Is Colonizing the Moon Possible?

Despite the huge success of science fiction movies at the box office, despite the fact that most people think humanity is destined for space travel, despite the fact that manned missions into space are considered the high points of human achievement, few people support the space program when it comes to spending money in Congress.  The current recession is about to abort what many people consider our best chance to return to space as explorers since budget cuts killed off the Apollo program in 1972.  Tuesday the NY Times ran “The Fight Over NASA’s Future” that summed up the current situation nicely.

Now, I would like to give my view of the problem.  I just finished reading The Last Man on the Moon by Eugene Cernan and Don Davis, so Apollo 17 details are fresh in my mind.  Cernan was the last astronaut to step off the Moon’s surface and his book also chronicles how the public quickly lost interest in the Moon missions right after Apollo 11.  When going to the Moon was a space race with the Russians the public and Congress cheered.  When it turned to science and geology they snoozed.

If Project Orion is going to duplicate Project Apollo then it is doomed to fail.  And if you do not know what Orion and Ares are, that’s a bad sign in itself – read the NY Times link.  Already NASA’s meager budget is coveted for other uses in these bleak economic times.  If returning to the Moon is seen as a science mission it will lose to bean counters looking for other projects voters want more.  Accountants were dissembling Project Apollo at the peak of it’s success.  The only way to guarantee funding for manned missions to the Moon is to offer evidence that Al Qaeda has a stronghold there.

People who love the idea of humans conquering space are a tiny minority.  Those few believe that mankind is destined to live in space and pursue a future mapped by science fictional dreams.  The public will never pay for that dream if it’s only sold as science.  It needs to be a great challenge, even a patriotic challenge, and in these high unemployment times maybe even a giant WPA program solution. For decades now space enthusiasts have tried sell space as a profitable enterprise, but that’s silly and I think the public can smell that.  Creating a human civilization in space will create a giant off-Earth economy, but there will never be any real profits for Earthlings, not if we do complete cost accounting.

I have thought about this problem for decades, and the only way to start space civilization is by colonizing the Moon.  That one fantastic accomplishment will be the critical mass to set off a space civilization explosion.  The Catch-22 conundrum is the people of the Earth must pay the bill, and it will be enormous.  Now, is there any incentive that will convince citizens of the United States and other countries to convince their leaders to spend that kind of money, year in and year out for decades?

The public and Congress has never wanted to give up on NASA and space exploration completely, so NASA has always had a small budget that it carefully managed to get the most bang for its bucks.  The trouble with big manned exploratory projects is they require huge amounts of money committed across many future budgeting years.  Some space enthusiasts considered the Shuttle a congressional boondoggle that kept us flying in low Earth orbits for far too long, and they cheered when President Bush broke the cycle by suggesting we take the Shuttle money and go back to the Moon.  The idea was helped by the fact that China, India and Japan had turned their national gaze to Luna.

What Does Colonizing Mean?

Explorers are brave women and men who go places no one has gone before – but they go back home when they’re done exploring.  Scientific missions are like our bases in Antarctica.  Scientists go to live and work in distant lands for long periods but they eventually return home.  Colonization is like the people on the Mayflower, they left with no intention of ever going home.

The trouble with colonizing the Moon is it will be very hard.  Harder than anyone can imagine.  Maybe even impossible.  People need air, food, water and shelter just to minimally survive.  A self-sufficient colony means that at some point the colonists can survive on their own without resupply from Earth.  The Moon is essentially airless, but it’s rocks are full of oxygen.  There’s a chance of ice being on the Moon.  That’s more oxygen, and hydrogen.  Something to drink and the basis of creating energy and rocket fuel.  Then we need to look for carbon, nitrogen and all the other elements, and rebuild what we have here on Earth.  No small task, and we have to face the fact that it might be impossible.  It’s a fantastic challenge.

But look around you at everything you see that’s manufactured.  Think of the mining, industry and manufacturing that went into those products.  All those enterprises will have to be built on the Moon for colonization to work.  Some people will point out that all nations trade with other nations and no nation lives completely self-sufficient.  That’s true on Earth, but what if the Earth was hit by a giant comet and was destroyed?  Wouldn’t you, and the future Lunar colonists, want the Moon colony to be able to carry on without Earth?

The most important value of a self-sufficient colony on the Moon and Mars is life insurance for our species.  There might be huge number of intelligent beings in the universe, or we might be the only one.  Either way, it would be a shame for us to go extinct.

How To Start A Colony?

Strangely enough, I wouldn’t start with manned missions returning to the Moon.  I’d cover the Moon with robotic prospectors that would do a complete survey and tell us what minerals are available for use.  Then I’d build mining and manufacturing robots.  The first goal would be to build tunnels and construct safe underground habitats for men and women, plants and animals.

The robots would have to start processing the lunar regolith for oxygen.  But where to store it?  Could manufactured air be stored in underground tanks carved out of the rock by robots?  Do they need to be lined?  What ceramic material would make the best seal.  Do the robots need to mine and build metal tanks?  See what a fascinating challenge this becomes?

How do you make a light-bulb on the Moon?  We can bring seeds from Earth, but they will need light to grow.  Natural light on the Moon is weird, with days and nights lasting for weeks.  Plants won’t like that, nor will they like the radiation.  Colonists will have to build underground greenhouses.  If we can do that we’ll have food and air purifiers.  However, we have no idea if plants can live on the Moon.  The lunar dust is not practical to use for plants as it is, so it must be processed into fertile organic soil.  Everything is a challenge, and any one challenge might be a show-stopper.

This kind of work can be carried out by robots or people, but human labor will cost so much more.  We could combine the two like scientific stations in Antarctica, but working on the Moon is devilishly hard.  The dust is dangerous, and working in a spacesuit is painful.  I think until the robots build safe shirt-sleeve environments for humans, robots should get all the work contracts.

This will serve many purposes.  I think intelligent robots will be our co-colonists.  Designing robots to construct a lunar colony will help evolve the science of robotics and that might lead to intelligent machines and AI.  Now the spin-off affect of developing this technology will create an economic boom on Earth.  It won’t directly pay for colonization, but it will be a nice gift.

The Basics of Lunar Life

Home sweet home on the Moon will be an underground city.  An apartment could have several rooms cut out of rock with artificial lighting, heating and air conditioning, and a few creature comforts.  In the early years it will be logical to have communal kitchens, toilets and washing arrangements for people and clothes.  Everything will be recycled.  Human waste will go into soil and food production.  I expect flowers, plants, shrubs, vines and trees to be planted in the home apartments, along walkways and roadways, in offices and factories and walls everywhere should be covered in vines.  Living on the Moon will be like living in a greenhouse jungle.

It might even be practical to have bees, worms and other insects living with us.  Meat eaters will want rabbits and fish.  Will it be practical to have cows, pigs, sheep and goats on the Moon?  I don’t know.  More research.  What about pets, like dogs and cats?  Can you imagine a rambunctious dog in 1/6th gravity?  Or picture how high a cat could leap?  Also, in such closed environments would be want dog poop and cat boxes?

Every ceiling will have to have artificial light that is maximized for human and plant comfort, and it will probably cycle in intensity to match night and day on Earth.  Can you imagine shipping all these light bulbs from Earth?  And we’d want to use a lighting source that produced the best frequency of light, that was the easiest to make, and that would last for decades.  Even if you filled the Orion capsule plum full of LED lights, how many missions would it take to light even a small community?  See how the problem grows?

If everything must come from Earth, and at a tremendous cost per pound, will scientific style missions ever be practical?  Antarctic stations are practical because we can ship in supplies by the boatload or planeload.  It will be much different re-supplying a lunar outpost by the capsule load.

We can spend billions on shipping light bulbs to the moon that will last so many years, or we can spend billions on how to build light bulbs on the Moon so colonists will always have them.  It’s like the difference between giving someone a fish and teaching them how to fish.

Beyond the Basics

Once people have a place to stay, air, water and food, they might want more.  Like clothes they didn’t come from Earth.  Computers and televisions.  Washing machines, dishes, brooms, vacuums, and so on.  Or will they?  General purpose robots might be better than many single purpose machines?  But will that be practical?  On the Moon it will be cheaper for a person to do something than a robot.

And what do people do once they move into their new Moon home?  Robots and efficiency and the lack of resources for squandering will limit the need for some kinds of human work.  Do we really want to recreate capitalism with McDonalds and Starbucks?  Jobs and the space economy will be much different from Earth.  The Moon will not want tourists unless they came bearing hundred of pounds of manufactured gifts to pay for their stay.  Colonists will want talented people with great DNA that come to stay, rare elements and machines, and will resent freeloaders who come to gawk, but will accept them if they bring more than they take.

It’s one thing for Virgin Galactic to get people to pay $200,000 for what is essentially a Redstone Mercury flight, or for the Russians to get a handful of rich folk to fork over $20,000,000 for a Soyuz flight, but it’s a whole other thing to expect billionaires to shell out a significant part of their fortunes for what would be equivalent to a Saturn 5 flight.  Tourism won’t be a big business on the Moon.

Robots will be common but limited to working on the most vital of jobs until manufacturing is up to speed to produce lots of robots.  Probably for decades or longer, all robots will come from Earth and be dedicated to the dangerous surface jobs and mining.  People will tend the plants and animals, make the food, clean the toilets, weave cloth, and pretty much do the work of homesteaders everywhere.

There will be industries that will be unique to the Moon that provide jobs for the colonists.  Giant telescopes for all frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum can be built on the Moon.  The Moon will be an astronomer’s paradise until large space habitats are built.  We’ll build such large telescopes in space that we’ll be able to see other planets for light-years around and we might even discover signs of alien civilizations.

Once manufacturing develops on the Moon the next big industry will be to build space ships and develop new rocket propulsion system, including nuclear rockets.  Inhabitants of the Moon will colonize Mars and build space habitats, and launch missions into deep space.  Complex electronics and computer systems will probably still come from Earth.  Rockets built on the Moon might be very simple system.  Living on the Moon will teach simplicity and recycling.  Everything will need to be bullet proof, long lasting and constructed with the least amount of resources.

What’s the Best Way to Start Now?

There are no talks of colonizing the Moon now.  President Bush in 2004 created the idea of returning to the Moon by sacrificing the budget for the Shuttles.  The idea is to send more people and stay longer, but it’s moving from exploring to building a scientific base station.  I don’t know if the public will find that any more exciting than Gene Cernan tooling around the Moon gather rocks with Jack Schmidt.  The fact that China, Japan and India want to do that too might convince voters to allow their Congressmen to throw NASA a bone, but I doubt it.

President elect Obama is trying to keep NASA in the business of flying people in space but so far hasn’t decided what’s the best way to do that.  The Shuttles are destined to be decommissioned in 2010 and the next flight system, Orion won’t be ready until 2015.  To pay for Orion and it’s launcher Ares, NASA had to scrap the Shuttle program.  Obama is considered using other rockets rather than building the new Ares system, or keeping the Shuttles flying longer, meaning we stay in LEO and travel in circles for a few more years.

Personally, I think the money should go into manned and unmanned missions to the Moon and building simple cheap one-use rockets that are the best transportation system for getting us there.  Ultimately, because of costs, only a limited number of rockets will fly to the Moon.  We need to decide whether manned or robotic missions will do the most good towards colonizing the Moon.  We might need some Maytag repairmen to take care of the robots, but I’m thinking we’ll get more done with our metal friends for decades.

Where to go next is space is as fractional as religion.  You have the Reds, those wanting to go to Mars.  The Whites, think the Moon is the next step.  Then you have the Robots, people who believe space is only fit for machines.  And after that you have all kinds of creative splinter groups.  The NASA piece of the American budget pie is small, and travel beyond LEO is expensive, so only one space philosophy will ever get a shot at what they want.  Of course, one splinter group, the Capitalists, want to commercialize space travel and get their own funding.  I don’t think space tourism will fund Moon colonization or even space exploration.

My conclusions from this life-long study is colonizing the Moon is the foundation for mutating the human species into one that can live in space.  If we can adapt to living on the Moon, we can make our science fictional dreams come true.  Yes, I know the Reds claim Mars is the place to start because it has far more resources, but it’s location makes that a silly assertion.  Obvious, I’m one of the Whites.  I believe when we finally go to Mars, the crew will be launched from facilities and rockets that were built and controlled on the Moon.

If we only wanted to go to Mars once, a Zubrin style mission would be cheaper, but it’s really a very impractical long shot.  We just don’t know if people can live three years away from Earth.  The Moon is a far closer, safer and cheaper testing ground for setting up Antarctica style bases to see if humans can become spacemen.  Zubrin had the right idea about living on the land, but we need to start that idea on the Moon and see what we can put together with lunar resources.  I’m pretty sure the public doesn’t want to pay for plant the flag missions, at least not in this country.

We’re back to trying to find a reason the public will fund space exploration.  Would the idea of colonizing the Moon be exciting enough?  And would people want to leave Earth permanently and go live on the Moon?  I’m too influenced by a lifetime of reading science fiction to be able to answer those questions.  A sizeable portion of the public has loved the robotic missions on Mars.  And Americans love the pioneering spirit.  Homesteading the Moon might appeal to them enough to tell their representatives in Congress to vote for such plans.

In my “Science Fiction in My Lifetime” I gave colonizing the Moon by 2050 a 1 in 10 chance.  And by that, I mainly meant committing to trying to colonize the Moon before 2050.  If several nations on Earth started now, forty years would get us a long way towards building a self-sufficient colony on the Moon, but it might be a hundred year project, or longer.  My uneducated hunch would be that we’d have to commit to spending between $10-20 billion a year for all those years.  That’s not a large annual figure, but is it an amount the public will accept?  Is it a goal they will stick with and stay interested in for all those years?

Colonizing the Moon is so much more than picking up rocks on the lunar surface.  It could excite a million kids to create science fair projects and a million PhD dissertations.  Maybe it could generate a million jobs.  It will never pay for itself, but it’s like those Mastercard ads, creating a human civilization in space, priceless.

JWH 1/1/9

33 thoughts on “Is Colonizing the Moon Possible?”

  1. Fascinating post and, as a science fiction fan, doing anything at all on the moon is something I would love to see happen sooner rather than later. Despite my fandom though this quote:

    “And if you do not know what Orion and Ares are, that’s a bad sign in itself”

    indicates exactly where the state of the common man’s knowledge and motivation are in these areas. Unfortunately I have no idea what they are (without reading the article, of course).

    It is really going to be hard in this climate to make progress, but I am one of those people who believe there already is enough money out there to find some balance and to see progress in this area as well as alternative fuels, climate change, etc. I’m probably naive but my gut tells me, as does all the evidence, that govt. is extremely wasteful and if that waste was cut down and if the govt. became good stewards of the finances entrusted to it there is literally nothing we couldn’t do. Hopefully this economic crisis will bring about some new thinking…or a return to old thinking grounded in something more solid than speculation and greed.

    I hope we see it, Jim, I really do.

    1. I personally think that WE, meaning you, me, and Jim should combine our ideas and, over the years, create technology that no man, woman, or child has ever seen. Technology that will get us to at least Jupiter. We would be Albert Einstien times three… if he was right about his theories of course. To show you my design, I will use a video game as an example. If you have ever played Murakumo, you will know what the MECH’s (Mechanically Enhanced Cybernetic Humanoids) look like. If you haven’t then look it up or actually play the game. Contact me via Yahoo. My email is

      1. Ashton, I wish I was that smart. I’d loved to design robots that could work on the Moon and take in raw materials at one end and output useful products at the other. I think mastery of the Moon would be the gateway to the planets and stars. Sadly, despite all the success of science fiction, I just don’t think people in general want manned space travel.

  2. I don’t think settling the moon can happen unless someone figures out how to make or mine something on the moon that you can sell to earthlings at a profit over a long period of time (ruling out tourism, moonrock gewgaws, and rocket fuel).

    Maybe making and servicing satellites could work, but that would take a huge upfront investment.

    If we could build robots that could build a human habitat the robots could do anything a human could do there. They will not go to the expense of making a human terrarium on the moon.

    Or if building smart robots is too hard then maybe mobile industrial robots with human operators via a satellite link would work, but then again, if that worked why would anyone bother to send people?

    I don’t think people would ever spend the money to send humanity into space just for some noble idea. Not even to save humanity from extinction. It is my opinion things on earth are going to get worse over time, space exploration will be temporary luxury. Self-interest, stupidity, superstition, corruption and xenophobia are problems that I think will ultimately destroy or immiserate us. There has been great advances since the dark ages, but I see the forces for progress are losing, I don’t see anything likely change that tide.

    I think the only way humans could settle space is if the few people really interested in settling space formed a fanatical cabal. 10,000 – 100,000 members at least. They could raise money (probably illegally) and organize themselves. A Pro-Space Al Qaeda, if you will. Extort and bribetheir way into places of power to control the exploitation of space, then at some point when enough gear is in orbit or on the moon, send up people and seize the moonbase and declare independence from earth.

    But I think earthlings would send in the space marines or just nuke the moonbase from orbit to keep the “homeland” safe. I don’t think the settlers would ever be safe from interference from earthlings.

    In secret, the settlers would have to build some kind of multigenerational ship on the moon that could head for the asteroids, mine materials and head outward, always faster than anyone from earth could pursue them.

    They’d have to have or be able to build everything they’d need forever, samples of DNA from just about every living thing. Copies of just about all human knowledge. Enough people to keep the gene pool safe. Enough manufacturing facilities on board to build everything they need. Stopping only when they needed raw material. Enough room on board to keep from driving each other insane. Good food, etc.

    Only by leaving the rest of humanity behind could they get rid of its baggage and form a society could survive and prosper in space.

    1. Greg, I don’t think a pro space group would have to act like Al Qaeda. I think they could model themselves on the open source computer programming movement. Theoretically it’s possible for a large group of people to fund a private space program and develop all the technology without worrying about profit. Let’s say they needed a robot to cut tunnels into Moon’s surface. Using the Internet they could define the scope of the machine in online discussions, then any school, private builder, or group of hobbyists could attempt to design and build parts for the robot getting backers any way they could, or just using their own money. Eventually competitions could be set up to find the best designs. Over time Lunar robots could be readied for shipment to the Moon.

      It’s doubtful that such a system would work for building a rocket delivery system, but private funds could be used to pay the shipping costs. As more nations get into space business, there’s bound to be competition and the cost of delivering to the surface of the Moon will come down. Sure the price will be steep, $100-500 million dollars to deliver a robot, but that’s not an impossible number to collect by private means.

      It all depends on how many people really want space exploration to happen. Right now it’s starting to look bad for NASA and it’s new Constellation program. There’s not enough public support for a governmental program.

      1. I’m not suggesting suicide bombers will lead us to the moon, but waiting for the goodness of mankind will leave you waiting forever. Unless there is something people will pay for can be found or made in space, cheaper than all other sources, and its collection or manufactoring REQUIRES the presence of human beings then settlement will never happen.

        It will be like the vikings in north america. A few sporadic explorations, a few artifacts left behind, but no lasting settlement.

        If we are to go to space then the settlers must take what they need, within some bounds how every they have to.

        Imagine what could be done in space if such a cabal had pictures of CEOs of the big defense contractors, IBM, the American President with dead hookers or young boys. Strong-arming are way into space I think is the only hope to do it before the superstitious xenophobes destroy society enough we can’t do it.

      2. I have come to the conclusion you need more than settlers to sacrifice. Dying in space is no sacrifice like Al Queda would sacrifice. All will die and wouldn’t you rather die off the Earth?

        You would need a group of individuals on Earth willing to sacrifice their own prosperity and future so that others can be free in space. You would need a group of humans willing to go, yes, but also a group willing to swear an oath to G-d of willingness to stay forever. Who is willing to give and never recieve?

        It is too important for our species, and I would swear to the almighty an oath that I will not leave this planet but will support all those who would do so.

        Go forth and make space the heaven which we are promised. Outnumber the sand on Earth, outlive the stars in the sky, reproduce with your 72 virgins and use planet sized computers to simulate whole universes. May G-d bless us all in our futures, there’s plenty of “room” in space.

      3. My point is humans are too selfish to ever do a project like colonizing space unless there is some internal or external threat to motivate us. The US and USSR did their exploration because they wanted to prove their greatness, it was a in effect a proxy war, like Vietnam was.

        The overwhelming bulk of humanity will not spend decades and trillions of dollars on something that MIGHT benefit some humans a hundred or more years in the future. While I do not support the Afghanistan war, if the US invested enough money, troops and time Afghanistan could be turned into a modern democracy like germany or japan was. It would be a great humanitarian act and benefit all mankind.

        If the US occupied the entire country with 1,000,000 COMBAT troops, plus the needed support units. Allow the peace corp to draft people, and have 500,000 peace corp people building roads, schools, etc. Spend 500 billion every 3 months we could do it. It would be in our national security interest, etc, but after just 10 years, 2000 dead and a few hundred million spent, everyone can’t wait to get the hell out of there. We’ve already given up.

        If a similar rivalry to the cold war forms or global warming or other cataclysm threatens immediate extinction of humanity on earth then some people might sacrifice to win/survive. The danger of waiting is either the new cold war turns hot and everyone dies, or the cataclysm comes too quick, humanity dies before any outer space colony can become self-sufficient.

        My idea is to form a Cabal that through lies, violence, bribery and extortion force humanity to invest in our survival. Unless we immediately find some massively profitable thing to do in space, such a cabal will be humanities only chance to settle space.

        We are too stupid and shortsighted to do it on our own.

    2. I agree with you on some parts but about leaving earth behind… well I just can’t see it. If your run out of a supply that humans absolutley need and you can’t find a way to replenish it… you and everyone else on board is dead.

  3. Colonize the moon? I’d seriously love to see it happen but it’s not going to within the foreseeable future unless there is some kind of near-miracle scientific breakthrough.

    Look there are places on Earth (say Antarctica and the Gobi desert) that are immeasurably more accessible and have a far less deadly climate than the moon…but we haven’t put any permanent, self-sustaining bases in those locations.

    1. Yes, but the Gobi desert doesn’t have the sense of wonder that the Moon has. Colonizing the Moon would be the validation of all our science fictional dreams. It would be the start of a new species of humans.

    2. Nor would settlements in Antarctica or the Gobi desert be safe from external threats. Tibet was remote until China invaded it. Do you think people would be allowed to settle and make a living in such places without corporate or state forces intervening. These places would be exterminated with everyone else in a nuclear world war or natural cataclysm. They are not sufficient to guarantee long term human survival or more importantly human change.

      Humans are vile, disgusting creatures. Perhaps if we survive a few million years some of us will evolve or genetically engineer ourselves into something better. Space provides the room to allow completely independent civilizations form, in their multitudes such societies can experiment and die without the threat making humankind extinct.

      The nature of humanity has not changed in 100,000 years and globalization ensures that change cannot come. Change threatens entrenched interests who profit from the existing situation. Unless something can be found in space that provides a profit motive, only a highly motivated Cabal could ever get humanity into the freedom of space.

  4. I think with all nations together we can colonize the moon. It would take a lot of work and planning on earth from all science.
    but just imangine the knowledge and discoveries we
    will make here to better earth.
    remember the invetion of the hand held caculator and many more just to put a man on the moon.
    I think its time to do it now.

  5. I think you might be selling the commercialization of space a bit short. There are unique properties of the environment on the moon and in space that could lend themselves to very lucrative manufacturing. Large, perfectly formed crystals could be produced in microgravity for electronics, sealed unpressurized chambers beneath the surface of the moon would be the ultimate clean rooms for manufacturing. Using the interplanetary transport network of Lagrange points would make putting satellites in orbit around the earth from the moon cheaper than launching from the earth’s surface, as well as sending probes elsewhere in the solar system and beyond. The space program to date has been a lot more profitable than it’s given credit for. How much money has been made from satellite communications, weather satellites, and materials developed for the space program? I don’t know the answer, but I would be surprised if it’s less than the cumulative cost of space exploration so far.

  6. Great discussion, lots of interesting topics covered. But one way of collonising the Moon nobody brought up is as a prison. Yes, I said it–a PRISON. Just like Australia was collonised as a penal collony, why couldn’t the Moon be a one-way trip for all the evil scum we all pay our hard earned taxes to keep right here on Earth where they can escape, train to be even more dangerous, and eventually be freed from or (in the case of some countries) killed at the public’s expense. Why couldn’t we use robots to build the basics, remotely (as one commentator stated above) then put prisoners up there? No guards needed, dropped in landing pods from low lunar orbit and the pods recycled on Luna (low chance of escape) and any rebellion just stop sending stuff up there and let them die. Cruel, yes…but they would die anyways if they were shot in a jailbreak on Earth, or would never be able to return once their bodies adapt to lunar gravity anyways. Besides, there are ALWAYS enough prisoners in the world…and how many of them deserve to be removed from society for the rest of their lives…and already are. At least on the Moon they would be able to forge a worthwhile life and contribute to a greater cause, instead of being babied with playstations and drugs. Just a thot, thanks for listening…….Friar

  7. Yes, Jim, I have…albeit a long time ago. I believe that much of my own Libertarian philosophy comes from books such as The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

    Yet, there are obvious problems with any new colony, whether in the Gobi Desert, on the bottom of the Marianas Trench, on a Lunar landscape, or further afield. The main problem is simply how to get there…then there’s the liquid water problem (weight, mass, inertia, availability, etc.), and propulsion theories, mining techniques, etc. The list may not be endless, but it certainly would cause massive headaches! Then, there is the problem of sentient life–how to cope with long lonely travel over interplanetary distances, how to build cheap reusable launch platforms outside Earth’s geavity well, getting enough payback from any material mining in order to make the project self-funding, getting fellow himans to see the bigger picture before all the current resources are exhausted here, etc.

    The list gets bigger with each and every additional factor entered in (obviously), and the question posed is not ‘should we create some kind of MoonBase Alpha?’ but rather ‘how long before we will not be able to scrounge the resources to do any projects on the Moon?’
    Greg did have some good points such as remote operated lunar vehicles…jobs at home, materials mined, no great list of casualties from Luna, but the logistics would need to be worked out long in advance. Even self-replicating robots would be an interesting proposition.
    But for colonisation…who would be best to send–convicts who are left to rot in penal systems here on Earth or our best and brightest following the NASA ideals that a select few deserve the stars over the rest of us?

    Ok, ’nuff sed! Besides, if they did all start chucking big orbital rocks onto Earth, it would probably create no more mess than we’ve already created here in ordinary daily life!
    Ta-Ta for now! ~Friar

    1. The current climate calls out for a highly organized and utterly ruthless cabal of people who can force (via extortion, killings, kidnappings, etc) unwilling individuals, governments and masses to spend the money needed to develop the technology to make human existence independent of the earth possible. Then that cabal must have the power and foresight to build and then seize the incipient colony and move it beyond the reach of Earth-based governments and corporate interests. The only way humanity will be able to settle beyond the earth’s surface will require ruthless determination backed with violent action.

  8. Hi, Jim…yes, I agree, cooperation and money–bringing the best and brightest together to combat both the problems of colonisation and problems at home. But this has never brought forward any permanant solutions, has it? The League of Nations and the UN were supposed to end war, but the global violence level during the 20th century actually meant that there were less than 30 days of peace in the entire century! Greg—sorry, mate, but violence and weapons solve absolutely nothing! The War on Crime, the War on Drugs, now the War on Terrorism…all have solved absolutely NOTHING and have only made gun merchants and undertakers rich…and it will continue until people actually get sick of burying their loved ones and refuse to participate in the warmongers’ games anymore (I know, sounds more Star Trek than Star Wars, but it’s true…remember the Fillipino ‘People Power’ revolution against Ferdinand Marcos? The Indian revolution under Mothatma Gandhi? The civil rights movement under Rev. Martin Luther King?

    Peace begins in the heart….and freedom begins between the ears! Besides, who would want to live in a totalitarian space colony? We ALREADY have totalitarian dictatorships and corrupt killing regimes right here on Earth…namely EVERY government that creates more fear in the population than freedom…and they all manipulate the population through fear of some sort. How can creating something like that in space create a better society?

    Every society in history, no matter how advanced, has created cruelty. Che Guevara said it best: Cruel leaders are replaced by leaders who become cruel.

    TTFN! Peace, out! ~Friar

  9. I do not claim that violence can solve problems, but I believe very little if anything in human history has been accomplished without it. The few faltering steps humanity has taken in space were almost entirely made as a proxy to war between the USA and the USSR. Had that rivalry not existed I seriously doubt any human would have walked on the moon. Now that their rivalry is finished we languish, THE LAST shuttle mission scheduled to occur next month. Space exploration has become a pathetic joke. The poor excuse for it today may be more enlightening than delivering a karate chop in a video game, but both are accomplished with a JOYSTICK while sitting on our asses in front of a screen. In terms of getting humans off the surface of this planet it is exactly the same: an interesting but pointless past-time

    A fanatically dedicated cabal using WHATEVER tools are necessary is the only way humanity will expand off the surface of our planet. No namby-pamby wishing will do it.

    If we do not expand beyond the earth, then the next global war or natural cataclysm has the potential to make the human race extinct, and likely the entire biosphere. Human beings existing independently of our planet is the most vital and important goal of humanity.

    I have little care for what form societies in space take, I certainly will not live to see them. Since science has no practical (or really even any theoretical) method for “faster than light” travel there will be many societies in space. The vast distances will ensure no single tyranny can dominate more than a small fraction of humanity. In space societies can evolve and take whatever form their members have the courage to try.

    There used to be many different civilizations on this planet, but globalization has lead to the destruction of all of them except the dominate corporate/state model. It is entirely impossible for a society to escape from it. In fact there are very few individual humans who are not slaves to it. There is no place corporate or state power cannot reach on the surface of this planet.

    It is the creation of an “ecology” of different independent human societies that will make the best bet for the long term survival of the human species and the best chance for their members to enjoy individual liberty.

  10. There have been a number of discoveries since this was blog was written in January, 2009.

    The LCROSS ejecta was about 20% volatiles including 6% water. There were other hydrogen compounds as well as nitrogen and carbon compounds. Pretty much what you’d expect if the ice was cometary vapors that found their way to the cold traps.

    Chandrayaan 1’s mini-SAR radar has detected what seems to be sheets of ice at least two meters thick.
    If this turns out to be true, the LCROSS ejecta might be one of the volatile poor regions of the lunar poles.

    The volatile rich regions seem to neighbor places that receive near continuous light

    1. Greg, I see where you are coming from. Yes, I agree, the corporate/state model (also including the Military/Industrial Complex) of globalisation has left little room for space development or space exploration. History has been built on balistic missiles and atomic bombs. What I am saying is that those in power now will not share monopoly or power with a militant faction in competition with them, hence the global war you speak of. You could end up creating the very destruction you’re trying to avoid!

      Any movement would have to be generational in origin…taking key posts of the corporate Behemoth and their government puppets until the time when we, as futurists and scientists, can create sustainable solutions to global economic, cultural and social problems so these are less intrusive and competitive against space funding. Or until they find gold somewhere (remember US and Canadian history has quite a few examples of gold rushes). Besides, the money and resources to build such a craft would have to come from somewhere besides Earth. Why not Mars, the OORT cloud or the Moon itself? You ARE talking about a generational seed ship, capable of making it to another world, yes? It would be HUGE having to hold 10+ generations (that’s at near-light speed…a generation multiplying exponentially every 20-odd years…plus mutation due to hard radiation, zero gravity, mineral and enzyme loss due to long-term weightlessness, but can be countered by a 1-gee spin, etc.) and all the mass they need to create food and invent space technologies to make their lives easier (water is indefinitely recyclable if not used for hydrogen production). As Hop David has pointed out…water on the Moon (and now believed water in Mars polar caps in great quantities along with frozen CO2) would take the largest weight problem *liquid water* almost completely out of the equation. Now, if we can interest some funding to mine, say Helium-3 as an energy source, from the Moon’s regolith…maybe we can get at least a machine foothold out of Earth’s gravity well. It’s a start!!!

      What I’m saying is: We can be believers in a new exciting challenge in space, but you have to look at the bigger picture. Until the greedy see a profit, until the hungry see food, until the governments see contented voters and peaceful neighbours, nothing will change. To create a movement, one must take the long-term approach (everyone expects immediate rewards, but we as the futurists have to see past tomorrow’s paper and yesterday’s war). We have to see a brand new world here before we can expect to reap rewards in space. I’m not talking some religion or a militant movement, but practical business tactics as a peaceful global movement…show the money men a sizeable profit (something NASA has NEVER done…should be known as NA$A…Never A Dollar Available!) and they will come drooling! If things can be created by a thriving space industry then we can win. If not, we have to be patiently working behind the scenes creating ideas, dreams, passing on revelations of a better future to our children, and working for a common goal.

      Otherwise, we’re just crackpots discussing science fiction, not creating science reality.
      TTFN! ~Friar

      1. The main reason for my idea of a secret cabal using any and all means, including violence or other illegal activity is the very fact that those who benefit from the existing order will not share power. Nor will they expend the required resources to settle in space out of any altruistic or even scientific motives. My original posting here explicitly posits that without an immediate and highly profitable goal that requires the presence of humans, people will not settle in space. If whatever space-based technology or resource can be accomplished with rovers and remote-hands (operated by joystick) then the powers that be will not send people, as that will not be as profitable.

        Considering the dire need for cheap renewable energy and our sorry track record in funding its research, even if settling in space is profitable, it may not happen. If the profits from it cannot be effectively controlled or threaten existing entrenched interests it may be outlawed as dangerous or blasphemous. Consider that in WWII the USA funded an immense project to research and build the atomic bomb. Compared to that effort the subsides and research grants for renewable energy are pathetic indeed.

        A small cabal consisting of a few thousand or even tens of thousands would be all that is required to propel a settlement plan forward. If discovered, the suppression of such a movement would likely look like the effort to control the Mafia or at the worst like attacks on Al Qaeda: missile attacks, elite forces raids, etc. I can’t image any scenario that could lead to the extermination of the human race. This would be people working behind the scenes to gather and direct resources. Funding research and launches, marginalizing enemies of progress, etc.

        Humanity cannot put off space exploration until we have solved all societal problems as that day will never come. It is my proposition that humanity living in space is the best hope to solve our problems. Given the enormity of space and the unlikeliness of FTL travel, humans in space will be able to escape the stifling and corrupting effects of globalism. Humans will have the ability to form new independent societies.

        The early history of humanity is full of radically different cultures. Before our particular form of humanity, Homo sapiens sapiens, not only were there different cultures, there were multiple Homo species (and several different australopithecine species) living on the earth. It has only been in the last 100,000 years has there only been one human species on the planet. Our ancestors exterminated all other ways of being human. This is bad news because Humanity has survived precisely because we were not a centralized, monolithic entity. All individual species eventually go extinct; however, life has not. We have endangered humanity and our entire biosphere by creating what is becoming a single world-wide interdependent culture.

        1. I agree with most of what you say Greg, but not about the cabal. I don’t think secret societies work, and here in the U.S., any anti-government group is usually dealt with quickly and harshly – remember Waco. But I do think a private group could develop a space program. If 1 million people committed $1,000 a year to the program, they’d have an annual budget of one billion dollars. I tend to think it would take more like 5 billion annual budget to colonize the Moon, but even that’s possible. Richer people would contribute more, and there might be ways to make the program generate income too.

          A commitment of a $1,000 a year sounds very expensive, but it’s about the monthly cost of an iPhone. The real question is whether such a private group could find 1-5 million supporters. Remember 7 million people are just .1 % of the population, or 1 person in a 1,000.

  11. Such a fund-raising group will run against the same entrenched interests with far less ability to fight against them. Will it be possible to find 1+ million people on the planet that will donate 83.33$ per month to something that will never produce any significant returns in their lifetime? I’m not so sure, as it depends on our altruism and generosity. On the earth the number of people with 83$ spare dollars per month is rather small. 2.6 of our 6~ billion don’t have enough money for clean water and sanitation, a billion cannot even read. 800 million of us live on less than 2 dollars a day. That is 730$ per year for everything a human being requires. The number of people with such spare funds is falling not growing. The middle class has been under sustained attack for over 40 years. The USA has been all but de-industrialized over this time period. The stock market has for the most part been soaring since the recent economic collapse, but there has been no increase in jobs. Middle class people are too expensive, they want things like health care, a retirement and “rights”. It is more profitable to employ Chinese or Indonesian slave labor. Mcdonald’s did hire 60,000 people in the USA, so I’m sure I’m just being overly pessimistic.

    This proposal is like a WWF or Sierra Club for space. But consider how useless these organizations have been for their causes despite most being active for over 30 years. They were quickly co-opted and made powerless. They exist to leech funds from green-minded people which are spent to fly people to conferences, pay their hotel and bar bills. If you look at their financing, most of their money comes from large corporations, the very people leading the charge to destroy our biosphere. These corporations direct the activities of the group and decides who gets paid positions. These groups are now nothing more than sham PR fronts for corporate interests. Such groups focus on smog while ignoring carbon, it is nothing more than window dressing, fiddling while Earth burns. Their biggest activity is chopping down trees to print letters begging for money to fund their endless fund-raising, while producing NOTHING that actually improves the situation they claim to be fighting for. The same can be said of the businesses, I mean charities, who raise funds to air commercials about the plight of poor children. I see no need to replicate this fraud in the name of space.

    1. I don’t think a private enterprise to colonize space would have to be a fraud, but I do doubt there’s enough people to bring off the project. As time goes by it’s possible to amass larger fortunes. Bill Gates before he started his charity work could have afforded to launch his own Apollo size program. So if single people can earn the amount needed, then a group of people should also be able to do it too. Of course, that’s all theoretical. In the 1960s during the opening of the space race no private group could have gathered $30 billion dollars. Now it’s possible. In the future, it might even get easier.

      1. I’m not saying it has to be a fraud, but groups that go around raising money for a cause tend to do more work involving raising money and having events rather than actually solving the issue they claim to be concerned about. Consider the number of cancer walks there are in this country. There have been many scandals about how these walks and similar events raise little actual money after expenses and how they tend to be more about the people running them socializing and having something to do.

        Even the large and well organized environmental groups haven’t accomplished all that much with the money they’ve raised. They have a sorry history of compromise with and co-option by the very worst enemies of our biosphere.

        Why couldn’t have one of the Rockefellers or a one of JP Morgan’s descendants have funded a missions or research. You might say people on average have more money, or that there are more millionaires now than then, but the currency has been devalued since that time too. While a million dollars is still a lot of money, a million in 1960 would buy a hell of a lot more than it does today.

        Settling people in space is way more complicated than the Apollo missions. That was only a series of short trips to the moon. Nobody had to figure out how to feed someone for more than a week or so. They hardly did more than just load the ship with a weeks worth freeze-dried ice cream. To settle in space means having to grow/raise food for the rest of the settler’s lives. Shooting a rocket into low earth orbit is now fairly easy, but making it possible for people on that rocket to stay in space would require years and years of prior research and technological innovation. Psychological studies would be required, research in to recreation and leisure. These settlers would have to live the rest of their lives either in a ship or in a base on somewhere. You don’t want these people to commit suicide due to boredom or hopelessness. Research into how to reproduce all aspects of human life would be needed: food, air, water and everyday objects. If a toilet breaks in space, you don’t want to have to launch its replacement on a rocket from earth. Nor if a CPU burns out or you simply wear out your clothes. Eventually these settlers will need to have an independent economy and be able to grow or build everything they need.

        The length of time needed to solve all of these problems is a problem in itself. Keeping an organization from degenerating into a time-occupier and job-provider for its officers is a significant problem. The main reason the environmental groups are so ineffective is because they stopped being movement organizations where people do things and determine for themselves what they would do. It devolved into a fund-raising operation, where the leaders were the ones who raised the most money. The members nothing more than check writers, with no real say. Eventually all the actual environmentalists were marginalized and pushed out. Lawyers and marketing people dominate, they naturally found it easier to keep their organizations non-controversial, to limit member participation in decision making and to sell their name to corporate donors. I say unless there is a highly motivated, highly politicized organization with an active membership and methods to keep it so, a space settlement oriented charity would devolve into uselessness. Which I think points out the need for a secretive cabal, with a participating membership, something like a revolutionary group. Read Heinlein’s “Revolt in 2100”, although I’d prefer something much less centralized than what Heinlein described in his story. Something illegal by its very nature cannot be so easily co-opted and controlled by the dominate society.

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