“The sad truth is that humans junk up everywhere we go. In that respect, I hope we are not part of the moon’s destiny.”
Alerted by moon-wise friends and family, I set out at sundown with my camera on Saturday, May 5, to get a photograph of the moon’s perigee–the rising that brings it nearer to earth than any other time during the year. It was a suspenseful journey, because the moon didn’t show itself coming over the mountains and through clouds at the time predicted. I went through a tiny panic: Has something happened to it? And then when it did appear, huge and bright, my heart leapt in a romantic way. What a beautiful, beautiful thing it is. It is all the more precious because it seems pristine in its most brilliant moments. I have to admit that I would like to keep it that way, and this may be a uniquely feminine perspective.
Newt Gingrich, for example, was very much in favor of establishing a moon colony, believing that “it really is part of our destiny.” From my perspective, the moon has already proved itself part of our destiny. Most recently, we have left a good deal of NASA equipment on its bright face. The sad truth is that humans junk up everywhere we go. In that respect, I hope we are not part of the moon’s destiny.
Apparently President Bush hoped to send astronauts back to the moon and set up a permanent home there by 2020. The program called Constellation had to be shelved by NASA due to a $150 billion price tag, and the Obama administration cancelled it. Now there are ideas floating around about how NASA could establish a prize to encourage private enterprise to undertake this goal. It has been suggested that some technology billionaires might want to do this in pursuit of fame, since they’ve already made their fortunes. I may be odd, but the thought makes me want to bite my fist until it bleeds.
Such an undertaking is not feasible, however, until something is done to ensure the safety of future astronauts. This is due to the fact that there is so much detritus from satellites, rockets, and etc., buzzing around the earth that it probably looks like a dog with fleas. In fact, the National Research Council has recently issued a report that this material–some of it reportedly the size of a Greyhound Bus–will soon result in a cascade of collisions if something is not done. Working satellites that track weather and are involved in military surveillance could be affected. The Air Force currently tracks 20,000 pieces of space junk orbiting at about 17,000 miles per hour, and about 500 belong to us.
There is a great deal of research afoot about how to deal with the clutter, and much of it has to do with bringing it back into the earth’s atmosphere so that it will burn up. But of course, there is the political problem of disposing of some other country’s junk. Russia, for example, has twice as much clutter out there as we do. The diplomatic challenge makes one feel tired. A professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M, John L. Junkins, suggested that we forego international negotiations and simply begin to clean up the items that are our responsibility. Brilliant. Read Full Post »