But today the web site of CNN published an editorial by Roger Launius, one that fails to even mention the coronavirus. The title of Roger's badly-timed editorial is this: "It's time for us to go back to the moon -- and stay there." Roger fails to make a compelling case for any such thing, and this could hardly be a worse time for proposing that we spend 30 billion dollars on a lunar base, money that is needed for things such as fighting the spread of deadly viruses here on Earth.
The first paragraph of Roger's editorial is pure nostalgia. He reminisces about listening to Neil Armstrong's moonwalk on a car radio. Such nostalgia will appeal only to those of his readers who are old-timers. In the next paragraph Roger claims that we should create a permanant lunar base "to learn more about the cosmos and to further our goal of becoming a multi-planetary species." But we won't actually learn much of anything more about the cosmos by building a permanent base on the moon. We already know practically all there is to know about the moon, which is a dull, boring, lifeless rock. Since the moon is not actually a planet, and since a permanent lunar base would have only a small number of inhabitants, we would not really be furthering a goal of becoming a "multi-planetary species" by creating a permanent lunar base for a small number of people.
Roger claims that a lunar base could lead to "a host of discoveries in astronomy, Earth observation, materials science, pharmaceuticals and biomedical research," but gives us no details to back up these far-fetched claims. It's true that the moon is a good place for astronomical observations. But for much less than the cost of building and shipping a telescope to the moon and keeping it manned by astronomers living on the moon, you can build an unmanned telescope such as the Hubble Space Telescope that floats in orbit above our planet. An approach such as the Hubble Space Telescope is a tried-and-true approach, so why not stick with that, rather than trying some far-more-expensive lunar telescope that would probably give you much less "bang for the buck"? As for "materials science, pharmaceuticals and biomedical research," research in such areas can be done far more effectively on Earth than on some base on the moon.
Roger tells us, "Should a medical emergency take place, researchers could be rescued relatively easily, unlike on Mars where it would take months to complete a rescue mission." But it would be vastly less expensive and safer to provide emergency medical care to researchers if they were doing their research here on Earth rather than on the moon. Roger tells us, "By establishing a base on the moon, we could also further the development of low-cost energy and other technologies by using space as a proving ground for new concepts and hardware that could be used not only on the moon but also on Earth." Yes, new technology can be tested on the moon, but it is a hundred times less expensive to test such technology here on Earth. Roger also tells us that a lunar base "could also begin the process of building a base for nuclear weapons that could be used to destroy near-Earth asteroids and other threats to our planet." He provides no details supporting any claim that we would be safer from the very remote danger of near-Earth asteroids by putting nuclear weapons on the moon as opposed to our own planet. I doubt whether any of us would feel safer once launchable nuclear weapons were installed on the moon, as we would wonder about whether such weapons would ever be used against our planet.
Roger thinks that building a base on the moon is "how we'll take our next great step and learn more about both the universe and humanity." But we won't learn anything more about humanity by building a base on the lifeless rock that is the moon. As for learning about the cosmos, our astronomers are already scheduled to get next year a gigantic gift: the 10-billion-dollar James Webb Space Telescope. That should keep them busy for many years, so why build them a moon base to house some other telescope?
Our limited science dollars should be spent mainly on things related to public health and safety, including new science that helps reduce the grave peril of global warming, and new science to reduce threats such as the threat of global pandemics. Science dollars that do not directly improve or affect the health or safety of humans should be spent mainly on answering questions related to life and mind, the type of questions that the average person has some interest in. We should not be spending tens of billions of dollars to answer esoteric "lifeless matter" questions unrelated to life and mind, questions that only a tiny clique of specialists care about (questions such as the precise details of lunar geology).
A lifeless rock unworthy of much further attention