According to Discovery News, Harrison Schmitt, on the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 17 of which he was part of the crew, advocated ending President Barack Obama's plan to send astronauts to an asteroid and instead suggested American go back to the moon.
Schmitt proposes to return to the moon
Discovery News reports that Schmitt, the only geologist to have walked on the moon, believes that the asteroid scheme is a diversion and that a return to the moon is the next logical step after the International Space Station on the way to Mars. He suggested that lunar science has just been scratched, with many questions left to be answered by future lunar expeditions. Returning to the moon would also enable access to lunar resources and give engineers and astronauts good practice exploring another world before attempting the more challenging task of going to Mars.
Schmitt's remarks in the wake of National Research Council report
Schmitt made his remarks soon after the National Research Council issued a report criticizing the asteroid mission scheme, suggesting that it had little or no support either within or outside NASA. The NRC report advocated the establishment of a goal for space exploration that would garner government and public support.
Private company, Golden Spike, undertaking return to the moon
Schmitt's statement also took place the same day that a private company called Golden Spike proposed to mount commercial expeditions to the moon starting in 2020. The idea is that Golden Spike would sell seats on these expeditions to any customer willing to pay the estimated $1.5 billion cost for each expedition.
Schmitt a long term advocate of a return to the moon
Schmitt, who is an Apollo astronaut, a lunar geologist, and a former United States senator, is a longtime advocate of returning to the moon. In 2006, he published a book on the subject. According to a review of Schmitt's book in the Space Review, Schmitt based his proposal on a substance called Helium-3, an isotope not found in nature on Earth, but deposited in the lunar regolith by solar wind over billions of years. Helium 3 could be used for clean fusion energy, transforming human civilization in Schmitt's view.
Schmitt flew on Apollo 17 40 years ago
Schmitt flew on the flight of Apollo 17 in December 1972, spending three days on the lunar surface with his fellow astronaut Gene Cernan in the Taurus-Littrow region of the moon, according to his NASA biography. Apollo 17 was the last of the manned lunar expeditions. Subsequently Schmitt served as a United States senator from the state of New Mexico for one six-year term. Since then he has been a consultant, writer, and speaker on a variety of space subjects.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.
- Science, Social Science, & Humanities
- Politics & Government
- Harrison Schmitt
- President Barack Obama
- National Research Council