Boots On The Moon - Lunacy Run Amuck

Why would we spend an estimated $104 billion (that's billion with a 'B') to go back to a dead world when ours is dying? It seems no one can come up with a compelling reason for NASA to repeat the "been there- done that" Apollo project of the 60's and 70's that President Bush has envisioned. In fact, we have been told by NASA to think of this as "Apollo on steroids.""Yep, this ill advised and uninspired platitude (yawn) is essentially the very same space vehicle architecture of the 60's- only a bit beefier. That says it all. There is really nothing new here. If you want to experience the buzz of this cold war relic anew, I would recommend a great book (at a fraction of the $104 billion that it would cost otherwise) Apollo 11: The NASA Mission Reports by Robert Godwin. It truly is a spectacular book, complete with a double sided CD Rom with lots of raw footage of most aspects of the adventure, allowing you to relive the heady days when we trumped the Commies in the space race and brought us such tangible benefits as Tang- the last time around.

And speaking of saving a bundle, when has NASA ever been under budget on any large project? Can you say 'Space Shuttle'? Get real! Does anyone really believe it will only be $104 Billion? The irony of all this fluff is that it's likely to be a substantial drain on resources for what actually is working at NASA. The "boots on the moon" program is in contrast to recent, highly spectacular and successful NASA missions, including the Hubble Space telescope, the Mars Rovers, and Explorer missions, which have provided a treasure-trove of scientific information of our universe, while relying on comparatively cheap, safe, unmanned robotic instruments. It is apparent that such programs will have to be scaled back or eliminated in the wake of a much more expensive (with limited return on investment), and dangerous manned moon project. "Trekkies" not withstanding( and perhaps Mr. Bush), it hardly stands up to any rational justification on any level, financial or otherwise, given the serious challenges we currently face in the real world.

Is it not time that we had a truly inspirational, practicable vision for our country in meeting the challenges of our generation?. We don't have to look far. A blind man could see it in a minute. Remember last year's hurricane season? The worst on record. With melting polar caps, massive mudslides and other environmental alterations due to global warming, we just might be starting to reap the ecological whirlwind of our blatant greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels. Now is the time to have a renewed "JFK Apollo mission" on the scale, urgency and funding of the Apollo program, to eliminate all fossil fuel based power generation within this decade. Given that we live in an unstable world, such a far-reaching initiative would not only make sense from an ecological, but also from a national security standpoint as well. As James Kunstler points out in his definitive book, The Long Emergency, we have no idea how life altering our condition would be if we suddenly had a serious disruption to our dependency on fossil fuels. A renewable solution for power would go a long way to addressing these germane issues that are bearing down on all of us.

But what do we do? Go solar? Wind? While anything we can do in this arena would help, the truth of the matter is that these alternatives are relatively diffuse in their ability to harness energy and they are intermittent in nature. In other words, their "cost to calorie" ratios are not all that efficient and they are not always dependable. Probably not what we would want for the national power grid. However, imagine having a river that is over a thousand times as massive as the Mississippi, dependably running year round. This vast, untapped, renewable resource of energy would be capable of generating many giga-watts of power for our homes, computers and businesses- and lies just off our shores in the form of perpetual ocean currents. Perhaps the most famous of these "ocean rivers""is the Gulf Stream, running nearest to us around the tip of Florida and up the cost of the Carolinas. While not particularly fast moving, (just a few miles per hour) the kinetic energy of the Gulf Current is massive, being about 60 miles across. Given that ocean water is 832 more dense than the atmosphere at sea level, this translates into an equivalent hurricane force wind night and day- miles across and running over a thousand miles along our eastern shores. And this seminal approach doesn't require NASA rocket science to harness the capacity of generating large-scale sustainable electrical power. By using existing hydro turbine technology, clean, low cost power could be generated underwater, out of sight, with no greenhouse gases, and with minimal impact to sea life as the hydro turbines (albeit with high torque) would turn at just a few rpm allowing virtually unimpeded fish and silt migration.

However, like the continental rail road of the 19th century, or the Apollo project of the 20th century, this 21st century project would also be colossal in scale requiring federal funding to accomplish the task- at least at first. If we unleashed our best minds of industry and science to this endeavor, and invested the $104 billion now erroneously slated for the moon into an array of marine power generation farms, we would be addressing the challenge of this, the 21st century. Future generations might view us as wise stewards of our charge, who on our watch, with our boots well grounded on earth, made the prudent choice.

By: John Woolf