Mars vs. the Moon: Where Do You Want to Go?

April 27, 2016

Okay, fellow humans. Where should we go next? Should we return to the Moon or push onward to Mars?

Ap12 Mars vs the Moon

It would be nice if we could do both, but space exploration is expensive. So at least in the near future, we as a species will probably have to choose.

If you pay any attention to NASA’s public relations, you know the United States is aimed for Mars. Almost every new piece of NASA tech is billed as Mars-ready or Mars-capable. Almost every experiment, including Scott Kelly’s Year in Space mission, is somehow Mars related. NASA has produced tons of videos, posters, and infographics, and they’ve made #JourneytoMars a thing on Twitter.

But an actual Mars landing is still at least twenty years away. A lot could happen in twenty years, politically and economically speaking. Regarding the politics of space exploration, international partnerships play a key role. Big, expensive projects become a lot more feasible when costs are divvied up among multiple countries.

Right now, the European Space Agency (ESA) is mulling over the idea of establishing a permanent outpost on the Moon. This moon base, or “moon village” as it’s sometimes called, would be the successor to the International Space Station.

If ESA does get their moon village started, no doubt the Russians and the Japanese will want to be part of it. And so will the U.S. But where will that leave NASA’s #JourneytoMars ambitions?

Personally, I’d really like human beings to finally set foot on Mars, preferably in my lifetime. But ESA’s moon base proposal seems more achievable in the near-term. In a way, it does feel like a logical next step after the International Space Station. But that’s just my opinion.

So what do you think? Were do you, fellow humans, want to go next: back to the Moon or onward to Mars?


Sciency Words: Dark Side of the Moon

April 1, 2016

Sciency Words PHYS copy

Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Each week, we take a closer look at an interesting science or science-related term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s term is:

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON

As the Moon orbits the Earth, the same side of the Moon is always facing toward us. It’s like the Moon is staring at us, unblinking, perhaps with some awkward question it’s been meaning to ask.

My06 Stuff on the Moon

But what’s on the other side? What’s on the side facing away from us? Scientists call that the “dark side” of the Moon. Scientists love making Star Wars references, and this one really fits. The dark side of the Moon is cloaked in perpetual darkness, because it is not only turned away from Earth but also away from the Sun.

As a result, we don’t really know much about the dark side of the Moon. There have been rumors that the Apollo Missions, while in lunar orbit, observed secret alien bases in the Moon’s dark region. This is obvious nonsense. The dark side of the Moon is too dark to observe anything!

Maybe some day when humanity finally chooses to return to the Moon, we’ll get some answers. Just so long as we remember to bring a flashlight.

P.S.: Happy April 1st! No, there is no such thing as a “dark side of the Moon.” The side of the Moon facing away from Earth is properly called the “far side of the Moon,” and it gets just as much sunlight as the side facing us.