Monday, 11 December 2006 18:20

Do colonize the moon

Some people are saying 'don't colonize the moon'... but the moon is back in vogue, with the US, China and India all planning manned moon missions, the US desire to create a moonbase and the Japanese mission to map the moon and more. If there really is a man on the moon, he’s getting some new visitors and some new neighbours.

The last time there was such global desire to get to the moon, it really only involved the US and Russia, and both countries got there – the US with manned missions, and the Russians with robots.

Now, in 2006, the lunar buzz is back, with more countries wanting to go there to explore our closest planetary body, and to build a permanent moon base that will be a bridge to the rest of the Universe.

Never before has humankind been so technologically advanced, nor have so many nations had as much money and smart people.

While international co-operation exists for the next stage in humanity’s move into space, many of those countries are working on their own program for the benefit of their own citizens.

To expect everyone to work selflessly together is, unfortunately, Utopian, but the fact we have as much co-operation as we have, with many nations wanting to go and actually technologically capable, despite the enormous cost, is quite an amazing thing.

Humanity can pat itself on the back for that and be thankful that we haven’t already blown ourselves up in a nuclear war, an environmental catastrophe or some other global disaster – although we’re not out of those woods yet.

The important thing to remember here is that the human race is a race of explorers. We have always strived to move forward. Of course there have been dark periods throughout history, but ultimately humanity has prevailed and progress forward was made.

We may sometimes be going two steps forward, one step back, but we are getting there.

Global enthusiasm, financial means and technological capability tells us we need to go. Such global co-operation and motivational competition may slip through our grasp if we do not move forward with the plans we have, and find ways to safely accelerate them if we can.

Right now, we know that we are going to space with what amount to incredibly primitive technologies compared to what we have dreamed up in the annals of science fiction. But we won’t get to there from here unless we walk down the path.

Yes, we need to be mindful of the budget and how much it is all costing. And yes, there are plenty of problems down here on Earth that demand our attention and could likely make much better use of the money in the short or even medium term.

But a new space race has begun, and nothing short of a global catastrophe will stop it from proceeding. This should have been done 30 or 40 years ago. There’s no question it’s a shame that we’ve had to wait until now for firm decisions to be made, with at least another 15 to 20 years to go before we truly know how successful today’s plans have been.

But it looks we’re going lunar whether we like it or not. This much interest only comes along once in a blue moon, after all. We’d be loony to ignore it!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.





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