“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience?” – George Bernard Shaw Read
The Cold War took humans on a perilous journey to the Moon. Looking back, the events of that time often appear neat and orderly. Russia sent a satellite, a dog, and a man into space and orbiting the Earth before the United States. The US stepped it into high gear, ignored some major safety red flags, and delivered a chimpanzee into space and men to the Moon. In truth, the process was fraught with danger and it’s miraculous that there weren’t more deaths than the three astronauts from the Apollo 1 mission and the numerous deaths during test flights.
As the Cold War came to an end, so too did our drive to send humans into space. It’s expensive and failures are deadly. We’ve been content to leave exploration to machines. The cost is lower, no life support system are needed, and crashing a probe into the Moon is frustrating but not tragic. Machines can do the job better and more cheaply. They stay on the surface or orbiting in space for decades, collecting data and transmitting it back to Earth. Many rovers have their own onboard labs to break down materials and analyze them insitu.
Things are heating up again in the international arena and the United States is watching as other countries outstrip its technological prowess. What better way to prove we are better than everyone else than installing a permanent base on the Moon? When all the world has been colonized, it’s time to set our sights on further goals.
This may seem cynical, and it is. From an objective point of view, I’m all for going to the Moon to expand our understanding of the Universe and facilitate new technologies. But that’s not why we are going to the Moon. One look at the new website for the Moon project tells you everything you need to know. “NASA’s science, technology and human exploration activities touch every aspect of our lives here on Earth and we want to extend our presence to the farthest corners of the universe. In doing so, we will maintain America’s leadership in space.”
The second reason to set up a permanent base on the Moon is to facilitate commercial interests. We’ll throw money at commercial companies so they can turn it into more money for their shareholders through mining and tourism. How long will it take for companies to start drilling on the Moon? When will that once wild, untamed surface look like a drilling rig in space?
As we enter a new age and a new space race, flexing our muscles in earnest, I wonder who will be the winners. So too comes a new age of exploitation. I despair that science will inevitably take a back seat to commercial interests. In the name of God and country we will colonize the Moon, take its resources, and to hell with the rest.
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” – Albert Einstein