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Why go to the Moon
Space19+ Coordinator for Human and Robotic Exploration, European Space Agency
Before talking about the Moon it is important to address a larger framing. The real first question, is why we explore at all? It is in human’s nature to explore; this is why the homo sapiens species has spread on all continents. Today we have even about 7000 scientists present in the harshest environment: Antarctica! Exploration is a quest that will inexorably continue, also into space, because it is part of the essence of being human.
Exploration is more than science, knowledge and technology
Among all human activities, space exploration is probably the most visible and emblematic. It is a pursuit which inspires and motivates our society as few other activities do. It pushes the frontiers of knowledge and of technology challenges. Exploration is even more than science and knowledge, more than technology and engineering challenges, or more than international cooperation and competition. It is a venture.
So, why the Moon? We have been there already… Obviously, like in the 60’s there is a geopolitical angle to it. In many technological areas competition has now shifted to the competition between the US and China. And the next human Moon landings will be part of it. But without competition we wouldn’t make much progress, so it has a positive side. At the end the scientists will be thrilled from these opportunities, as the Moon is a hugely rich archive of the history of the solar system, the sun and the Earth’s origins and early history. An epoch that is lost from our geological record because our planet is alive! Plaque tectonics, water and ice erosions has erased. Going to the Moon with robots or humans will boost our understanding of planetary formation and evolutionary processes throughout the solar system.
Moon is a place that we will explore together as a species
It is important that we are aware of our tiny existence in the Universe, and that Earth is just a big spacecraft floating in the infinite vacuum. The Moon is also a unique platform from which to observe the cosmos in wavelengths inaccessible from Earth. It is just three days away, where we will learn how to survive and use resources and thrive on other planetary bodies for the first time. This is work we have to do before attempting to go to Mars and beyond. We should aim that the Moon is a place that we will explore together as a species! But constantly asking why is a good thing.
A headlong rush…
Engineer, writer, interdisciplinary researcher and lecturer. Co-author of Projet de Décroissance (Utopia, 2013) and coordinator of Cargonomia
The first question should be: did we have to go there in the first place? Even the most enthusiastic ones acknowledge that the main reason for it was due solely to the cold war’s context and the space race between two superpowers – so, to a cockfight. Financial, human and energy investments were so huge for such derisory results… thus we never returned there…
Reasons given to lunar missions are vague, or absurd
Therefore this subject returned over last years with childish dreams about space conquest through new lunar missions. The reasons given to those missions are rather vague, or even absurd. The Moon would serve as a step on the way to Mars and other destinations in order to balance the increasing scarcity of resources on Earth, or to flee the disasters we are causing; we could somehow build stations and recover water there, which we might transform into fuel.
An another motivation announced for this seems to be a parody of this techno-scientist headlong rush: unlike our beloved planet, the Moon has an important amount of helium-3. This resource might be useful for nuclear fusion, a method we still can’t make work despite enormous investments we have been putting in it since decades! So, in summary, and this is serious, we would jump into a hazardous operation to exploit a resource we might eventually need if we manage to make an even more hazardous thing work…
It’s an another nice and pretty caricature of the destructive madness of growth imagination: how to use more and more technology to solve problems created by technology, while forgetting the initial question: how to live better? The answers can often be found here and now, in conviviality and simplicity. Things we cannot solve here, on our beautiful blue planet full of live and sharing, will not be easier on Mars or in an another galaxy!
We need to cure from the “cyclome of the electric razor”
To conclude, while we were walking on the Moon, a visionary economist and a precursor of the Degrowth movement, Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen was publishing his first articles on economic processes and the law of entropy: “we need to cure ourselves from what I called “the cyclome (editor’s note: a mix of cycle and syndrome) of the electric razor” which means you shave faster to have more time to work for a new razor, which shaves even faster, and so forth, endlessly.”