Dr. P. Spudis of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md., will participate in the symposium "Destination Moon: Scientific Discovery and Exploration" on Feb. 17 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2007 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Dr. Spudis' presentation, "The Moon: A New Destination for Humanity," will explore why the Moon is an appealing and scientifically valuable first step for human life beyond the Earth.
NASA's Vision for Space Exploration includes sending humans and robots to the Moon to explore and prepare for voyages beyond. According to Spudis, "Development of lunar resources has the potential to be a major advancement in space logistics capability and a first step in building the infrastructure that will allow humans to survive off-planet."
Spudis says the Moon is a natural laboratory of planetary processes and history, as well as an ideal platform from which to observe the universe. It lacks the geological and hydrological forces that constantly reshape the Earth, and so contains an accessible history of the early solar system. With existing technology it's a three-day trip from Earth. With no atmosphere to get in the way, a full spectrum of electromagnetic energy reaches the Moon's surface and its far side is the only known place permanently shielded from Earth's radio noise.
A lunar outpost would advance planetary science and improve engineering state-of-the-art, Spudis adds, especially in robotics. Robots are ideal for providing first-order reconnaissance of remote, hostile environments and would be a major component of lunar exploration. However, human presence would allow for greater investigative capabilities and the addressing of significantly complex scientific problems.
Building a human presence on the Moon would also inspire humanity. "Human spaceflight has an emotional dimension," says Spudis. Earth-bound humans can live vicariously through astronauts who lead the way. It also offers a unique and non-traditional perspective. Such a change in perspective has the potential to revolutionize both science and the human experience.