Paul Spudis is no more. He had helped with crucial components of India’s Chandrayaan-I endeavour. An American geologist, he had dedicated his entire career to the study of the Moon. He badly wanted to see man on the Moon once again during his lifetime.
Man first stepped on the Moon in 1969. On 20 July 1969 to be precise. Five more Apollo missions carried astronauts to the Moon. By 1972, twelve humans, including Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, had set their feet on the celestial body. Replace 1972 with 2019 and the figure doesn’t change. Paul’s dream remained unfulfilled.
That evokes a strange feeling. Has the historic man-on-the-Moon feat achieved 50 years ago in reality adversely impacted on the advancement of lunar science? Has the human collective been treating Moon as a bucket list item and had its selfie moment in 1969? Is everything thereafter been-there-done-that?
Sure there was a huge political gain. To the USA. But what about science? Stakes are being raised now by the talk of taking man to Mars. To a layman in this marketing-driven world, that is some aspiration. Moon? That’s done and dusted.
Rocks and soil samples brought during the Apollo lunar missions are still being studied. Decades ago they had surprised the scientific community. Raised some challenging questions. Questions that are yet to be fully answered. We are yet to understand the Earth fully, let alone the Moon. And mind you, the Earth’s history is not going to be unravelled fully in isolation. The Moon is very much part of the equation.
Every time we cut our fingernails, the Moon moves away from the Earth the same distance as the width of the cut fingernails. Which means the two bodies were dangerously close to each other once. The early history of our planet since the formation of the Solar System until major events such as onset of plate tectonics, rise of first continents, rise of oxygen in the atmosphere and even beginning of life is intimately associated with what happened on and inside the Moon in those early eons. All that is still shrouded in mystery. Waiting for more information about the Moon. Mere 385 kg of samples and remote observations are not going to solve these conundrums. A lot more is required. Only more visits by us are going to help. The sooner the better.