Sunday, November 8, 2009

LCROSS A Sacrilege?

The impact of the LCROSS probe into the lunar surface has sparked a so far small movement that seeks to ban further such impacts, The fact that Luna is pounded by objects as big as LCROSS regularly-- and by smaller objects constantly-- in the natural course of events seems to be beside the point to the group. Those opposed to future impacts, screenwriter Amy Ephron among them, see the Moon as part of humanity's cultural heritage that should be protected. Some also seem to see such impacts as wanton acts of imperialists who have no regard for local ecosystems and indigenous cultures. The fact that the Moon is almost certainly barren, and therefore lacks local ecosystems and indigenous cultures also seems to be beside the point.

The fact that people are thinking about space issues is good. Space policy has been ignored by too many for too long, resulting in a manned program, at least, that has lacked focus for decades. However, crafting public policy on any issue surely requires a clear understanding of that issue, as well as the overall context of the issue. Perhaps those in this group should do some more studying. Their position, and the emergence of the group so soon after LCROSS, suggests more knee jerk reaction than considered judgment.

Such a reaction probably wasn't helped by the tendency of the media to refer to the impacts of LCROSS and its Centaur rocket as "bombing" the Moon. NASA crashed the two into the Moon in an attempt to detect water vapor in the resulting plume of debris. Confirming water on Luna would be a major discovery, and NASA is still analyzing that data. There was no bomb involved, however.

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