This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today


On to the Moon…

By Hamish Johnston

Will Orion visit the Moon or even Mars?

…or maybe Mars?

My earliest childhood memory is of being called inside by my mother on a warm summer day to watch Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon. I’m not sure if it was a live or recorded programme I saw 40 years ago — I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but I would like to think that I watched history unfold.

Then, three years later, Eugene Cernan stepped back into his Apollo 17 lander and no-one has set foot on the Moon since.

This morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today news magazine, there was a discussion about NASA’s Orion Spacecraft — a full-sized replica of which has just gone on display in the Mall in Washington DC.

Orion is expected to carry humans to the International Space Station in 2015 and to the Moon in 2020. Further in the future, Orion could carry astronauts to Mars.

You can listen to the discussion here . Unfortunately the BBC has not posted this piece as an excerpt so you will have to listen to about the first 50 minutes of the show — unless you can work out a way to fast-forward to about 06:53.

I’m guessing that many at NASA are looking forward to Orion with a mix of anticipation and dread. What will happen to the US space programme if the nation fails to revisit the Moon, let alone Mars? Failure could come from a lack of money — or more ominously, a lack of collective will to overcome what remains a significant technological challenge.

Will Eugene Cernan be the last person to walk on the Moon in my lifetime? Or will I live to see someone take their first steps on Mars? — which is the hope of Louis Friedman, president of the Planetary Society .

Friedman told Today that using Orion to travel to the Moon but not Mars is a 20th century goal wasted on a 21st century spacecraft.

A little later on Today, the historian, Richard Dunn is interviewed about his book The Telescope – A Short History. The interview takes place at the The Royal Observatory Greenwich and the Today reporter takes a peek through a reproduction of one of Galileo’s telescopes — and manages to spy a traffic light. You can listen to the excerpt here — just scroll down to 0740.

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile


  1. Ender

    In today’s What’s New bulletin, Bob Park writes the following open letter to President Obama, which I believe is pertinent to this blog entry (
    Dear Mr. President: Last month you said the space agency is drifting and needs a mission “appropriate for the twenty-first century.” The new Administrator, you said, should think about “the next great adventures and discoveries under the NASA banner.” I know you’ve been busy with G20 stuff and haven’t had time to name this visionary, so in an effort to help What’s New did the thinking for whoever it will be:
    1) Astronauts are a relic of the 1960’s “space race” and a major obstacle to the continued exploration of space. Therefore the ISS, which serves no useful purpose anyway, should be given to China and the crew sent home on the Soyuz. Maybe astronauts could be awarded medals for courage in fighting the Cold War.
    2) Global-warming critics insist climate change is the result of solar variations and is not anthropogenic. Therefore, NASA should move with due haste to locate DSCOVR at the unique Lagrange-1 vantage point to resolve this question.
    3) The greatest quest in science is to find life to which we are not related. Therefore, NASA’s robotic exploration of the solar system should be expanded to include the ocean moons of Jupiter. There should also be a ban on human visits to any planet that might harbor life; we’re crawling with bugs.
    4) The great discovery of this century is the existence of planets around other stars. The bad news is that we can’t get to an exoplanet. The good news is they can’t get here. Therefore we should employ the huge advances in optical technology to develop a new generation of advanced space telescopes capable of examining exoplanets for evidence of life.”
    While he may sound exagerated at the beginning, I think his four points are sound.

  2. Gary Ansorge

    Dr. Park is a notorious curmudgeon about human space presence and he makes the same mistake Arthur Clark delineated when he said “,,, but when a respected elder scientist says something is IMPOSSIBLE, he’s probably wrong,,,”
    To baldly state that access to the stars will be forever beyond our ability and that therefore we are safe from alien interlopers is based upon our current tech. Even with our current knowledge we have some feasible ideas on how to access other star systems and though they are currently beyond our applied tech that doesn’t mean it will be forever thus.
    We NEED a permanent human presence/migration to space.
    ,,,for survivals sake,,,
    GAry 7

  3. Ender

    I’d still agree with him that “upon our current tech” it makes much more sense to promote intensive robotic exploration of our Solar System. If “human presence/migration” is to become possible, such a programme would provide badly needed data to assess possibility of life sustainability. That also applies to the problem of civilisation sustainability on Earth, as he points out in (2).


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text