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.