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Lunacy or Inspiration?

Hoover Tower with moon

AIM HIGH: Some alumni want Stanford to shoot for the moon.

Rod Searcey

years from now, when moon studies are old hat, maybe Stanford alumni will sit around at reunions and reminisce about leisurely afternoons hanging out in the lunar dome, drinking beer and watching the earth turn. Remember those no-gravity touch football games?

This may sound fanciful, even ridiculous, but it’s no joke to a group of ’65 alums promoting “a Stanford lunar presence” in coming years. “The giggle factor is reasonable and expected,” says Steve Durst, a Palo Alto science editor who is spearheading the Stanford on the Moon project. “It’s inevitable that all major universities will eventually pursue lunar studies. We want Stanford to be a leader when the time comes.”

Durst is owner and founder of Space Age Publishing, which produces newsletters for the space industry. He and three colleagues are part of an organizing committee for the International Lunar Conference to be held in Hawaii in November.

Stanford on the Moon began with conversations at Reunion 2000, prompted by Durst’s class book entry that referred to the optimism and energy of the Apollo era. “We feel like that has been lost in the past 30 years,” says Durst. Last April, he and some classmates formed an exploratory committee to promote the Stanford on the Moon concept. What such an initiative might involve is undetermined, Durst says, but it could be as ambitious as placing a radio telescope on the lunar surface that could be operated by the School of Engineering.

Although he has had conversations with Stanford officials, including director of overseas studies Amos Nur, Durst is not seriously advocating a Semester in the Sea of Tranquility. But he wouldn’t rule it out. “By the end of this century, there will be a human settlement on the moon,” he says. “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”

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2004 Stanford Alumni Association