Going back to the moonThe Earth’s atmosphere makes looking at the sky difficult: there are clouds, light pollution, and the air ‘blurs’ the light coming from the stars. SOFIA can overcome these problems because it flies above the denser, lower atmosphere where it can get a better look at the cosmos. And this is what it has discovered: there’s water on the Moon, in the form of ice. This is great news for future astronauts. Last year NASA presented its Artemis Program, which plans to send a mission to the Moon in 2028 and establish a base there in the 2030s. Japan and China also want to send people to the Moon in the coming years. Even the private enterprises Blue Origin and Space X are planning lunar bases. SOFIA’s discovery is great news for these missions because astronauts will be able to drink ‘lunar’ water instead of bringing water supplies from Earth. Sending stuff into space is expensive – sending a half-litre water bottle, for example, can cost between $9,000 and $44,000!
Is this money well spent?The world is full of problems and is currently facing a global pandemic, so why spend so much effort and money on space exploration? This is a legitimate question, but the same could be asked of other human activities. Every year, for example, the United States spends around $600 billion on the military. In contrast, the money given to NASA is only $22 billion. (It is estimated that with $600 billion NASA could build 4 colonies on Mars.) Several studies show that the more a country invests in science and technology the higher its human development index, a statistic that measures the health and prosperity of its people. Money spent on science provides a good return (think, for example, of the money currently being spent on finding a Covid vaccine). Regarding the Moon, scientists believe that our satellite is like “a museum of the history of the Solar System”. We can learn many things if we visit it, including, they believe, the answer to how life began here on Earth.
Pale Blue DotAstronomy also helps us reflect on who we are. When Nicolaus Copernicus said the Earth was not at the centre of the Universe, he triggered a revolution that changed the world. Our planet is a tiny speck in the vastness of the cosmos. In 1990 the Voyager space probe (sent into space by NASA in 1977 to explore the Solar System) proved this when it took a picture of our planet. Voyager was so far away that, in the photo, the Earth was smaller than a pixel, a tiny bright spot against the darkness of space. The photo was named ‘Pale Blue Dot’. Astronomer Carl Sagan wrote: “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.” Sagan then reflects on how stupid our divisions are when seen from such a distance: “Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that […] they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.” On the contrary, he concludes, we have a responsibility “to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
USEFUL LINKS 1) What does SOFIA look like? Learn more about SOFIA and its discovery in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U70y8ypCbyA&feature=emb_logo 2) You can read NASA’s press release here: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-sofia-discovers-water-on-sunlit-surface-of-moon/#:~:text=Data%20from%20this%20location%20reveal,spread%20across%20the%20lunar%20surface. 3) Look at the ‘Pale Blue Dot’ photo... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot ... and listen to Carl Sagan’s thoughts on it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wupToqz1e2g 4) Why is everybody going back to the Moon? Find out here: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jul/06/everyones-going-to-the-moon-again-apollo-11-50th-aniversary 5) What incredible things could science and technology do with $600 billion? https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/11/01/5-incredible-advances-science-could-buy-with-the-governments-600b-military-budget/?sh=5d2ef380902f 6) Interested in the Artemis Program? You can learn about it here: https://www.nasa.gov/specials/artemis/
COMPREHENSION 1) Read the article and cross out the WRONG alternative (two answers are correct and one is incorrect). 1. Oscar Wilde said that, when faced with adversity,___ (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Pixabay and Pixabay)
- we all follow our dreams.
- some of us fail to think positively.
- some people keep their eyes on their dreams.
- is not an ordinary telescope.
- was built in 1958 to study the cosmos.
- can fly because it was built on a plane.
- better than a telescope on the ground.
- without the problems caused by the Earth’s atmosphere.
- even through clouds.
- something useful for future astronauts.
- ice on the Moon.
- liquid water on the Moon.
- bases built by private enterprises.
- a joint American-Chinese base.
- astronauts from different countries.
- far less money than the military.
- enough money to build 4 colonies on Mars.
- enough money for the Artemis Program.
- it’s not expensive.
- you get something good back.
- it makes people healthier and more prosperous.
- to raise the human development index.
- to learn things about our Solar System.
- to discover how life began on Earth.
- all of our history took place within a tiny dot floating in space.
- planet Earth is our only home.
- Earth’s size is less than a pixel.
- our world is precious.
- we and our world are insignificant.
- it makes no sense to fight each other.