Credit: LPI

Credit: LPI

The Moon, Mars, the asteroids…and beyond…which shall it be?

Given the shift in U.S. political polarity, there is seemingly resurgence in “back to the Moon” thinking.

To regain your lunar legs, beef up on all things Moon by reading an impressive and informative book by Paul D. Spudis, a senior staff scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas.

Credit: Smithsonian Books/Brian Barth

Credit: Smithsonian Books/Brian Barth

His book — The Value of the Moon: How to Explore, Live, and Prosper in Space Using the Moon’s Resources – is available from Smithsonian Books and was released earlier this year.

Three reasons

In ten chapters, Spudis underscores three reasons for a U.S. return to the Moon: it is close, it is interesting, and it is useful.

“The Moon is the first extraterrestrial object after leaving Earth orbit and it is a highly desirable place to visit and utilize,” Spudis writes. “Why would we not want to explore and use it?”

Spudis adds that “other nations clearly see the value of the Moon. Why can’t we?”

Credit: LPI

Credit: LPI

European eyes

Meanwhile, European eyes on space are turning to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ministerial Council to be held in Lucerne, Switzerland on December 1-2. Ministers in charge of space activities from the 22 ESA Member States and Canada will meet to decide on future space activities for Europe.

On the table among a long list of items, ESA contribution to the upcoming Russian-led Luna-Resource Lander (Luna 27) mission. It’s aimed at exploring for the first time the South polar region of the Moon and measuring the water believed to exist there and determine its origin.

Credit: LPI/USAF

Credit: LPI/USAF

 

So too is build-up of a European lunar exploration user community to exploit the engineering/scientific data and the other benefits generated during the Luna 27 project.

Also looming in ESA discussion is the Moon Village, espoused by Jan Wörner, ESA’s Director General.

Space 4.0

The Ministerial Council takes place in the advent of the Space 4.0 era, ESA declares.

“Space 4.0 represents the evolution of the space sector into a new era, characterized by a new playing field,” observes a recent ESA press release. “This era is unfolding through interaction between governments, private sector, society and politics. Space 4.0 is analogous to, and is intertwined with, Industry 4.0, which is considered as the unfolding fourth industrial revolution of manufacturing and services.”

Credit: ESA

Credit: ESA

Vocal on village

Wörner notes that the Moon Village concept was developed through a process of thorough analysis “but it is vital to understand that what we are describing is neither a project nor a program.”

The ESA chief adds that by prompting discussion of a Moon Village “we do not mean a development planned around houses, some shops and a community center,” he explains.

“Rather, the term ‘village’ in this context refers this: a community created when groups join forces without first sorting out every detail, instead simply coming together with a view to sharing interests and capabilities,” Wörner points out.

3D-Printed lunar base design. Credit: ESA/Foster + Partners

3D-Printed lunar base design.
Credit: ESA/Foster + Partners

It is precisely the open nature of the concept, Wörner continues, “that would allow many nationalities to go to the Moon and take part while leaving behind them on Earth any differences of opinion.”

Wörner also concludes that it is clear humans will take part in crewed flights farther into the Solar System, “so the Moon Village could also act as the perfect springboard and testing ground with that objective in mind.”

Note: For more information on the Paul Spudis book — The Value of the Moon: How to Explore, Live, and Prosper in Space Using the Moon’s Resources —go to:

http://www.smithsonianbooks.com/store/aviation-military-history/value-moon-how-explore-live-and-prosper-space-usin/

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