NASA is out with its plans to go to the Moon, and let’s just say they’re less than overwhelming. As the American Physical Society’s Bob Parks put it last Friday,
In 1961 John Kennedy promised the Moon “before this decade is out.” From a standing start, America was on the moon in seven years. Now, after 44 years of “space progress,” it’s gonna take twice as long? What are we looking for? NASA says they’ll find water, hydrogen and “valuable commodities.” On the Moon? Go on! Maybe someone takes that seriously, but he’s not writing this column. We’ve got robots on Mars right now. Put a few of them on the moon. They don’t break for lunch, or complain about the cold nights, and they live on sunshine. Space exploration with humans is about over.
NASA is calling this mission “Apollo on Steroids” (perhaps not the most judicious of terms), and it will certainly have some advantages over the Apollo missions: The capsule’s base would be considerably larger than Apollo’s – 18 feet compared with 12.8 feet–and it would weigh about 50 percent more. It would be able to carry six people, instead of Apollo’s three, and be able to stay in lunar orbit for six months. That’s the good news.
But post-Katrina, post-Iraq, post-tax-cuts-for-the-rich, the U.S. budget deficit is now projected to hit (last I heard) $834 billion by the year 2015….What do you want to bet that no one will be going to the Moon? That, unfortunately, seems the most likely outcome.