Italian Young lunar explorers meet their "dreams" in Padova
21 November 2000The Padova Earth-Moon Relationship conference gave us, the Astronomy students of Padova University, the occasion to meet some people who have realised our dreams in many different ways. On 7 November, the day before the beginning of the conference, the Apollo 15 Commander, David Scott, and the ESA Smart-1 Project Scientist, Bernard Foing, came to our Department, to visit the Specola and to talk with the students. That first contact let us compare the old and the new methodologies of lunar research.
Firstly, Commander Scott spoke about the human side of exploration: the emotion of walking on the lunar surface, of understanding you are in an unexplored land (one of those places where men have never set foot!). Then he told us about the importance of discoveries made by Apollo missions, like the chemical composition of some parts of our satellite and the recovery of lunar stones that enabled the dating of Solar System (about 4,5 billions years old). He underlined that knowing the Moon is knowing our planet, its origins and the mechanics between Earth and the Moon. He told us anecdotes of his journey into space like they were normal experiences: When someone asked him about what he said when he tried Galileis experiment with a hammer and a feather, he answered: I think I hope that works or we have a problem!
Bernard Foing, instead, spoke about the new concept of space research. Now, twenty-seven years later, you can go into space with your brain, whilst your body is in front of a computer, comfortably on Earth that is not just a small step! This is possible thanks to new technologies and to robotics, a field of science in evolution. An example of this is the Smart (Small Missions for Advanced Research and Technology) project. The Moon is the target of Smart-1, the first of these missions. Particularly Smart-1 has the objective of making new maps of our satellite, from the point of view of geology, morphology and topography. In fact we can use the Moon as a laboratory for understanding the geophysical processes on our planet, as well as understanding the origin and evolution of the Earth-Moon system. Lunar precursor missions could be followed by landers, rovers and robots. If we find water under the North and South pole of the Moon, maybe one day this could support a habitat for human life on the Moon (obviously, University of Padova students want to be the early inhabitants).
Moreover, another goal of this mission, Smart-1, is testing new technologies that can later be applied on deep-space missions, such as the Solar Electric Primary Propulsion. ESAs Bepi Colombo mission to Mercury could be the first to benefit from Smart-1s demonstration of electric propulsion.
Naturally our hope is that people can understand the importance of this research, and we think the Earth-Moon Relationships Conference could be a good occasion, because of the union of scientific aspects with Literature and Art. In fact, in the coming days we will attend different conferences each concerning various aspects of our satellite. To quote a phrase from Cesare Barbieri (Dept. of Astronomy, University of Padova): Our aim is to bring together not only a number of distinguished scientists from different fields, but also scholars of Literature and Arts, to discuss these relationships and their origins.
Therefore the choice of the Galileian Academy of Sciences, Letters and Arts explains itself the conference will create an interdisciplinary discussion (the Academy was founded in 1599 just for that!) about the Moon, which at any time is present not only in scientific fields, but also in arts and literature. Perhaps the use of Academy tradition of freedom of expression can help people taking an interest in something new and can lead to new experiments and help to overcome the limitations of present day theories.
Article written by Padova University Young Lunar Explorers: Balestro Utte, Bellini Andrea, Ciucci Alessandra, Morandin Enrica, Paladini Claudia and Tamburro Domenico