The moon has always had a tug on us, whether it is causing our tides or filling the sky at night with luminous beauty. We have imagined the man on the moon, creatures large and small, and even it being made of cheese. The moon is our closest neighbor in space and occupies a place in literature and film, yet we have barely touched the surface after the historic landing of humans in 1969, and I have often wondered what it would take to get us back there.
So when I heard a report on Fox News that the Russians were planning to establish a moon base, my immediate thought was “What about us?” Had we abandoned the idea of ever returning to that celestial wonder, the place where an American flag stands in the stillness of a windless plain?
Vladimir Popovkin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, revealed that he was in joint talks with NASA and the European Space Agency on a joint venture in this process. This would make more sense because NASA has not been able to orchestrate a return to the moon for many reasons, including the obvious financial burdens such a mission would entail. Hopefully, with these agencies working together, something tangible can happen to make this vision a reality.
Of course, President Obama is noted for saying that we should set our sights on Mars. I wrote about this in an article nearly two years ago, and I haven’t heard much about it since. At the time I praised Obama’s vision, but I think reality always rears its ugly head. Mars is a much more difficult mission and will no doubt take a much longer time to accomplish. The moon, on the other hand, can be more easily reached, and I even noted at the time that a base on the moon would make sense as a staging point for these missions to Mars.
Space has an allure for many of us, especially Star Trek and Star Wars fans, but also many others who have have turned their heads to ponder the universe. Whether you have looked at the moon on a sandy beach, from an airplane window, or through a telescope, the fascination is palpable and the yearning for “infinity and beyond” is something more than a cartoon fantasy. If space is indeed the final frontier, then we must find ways to explore it, starting with baby steps that take us to the moon and then one day to planets beyond our solar system.
People living in 1869 had no idea that one hundred years later we would witness a man walking on the moon. In 1969 we could imagine many things after seeing Neil Armstrong take that amazing first step, but we had no idea that the communicators we saw in Captain Kirk’s hand on Star Trek would be in our own hands when we grew up, in the form of cellular phones. Now, if we could just get Scotty to beam us up to avoid that traffic jam, but that’s for another story.
I think it is exciting to imagine what a moon base would be like, and 2020 certainly doesn’t feel that far away. The question is, would this open up an eventual opportunity for civilians to visit the moon? I would like to reserve a room in that first Marriott that goes up near the Sea of Tranquility. Ah, a room with a view!
Until then, “Live long and prosper” one and all!
Photo Credit – NASA