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Science on the Moon: The Wailing Wall of Space ExplorationScience on and from the Moon has important implications for expanding human knowledge and understanding, a prospect for the 21st Century that has been under discussion for at least the past 25 years. That having been said, however, there remain many issues of international versus national priorities, strategy, economy, and politics that come into play. The result is a very complex form of human behavior where science and exploration take center stage, but many other important human options are sacrificed. To renew this dialogue about the Moon, it seems we are already rushing pell-mell into it as has been done in the past. The U.S., Japan, China, India, and Russia either have sent or plan to send satellites and robotic landers there at this time. What does a return to the Moon mean, why are we doing this now, who should pay for it, and how? The only semblance of such a human enterprise seems to be the LHC currently coming online at CERN. Can it be used as a model of international collaboration rather than a sports or military event focused on national competition? Who decides and what is the human sacrifice? There are compelling arguments for establishing science on the Moon as one of the primary goals for returning to the Moon and venturing beyond. A number of science endeavors will be summarized, beyond lunar and planetary science per se. These include fundamental physics experiments that are background-limited by the Earth's magnetic dipole moment and noise produced by its atmosphere and seismic interior. The Moon is an excellent platform for some forms of astronomy. Other candidate Moon-based experiments vary from neutrino and gravitational wave astronomy, particle astrophysics, and cosmic-ray calorimeters, to space physics and fundamental physics such as proton decay. The list goes on and includes placing humans in a hostile environment to study the long-term effects of space weather. The list is long, and even newer ideas will come from this COSPAR conference. However, whatever the list the issue of cooperation and binding collaboration remains. As observers of Moon and other space enterprises, we all know that a room full of 60 scientists will not agree on much of anything and there will probably be 60! please for more funding. People have special interests and little common sense (e.g., conflict between NSF- and NASA-funding roadmaps). Scientists are no exception. Nevertheless, CERN has done it on Earth! Can we do the same on the Moon? Some of the present generation of proposals for science from and on the Moon, plus new ones, will witness a place in space exploration's future. It is clear, however, that the world has not thought this through adequately, except for talk about an international space federation whatever that is. An outpost on the Moon with humans permanently living there much like Antarctica on Earth may be in our future. However, such planning is our collective international responsibility and not that of special-interest investigators from individual nations unless they intend to pay for it.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Wilson, Thomas (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2008
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Meeting Information
37th COSPAR Scientific Assembly(Montreal)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.