The moon is a beautiful thing isn’t it?

Up there in all its glory—glowing, watching, waxing, waning, contemplating.

Fifty years ago, we went there. Not me or you personally, but the nation, the world. People who live and breathe on earth just like the rest of us. Now we’re headed back.

Last week, NASA successfully launched the much-delayed Artemis I mission.

The Orion capsule will fly within 60 miles of the moon this week. The mannequins inside that capsule will get a ringside seat to that luminous lunar surface. (I know, I know, the moon does not glow.

The moon looks like it glows to us here on earth because light from the sun bounces off of it.)

Launch delays included but were not limited to:
-A persistent hydrogen leak during fueling
-A possible faulty sensor
-Several hurricanes

I’m not sure I understand why it’s important to send people back to the moon. What is so urgent we must spend so much public money getting there?

According to reporting from CBS News, NASA is expected to spend $93 billion on the Artemis program by fiscal year 2025. That’s an impossible amount of money to imagine. Why do we need to go back?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that space travel is undeniably cool—the moon is undeniably cooler, and combined, I’m pretty sold on the idea. Not that anyone asked me for my input.

One of the perks of working as a journalist is bearing witness to historic moments so you can tell other people about them. Back in 2020, before COVID shut the world down, I got a chance to write about the big engines that powered last week’s rocket launch.

While working at a small Mississippi paper that happened to be a stone’s throw from Stennis Space Center, I covered the 2020 State of NASA speech and got an up-close look at the RS-25 engines the Space Launch System rocket used. They were impossibly beautiful and large, like something that had fallen right out of a science fiction movie into reality.

I’m sure folks here in Socorro can tell you about the occasional rumble shaking their windows from explosives testing at the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC). For people who live near Stennis Space Center, there was also an occasional rumble from scientific research, only it was a much larger rumble and it was coming from rocket engine testing. Fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the RS-25 engines produce 1.6 million pounds of thrust.

Aside from the cool factor, the scientific research needed to send people into space has a history of turning up useful inventions for everyday life. Innovations for space vehicles have helped improve artificial limbs, astronaut helmets helped get us scratch-resistant lenses (as a glasses wearer, thank you NASA), space suit innovation has been used to improve firefighting gear, and systems designed to monitor astronauts’ vital signs were adapted to create insulin pumps—an invention that makes it much easier to manage diabetes.

The Artemis I mission is step one in a multi-part plan to take people to deep space. First, no people will travel on Orion around the moon—happening now. Then people will travel on Orion around the moon. In 2025 (if there are no delays, which, there will be delays, right?), people will travel on Orion to the moon. Then, eventually, we boldly go where no one has gone before! (Mars, and maybe farther?)

People have been stargazing for as long as there have been people. We’ve been writing about the wonder of the cosmos for as long as we’ve been telling stories.

Space travel is a credit to humanity’s tenacity, scientific know-how and wild dreams. What do you mean us tiny people living on this relatively small rock are going to leave the rock and wander among the stars?