Going to the Moon?

The European Space Agency has made a beautiful and surprisingly informative movie about exploring the moon.

In just eight and a half minutes, it says interesting things about the history of lunar exploration, about the scientific questions that can be answered there and about the plans of the ESA and other players to put humans and robots there in the nearish future, and even to build a permanent facility. You should watch it!

Ars Technica frames this as a kind of jilting of NASA, which plans to go to Mars. Whether or not that is correct, I am glad to see attention paid to the Moon instead of Mars. Any attempt to put humans on Mars would be like a second Apollo program, the human race extending so far outside its comfort zone that it can't hope to do much more than do a symbolic space-walk.

Paradoxically, the Moon is a more ambitious goal. Any attempt to go there needs to do more than Apollo. We should be going there to explore water resources, to try putting scientists there on long stays and doing other things that are at least potential precursors to real colonisation.

But even that is a rather rose-tinted hope -- it's quite likely that the next human mission to the Moon will just be a "me too" Apollo program.

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