Is it time to go back to the Moon? The last person to set foot on the lunar surface did so in 1972, almost half a century ago. However, there is now talk of a “New Space Race”, with states and private corporations jostling for the prestige of sending astronauts back to the Moon.
Yet is competition the right approach? The International Space Station demonstrates what can be achieved when we cooperate and work together on space exploration. Jan Wörner, the Director General of the European Space Agency, has set out a vision for a permanent “Moon village”, shared between the nations of the world and acting as a common staging post for further exploration. The Moon village concept is not (yet) an official project of the European Space Agency, but should it be?
Curious to know more about lunar exploration? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Julia asking how Europe can possibly justify funding a moonbase while people are struggling on Earth with high unemployment or economic hardship.
To get a response, we put Julia’s comment to science journalist Sue Nelson, a former BBC science correspondent, co-host of the award-winning Space Boffins podcast, and author of the book Wally Funk’s Race for Space. What would she say to Julia?
Next up, we had a comment come in from Chris wondering what might be some of the benefits of lunar exploration. He suggests, for example, there might be natural resources on the moon that aren’t readily available on Earth.
To get a response, we put Chris’ comment to Anna Rathsman, Director General of the Swedish National Space Agency (SNSA). How would she respond?
Next, Alex asks about Russia’s efforts at establishing a permanent moonbase, and what Western powers think about it. Is the ‘new space race’ taking place in the spirit of friendly competition? Or is this all about geopolitics?
How would space journalist Sue Nelson respond?
Finally, we had a comment from jharveyj, who doesn’t think a manned offworld base is realistic because of the problem of cosmic radiation and the prohibitive cost of transporting materials into space. Is he right?
Here’s what Anna Rathsman had to say:
Sue Nelson is currently trying to get a Lego Ideas set made to pay tribute to the Mercury 13 – the female US pilots who passed astronaut tests in 1960-61 but never got the chance to go into space. The link to register for free and to vote is here.
Should Europe set up a moon base? How could Europe justify the cost of a moonbase? What might be some of the benefits of lunar exploration? Is the new ‘space race’ about geopolitics? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!