Shifting Lunar Poles and Shifting Lunar Plans

Lunar Pole Shift Credits: James Keane, University of Arizona; Richard Miller, University of Alabama at Huntsville

Lunar Pole Shift
Credits: James Keane, University of Arizona; Richard Miller, University of Alabama at Huntsville

The journal Nature has published a fascinating paper which provides convincing evidence that the Moon’s axis shifted by roughly 5 degrees some 3 billion years ago. What makes the work more than a matter of scientific curiosity however, is the fact that the shift was traced by using data from a variety of spacecraft to track a trail of ice deposits which mark the path where the Moon’s poles once were, and where they are now.

The NASA story summarizing the article’s findings, and the work that made it possible, is linked here, and is definitely worth a read, but it takes on added significance against the background of an upcoming American presidential election, an event which sometimes results in a major shift of U.S. space policy, as well as a recently proposed program of lunar exploration using commercial partnerships which could bring the Moon’s ice deposits within reach in just a few years.

See Related: A 6-10 Person SpaceX / Bigelow Lunar Station for $2 Billion per Year

Perhaps feeling the obvious vulnerability in a space program which offers no tangible progress in human exploration until until the 3rd year of an incoming President’s second term, supporters of the status quo have begun warning against the risks of yet another shift in American space policy, as evidenced in this widely circulated opinion piece in Wired.

It argues in part:

“American astronauts aren’t likely to set foot on Mars unless the next president resists the temptation to hit the reset button on America’s human spaceflight program—again. Instead of commissioning yet another time consuming, high-level study of America’s human spaceflight program that forces NASA to change direction, the next administration should build on the bipartisan foundation that’s been laid over the last six years.”

While it goes on to argue the virtues of NASA’s orbit only Cis-Lunar “proving ground” plan as part of the very long term “Journey to Mars” what it seems to fear most is another look at the assumptions which formed the background of the 2009 Augustine Commission report which led to the cancellation of Project Constellation.

One has to wonder what a similarly constituted panel might conclude after 8 years of progress in demonstrating commercial resupply to LEO, instituting Commercial Crew, mapping lunar resources, developing reusable rockets and (finally) launching ultra-low cost heavy lift launch vehicles.

So the Moon’s pole shifted once upon a time, perhaps it is time for us to do some shifting too.


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1 Comment on "Shifting Lunar Poles and Shifting Lunar Plans"

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  1. PK Sink says:

    The Falcon Heavy should be joining the party just about the same time that the new administration is. That little coincidence could make for some interesting times.

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