If you’ve watched any of the late night talk shows this week, you’ve probably heard jokes about NASA crashing a rocket into the moon. Letterman quips that we’re following the Iraq strategy – bomb first, look for evidence later. So wait… we’re bombing the moon? That couldn’t be right!
So I went online to find out what is really happening. NASA is not actually bombing the moon; first they crash landed a “rocket stage,” and then, four minutes later, they crash landed a separate spacecraft that had been carried by the rocket but detached before the impact. The whole point was to first send up a large plume of debris from the larger rocket crash, which would then be analyzed for water content by the array of instruments on the second, smaller craft to follow it.
Both of these missions were accomplished this morning, and you can see a graphic representation and some NASA video about in on the BBC website.
Well, I have to admit – when I first heard they were deliberately crashing things on the moon, I got worried. I love the moon! It is a huge part of my life as a Pagan, and life on Earth is indebted to it for its help in regulating our tides and stabilizing the Earth’s rotation on its axis. But the NASA website about the LCROSS program (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) reassured me that no lasting or major damage was done to the moon, which is actually hit all the time by the same kind of debris that hits the Earth’s atmosphere and causes “shooting stars” – only the moon has no atmosphere to slow down such projectiles, and thus we have its familiar pockmarked and cratered appearance.
Yet there are points in their FAQ page that make me uneasy. For example, the whole point of the mission is to look for water (in the form of ice, ice-coated dust grains, or vapor) in the deep craters of the moon where the sun never shines. They argue that a source of water on the moon would be a great help for space missions in the distant future taking off from the moon – with their own source, they wouldn’t need to transport as much water up there. So far, so good.
However, then they go on to say that while the moon has plenty of oxygen tied up in its surface, “hydrogen is the other key element that could make rocket fuel production practical on the moon.” Rocket fuel production on the moon. Think about that for a minute. They want to make rocket fuel on the moon? (Now I’m imagining all kinds of buildings, infrastructure, guys in hard hats, and so on.)
Also I found out that this is not the first time a spacecraft has crashed on the moon – there have been at least 20 impacts of terrestrial spacecraft into the moon. To me, that means 20 pieces of terrestrial junk that no one will ever remove or dispose of. For some of these impacts, they haven’t even been able to locate the impact crater, so they reason these kinds of spacecraft wrecks up there will be “very hard to notice.” And, since the moon is already inhospitable to begin with, “bathed in cosmic rays and solar particle radiation,” it shouldn’t matter if we make it even less livable, so to speak. So I guess that is their case for polluting the moon.
I’m sorry, but as a Pagan I see the moon as something beautiful and sacred, and it pains me to think that after trashing our own planet, we have developed the resources to go up and trash the moon. Does this make me an anti-science, anti-progress religious fanatic, just like the ones I have so little respect for? Maybe in my own way, but I can’t help it.
What do you think? Is it OK to leave debris and possibly set the stage for rocket fuel production on the moon in the name of science? Do you think that this is a Pagan issue at all? Is it even an environmental issue, since it’s not our environment nor one any of us can possibly conceive of living in?