Non-Fiction Books about the Moon
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The Once and Future Moon

by Paul D. Spudis
Smithsonian Institution Press
Paperback, 319 pages
ISBN No. 1-56098-847-9 (paperback)
ISBN No. 1-56098-634-4 (hardcover)
List price: $17.95
Amazon link.



The first half of Paul Spudis' book recapitulates much of the geologic history and information presented in Don Wilhelm's To a Rocky Moon, supplemented by data from the 1994 Clementine mission in which Spudis played an important part. The Clementine data is quite interesting and this book presents several intriguing graphics on surface topography and mineral distribution. Clementine provided our best view yet of the South Pole-Aitken basin which descends as much as 12 km below the mean surface - it also discovered the near-perpetually sunlit crater rim in the South Pole region that is tempting as a first lunar base location; the book provides the interesting datum that the temperature at that point is stable and more human-friendly than elsewhere on the Moon's surface, around -30 to -50 degrees Celsius.

The second (future) half of "The Once and Future Moon" addresses why, how, and when we will return to the Moon. Spudis' experiences with Clementine, and the negative experience with the big-budget NASA-planned Space Exploration Initiative (SEI - the $500 billion plan to go back to the Moon and beyond) of the early 1990's play an important part here. The book emphasizes a "pay as you go" small-scale approach to getting back. Cutting the cost of going to space is clearly needed - Spudis was perhaps over-optimistic about the DC-X, but mentions several other alternatives that might do just as well, and clearly examines where the current launch costs arise (hint: the energy to get to orbit costs a lot less than all those salaries for human hangers-on). Once we can feasibly do it, getting back to the Moon should proceed in phased steps. First orbiters to do more geological surveying (and provide telecommunication or other services). Then landers which may be capable of scientific research activities (astronomical observatories may be a good early candidate) but also to perform construction, manufacturing, or chemical processing to start the necessary use of in-situ resources. Rovers make sense as a next step, to explore more of the surface at a field-geological scale, and to facilitate construction of various services (energy, roads, etc.) Finally human bases will be needed to perform all those tasks requiring human dexterity, flexibility, and on-site decision-making, as the lunar infrastructure continues to grow.

Spudis' appendixes review the basic lunar facts and missions; most of this is also in Don Wilhelms' book. Spudis also provides a valuable bibliography with commentary on a large selection of books and other materials.

As a shorter book than Wilhelms', this is a good introduction to lunar geology (in the first half) and goes much beyond it in the second half discussing where we go from here. Spudis seems hopeful; read this book and you might almost be convinced that we'll really be back there soon!

Non-Fiction Books about the Moon

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