NASAI’m currently sitting in a group session with grad students, two other professors, and high school teachers discussing how we can sell manned missions to the moon. As educators (formal and informal) we need to consider: who are our audiences, and what are our messages? If we teach NASA’s vision to return to the Moon, how do we (as used space mission sales people) sell the return of manned missions to the moon.

As a starting point, we need to be able to say, “Why are we returning to the moon?”

This is a commercial versus NASA question, and we have reasons for both.

In general (ideas below contributed by the group, who asked I omit their names):
– The moon is a jumping off point (gravitationally) to get beyond the moon
– It’s also a survival of the species question: If we can live there (the Moon) we can live anywhere
– It’s practice camping – like spending the night in your backyard before a major camping trip
– Seed corn for basic research – this is a laboratory. We need the key message that we are going to do R&D
– The moon in our own backyard… Tourism, Education,… The Moon in Hi-Def.

There are also the historical arguments for manned exploration: Louis and Clark’s government funded exploration set the pathway to blaze across America. Their stopping off points became cities (including the one I live in today). Other examples include James Town – a test (which failed) of our one civilization to populate an entirely new economic niche. The parable of Louis and Clark is one that we can use powerfully.

Another professor points out: We need to return to the fundamental questions – Who are we? Where do we come from? What are our next steps as humans? We need to consider sustainability, and upward motion for everyone.

There are key question that needs to be addressed: Who owns the moon? If we are developing industrial resources, who get’s them? The language we use often sounds like the language of Colonialism / Colonization. We need to consider this as an international effort as a planet and a species… There is also the question of cost. How do we sell people on the cost of manned space?

And there is the question of religion: The moon is a sacred object in many cultures. How do we make a scared object an industrial complex?

Professor: We went to the moon and left a bunch of stuff there, but to what end?
Pamela’s internal dialogue: So we can shoot lasers at it!
Professor: The public is apathetic – we need to get them captivated, not spouting the party line.

It looks like China will beat us to the moon. Is this an issue?
Grad student: This doesn’t need to be a competition with China. Why should we be upset with other nations getting ahead? Why is this us versus them instead of all of working together?

The implication to me is: The moon is everyones. It doesn’t have to be NASA going to the Moon alone and there are reasons for manned moon missions.

This needs to be humanity going to the moon, blazing a human trail…

An Important Postscript: At the end of the day I ran into Bernard Foing of ESA. He asked me about the day. I honestly said that I wished someone could sell me on the reason NASA needs to go to the Moon with men. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that it’s many layered, and the need to inspire, educate, explore, build strong partnerships with other nations, prove that we can do it, and prove that we can do it together as a planet working to develop scientific, industrial and education resources. He said it from the heart, and he the way he described it as a global mission, with NASA as a part of it . . . That is he way I wanted it explained. It is us working with them, to together explore. It is not us getting there before them to exploit the resources (which is what sometimes feel like people are trying to tell me). Bernard Foing made me want to see where this can go.