Why We Have To Get to the Moon before China

After 50 years and during a time of war and crises, the U.S. and Europe are starting another moon program — with Artemis 1. It’s about time.

Things are not at their best around the world right now. War is raging in Europe. There are fears of a resulting energy crisis. The global pandemic is not over. The second-largest economy in the world is going hungry. And unprecedented flooding in Pakistan reminds us that the greatest catastrophes from climate change await us. In short, we have a lot to do to make the world a better place.

In this context, is it really appropriate to launch a rocket worth $2.2 billion to have two dolls orbit the moon once in a spaceship and then to bring them back to Earth? That is the goal of the mission Artemis 1, which launches on Sept. 3. If it actually works this time. The launch was originally scheduled for Aug. 29 but had to be postponed basically at the last minute due to technical difficulties.

That shows that NASA, which is conducting the mission with support from the European Space Agency, is a bit out of practice launching moon rockets. The last moon mission took place in 1972 when astronauts entered the moon’s orbit. After that, the U.S. halted the Apollo program. The U.S. had reached its goal, the Yanks had reached the moon before the Soviets, and additional missions would have been too expensive. Fifty years later, during an era defined by war and crises, the sun god Apollo is being followed by the moon goddess Artemis as patron of new expeditions into Earth’s orbit.

Is that really necessary? The answer is a resounding yes, for three reasons:

1st: The Climate Crises Will Not Be Solved without the Flight, Either

Even if we didn’t fly to the moon, none of the aforementioned problems would be solved. It is wrongheaded to think of it as an either-or scenario: Solve the climate crisis or put an end to war. Get control over the coronavirus or fly to the moon. Humanity is diverse and can do many things at the same time.

2nd: It Concerns the Future of Democracy

We are not about to begin another space race, as you may read in some places — because it has already started. In 2020, China was the first power in space ever to land on the dark side of the moon. The maneuver is particularly complex because no direct radio contact can be established with Earth. That is the more exciting hemisphere because there is frozen water, and the universe can be observed especially well in the dark.

China has made its ambitions clear on several occasions. The Middle Kingdom does not only want to send people to the moon; it also wants to erect a permanent space station there in the next decade. And China is presumably not interested in sharing the moon with us without a good reason to do so. NASA and the ESA are doing the right thing by launching their own moon program. Particularly in today’s era, when democracy is not doing very well and more countries are turning to China rather than to the West, it is essential for the U.S. and Europe to win the space race. It demands endurance, because the moon is just an intermediate stop on the journey to Mars.

3rd: If We Stay Here, We Will All Die

Elon Musk may be crazy, but he is right to want to colonize Mars. Making humans at home on a second planet lowers the risk that they are extinguished by an unavoidable catastrophe. Of course, we should eventually go farther into another solar system because our sun will stop burning in about 5 billion years. We still have quite some time until then, but the trip will be unimaginably long. It requires many steps. One small step in that direction is a new mission to the moon.

4th: Curiosity Keeps Us Alive

By our very nature, we humans like to explore our environment; to ask ourselves what lies beyond the mountain or over the horizon. If our ancestors had not felt this impulse, we would still live in caves. Those who leave become inspired and learn. We once explored mountains and valleys, then the seas, now the universe. A species that loses its curiosity and has forgotten how to marvel dies out.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply