Image not by the author, alas.
We've covered Darwin and Henry VIII to death, but there's another big anniversary coming up: forty years since the first moon landing in July 1969. Since Buzz and Neil took those historic steps, only five other manned craft have visited our neighbouring rock, and none since 1972 (unless you count Mr Spoon's sojourns). But all that's about to change. One of the big ongoing stories of the next decade is sure to be the renewed assault on the moon. Everyone's at it. The US and Russia, of course, both have mature space programs and ambitions to construct lunar bases. They are joined by emerging space powers China and India, both of whom have sent unmanned probes to the moon. Add Japan, Europe and the private sector to the equation, and it could get rather crowded up there.
The first crews should blast off in the 2015-2020 time frame, and some decades-old questions are resurfacing. Who will get there first? What will they do? Will space agencies cooperate and share resources or seek national glory on their own? And how can the effort, risk and cost be justified, especially in these troubled economic times?
These and other questions will be debated by a panel of space experts at the Racing to the Moon event at Kings Place on 11 May. We've already secured our ticket and will touch down in the tranquil base of the venue's Rotunda Bar before and after the debate.
Racing to the Moon, Mon 11 May, 7pm, Kings Place, is curated by Nature magazine. Tickets can be purchased here.