Right at this moment, I feel very intrigued by NASA’s approach to selling today’s moon mission action to the wider public. They must have hired some serious PR guys to put some exciting spin to their techy science stuff. At the end of the day (or rather at about 12:30 GMT), it’s about intentionally crashing two satellites into the moon to discover whether the mess this makes contains any traces of water. That’s not how NASA tells the story on their website though.
The LCROSS (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) Viewer’s Guide starts off like this:
Just imagine. A spaceship plunges out of the night sky, hits the ground and explodes. A plume of debris billows back into the heavens, leading your eye to a second ship in hot pursuit. Four minutes later, that one hits the ground, too. It’s raining spaceships! Put on your hard hat and get ready for action, because on Friday, Oct. 9, what you just imagined is really going to happen–and you can have a front row seat. (emphasis added)
Wow guys, I mean… wow. I’m at the office right now. With a hard hat on. Ready for action. Because it’s raining spaceships. (Some people call this a classic case of WTF). I convinced the guys to get out the projector and watch the whole spectacle via NASA TV. Because it will be raining spaceships.
On a more serious level, you may ask yourself why NASA feels the urge to sell it’s missions in such a dramatic style, rather than, say, just telling us that they’re looking for water on the moon. Early on this blog, I argued that space travel is actually in serious crisis because its purpose for mankind is constantly questioned. Especially in times of economic hardship when people tend to wonder why we need a multibillion space program at all.
So it might not be enough to say, “Listen, we do this to find out whether there’s water on the moon”. And what if there is? Well, then there is. I’m not even too sure how strongly NASA and other scientists believe in this tale of using the moon as a base station for longer trips into space. On BBC, a British scientist just said that using the moon as a base camp is a nice idea. He personally is “just nosy” and wants to know if there’s water. Period. I’m afraid that doesn’t get very many people and politicians excited enough to crash anymore spaceships into the moon.