Thursday, October 16, 2008

The trouble with planting potato seeds on our moon

600 word version

In the summer of ‘69, as my young brother David and I pigged out on potato chips and sipped Tang, we watched in awe, as Astronauts Aldrin and Armstrong hypnotizingly bounced around on the Moon. As our grainy black & white Zenith set fluttered otherworldly phenomena, I explained that the 3-second communication gaps were due to the time it took for Mission Control’s messages to reach the moon module, and then bounce back. Years later, David told me that he heard what I was said, but it was too much then, for his young mind to comprehend.

Since our last Apollo return, the comprehension required to understand inner-workings of mechanisms orbiting over our heads has increased exponentially. Nowadays, NASA has astronomical plans to establish a permanent colony near our satellite’s South Pole. From a positive engineering aspect, this extremity appears ice-capped and gathers abundant sunshine. For decades, sky gazers have speculated, that whoever wields power over this new Moon, will also reign supreme over Earth, with military “defense” weaponry and more. Our space agency is gearing up for this, by making Moon travel appear promising for average Joe Spud’s

Recently, Apollo Chronicles featured an article comparing the Moon to Sun Valley’s Dollar Mountain:

A prime moon-mover and dust shaker, partially eclipsed in this piece, is former astronaut Harrison Schmitt. Dr. Schmitt is geology engineer, who has started a corporation for extracting Helium -3 from the moon. In the well-crafted NASA article, readers get the playful feeling that any stuck in the mud not rooting for buoyant moon bounces, must be flat out against fun. The accepted wisdom is that pish-poshing un-patriotics should be made to munch on moon dust.

Ironically, this heavenly body ceaselessly revolving about us could wind up saving us. In one giant leap for humankind, fusion power fueled by the Moon’s ethereal helium-3 could become the spark for transport methods of never-ending energy -an upholding solution to our self-wrought energy crisis. Scientific researchers at Princeton University Plasma Plastics Lab have speculated that we could scrape over one million tons of helium-3 from the Moon surface. At the going rate of $3 million a ton, this would put a half-million dollars in every earthling’s back pocket!

It’s nice to imagine such a bright future, but down-to-earth-doubters point out that NASA is renowned for exorbitant cost overruns and does not put spending skycaps on such undertakings. In 2002, NASA even deleted from its mission statement the words, “to understand and protect our home planet .” How can the gravity of the good outweigh the bad, if we heavily invest in moon missions, while our country is facing Mountainous $$’s of debt? Here we are, aiming with billions of bucks to turn a profitable ship-lane in the sky; meanwhile, in years of overabundance, most food banks turn down fresh Idaho potatoes, because they are too heavy to ship.

Although the Moon is currently barren of sustaining food, we will likely expand moon colonization efforts, including farming, if this gold rush of the new millennium proves profitable. In fact, Fort Hall Indian Reservation High School students recently conducted a successful potato growing experiment on Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Soon, average Joe-Spud’s will be asked to launch more taxing skyrocket missions. But before that, shouldn’t we first invest our mountainous dollars to help waterways run to clean oceans? And focus on solar power already here? And determine more seaworthy transport solutions, so food belt farmers need not in years of overabundance, shamefully plough their potatoes down under the harvest moon, with millions starving in dark Africa and even gloomy pockets of Idaho?

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