A Marvelous Night

So we’re going to dance on the moon again. According to the Xinua news network the U.S. space agency NASA in partnership with India’s Nasa-equivalent, the Indian Space Research Operation (ISRO), an Indian spacecraft will launch from India sometime in 2008 with a payload of scientific instruments but no astronauts. According to the BBC the launch is part of a two year mission to map and learn more about the moon.

“The two-year mission of Chandrayaan-I to map the lunar surface and investigate its surface properties will advance knowledge about the Moon’s history and evolution, and inform future exploration decisions by characterizing the content of the lunar soil,” he said. — from the BBC

The agreement was signed in Bangalore this week and apparently it was the first visit by a NASA chief to India in 30 years. Even more, after India’s nuclear tests in 1988 t the US imposed an embargo on ISRO. All that has changed in what appears to be a trend toward more and more political and scientific cooperation between India and the U.S. as just a few months ago the two countries inked a deal to permit civilian nuclear cooperation.

Earlier in 2005 the EU agreed and gave its approval to India for lunar exploration. But why is the U.S. so eager to go back to the moon after a nearly 35 year hiatus? Seems lurking in the shadows of remnants of the cold war there is newfound interest by other “world powers” to expend new found wealth on space travel and exploration. Japan wants to go. And so does China and Russia.

In Space.com Paul Spurdis a space scientist at JOhns Hopkins University Applies Physics Lab says most of these countries are flying lunar missions to “get their feet wet” in planetary exploration. He says that with the new equipment and technology more and higher quality data will be important to asses potential resources on the moon which he says will be “a critical enabler to permanent human presence.”

I’m not sure if all this activity equates to a renewed Space Race. But it does signal a new era in global cooperation in scientific research and exploration of not only the moon but space, too. In March the Washington Post reported that the U.S. plans on putting a base-station on the moon as a step toward inhabiting Mars. But there are an enormous amount of questions to be answered before we can go. Perhaps most important, what will it cost? And who’s paying? What’s happening with the Space Shuttle?

The moon sits about 1/4 million miles away. Mars? 34 million. I’d like to go but I’m not sure my MedJetAssist medical evaluation plan will send help if I break my leg or get sick several million miles away. This goes for our astronauts too. But I’d go. And I think a global consortium to explore space is good diplomacy, step towards peace and a move in the right direction to better understand the world we all live in — together and interdependently.

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