MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 16th of July, 2019. Thanks for listening to The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up, traveling to the moon.
Here’s a date to remember: July 20th, 1969. That’s when the Apollo 11 capsule landed on the moon.
The very next day, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first to walk on the lunar surface.
Five other manned missions followed that one. And from each one we learned new insights into Earth’s only permanent natural satellite.
REICHARD: Last time an American walked on the moon, Richard Nixon was president. But NASA is aiming to make a return trip within the next five years.
So between now and then, the agency’s going to be busy: NASA’s planning to send a dozen unmanned missions to the lunar surface. The idea is to figure out how the human body will contend with longer stays on the moon.
Joining us now to talk about this is Jeff Zweerink. He’s an astrophysicist. He’s also a research scholar with Reasons to Believe. That’s an organization aiming to show how scientific research supports Biblical truth.
JEFF ZWEERINK, GUEST: Hi! It’s good to be here today.
REICHARD: It’s been 47 years since a U.S. astronaut went to the moon. Why such a long break?
ZWEERINK: Well, in part, it’s financially driven. I mean, the reason why Apollo 17 was the last mission was the Congress said remove the funding from NASA’s budget and decided to focus on kind of the space station. So part of it is just the cost and then the other part was a major reason for going to the moon was kind of in the height of the Cold War with the U.S. and the Soviet Union, that was kind of a way to show that we were the dominant technological society. And so some of those motivations have been reduced and there’s a bottom line to going to the moon and we decided to spend our money elsewhere for right now.
REICHARD: Why is NASA still interested in the moon. What are scientists hoping to discover there?
ZWEERINK: Well, there are a number of things that are just cool about the moon. One is that where the Earth kind of is continually resurfaced because of the tectonic activity—and that’s really important for us to live—the moon basically looks like it did almost 4 billion years ago. And so there’s hope that there’s actually water maybe down in the south pole regions of the moon so that we might be able to mine that for maybe explorations further out in the solar system.
Really, we’re still trying to figure out some of the details of how the moon formed. So there’s a lot of neat scientific study that can be done that is really well-suited for humans being there to figure out what’s gone on.
REICHARD: I can hear the excitement in your voice about this. How can gaining a better understanding of the moon help us living here on Earth?
ZWEERINK: Well, I think just the more we understand about what goes on in the universe and how it operates, there’s kind of this sense that we can go out into the universe and there’s all these different places where we could live. And what we find is that the universe is a pretty big place. I mean, even getting to the moon—which is close—takes about three days to get there. Getting anywhere else in the solar system is months. And if you try to go outside our solar system, you’re talking thousands, tens of thousands of years. And so you realize it’s hard to get somewhere else, but also as we look at the other objects in our solar system, we see just how readily Earth supports life and so it kind of helps us see how things work and how we can take care of Earth better. And, quite honestly, just going out and exploring space has brought us technology here. I mean, we take for granted computers. But the Apollo missions were some of the first missions where they were using computers to help astronauts get where they were going. And so by going out and doing the exploration and developing the technology to do it, very often that brings benefits here on Earth that allow us to live a better life here.
REICHARD: Fifty years ago, space exploration was only possible for governments. But private companies are now heavily investing in space technology. How does that change what we might might be possible in the next 50 years?
ZWEERINK: Well, I think—again—there’s a cost to going out into space. And so it used to be that the governments were the only ones that could bear that. But now—partially because you’ve got people who are fairly wealthy, and some because we figured out a lot of the technological problems—the more the private industry, the private sector gets into that, there’s just a flexibility that the private sector has that the government often doesn’t. And we’re talking about private companies sending people out to just low-Earth orbit and other things. I mean, if somebody gave me the money to go do that, I’d do it at the drop of a hat. That’s one of my bucket list things is to go out into space. So I think anytime you can get people able to say, “Hey, I can make a contribution here,” that’s going to be tremendous.
REICHARD: What do you think the next history-making event will be in space travel?
ZWEERINK: Well, I mean, in terms of places to go, the moon is the obvious choice. And if you get beyond the moon, Mars is the next choice because that’s the place that’s most likely where we could be there for awhile and make it back safely. And so I think going to Mars is probably going to be the next big thing and I think that may require even some technology and some computer advancements. It may require artificial intelligence—in some fashion—to be able to make that happen.
REICHARD: In your line of work you connect science with the Creator God. What do you wish people understood that maybe they don’t?
ZWEERINK: I think just realizing how vast the universe is and how well Earth is in terms of being able to host life. And just the hostility to life that we see out in space. I mean, it’s a majestic and awesome place out in space, but it’s a very difficult place for life to live. And so just to realize—I would say—how God has created this awesome place for us to look at and explore, and this great home He’s given us to be able to do that well.
REICHARD: Jeff Zweerink is an astrophysicist and a research scholar with Reasons to Believe. Thanks for joining us today.
ZWEERINK: Thank you very much for having me today.