As the 50th anniversary of the landing of Apollo 11 approaches, we asked our readers should humans return to the surface of the Moon?
Half a century on, it seems engineers are overwhelmingly in favour of humans returning to the Moon, with 55 per cent viewing Earth’s satellite as an important stepping stone on the journey to Mars. Conversely, more than a fifth (21 per cent) of readers felt that advances in robotic exploration meant that this was a more sensible option for future lunar mission and could tell us all we needed to know.
A not insignificant 14 per cent believe that our return to the Moon should be based around the search for resources, which itself could pre-empt yet further exploration of our solar system for activities such as asteroid mining.
The final 10 per cent of the vote was evenly split between readers who chose the ‘none of the above’ option and those who feel that we already know all we need to about the Moon, and as such should not be sending crewed missions back there.
Pulling no punches, Trevor commented that “It is embarrassing, if not actually shameful, that human space exploration has been stalled the last 50 years, considering it only took 66 to get from Kitty Hawk to the moon.”
Other commenters were less critical and more cautious. Thomas Taylor wrote: “Surely it is still very risky to send humans at this stage and what if there was an accident as in the book ‘The Martian’. Better to use resources now developing really robust robotic vehicles and remote chemical analysis. Later (50 years from now )we can send humans and they can pay for the privilege to commercial companies.”
Several commenters pointed to the fact that even though the costs of space exploration are high, so are the rewards, and the money involved would be unlikely to be spent wisely if diverted from space programmes.
“We stand to gain knowledge of how the environment on the moon affects the human body and mind, long term, and no doubt the human travel will be supplemented with robotic probes that can do all the measurements,” said Christopher Hart.
“I have no doubt if the money was kept here on Earth it would not be spent on alleviating hunger, disease or other suffering. It doesn’t work that way. We still have to deal with our Earth-bound problems, whether we explore in space or not, so I say ‘go for it’, and good luck!”
Comments will remain open and we invite our readers to continue the conversation ahead of the approaching anniversary.