The New Moon: That was the title of Andy Chaikin’s public talk this week at the3rd annual Lunar Science Forum, held at NASA Ames Research Center and hosted by the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI). He claims the title was not inspired by recent pop culture… phenomenon… but that is besides the point.
Some say NASA is abandoning the Moon. The future of manned spaceflight is unclear right now, and many are experiencing losses of jobs, but I want to look at something else: Who cares about the beauty of real scientific exploration? Judging by participation in the Lunar Science Forum this year, I would say a lot of people. Is the Moon ‘dead’? A resounding NO, judging from the highest attendance yet for the meeting, the amazing science results, and the many young faces of the Next Generation of Lunar Scientists and Engineers interested in the Moon. They are not going anywhere, and that message is loud and clear!
I guess I should give the disclaimer that I work at the NLSI 🙂 but also that I used to be a Mars person. Mars is still exciting, of course, but in the past few years the Moon really has become a whole new Moon, most obviously with the discovery of water in amounts different than expected (a simple statement with many scientific papers enveloped in it).
One of the highlights from the meeting for me was hearing that there are craters in the polar regions of the Moon that are estimated to have high levels of water available… less than 50 km from areas with near constant availability of sunlight. All the recent science about the Moon greatly informs human exploration… and what is better than having science and exploration walk hand in hand?
If you want to know more about the lunar science shared at the Forum, go tohttp://lunarscience2010.arc.nasa.gov/agenda; the talks will be posted there shortly.
In the meantime, keep dreaming about all the undiscovered secrets of the Moon: lava tubes, pockets of water, and combining awesome LROC image data with mini-RF data (really really cool insights!)
And it is only fitting that the Lunar Science Forum is being followed up by aNewSpace Conference. A New Moon indeed!