Human colony or media hyperbole?
On Oct. 19, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency announced the discovery of a 50-kilometer-long cave formed by lava flows under the surface of the moon. According to JAXA, underground refuges like this cave “may be the best place to build large-scale lunar bases” because they protect humans from dangerous solar radiation and the harsh temperatures of the moon.
Many popular news outlets have portrayed this discovery, made by JAXA’s SELENE probe, as a major breakthrough and a potential site for a human colony on the moon. For example, a Daily Mail headline on Oct. 20 read, “Is this a perfect spot for a lunar colony?,” while The Guardian’s article on the topic was titled “Discovery of 50km cave raises hopes for human colonization of moon.” Despite this, however, Mr. Richard Arnold, Taipei American School Social Studies teacher, noted that publicity levels around the cave have been relatively low, and that interest in space exploration has dramatically declined since the space race of the 1950s and 1960s. “There used to be this huge, huge excitement about space. [During the first moon landing], everyone was just glued to the television…but now, there’s no person that we associate with space. There’s no hero that we look up to.”
Astronomy teacher Ms. Anisha Vinod also expressed doubt about the popular media’s connection of the moon cave to a human colony on the moon. She says, “It’s not that exciting…I don’t know why we’d want to go to the moon. We want to go to Mars, right? We could put a base on the moon as a midway point, but I think they’re looking at more viable options.” Ms. Vinod also says, “We have to leave the Earth someday if we want to survive as a civilization…but getting to the moon would only extend our lifetime by a couple of decades.”