What if there is a place that can benefit America economically, a place to learn about the history of the solar system and to test new technology in preparation for Mars, and possibly solve Earth’s energy crisis, would Americans want to invest their tax dollars in such a place? This place is not anywhere on Earth but on the Moon. Since the end of the Apollo missions in the 1970's, humans have not been back to the moon and there is a debate between scientists and policy makers of where the space program should go: either going back to the Moon or taking humans to Mars. There are compelling reasons for each mission and it is important to realize how essential the Moon is to the greater scope of successful space exploration. Since the moon is important, humans should return to the Moon and stay there because there is still much to learn from the Moon; the Moon can also be a testing ground before going to Mars, going to the Moon will economically benefit America, and the Moon may also help solve Earth’s energy crisis.
Like all government institutions, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA, follow orders from the President. Years after the Apollo missions, there has been no directive for returning to the moon. NASA writer, John Logsdon, discusses presidential involvement in NASA in the article Ten Presidents and NASA. After the Apollo missions many presidents did not support space exploration and did not provide NASA with adequate funding. President Reagan, however, supported NASA this allowed for the development of the shuttle program and a space station. President George H.W. Bush also supported NASA but had difficulties passing the budget through congress. In President Clinton’s administration, NASA was not a high priority (Logsdon). Yet, this changed with President George W. Bush and
believed in the benefits of going to moon. According to spacepolicyonline.com writer Marcia Smith’s article NASA’s Project Constellation and the Future of Human Spaceflight, President Bush wanted humans to return to the moon. This project was called "Constellation." In fact, President Bush mandated new space vehicles to be built including the Altair craft which had the ability to land on the Moon and actually house astronauts (Smith). Then in 2010, President Barack Obama cancelled the "Constellation" project completely and called for more robotic exploration of Mars, the Sun’s atmosphere, and an asteroid ("Speech"). While these endeavors are important, they can be done from a moon base to explore even deeper into space and learn more about the universe. President Obama does not see the importance of returning to the moon to further the private and public sector of space exploration and possible human colonization in outer space. Every president has the responsibility to spend tax payer money in a way that is beneficial and cost-efficient. However, Stephen Hawking, world-renowned astrophysicist, said in a lecture he gave in 2008 that going to the moon is affordable and it can be done with using some of the same equipment already in use. That equipment just needs to be modified for a new purpose. In fact, the investment in Moon exploration would be marginal compared to the benefits of returning to the Moon (Hawking). The cost can be contained and it is feasible for manned missions to the moon because the Moon is a beginning step in further space exploration.
For instance, there is still much to learn from the Moon such as the history of solar system and how the Moon was formed. According to the managing editor of Space.com, Clara Moskowitz, in the article The Case for the Moon: Why We Should Go Back Now, one of the unique things about the Moon is there is no atmosphere or volcanic activity thus no weather, and there is a treasure trove of information locked in the layers of the Moon. When humans collect and study these samples, they can offer theories based on their own experience and education that a robot cannot do. As Richard Vondrak, deputy director of the Solar System Exploration at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center states, "astronauts can accomplish scientific exploration that is beyond the capabilities of robotic explorers. Moreover, human missions have flight systems that allow enhanced capabilities that are not in robotic space craft." (qtd. in Moskowitz).
Humans can draw from experience to create theories and explanations more than robotic exploration which bring a deeper understanding to the universe.
In addition to studying the moon for discovery, Hawking claims that the most logical place to start human colonization in outer space is on the Moon and Mars is the second after the Moon (Hawking). Even NASA has written in their educational article that going to the moon would allow for deeper space exploration and the chance to "live off the land" and to test new equipment before going to Mars (NASA "Moon"). Isn’t that the very basis of space exploration? What is out there; who is out there; and how did the solar system form? To answer these questions, the space program should go back to the Moon and make it a base for space exploration. Finally, planetary scientist Carolyn Porco said in Moskowitz’s article, "I’m worried that if we make a hell-for-leather push to go directly to Mars now, it’ll be Apollo all over again. First we’ll squeak by in getting there. Then we’ll get there, plant a flag and say we did, and then everyone will live off that high for 50 years, and the argument will arise that we’ll never have to do it again." (qtd in Moskowitz). In conclusion, to be successful on Mars, the Moon is the perfect place to start.
Not only returning to the Moon is beneficial to space exploration, but returning to the Moon will benefit America’s economy. Ron Garan, NASA astronaut, writes in his essay, The Importance of Returning to the Moon "to begin a period of sustainable space exploration both the private and the public sectors of our nation must seize the opportunity and continue on the path to the moon." (Garan). The private sector is already on the path toward space exploration and landing on the Moon. The Google Lunar X prize is a prize sponsored by the Anaris X Foundation to award a private team twenty million dollars if that team can put a lunar rover on the moon, explore the moon, and transmit that information back to Earth. As quoted in The Centre County
Gazette, CEO and founder of the X prize, Peter H. Diamandis says in regards to going to the moon, "it’s important to take these shots for society" (Miller pg 6). He believes prizes and competitions help spark innovation that betters humanity. In addition to space race prizes, another company, Space X, created the Dragon Capsule. The Dragon Capsule is like a tractor trailer for outer space as it was designed to carry cargo to the International Space Station, Mars, and even the Moon. The Dragon Capsule already had a successful mission to the International Space Station. Currently, Space X is working with NASA to make their Dragon Capsule ready to carry people and supplies (Space X). Klaus Heiss, who worked on NASA’s space shuttle program, further explains the economic benefits of going to the moon in his article Tapping the Wealth of the Moon. There are many inventions such as deep space telescopes and gamma radiation testing equipment that were designed for the moon but never had a chance to be built. He explains that these inventions will need to be built by humans, operated by humans and maintained by humans (Heiss). With the Moon so close to Earth, the economic benefits will be noticed in a short amount of time, and with new industry comes new jobs and new ways for America to prosper.
Lastly, going to the Moon just might solve Earth’s energy crisis. According to Heiss there is an unlimited supply of solar energy that hits the lunar surface on a daily basis. He claims energy is for the taking and there is 1.3 KW per square meter of solar energy (Heiss). If there is energy for the taking, how does that help Earth? According to NASA, many of the materials needed, including silicon, to build solar panels can be found on the Moon instead of sending building materials from Earth. Once the solar energy is collected, it is then "beamed" invisibly with the use of microwave reflectors to Earth (NASA "Energy"). The only way to make theory work is for humans to go to the moon and start working on solar energy transfer from the Moon to Earth. With fossil fuels dwindling, it is time to start looking into better energy sources. In addition to the silicon on the lunar surface, there is Helium- 3 which is a rare isotope on Earth but has proven for better nuclear power. The Helium-3 isotope may replace uranium which has highly radioactive waste. The radioactivity of Helium-3 is approximately the same as radioactivity from nuclear medicine in hospitals. NASA states this isotope is worth more than fossil fuels and can produce more energy (NASA "Energy"). The Moon offers natural and replenishable resources that can be used to better the people of Earth. Heiss also theorizes with the abundant of energy sources on the Moon, new technology would be developed using those sources for launching from the moon into other parts of space because it takes less energy to leave the lunar surface than Earth (Heiss) These energy sources on the Moon and the technology created to use these resources will benefit mankind on Earth and beyond.
While the Moon seems like an optimal choice to start serious space exploration and development, others believe sending humans to Mars should be the number one priority instead of funding manned Moon missions. Buzz Aldrin, second person to walk on the Moon in 1969, said in an article written by Denise Chow, "we’ve done the Moon- we understand it better than anyone. We’ve got to stop thinking of short term hurrahs and start thinking of long-term investments." (qtd. in Chow). Besides the Moon, Mars is Earth’s closest neighbor and it is an ideal place to start colonization and further deep space study. Dr. David Livingston, financial advisor, writes in his article From Earth to Mars: A Cooperative Plan that there needs to be a working relationship with the government and private industry to make Mars a priority. Once this is in place, the economy will improve because of two reasons: one is the availability of high paying jobs on Earth managing the missions on Mars and the information sent from Mars, and the other is Mars will inspire young people to study in one of the STEM ( science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields because those jobs will be in demand. Dr. Livingston explains that with better paying jobs will be better for everyone because those with more money will spend more money (Livingston). Thus investing in human missions to Mars offers a better and stronger economy for America because of a strong financial backing for private industry and the increase in high wage jobs.
Not only is Mars a sound economic investment, writer Glenn Zorpette examines one of the main reasons of going to Mars in his article Why Go to Mars and that is for life. It is not just life currently there but evidence of past life. It is believed that life on Earth could have started from microbes attached to meteorites coming from a different planet such as Mars. Zorpette also reasons that Mars may hold the key to the history of the solar system, of Mars, of Earth, of life and possibly the future of life on Earth (42-43.) Missions to Mars will offer a plethora of information that can only be obtained by humans that will deepen the human understanding of the universe and solar system. In addition to the possibility of past or present life on Mars, NASA’s article Why Do We Want to Study and Travel to Mars and writer Frank Stratford claim there are more resources on Mars in the form of water than on the Moon. Both the Moon and Mars have water trapped at the polar caps but it is believed there is more water on Mars thus making it easier to find evidence of past life on Mars and to tap into Martian water for human use on Mars (NASA "Mars" & Stratford). No one is saying that Mars is not a worthy location to visit and to study but it is more logical to prepare humans for Mars by going to the Moon first because the benefits will be more noticeable than going to Mars. Also, going to the Moon and establishing a moon base will provide a place much like a filling station where materials can be dropped off and then transported to Mars.
Therefore, it is more important to go to the Moon before going to Mars because there is still much to learn from the Moon; the Moon can be used as a testing ground before going to Mars, there are economic benefits that will make America prosper, and going to the Moon may also help solve Earth’s energy crisis. Mars is an important step in human space exploration but using the Moon as a stepping stone will help ensure success. Since NASA is a public institution, the public can make their voices known to congress and the President and tell them how he or she feels about focusing on human missions to the Moon. Yes, private industry is ready to go to space and beyond but it needs a working relationship with the government to work. Americans should want to pay for missions to the Moon because it benefits everyone. Human missions to the Moon is an investment for the future of America, Earth and all of humankind.
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