50 years ago, the Apollo 8 astronauts were just back from the first orbital flight around the Moon. In a few months we’ll celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 — the first human Moon landing on July 20, 1969.
Make yourself a present and start 2019 reading “Of a Fire on the Moon,” the chronicle of the Apollo 11 adventure penned by Norman Mailer, one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Mailer’s book is not a dry technical write-up, but a literary masterpiece that captures the spirit of Apollo and its larger-than-life, always inspiring but at times also disturbing narrative.
Back to the Moon
Now, it seems that the spirit of Apollo could return after decades of stagnation, with old and new narratives. The US administration, in partnership with private space companies, wants to return to the Moon, this time to stay. “NASA proposed 2028 as the year when a human being will next walk on the moon,” Mark Whittington reports in The Hill.
But political fashions change, warns Whittington:
“Will the next president be as supportive of returning to the moon? Will the next several Congresses fund the program? The future is cloudy in that regard.”
In fact, the color of the US administration is likely to change before 2028, and in the current hyper-partisan political climate it seems inevitable that the next US administration will try to scrap the space programs started by the current administration. We’ll have to wait and see, and hope that the new Moon program achieves enough momentum to be hard to stop. Whittington says:
“NASA and its commercial partners should get something successfully to the lunar surface before the next presidential election.”
I’m persuaded that returning to the Moon is the right thing to do at this moment, and public-private partnership is the right way to go. There are solid business cases for the Moon (I recommend reading “The Value of the Moon,” by the late lamented Paul Spudis), and private industry should be encouraged to step in.
Besides the US and NASA other nations, space agencies, and citizen organizations want to return to the Moon.
Forward to the Moon
We’re “not going back to the moon, we’re going forward to the moon,” said Jan Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), as reported by Space News. Woerner is among the main promoters of the “Moon Village” concept, which is not a specific lunar outpost but is best described as a state of mind — the drive to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon.
“We found that, in order to implement the vision of the Moon Village, you need an organization that can create a permanent platform. We have created the association to be a forum to advance the development of the Moon Village.”
Meanwhile, China is about to land a robotic explorer on the far side of the Moon, and plans for Chinese astronauts to follow up. “Having a challenger, someone who is a peer-level competitor, is fundamentally important to the United States to get things done,” says space policy expert Greg Autry.
But space is too important to be left to governments and large corporations. I am persuaded that global groups of citizens should participate with next-generation citizen space programs, and citizen space agencies able to raise real money for ambitious space missions. Space Decentral is a step in this direction.
“We can cheer the beginning of a new age of discovery and the new attainment that spans the space distances and brings us nearer to the heavens.”
I strongly believe that spreading to the stars is our cosmic duty and destiny. This is one of the key themes of my recently published book “Tales of the Turing Church: Hacking religion, enlightening science, awakening technology.”
My book is very much inspired by the Cosmist philosophy of Nikolai Fedorov and space pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. In a perceptive 2013 essay titled “Maximum Jailbreak,” Benedict Singleton elaborates on the Cosmist drive to colonize space.
“This could be regarded as a jailbreak at the maximum possible scale, a heist in which the human species could steal itself from the vault of the Earth.”
Singleton’s essay is republished in “#ACCELERATE: The Accelerationist Reader” and Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS Vol. 67, 2014). See also the review “Benedict Singleton: The Accelerationist Cosmism of Nikolai Fedorov.”
Image from NASA.