So it'll be a full moon
in a couple days, and I guess that's making everybody a little crazy. Bush is thinking about getting us back into the manned lunar exploration biz
Aides to U.S. President George W. Bush say he is on the verge of calling for a return to the moon as part of a dramatic new mission for NASA.
Sources tell CNN the target for returning to the moon is about 15 years from now.
On the one hand, as a certified space geek, I love the idea. I've never been able to get behind the argument that it costs too much when so many people are starving in the world (or whatever), because I submit that cutting the military budget would more than pay for all our other needs. We need to explore because we are human, and not continuing our truncated mission starves our spirit.
But then I think: why the hell is Bush talking about going to the Moon? Is he trying to cloak himself in comparisons to JFK? Is he trying to distract us from Iraq? Domestic trouble? I'm sorry, but I'm so cynical at this point that I must consider "what political gain would Bush get from this?" I can't imagine any other reason for Bush to consider a renewed mission.
I guess on balance I should give him the same grudging credit for this as I did for his decision to drop the steel tariffs. It might not be for "the right reasons", but if in the end our blind squirrel finds the nut, so be it. I for one am excited about the prospect of getting back to shaking off the tether of LEO. I mean, the shuttle is cool and all, but it doesn't really go anywhere, and I'm not convinced of its utility (despite my being on the "pro" side of an elementary school debate about the merits of the shuttle program years before Columbia was built).
Other folks agree. According to Space.com
A worldwide gathering of lunar experts has called for a sequence of technological, exploratory and commercial missions culminating in the establishment a human presence on the Moon.
I'd love that. One of my favorite episodes of HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon" is the 12th ("Le Voyage Dans La Lune"), which details Apollo 17
, our final voyage. Jack Schmitt, the only actual scientist to go to the moon, is a sort of hero of mine partly for being the last person to step onto the moon. A bittersweet episode: we'd gotten so good at doing the moon thing with 19-freaking-60s technology, and then we stopped trying to improve what we could do. I once did a back-of-the-envelope calculation that we could fit a lunar module into the shuttle's cargo bay. Why not dust off the plans for the LM, build one, pop it into Atlantis, get it into Earth orbit and send it on its merry way (I'm only half serious)?
Anyway, I'd like to correct our error and get back on track. Here are some of my favorite books and movies about the early space program:
- The Right Stuff - underrated movie about the Mercury days, based on the excellent Tom Wolfe book.
- Gemini Steps to the Moon - not the most titillating book, but a fascinating look at all the stuff NASA had to work out before we could even think about going to the Moon.
- From the Earth to the Moon - the aforementioned HBO miniseries. Wonderful. Just wonderful. My only quibble: damn it, there's no sound in space! Oh, if only Kubrick could've smacked Tom Hanks around a little...
- A Man On The Moon - The magnum opus of Andrew Chaikin, who has a cameo in the above mini. Fantastic photos and stories.
- The Last Man on the Moon - okay, to be honest, this isn't technically a fave because I don't own it yet. It's on my wishlist (which someday I'll make public, per MercuryX23's suggestion).
To infinity and beyond!