The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lunar water and the future of man in Space.

NASA has discovered lunar water...and lots of it. This is both good news and potentially bad news. I shall explain.

On October 9th 2009, a mission involving the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, LCROSS discovered 25 gallons of water in a plume of dust kicked up, one mile into space, by an empty rocket hull smashing into the Cabeus crater. The crater had been chosen because it is permanently shadowed, at its position near the South Pole: the sun never gets the chance to heat it up and evaporate its contents.

Now, the good part of this news is clear. It seems certain, now, that there is plenty of water on the moon, in such permanently shadowed places. Therefore, a moon base could be established much more cheaply than otherwise would be possible. The water for drinking would not have to be lifted into space - and so too, could rocket fuel be manufactured in situ. The moon is a much more viable location for a permanent base than ever had been thought, before. Yet, there is a danger here. The new attractiveness and relative cheapness of the moon might distract Mankind from a much better prospect: Mars.

Should a permanent base be established on the moon, it may be that Man might delay, for a time too long to contemplate, the establishment of a colony on Mars. The red planet offers a lot more to humans than the Moon ever could. Mars could be terraformed, over centuries, into a new home for Man. The moon could never be that, however much easier it might be to establish a base, now. The moon is not, and could never be, a second Earth. Mars, however, is a few clever technologies from being a second Earth. We need a second Earth, much more than we need a permanent moon base - and if the latter were to prevent the former from happening, then we really should consider whether a moon base should ever happen at all.

NASA's resources are finite. They are, in fact, very modest (about 18 billion dollars per year). Thus, space exploration has not been prioritized by the Americans for some decades. Were its resources greater, then a moon base and a mars base would both be within reach, in the next couple of decades. However, it lacks the money presently for either. The economic danger this new discovery presents is that it might persuade NASA's paymasters to support a moon base...which is now going to be much cheaper than expected...but NOT a Mars mission, which remains as expensive as ever.

Ideally, we should have both a moon base and a Martian presence. However, if we are only to have one: it should be Mars that we open up, not the moon.

The answer to this, of course, is not to force NASA to make difficult choices - but to give it the money it needs. As I have noted before, the long-term survival of Mankind depends on us getting "offworld". Man needs to establish offworld colonies if it is to ensure its own survival to the far reaches of time. That, in fact, should be the true mission of NASA: the survival of Mankind. Were NASA to define itself in those terms - and were its paymasters to take that mission seriously - then Mankind could breathe a little more easily that it has a future to look forward to.

If the discovery of water on the Moon is used wisely, as a means to facilitate new missions, then that is good. However, it must not become a long-term distraction from what should be NASA's real aim: establishing an ongoing human presence on Mars.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:40 PM 


Blogger Christine said...

When I was a kid I wondered what it would be like to be on a planet with more than one moon. I think that would be fun to see at night.
Mars could be changed into a new home since it has more potential.
I did think it was interesting that water was found on the moon. It's amazing they never found it sooner. I heard the ancients used to think that water was all over the moon. The craters were thought to be seas, so they were given poetic names like "Sea of Tranquility". It does sound lovely, but I think Mars is more interesting.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Demel said...

Wouldn't making a moon base first make more sense than making a Mars base? Just thinking of rocket fuel and transportation alone, a moon base almost seems like a necessary prerequisite to a Mars base anyhow. Once the establishment of a moon base is done, shouldn't the cost of establishing colonies on Mars be far cheaper as well?

I don't believe that humans would be content with the moon once they reach there, to be honest. Once the Moon comes, I'm sure Mars would be to follow, especially since colonizing Mars from the moon should be cheaper than from Earth. Don't you think?

6:50 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Mars could be terraformed into a world on which people could live as they live on Earth. The moon could never become such a world. It seems sensible, therefore, to focus on location with the greater potential.

Yes. It would be odd to see more than one moon in the sky...but then, one day, there might be native born Martians who think that Earth is odd, for having only one...

I would love to live to see such a day, but I rather think I would have to be seriously old!

Thanks for your comment.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Demel.

No. I don't think a Moon base is a prerequisite to a Mars fact, it might just become a huge distraction or worse still REPLACEMENT for a Mars colony. You see direct colonization of Mars is not going to be much cheaper from the Moon than from Earth, because Mars, itself, offers many more resources than the Moon. Mars is already an offworld repository of useful resources that could be used by a colony. Also Mars opens up the asteroid belt and outer worlds, in a way the moon does not. This could lead to a serious mining effort in the asteroid belt, with untold benefits for Earth etc. There are many possibilities of a Martian colony that the Moon does not offer.

The problem with the Moon is that it will swallow up a lot of money that could go to Mars. Now, that is only a problem if the budget is limited. Unfortunately, the budget IS my worry is that not enough money might be found for both efforts.

Direct Martian colonization is cheap if the first explorers are sent on a ONE-WAY mission. Most of the cost of the mission, is the cost of returning them. So, if truly intrepid explorer-colonists were found, then Mars could be opened up very cheaply.

I have no doubt that there would be volunteers for such a trip.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Re. Discontent with the moon.

Explorers can be discontent all they like, but if the money is not forthcoming (tens or hundreds of billions of dollars...), then they are stuck on the Moon. Better to spend it directly on Mars.

Thanks for your comment.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Demel said...

Hmm. Here's my thoughts on this:

Shouldn't it be cheaper to fly a rocket from the Moon to Mars as opposed to from Earth to Mars? The main proposition here would be on downsizing.

Firstly there's the obvious advantage that you're already partways there if you're on the moon, and you save even more on rocket fuel because the Moon has a far lower gravity. Both factors here should lead to a smaller payload as far as fuel is concerned, and reduce a lot of cash required here.

Downsizing should make the project cheaper and more feasible by a fair shot, in my opinion. If terraforming technology can be developed on the moon as well, it's also much more convenient than having it developed on Earth and sent on a far longer journey.

I must say the one-way mission's a fair idea, though a very risky one.

I wonder, though, what exactly makes you feel that colonizing Mars is just as expensive as colonizing the Moon? I'm sure we agree that Mars is far more worth colonizing, but it seems like a very great leap to get there as opposed to the moon.

And can you elaborate on the part about most of the cost of the mission being for returning? I always thought that majority of the costs would've gone to the terraforming of the planet itself o_O Not something you'd worry about on the moon, at least.

9:08 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Demel,

Yes. The gravity well of the moon is less than that of it is not so difficult to shift a mass from there to Mars.

The problem is that the Moon may consume so much money - and allow the paymasters to say "We did something" - that there is not enough money left for a Mars mission for many more decades than I would like to see.

A Mars mission direct from Earth, would allow us to not get swallowed up in the costs of a lunar base - but give us a far greater prize: Mars.

I read somewhere, that the costs of returning a crew from Mars were five times the cost of just getting them there. So, if you leave them there, you could send five missions for the price of one. Basically, you could get a colony established, for the cost of one normal return mission - or a good start on a colony, anyhow.

(The factor five is what my memory says...I don't have the book to hand.)

You are overlooking the start up costs of getting a moon base going. If you add that to the mars from the moon shot, it would be a lot more expensive than a direct Earth to Mars mission.

Furthermore, a Mars ship would be built on Earth...not on the moon. I don't think they are going to be establishing the kind of manufacturing facilities that would be needed, for a long time to come.

Re. Terraforming. I am not talking about terraforming the planet before you have a colony. A colony would be established first and then THEY would do a lot of the terraforming work. It will take centuries and consume, probably, trillions of dollars of effort. However, at the end of it, we get a livable new world for Humanity. No one who begins the work will see its end...but it will be worth it for the future of Man.

Thanks for your thoughts, Demel.

12:47 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Of course, the Moon could become a pretty handy refueling stop, one day...(on the way to other planets).

1:14 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Ideally, of course, Demel, there would be an abundance of funds available for exploration and we wouldn't have to be discussing how the Moon might compromise Mars or vice versa...we should just have BOTH.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Demel's point is a good one, but for the fact that the start up costs of a moon base have been ignored. With limited funds, putting a moon base in the equation could actually PREVENT a mars mission. If money were no object, a moon base would allow a lower energy departure point to Mars...yes...except for the fact that the spaceship would, in all likelihood, be made on Earth and transported to the moon first (which may not be sensible compared to a direct flight to mars).

On the other hand, in a far future world with regular spaceships plying their way between Earth and the Moon, using the Moon as a base could make sense, if the ships have already been made, put into space and thereafter commute between mars and the moon.

Thanks to everyone for their views.

12:10 PM  

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