Yesterday marked 39 years since we first landed on the moon. We have not been back since 1972, and will not go again until at least 2018.

As a high school senior in 2006, I remember watching Mireya Mayor’s speech at the Intel ISEF. Mayor is an ex-Miami Dolphins cheerleader, now a primatologist and National Geographic correspondent. Her speech was geared towards young scientists, telling them that if you want to go somewhere, it takes a little persistence but you’ll find a way to make it happen.

I think listening to her tales of discovery in the jungles of Madagascar was the first time I felt compelled to someday head into the wilderness, to go places where not many others can go. Since then, I’ve found the world of astrobiology. I’ve become obsessed with studying life where we once thought there could be none. I want to go to the ends of the Earth. These are my frontiers.

We as humans are still young scientists, but we are good at going places where not many others can go. We have talked about new frontiers in space, but have yet to get there. I think we just don’t want to go badly enough.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein said that. Good news: it’s true. There’s a big universe out there, humans, so dream big. But imagination won’t always get us where we want to go if we don’t have the guts to act on it. Let’s go somewhere.

I keep waking up and not knowing where I am. In the last week, I’ve been in Pavilion Lake, Vancouver, Williamsburg, New Orleans, and now New Jersey. Four days from now I’ll be on my way to the Arctic. There’s not a lot for me to do right now. I’ve been thinking about packing (there’s only room for one backpack of stuff … yikes), and have spent a good bit of time drooling over Google Earth’s vision of Axel Heiberg Island, trying to familiarize myself with the fiords and glaciers of the area.

I’ve also been lonesomely thinking back on my time at Pavilion Lake. One thing I really ought to do is finish watching Apollo 13. How weird is it that I’d never seen that movie before?? We started watching it one night, but everyone was too exhausted to make it to the end.

The lovely Masha, whom I met at Pavilion Lake, recently pointed out in an email that the Apollo lunar missions totally could’ve used a better name. Why would you name the lunar program after the god of light and archery? Why not at least name it Artemis?

The Apollo Program was named by Abe Silverstein. According to a New York Times article, there was “No specific reason for it … It was just an attractive name.”

And according to the book Apollo, Silverstein also stated, “I was naming the spacecraft like I’d name my baby.”

Whatever that means.

Anyway, I’ve done some cursory research on the names of lunar deities from a number of cultures. I think it would be sweet if we named our next moon mission after one of these gods:

  • Ta’lab (Arabian)
  • Sin (Babylonian)
  • Lair b├íln (Celtic)
  • Thoth (Egyptian)
  • Phoebe (Greek)
  • Mama Quilla (Incan … though I doubt anybody would take a spacecraft named “Mama Quilla” seriously)
  • Igaluk (Inuit)
  • Kalfu (Vodou)

…and my personal favorite, from Aztec mythology:

  • Coyolxauhqui

Yeah. NASA will definitely go for that.