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Posted: February 25, 2024

Let’s get our scientific priorities straight

“Perceptions,” by Gerry Warner

Op-Ed Commentary

I wish I could be excited by the Americans latest moon landing, but somehow I’m not. After all I’m old enough to remember Uncle Sam’s first manned landing on old Luna more than 50 years ago and I can personally attest to how excited people were then.

“One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind,” said Neil Armstrong as millions around the world sat glued to their TV screens mesmerized by what they were seeing. And in those days, we stared at giant television set screens. Not dinky little smart phone screens that millions can’t tear themselves away from today.

Times and technology were certainly different then.

Be that as it may, I confess to having a small degree of excitement now to see the stars and stripes again on that celestial orb when Odysseus, or “Odie,” as the space craft is known, touched down safe and upright on the moon’s rocky surface near the lunar south pole and began sending back data to its scientific crew on Earth. Who wouldn’t be excited by that?

But for me at least, the excitement wore off quickly as I started to think about other aspects of the latest lunar venture. Like what took them so long?

If the moon has treasures to offer in terms of scientific knowledge, valuable minerals and who knows what, why did they delay the return trip for so long? It’s been 52 years since the first NASA Apollo moon landing July 20, 1969, and six more missions followed with the last occurring in 1972. After that, nada. So why did they quit going?

Could it be they didn’t find anything of scientific value worth spending millions on? What other conclusion can you come to?

This time out, NASA contracted the project to a private company, Intuitive Machines, thereby saving millions for itself as well as the taxpayers funding the agency. But why are they doing this? Could it be that the ambitious moon programs of China, Japan, India and others are scaring Washington which desperately wants to stay on top of the space race?

In other words, politics is the driving force of this latest space adventure just as it was when the US government launched the Apollo program out of fear of the dreaded Soviet Union commies beating Uncle Sam to the moon. We couldn’t have that could we?

In fact, as Russia continues its diabolical war against Ukraine, Russia remains a sinister threat to world peace and the possibility of a space war. I wouldn’t put anything past Putin.

As for the possibility of important new scientific discoveries with this latest visit to the moon’s cratered surface, I confess I’m a bit skeptical considering a comment made by NASA’s director of planetary science Lori Glaze who said the lunar lander is hoping to find ice. “We could use that ice to convert it to water, drinkable drinking water.”

Surely, they’re not spending millions and risking human lives just to find water? Almost 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water while Jason and the Argonauts go tripping through space to find frozen aqua.

Yes, we have a lot of water at home but we’re polluting it more every day. Wouldn’t cleaning it up be a more worthy scientific project than melting icicles on the moon? And while we’re at it, wouldn’t restoring the Earth’s ancient biodiversity be a much more worthy and life-saving project as well?

Don’t get me wrong, I congratulate NASA and Intuitive Machines for the monumental feat they have just pulled off. But don’t you think it’s about time we got our priorities in order?

– Gerry Warner is a retired journalist, who doesn’t have all his priorities straight either.

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