Fly me to the moon
Congratulations, Mark Shuttleworth!
When I was a high school student (1968), I was intrigued
by the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey -- in which Arthur Clarke
took a visionary look at the future of humanity in space. It is
now 2002, and some parts of the Clarke story have come to pass.
In 1968 there was a Hilton hotel aboard a large orbiting
space station. The ISS might not have all the
creature comforts of a Hilton hotel, or the food
served in the Earthlight Room. But tonight,
there is a tourist aboard ISS -- one with a keen
interest in the past, present and future of space
exploration and space technology.
When I was a college studemt, I witnessed another
chapter from 2001 come true. I was with my
father at the Kennedy Space Center when Apollo 17
was launched on the last manned mission to the Moon.
My father had been very involved with the lunar
program. I was awestruck by the sight of three
men on their way to another world. And that night
I vowed to do something to help send humans back to
the Moon some day.
Twenty-five years later, I wrote a book about Apollo
called MOON MISSIONS. The Foreword was written by
Apollo 17 geologist-astronaut, Harrison H. (Jack) Schmitt.
Jack was a little bit like you. He was not an experienced
pilot or astronaut. And he had to learn those duties from
scratch. But he was a visionary. And he still is. His
foreword was not about past Moon missions. It was about
future Moon bases. And I am proud to call him my friend.
Jack is currently doing research at the University
of Wisconsin (in Madison) on a project that would not
only send humans back to the Moon, but also provide
low-cost, pollution-free electrical power for people
around the world -- especially in developing countries.
The idea is to utilize helium-3 mined from the lunar
soil in fusion power plants here on Earth. It could
forever change the way the people live on this planet.
And it would enable developing countries to have the
energy they require to grow their economies. It is
a noble vision, as well as an exciting one!
Your interest in making space accessible to more
people (and more nations) -- and in utilizing space
technology for the advancement of people on your own
continet and around our planet, is a marvelous way to
do some real good. And I applaud you on your vision
and your commitment. I know it took a lot more than
money to earn your seat aboard Soyuz TM-34. It
took hard work, dedication, and the ability to
dream. As Albert Einstein said, vision is more
important than knowledge!
Enjoy this flight. And when you get back, remember
that you are still young enough to go to the Moon
some day if you so desire! I envy (and admire) you.
You have truly got the right stuff!
God speed, Mark Shuttleworth.
William F. (Bill) Mellberg
Park Ridge, Illinois (USA)
Author of Moon Missions: Mankinds First Voyages to Another World