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Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space Paperback – December 28, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


From the reviews:

There have been many books written about the future lunar exploration and the long-term benefits to the Moon's and Earth's occupants of doing so. Only one book, however, has been written by a man who has actually been to the Moon, explored its surface, and knows firsthand the economic benefits locked in the Moon's regolith. Harrison Scmitt's Return to the Moon will serve as a blueprint for how to achieve this and contribute to making the Vision for Space Exploration a reality.

Anthony Young, The Space Review, January 3, 2006

"Astronaut geologist Harrison Schmitt outlines his vision of a Return to the Moon, and the mining of helium 3 to provide a future energy source for the earth. … The result is an erudite and persuasive thesis … . This is an important book and one that really should be read … . The book is well written, challenging and prescient." (Michael Condry, Spaceflight, Vol. 49, January, 2007)

"The author has unique qualifications for writing this exposition. Schmitt was the only scientist among 12 astronauts to visit the Moon … . There are … excellent diagrams and pictures from the author’s own Apollo 17 mission. Springer is becoming a major publisher of space books for professionals, especially through its Copernicus and Praxis affiliations, who were responsible for this stimulating volume." (Philip R. Harris, Space Policy, Vol. 23 (2), 2007)

"Former NASA Astronaut Harrison Schmitt … presents a compelling case for returning man to the moon. … This bold book is detail oriented and describes how Schmitt would reinvigorate the U.S. space program through a public-private partnership to mine helium-3 on the moon for generating inexpensive fusion power on Earth. Dr. Schmitt, a geologist, astronaut, U.S. Senator, businessman, and teacher, uses his years of experience and knowledge to carefully craft a program to put man back into deep space for the long term." (K. Eric Livo, Economic Geology, Vol. 101, 2006)

About the Author

Harrison Schmitt is, as of this date, the 12th and last human to have stepped on the Moon. As an astronaut, pilot, geologist, academic, businessman, and United States Senator, he has had a distinguished career in science and technology practice and policy. Schmitt was the first scientist to go into space specifically to explore the Moon as the Lunar Module Pilot and field geologist on the last Lunar Mission, Apollo 17. He is active in private and government sponsored research into a return to the Moon, and in fusion technologies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he is Adjunct Professor of Engineering. In his role as a Senator (R-NM, 1977-1983) he was chairman of the Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Copernicus; Softcover reprint of hardcover 1st ed. 2006 edition (December 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441920250
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441920256
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,811,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Harrison H. (Jack) Schmitt was the last of 12 Apollo Astronauts to set foot on the Moon in December 1972, a geologist whose professional background was indispensable for exploring the Valley of Taurus-Littrow, the landing site of Apollo 17. That skill was particularly evidenced by his on-the-spot field analysis of the origin of the house-sized broken boulder on the slopes of the North Massif, and by his discovery of orange-colored soil at Shorty Crater. The orange soil turned out to be pyroclastic glass, a chondritic volcanic material from a depth of around 500 km (300 miles), which had not changed in chemical composition since the origin of the Moon. This orange soil was not just localized to Shorty Crater. Jack's crewmates, Ron Evans and Gene Cernan, both spotted orange soil patterns around a number of other craters from orbit once they knew what to look for. Moreover, support geologists at Mission Control also later discovered more orange areas in some of the earlier Apollo 14 orbital photos while Apollo 17 was still circling the Moon. These observations have a profound impact on theories of the origin of the Moon because they indicate that the Moon's interior composition has changed little since it formed. Theories of formation that include complete re-melting of the interior, which would alter that chemical composition, can therefore be excluded.

Thus, drawing on his experiences as a field geologist, Jack found a clue confirmed at the time by others he instructed that is fundamental to our understanding of the Moon's origin.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A version of the following review appeared on the online site "slashdot".

No matter what the subject, one has to admire a book written by an astronaut and former US senator, illustrated with photos of the author at work on the Moon. When the subject is one as potentially important to the future of our civilization as the energy resources geologist Harrison ("Jack") Schmitt sees buried in the lunar surface, along with our future in space, it becomes all the more daunting to take issue with it. Unfortunately Schmitt's potentially inspiring commercial justification in this book rests on a shaky foundation.

With NASA now planning a lunar return and several other countries planning missions, the time is certainly ripe for a book with this title. Schmitt's book acknowledges the present context but sets out in his own direction, though one some other authors have touched on, arguing that the Moon will provide a critical contribution to our civilization's energy needs, and the lunar return discussed is primarily one of industry and commerce, rather than grand national programs.

The argument for industrial use of our celestial neighbor hinges on the utility of helium-3 fusion. However, that technology and the science behind it is dealt with in a perfunctory 4 pages in this book; Schmitt leaves the main argument to scientific papers from the University of Wisconsin Fusion technology Institute that has been promoting it.

Helium-3 fusion, while having the advantage of lower radiation levels, is considerably harder than deuterium-tritium (D-T) fusion: the extra proton in helium means the ideal fusion temperature for He3-D mixtures is over four times as large. An alternative hydrogen-boron reaction would require almost 10 times the D-T temperature.
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Format: Hardcover
I have waited 33 years to read this book ... and 'Return to the Moon' has been well worth the wait!

Shortly after midnight on December 7, 1972, I witnessed the launch of Apollo 17 from the Kennedy Space Center. It was an incredible sight -- one I will never forget. It was also the last Apollo Moon Mission. And one of the three astronauts atop that mighty Saturn V rocket was destined to become the first geologist to leave his footprints in the lunar soil. As such, I have always wondered what Harrison H. Schmitt might write about his three -day field trip to the Valley of Taurus-Littrow. But 'Return to the Moon' is not a look back at Schmitt's remarkable lunar voyage. Rather, it is a careful examination of what scientists have learned about the Moon as a result of their studying the samples that Schmitt and the eleven other moonwalkers brought back to Earth. Specifically, it describes the discovery of helium-3 in the lunar topsoil -- and the tremendous potential of that isotope as a fuel for fusion reactors. In fact, as the title implies, 'Return to the Moon' is about the future!

Dr. Schmitt, who was also the only moonwalker to serve in the U.S. Senate, offers a detailed blueprint of why and how humankind should and can return to the Moon in order to utilize helium-3 in terrestrial powerplants -- providing a radiation-free, environment-friendly alternative to fossil fuels and fission reactors for the production of electricity. As Neil Armstrong writes in his thoughtful foreword, "Dr. Schmitt builds his persuasive case with a plethora of detail." Indeed, he does.
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