Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Should Astronauts Return to the Moon? That's What President Bush Has Proposed, but Scientists Are Divided about Whether the Moon Is the Right Goal

Magazine article New York Times Upfront

Should Astronauts Return to the Moon? That's What President Bush Has Proposed, but Scientists Are Divided about Whether the Moon Is the Right Goal

Article excerpt

YES We should return to the moon for three reasons: science, resources, and inspiration.

The moon opens a window on the 4-billion-year history and evolution of our planet and the other planets of the solar system. Because the moon has no atmosphere and little internal heat, the fine lunar dust has recorded the time line of geologic events--events continually erased from the dynamic surface of the Earth.

Lunar landscapes can be confusing, so astronauts need to walk and work on them to recognize which rock samples to collect and analyze. Unlike robots, only people have the intelligence and expert knowledge needed to unravel these mysteries. Field geology requires hands-on work by the most experienced scientists.

The moon contains material and energy resources that could be used as fuel for future trips to planets beyond Earth. The lunar surface is more than 40 percent oxygen by weight. Humans need oxygen to breathe, but it's also an essential component of rocket propellant.

The moon has mountain peaks in near-permanent sunlight near the dark craters of the moon's poles. Scientists believe ice--that is, water--can be found in these craters. Ultimately, this energy-rich area will revolutionize space travel by making the moon the first fueling station in space.

Returning to the moon will give us the skills we need to mine resources and live on another planet. Learning to live and work productively on the moon is a great challenge--and one we must accept.

Paul Spudis

Applied Physics Laboratory

Johns Hopkins University

NO President Bush has called on NASA to return astronauts to the moon by 2020. …

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