Over the moon

Just heard the news. SpaceX is going to the moon late 2018. Two paying passengers will be doing an Apollo 8 type mission which won’t actually land, but will take a Dragon Capsule for a couple of Lunar orbits before doing a slingshot back to Earth orbit.

My inner child has just popped his tousled head up from his ‘Space Heroes of 1971’ annual and is currently punching the air and painting imaginary pictures.spacex-moon-mission-artistic-impression like this one. Which is essentially a collage of three public domain images. As for a landing, well, that may have to wait a couple of years if Musk and his merry men are involved. He’s hired some talented people and they’ve fixed the tail first landing issues. So a Lunar landing may follow. And space tourism. Or more likely a ‘space bus’ service which can get people from orbit to the moon with a weather eye on a manned Mars mission.

Another part of me is going; “Some good news at last!” because I don’t want to know about all the bullshit about ‘fixing the problems down here before we send some rich dudes around the moon on a joyride’. I hated those kind of anti-space exploration arguments when I first heard them at school almost forty five years ago and I think anyone who voices them knows next to nothing about humanity. Earth will always have the same problems of poverty, war, disease, hatred and inconvenient migraines.

Stopping a space programme until we all live in some impossible utopia where everyone is happy will mean we’ll be waiting to get off this third rock from the sun a long, long time. Probably never. Did the Wright Brothers wait until the problems of the world were fixed before hoiking their ungainly machine to Kittyhawk and launching it along some rickety wooden rails? No. Did any Victorian era explorer stop as they were about to pull out of home harbour and say; “Sorry lads. Trips off. Someone’s poor old Aunt Gertie has a sick kitten.” Of course not.

Every argument I’ve ever heard about space exploration being a ‘waste of money’ has turned out to be complete bollocks. If humanity hadn’t sent satellites and manned missions into space we’d know next to nothing about the Van Allen Radiation belts and the Earth’s magnetic shield. There would be no GPS, no pictures of the Earth from the moon that gave fuel to the Environmental movement. Never mind about all the innovations and indirect spin offs in materials technology. Space exploration does one thing which we could never have done without it. It gives us a greater awareness of ourselves in the cosmos, and even if we are only An invisible dot on an invisible dot.” At least because of our faltering steps into the night, we will come to know what we are and can get a better perspective on some of the worse ideas down here.

If Elon Musk and his team can pull it off, good for him. I think they can.

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