Making Claims: Is The Moon Too Far Away To Matter In Today’s Marketplace?

In “Making Claims,” Paulick Report bloodstock editor Joe Nevills shares his opinions on the Thoroughbred industry from the breeding and sales arenas to the racing world and beyond.

As we approach the 53rd anniversary of the first moon landing, I find myself staring at the glowing orb in the night sky with a furrowed brow and wondering if it’s time for a change.

Historically, the moon has been the greatest frontier that our species has traversed, reserved for the very best among us. The 238,900 miles from Earth’s surface to the moon is by far the greatest distance any human will travel in their lifetime, requiring a level of training that would cause most of us to crumble into dust. In exchange, the names of the 12 men that have set foot on the moon are woven into the fabric of humanity’s story. This is the greatest thing they, and perhaps any person, will achieve.
Here’s the problem: We haven’t put a man on the moon since 1972. America regularly has astronauts on the International Space Station, and programs like SpaceX have made the opportunity for civilians to reach the boundaries of our planet’s atmosphere more available than ever, but people just aren’t going to the moon anymore.

The rigorous physical and technical training necessary to do it is just too great for all but the most elite specimens to stay the trip, which can be discouraging, and hard to accept – especially if you just paid $55 million for a seat on a spacecraft.

Moon travel is at a crossroads, and if something isn’t done soon, humanity could lose interest in going to space altogether.

Don’t worry. I have a plan.

To increase public interest in the moon and reflect the modern state of space travel, we need to bring its orbit closer to the Earth.

The International Space Station orbits at about 240 miles from Earth, and SpaceX’s Inspiration 4 mission reached an orbit of about 363 miles, which is the farthest a civilian has traveled from Earth. If we adjusted the distance between Earth and the moon to 300 miles, this would reflect the current investment focuses of space travel, and make this monumental achievement much more obtainable.

In the past, it was accepted that going to the moon was supposed to be difficult. The names of the 12 men that have set foot there are not just major figures within their own sphere, but household names among the general public. The story of America can’t be told without names like Neil Armstrong, “Buzz” Aldrin, and Alan Bean.

On the same note, many of us revere the ones that almost made it to the moon, like Michael Collins, who had to watch from orbit during the Apollo 11 mission as Armstrong and Aldrin grabbed the glory. For all the fame that the moonwalkers achieved, the sympathy we feel for the astronauts that got so close without touching it is why many of us took interest in space travel in the first place.

Here’s the thing: While we might revere those names, and we’re happy to name streets and museums after them, they don’t reflect the modern space traveler. NASA, and other space-related organizations, clearly aren’t interested in recruiting the kind of astronaut that would have thrived in the 1960s. We shouldn’t base our priorities on the decades-old idealized image of an astronaut. The vocation and its participants have changed. Times change.

The current state of space travel commands its astronauts to lean less toward being an explorer of uncharted lands and more toward being a commercial pilot, bringing their passengers up and down safely.

Because we haven’t sent anyone to the moon in decades, there obviously isn’t a public demand for someone with those skills, and we shouldn’t bother catering toward people who strive to achieve that status through physical toil and unmatched technical skill. If they want to try that with another country’s program, which might be more geared toward long-distance space travel, I say let them.

When the moon is closer to us, that handful of astronauts will instead train to pilot shorter-distanced spacecraft, and conform to the modern commercial space travel market.

Investors pour billions into commercial space travel every year. It shouldn’t be their fault that the spacecraft they buy and build aren’t designed to go the distance necessary to reach the destination. Their perception is reality in that marketplace, and if they want the moon to be closer so their rockets can reach it, we shouldn’t be so precious about its location.

Stuffy traditionalists might argue that the moon has always been 238,900 miles from the Earth, and that distance shouldn’t change on a whim. What they don’t realize is that 1.4 billion years ago, the moon was 33,143 miles closer to the Earth than it is today, and everything was fine. Bringing the moon closer would not be a new idea.

I can also hear the armchair scientists clutching their spectacles about the effect that a closer moon would have on the environment.

Yes, the tides would change drastically, and forever alter the makeup of the human race after much of the planet is covered in water. What happens to individuals not interested in going to the new, closer moon is not my concern. The people that remain would be singularly focused on getting to the moon, which would be more accessible than ever.

Other diversions will fall by the wayside as people pile into rocket ships, and our crisis of interest in moon travel will be solved.

Anyway, enjoy the Belmont Stakes this weekend; one of the last great moonshots that North American horse racing has left.

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