The number of useful and even profitable things that people could do on the moon is limited only by the imagination. The South China Post is reporting that a group of Chinese scientists is studying the idea of installing a powerful radar station on the lunar surface to conduct Earth observation.

The radar in question would be at least 50 meters high and would observe wider areas of the planet than do current Earth observation satellites. The radar station would monitor climate and weather, earthquake activity, agriculture, and the formation and melting of the polar icecaps.

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The Chinese concept suggests that the radar station would have astronauts operating it on the lunar surface who would process the data on-site and in real time.

The use of the moon as a venue for an observatory is not a new concept. The moon, with a stable surface and a lack of atmosphere, has advantages over both Earth-based and Space-based telescopes. However, the Chinese radar idea is the first serious concept for using the moon for Earth observation.

The idea may have some impact on American space policy. The only spending account that has prospered at NASA under the Obama presidency has been Earth science, mostly because it meshes with the administration’s climate change agenda. Some, including Sen. Ted Cruz, have accused the Obama administration of shortchanging space exploration and planetary science to pay for climate change research.

The delicious irony is that Obama specifically vetoed an American-led return to the moon, using the discredited “been there, done that” excuse.

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Now the Chinese are delving into the idea that a return to the moon would complement rather than take away from Earth science research. The revelation is another example of how the turning away from the moon was not seriously thought through.

To be sure, using the moon as a platform for Earth observation would not justify the cost of setting up a moon base by itself. However, added to the other reasons, national prestige, science, commerce, and education, the Chinese moon based radar is an intriguing possibility.

 

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