Moon stuff

A story in The Register [LINK] (and a lot of other new sources today) reports NASA is about to "lay out its plans" to send astronauts to the moon by 2018. That seems like a long time from now, but considering that the plans will call for a new vehicle (not designed), a launch platform (not designed), a lunar landing module on the platform (not designed), and plans for a small moon base (not even designed in concept, I guess), it sounds much more ambitious.

While I am not yet convinced that money should be diverted from basic science to manned exploration, I must admit that I am a big fan of the idea of space exploration/colonization. My main reason for being pro-space is because I'm convinced that the longer we keep our species (and let it be the plural form) isolated on this little rock, the more likely it is that we're going to get completely wiped out by a global catastrophe. I know, I sound crazy, but it is true. If Earth is "special" or at least rare in the universe, it is our responsibility to preserve biological diversity.

Back to the money. If this is really one of our top goals for the next couple decades, maybe it is time for a reorganization of resources. Let's have an exploration/colonization division and a science and research & development division within, say, NASA. Fund them separately, but have strong links and no impediments to the two working together. There is, afterall, a lot of overlap between them, especially at the beginning. However, NASA is not only devoted to space stuff; it also is a major source of research funds and resources for people studying Earth, and that should be maintained. Even as we learn more and more about the universe, there remain myriad unanswered questions about our own world. I don't say this out of self-preservation, I'm more than happy to go and work on problems involving other worlds, but we need to know how our own works now, and we don't.

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