Mars is most frequently the watchword in planetary exploration. The majority of NASA’s planetary exploration budget has been focused on it, it’s the next big leap in sending humans out into the solar system, and Buzz Aldrin has admirably led a campaign to publicize the need for a Mars mission with his “Get your *** to Mars” movement. But Mars isn’t the only game in town.
Planetary scientist Paul Spudis, well known as a lunar expert for many years and a stalwart of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, has just written an important book that weighs in on exploration. The Value of the Moon: How to Explore, Live, and Prosper in Space Using the Moon’s Resources (272 pp., hardcover, Smithsonian Books, Washington, 2016, $28; ISBN 978–1–58834–503–5) lays out the case for the Moon’s resources playing an important role in the future of all space exploration missions.
Using his spectacular knowledge of lunar science, Spudis describes why the United States should return to the Moon first as a restart to a robust human space program. The reasons are threefold: proximity, the preserved history of the Moon, the solar system, and the galaxy (embedded in Moon rocks), and usefulness in terms of materials and energy for an ongoing program of exploration.
In this well crafted and meticulous book, Spudis argues that returning to the Moon and using it as a base and jumping off point is key to the future of solar system exploration. He describes how the return to the Moons should be implemented, and also asks the question, if not us, then who? And if not now, then when?
Spudis also explores a range of lunar related topics that round out this clever and enticing book, including the religious, cultural, and scientific resonance of our closest celestial neighbor. This is an important book that is being published at an important time. Anyone who cares about solar system exploration, lunar science, or the American space program will thank his or herself for reading it.
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