Blogging the Moon

The Earth’s Moon beckons just above us like a seductive siren. For some it’s the next step in humankind’s journey into space. One such advocate is Paul Spudis who has written the book “Blogging the Moon – The Once and Future Moon Collection“. Within it is a compilation of short essays together with rejoinders that collectively put the reader into the midst of today’s arguments about where or even if our future extends beyond the Earth’s surface.

This book’s main argument in support of using the Moon as our next step is that in so doing, we can use non-earth resources while accruing more knowledge. Yes, we would need to build the infrastructure to acquire and process material on the Moon. But, conceivably we could take this capability and the extracted resources to continue elsewhere. Potential follow-on locales might include asteroids, on to Mars and beyond. So the argument goes. Central to the book is the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration presented by President Reagan. The principal antagonist is NASA, described as an organization that exists to complete isolated programs and nurture self-absorbed bureaucracy. This is heady stuff for a blog and a book.

While the argument about which is the best next step into space remains current and ongoing, this book’s presentation makes almost as much a statement as the contents. Traditionalists expect a non-fiction book to present a claim resulting from cohesive, comprehensive supporting evidence. This and a conclusion would serve to convince the reader that the author’s claim is reasonable and worthy. A blog on the other hand is more a personal daily journal based upon an individual’s experience and interest. When a blog includes responses then it becomes a much more fluid venue like an open ended discussion. Hence, this book about blogging the Moon is as if the reader is a fly on the wall while various avatars in a virtual room espouse errors and preferences for space exploration and development.

If the reader accepts this approach then this book has some great material. One benefit is that apparently the author is well known in the aerospace community, especially with regard to selenic geology. Thus, his essays have got a lot of appropriate detail as well as many online references. The book presents each essay as a chapter usually a couple of pages at most. The chapter then concludes with presumably lightly or unabridged rejoinders from the blogosphere. Again, with the author being well known, many of the responders are also well known in the community, assuming that they used their real names. This makes for interesting reading as a large amount of disparate material gets introduced. Each essay thus has many pro and contrary views, sidebars and verbal ripostes that say as much about consensus forming as they do for using the Moon next.

Should you prefer books the old fashioned way then this book is likely not for you. Aside from each essay being related to the Moon as our next step, there is little cohesion. Much is made of water/ice kind of being detected on the surface. Much is also made of the need (or not) of heavy launch vehicles, flexible exploration paths, fiscal accounting and hot nights in India. Taken together, yes, they all relate to the Moon and humans using it as stepping stone into space. But, on completing the book, there’s no reason to go jump into the street yelling eureka as no conclusion is apparent. Further, the blog is still live on the web so there’s nothing stopping you from visiting and providing your own comments to current posts.

Yet, the Moon still beckons. Almost every night it presents a different face, enticing, scintillating, inviting. We’ve been there and as Paul Spudis well declares in his book “Blogging the Moon – The Once and Future Moon Collection“, we need to go back. The book describes why we can and need to make an impression there that goes beyond planting a flag. The Moon will continue to beckon; it is up to humanity to respond.

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5 Replies to “Blogging the Moon”

  1. NASA, described as an organization that exists to complete isolated programs and nurture self-absorbed bureaucracy.

    Even reading that as the outcome of the process, not the many various reasons why NASA existed and exists, it isn’t strictly factual. The robotic and science program of NASA is far from isolated, but the pulses builds to an ongoing symphony.

    The manned program can be framed differently too, and “completion” is yet another problem.

    This book’s main argument in support of using the Moon as our next step is

    Possibly, I guess I have to read the book. But it was this kind of inflexibility that Augustine blamed “isolated” programs (but rather their inability to complete) on. It strengthens that work instead of making itself into a compelling competitor.

  2. …Central to the book is the 2004 Vision for Space Exploration presented by President Reagan.

    In 2004, President Reagan died aged 93. You may have meant to refer to President Bush (junior).

    How anyone can buy into the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars defies reason. The Martian environment presents a different set challenges when producing fuel, oxygen and food from available raw materials.
    Being a fan of Lunar science and exploration is all well and good, but when did that authorize Lunarphiles to become solar system traffic cops on the way to Mars?

    1. Terry, My pardon about the presidents. Correctly it was Reagan in 1984 with the National Commission on Space and Bush in 2004 with the Moon Mars and Beyond report. Mark.

  3. @TerryG

    “How anyone can buy into the moon as a stepping stone to Mars defies reason”.

    The moon is the best analogue we have for a Mars mission. I know if it was my responsibility to be sending astronauts to Mars, I would want to have them benefit from any and all transferable knowledge and skills possible, which would include information gleaned from humans living on the moon. Technologies needed for a Mars mission can be developed and refined from that lunar experience. This is just one example of the benefit with this approach. There are many others. This may seem bureaucratic and unnecessary to you, but I think it gives a better chance for the astronauts to survive their long journey to Mars (and back). The logistics regarding a Mars mission are so extreme, I think not to “practice” with the moon would be unreasonable, even callous.

  4. I’m going to back TerryG up on this one. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you look at it that way) the Moon is not our best analogue for a Mars mission. The Moon’s environment is very different to Mars in almost every aspect. Gravity is far lower, presenting it’s own set of structural and biological constraints not experienced in the same fashion as on Mars. The lunar regolith and it’s effects on personal and equipment are very different than Martian soil. The Moon’s gravity well requires a completely different propulsion system than that necessary for Mars. Temperature variances on the Moon and solar exposure present different challenges, atmospheric pressure… and the list goes on and on.

    Might as well simulate Mars on Earth. It’s far cheaper. In fact, that’s why they are doing it.

    Unfortunately there is little reason to go to these places anyway, at least with Manned missions. This isn’t Europeans settling the Americas. More like dumping settlers on the North Pole, except remove the atmosphere, drop the temperature 50 degrees, block the sun with dust, and btw, the ground is completely toxic.

    Enjoy your new home.

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