Column: Ventures in our backyard enable exploring the next frontier with aloha
Our next trip to the moon will take a global effort, and when it’s complete, it will be the accomplishment that unites humankind.
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Humans were born with the DNA to voyage and explore distant lands, from early humans leaving Africa to settle the Middle East, Europe and Asia; to the trek to the Americas. I believe that the greatest feat of voyaging was undertaken by Polynesians when they discovered and settled the islands of Hawaii.
Once we explored our world, we turned to outer space. Only instead of discovery, it was competition that drove us. The Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States led humans to undertake missions that were previously thought impossible: the launch of the first satellite in space, Sputnik; the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin; and finally, the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong.
President John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the Moon … not because [it is] easy, but because [it is] hard.” Fifty years later, we are preparing for the next great wave of exploration. We choose to go to the moon again, not because of the Soviets, but because it is the pathway to the future of humankind.
Since the last moon mission in 1972, climate change has caused widespread damage to our natural environment. In the past few years alone, our planet has seen extreme heat and storms, shrinking glaciers, accelerated sea level rise, and animals losing their habitats and going extinct.
Going to the moon again will teach us many lessons, such as how to develop technologies for sustainable living here on Earth. Creating a permanent, self-sustaining settlement on the moon will involve learning to reuse, recycle and eliminate waste; inspire peace and cooperation across humanity; and provide hope that we can create a sustainable future for life on Earth and beyond.
Hawaii has a prime role to play in this new age of discovery, just as it did during the Apollo missions. If you’ve ever thought the volcanic terrain on Hawaii island was otherworldly, that’s because it nearly is. The chemical composition of moon and Mars rocks are almost identical to those found on our islands, as are the lava tubes found there. Hawaii is, in many respects, the perfect place to practice lunar construction and habitation.
Apollo mission astronauts once trained on lava fields on the Big Island. Now and in the future, scientists will come from all over the world to study and train on Hawaii’s unique terrain. They will learn to 3D-print basalt powder and develop ways to create habitats using AI-enabled robots. Last year, international researchers completed the last of five simulated Mars mission at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) habitat on Mauna Loa. Under the management of the International MoonBase Alliance (IMA), HI-SEAS plans to host many Moon missions in the coming years.
Hawaii legislators helped draft a resolution adopted by the Aerospace States Association this month, which further encourages multinational collaboration and the advancement of public-private partnerships. Our goal is to develop an International Lunar Research and Development Park in Hawaii, a hub for discovery that will bring international space agencies, companies and institutions of higher learning to conduct their research.
With action and interest from public and private sectors, the question isn’t whether humankind will return to the moon, but when. The next 10 years will come to be known as the International Lunar Decade, culminating in a permanent settlement on the moon. As a key player, Hawaii has the opportunity to infuse Hawaiian culture and values into the exploration and colonization of other moons and planets.
We must go to the moon with the same intention and respect for the aina that ancient Polynesians had when they set out for new shores. Polynesians were legendary explorers and experts at living sustainably. They came to Hawaii with the intent not to destroy or take, but to learn and live. What better culture to model as we journey to new planets?
When Neil Armstrong went to the moon, he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Our next trip to the moon will take a global effort, and when it’s complete, it will be the accomplishment that unites humankind. When we go, we must go with aloha and respect for the land we explore and inhabit.