The Moon: Resources, Future Development and Colonization. David G. Schrunk, Burton L. Sharpe, Bonnie L Cooper and Madhu Thangavelu. xxxxiv + 439 pp. John Wiley & Sons/Praxis Publishing, 1999. $64.95.
In the heyday of the Cold War between two opposing social systems, the moon came to the fore as the focus of the space race and an emblem of technological advance. Earth's natural satellite was nothing less than a great cosmic promised land. The moon race resulted in a dozen Americans walking on the lunar surface, whereas the Soviets dropped lunar investigations forever.
The American lunar program was a great technological achievement costing $25 billion. Without stimulating competition, however, Congress proceeded no further and NASA practically dropped its lunar robotic program, too. A three-decade hiatus in human presence on the moon persists, as does a lack of systematic robotic investigations.
This thorough loss of official interest in the moon is groundless because the future of manned spaceflight in this century will depend on one of two alternatives: either a manned expedition to Mars or a manned, long-term base on the moon. The latter is perhaps not so admirable in the public eye. But it has many advantages, and they are examined in their entirety by the multifaceted team of four authors of The Moon, a provocative entry in the prominent Wiley-Praxis Series in Space Science and Technology.
The series is well known for its profound monographs, broad in scope, rich in content and international in approach. The same, with a certain reservations, can be said of this volume. The authors' idea was to collect the tremendous body of lunar data while discussing the future development and colonization of the moon. This grandiose ambition, of course, cannot be satisfied in so few pages. Thus it should come as no surprise that the book is fragmentary, and the level of presentation in different sections varies considerably. What is more, there are several inaccuracies, and the authors display a lack of in-depth knowledge of the scientific literature, particularly that of foreign origin.
But these flaws recede in light of the authors' enthusiasm for future lunar research and development. That future is not science fiction but reality based, supported by modern technology. A reader will find here such important and often unusual topics as engineering challenges and lunar logistics, mining and manufacturing, lunar power plants and utilities, exploration from the moon and even potential problems in lunar governance. Numerous appendices of the book are extremely interesting and attractive. This book will find a broad audience of scientists, scholars, students, engineers, designers and even the general public.—Alexander Gurshtein, Astronomy, Space Research and History of Science, Mesa State College, Colorado