Letter To the The Planetary Society, Sent July 29, 2009
To the The Planetary Society staff and Board,
I’m a space nut, and am all for any and all kinds of space exporation. The Planetary Society has been doing a great job.
My perspective has tweaked a little recently. Underlined by Jani Radebaugh’s 7/28/09 blog entry, the Earth is a planet too, and I put forth to the Society that the priority should be to solve the planetary crisis at hand. Especially the one we live on.
I cannot support a goal of putting humans back on the moon or onto Mars unless we have done everything possible to prevent our planet from becoming substantially warmer for our children and the generations that follow. 100% carbon-free energy is a great goal, and it is a necessary step, but it is not sufficient. With the elevated CO2 in the air, the earth will warm for centuries, unless active planetary-scale measures (read geo-engineering) are made to remove CO2, or in the worst case, reduce effective solar energy.
Since the oceans consume about 50% of the CO2 in the air and 40% of oceans have poor phytoplankon populations, the most important research we can do for future generations is massive ocean carbon-cycle research. While it is well known that adding micronutrients, such as iron, to the southern oceans causes massive phytoplankon blooms, and corresponding consumption of C02, there is much that we don’t know about the effects of such fertilization. Understanding relevant ocean processes should be our national and global priority along with green energy. Space is an ideal platform from which to observe the millions of square miles of our oceans.
If we truly value this planet, and truly own our responsibility to leave it to future generations in some semblance of the shape that we received it, then our top priority must be to clean up the mess that wehave made. The Moon and Mars will always be there, and in the course of history, a delay of 10 to 20 years to get to those bodies is insignificant compared to the centuries that the Earth will be hot. I will have a hard time explaining to my grandchildren why we focused on sending a few people to another planet when billions are impacted or devastated by droughts, famines, hurricanes and underwater coastal cities.
Repurpose NASA for a decade or two. Continue robotic missions, continue research on propulsion and long-term space travel, but make the next “moonshot program” about the earth, its oceans and its atmosphere. I challenge The Planetary Society to take up this debate. You can put this on the national and global agenda. Do you, do we have the guts to stand up and say, we need to focus now on our planetary crisis at hand.
– Rand Wrobel