Finding water on the Moon, an inspiration to us all

24 09 2009

moon1Readers of this blog will know that I have a deep interest in space travel. (Although I am not terribly good in aeroplanes so I cannot imagine I will be first in line for a moon trip). So it was exciting to read this morning that an Indian space probe appears to have discovered water on the Moon.

NASA has plans to build a permanent manned colony on the Moon within twenty years, although the Obama regime has been pouring cold water on these plans as the country’s economic crisis has deteriorated. If the plans were to go ahead then the presence of water would make a huge amount of difference to the viability of a permanent presence there. As today’s report indicated, availability of water would not only provide drinking water and enable crop irrigation but also permit the extraction of oxygen for breathing and hydrogen as an energy source.

A second reason for being excited about this discovery, if it is verified, is that it was made by an Indian lunar mission, its first in fact. As an emerging nation India has jumped ahead in the exploration stakes, not only of the US but also its main emerging rival, China. How inspiring it must be for the Indian people to know they are responsible for this discovery.

It is the inspirational aspect of space travel which is probably the most important aspect of it. As John F Kennedy understood, space travel has many potential economic benefits and acts as a huge boost to innovation, but its capacity to uplift and inspire stands above all of that. For an emerging country like India this success will encourage developments in other areas of life. It gives everybody a lift.

It may also be a harbinger for the 21st century in other ways. The inclusion of China and India in the G20 intergovernmental talks this weekend, and the raised status of this grouping, show how quickly emerging nations have become central to the governance of the world. The emerging rivalry between India and China, added to the international cooperation which the space programme demands, could give space exploration the edge which the rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union did in the last century. That rivalry pushed technology to its limits and landed men on the Moon. Perhaps this time we will cast our net far deeper into space.