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The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2


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OPINION: The modern space race: The future of human presence on the moon

KentWired Illustration by Cari Stonis

The year 1972 marks the last time humans touched the moon.

They left their mark on it in forms of footprints, flags and plaques commemorating the remarkable feat.

Fifty-two years later, the moon still holds those traces of humanity on its surface, preserving an era of lunar exploration that has yet to be repeated. 

In the coming days, a new lunar feat could be achieved.

A Nova-C spacecraft named “Odysseus,” built by Intuitive Machines, launched on Feb. 15. If all goes as planned, it will touch down on the moon on Feb. 22, making it the first soft lunar landing since 1972. 

While its possible status as the first private mission to land on the moon is intriguing, that status carries weight. 

If successful, this will also be the first time that private capital occupies the moon. This allows the lander to carry nonscientific items along with the NASA-funded science equipment.

While Odysseus is carrying six instruments funded by NASA, it is also carrying a time capsule and a series of sculptures by artist Jeff Koons.

While the items being sent to the moon are primarily science-based this time, the opportunity for any payload to be sent to the moon can be dangerous.

The controversy has already begun with the announcement that Columbia Sportswear technology is being used on the spacecraft to protect it from extreme temperatures. The Columbia logo will be prominently displayed on the spacecraft, essentially utilizing Odysseus as a billboard. 

The opportunity for commercial development on the moon is rightfully met with scrutiny.

While it seems far-fetched to believe that in the near future telescopes could show a huge human presence on the moon, it’s becoming more and more likely with the expansion of the global space industry. 

The moon has experienced little human presence in the past 50 years.

The Apollo program introduced humanity to the moon, but on a relatively small scale. NASA and private companies plan to introduce an abundance of projects and programs in the upcoming years that will grow the commercial presence on the moon to a degree that is formerly unheard of. 

As human presence on the moon becomes a bigger reality, we have to question if humans should have the opportunity to turn the moon into an investment venture. 

The moon is more than just a natural satellite, it is a fundamental component of human life.

It has immortalized itself as a pillar in religion and mythology.

For some, the moon is a spiritual object. For others, it represents achievement and unity. Its tides directly affect humanity as a whole, and its mystique is preserved in lines of reverent prose. 

Overall, the moon is an essential fixture in human culture.

To make a mark on the moon in the name of science and innovation is one thing, but to offer the opportunity for the moon to become a self-sustaining economy, tainted with whatever artifacts the highest bidder wants to place upon it, is disrespectful and borderline dystopian. 

The way the moon is treated sets the precedent for the rest of space exploration. To speak of innovation and growth while actively changing the surface of the moon with little consideration for the desecration it may cause is dismaying.

There may be good intentions behind the endeavor, but the moon deserves more respect than being irrevocably changed.

Kaitlyn Mitchell is an opinion writer. Contact her at [email protected].

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