Earthrise on the moon: Shall we go together ... or apart?
NRC Handelsblad, The Netherlands
Travel To Moon and
Stars is What Humanity Needs
is the only way to realize such a monumental project and is far preferable
than a fragmented race. ... the adventure itself will generate optimism and faith in progress. And in these times, that is something this planet badly needs."
Translated By Meta Mertens
July 20, 2009
The Netherlands - NRC Handelsblad - Original
There are already
enough anniversaries, but astronaut Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon on
July 20th, 1969 is well worth remembering. These days, U.S. President Obama is
considering if and how the space shuttle program, scheduled to end next year, should
be continued. A renewed manned mission to the moon is the goal of the proposed Constellation
Program. It was initiated five years ago by Obama’s predecessor, George W.
Bush. The current president is far less enthusiastic. Next month, a special committee
appointed by him will offer its advice.
costs lots of money. For example, by the time the international space station
is completed, the investment will have been about $100 billion (over €70
billion). Initiated by President Kennedy in 1961, the Apollo program came to a
standstill in the early seventies right after the first steps on the moon. Forty
years later, the idea that humankind would get around to travelling to other
planets in the solar system seems a fantasy. And for the time being it will remain so;
the complexity of manned space exploration is much greater than first
Why than return
to the moon? This celestial body lends itself to many practical and scientific
purposes; as a telescope on the dark “backside” to a good location for communications
stations, mining rare compounds like helium-3 and further research into to the
history of the origins of the solar system.
Many of those
projects can be achieved even without manned flights. Yet, human spaceflight is
a worthy end in itself. The moon can serve as a way station to the next major goal
- a manned mission to Mars. Even the utility of this can be questioned: Scientifically,
Mars is very interesting, but why would human beings have to visit the planet
in person? The costs are astronomical and the technical challenges enormous.
But perhaps the question
of utility isn't relevant here. Science is about the acquisition of knowledge for
its own sake. In a far distant future, humanity will risk journeying to nearby
planets and perhaps beyond. The foundation for this journey have to be built,
so why not now?
There is an additional
advantage: the costs will be phenomenal - and impossible to bear for a single
country - for current superpower the United States or any of the other powers of
the multilateral world of tomorrow. Cooperation is the only way to realize such
a monumental project and is far preferable than a fragmented race. Besides, in
this case Europe will also have a role to play.
But above all, it
is the challenge itself. A strong dose of optimism is required to risk the
journey into space. But the adventure itself will generate optimism and faith in
progress. And in these times, that is something this planet badly needs.
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