Philosopher, Lawrence Technological University, Michigan
“Philosophy has to do with understanding our relationship with the world. In that sense, it is inextricably bound to science. It seems to me that the philosophical concern of this is what happens if we go to places like the Moon.
We can look at what has already happened. By going to the Moon, with Apollo and other missions, we have come to understand better what the Earth is like. So knowledge of the planetary system and of the cosmos gives us knowledge of the Earth. It is not just idle curiosity. It is something that in the long run affects us because it makes us understand our place in the Universe, and once we understand the Universe – and this is the point of practically all knowledge – we can then interact with that world better.
For us, understanding what the Earth is like is extremely important because the Earth has changed. To understand that, we need to know what kind of planet the Earth was when it formed and what kind of forces have acted upon it. One of the most important objects that we have to study is the Moon. By going to the Moon only a few times we accumulated an extraordinary amount of knowledge about what the Earth was like because the Earth and Moon apparently formed together. Even if this is not the case, it is still important to find out how the Earth and the Moon came to be together like they are.
The Moon has a record of collisions with comets and asteroids [shown by the size and number of craters on its surface] that we do not have on Earth. The Moon knows so much.
To understand the Earth is to understand the Earth as a planet, which means to understand what planets are, how they formed, how they evolved and how they relate to the Sun and so on. The Moon is so close to us. So going back to it is going to help us improve our understanding of our place in the Universe.
Exploring with humans is a lot more expensive and dangerous than doing it with machines but in the long run we have to do it any way. It also provides other benefits because humans are much more flexible than robots anyway.
Steve Squires, the person in charge of the Mars rovers, once said that he was so pleased with everything a rover had done in the previous six months, but he said that an astronaut could have done it all in a single day.
It is great that we have those machines, but eventually we need to be out there. I also think it is good to have adventures as a species so that people can then dream about them and participate in them.
Going to the Moon the first time around was so exciting. Going back will give us the opportunity to go to other, more exciting places.”
This now- iconic photo was taken by Buzz Aldrin to assist with research into lunar soils