01 January 2008

Moonbase 2020? Google Wants to Help

Popular Science ran a feature last month entitled "The Green Side of the Moon." I recommend checking out the animated overview and tour of the "Green Moonbase." The six steps to "lunar living" according to the feature are:
  1. Find a big crater
  2. Go solar
  3. Inflate your bedroom
  4. Go fishing
  5. Urinate often
  6. Reuse everything
The animation will explain everything. The design for this moonbase was created by a group attending the summerlong Space Studies Program at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France.

An inflatable moonbase prototype has already been sent to Antarctica for testing. A sustainable moonbase must give its builders and operators an economic reason to keep it running. Such as moon mining. Among the lunar resources which may make lunar habitats viable, include the isotope Helium 3. Helium 3 is considered a safe fuel for nuclear fusion--once it becomes technically feasible. He3:He3 fusion is nonradioactive, and produces protons rather than neutrons, which can be contained with electromagnetic fields.

Another potential lunar resource is lunar ice. Lunar ice would be more than worth its weight in gold, serving as a life support resource, a source of fuel, and much more. Lunar soil and rock could serve as building material and raw material for construction of machinery, piping, photovoltaics, etc. With nano-assemblers, the options would be broad.

Contestants are lining up to compete for the Google Lunar X Prize, which illustrates the desperate need for private funding and innovation in space development.
The Google Lunar X Prize calls on entrepreneurs, engineers, and visionaries from around the world "to return us to the lunar surface and explore this environment for the benefit of all humanity," as Peter H. Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, put it last September when the GLXP was announced. Part of the mission underlying the GLXP is to "encourage and foster competition and lower cost of space travel" with a philosophy of open access, individual participation, and recognition of the importance of communicating planetary exploration to the public.

The moon....is a stepping stone to the rest of the solar system; [it] provides a natural storehouse of minerals and resources, including oxygen and perhaps water; [it] offers a platform for astronomical observation; and, as a remnant of ancient Earth created from a collision between a planet-sized object and the early Earth, the Moon can inform us about Earth's geological past.

The moon is much more than that, of course. A sustainable and profitable moonbase would represent one of the first off-planet rites of passage for humans. It is a huge natural resource that--if exploitable--would provide humans with much of the education they need to create a permanent off-Earth presence.

While large space stations in La Grange orbits provide more logical "stepping stones" to the rest of the solar system, permanent lunar outposts and colonies demonstrate humanity's determination to move out and occupy more of its solar system legacy. The psychological boost from that would be incalculable.

Of course there is a lot of work to be done to make sure the approaches taken are feasible and sustainable. The Google Lunar X Prize is only the beginning. But it is a good beginning, and should point the way for the next steps that need to be taken by private interests.

Government agencies such as NASA have become both corrupt and unimaginative--straying into non-space areas such as the insane politics of global warming etc. Private business understands how to focus on the bottom line--economic sustainability. Government too often serves as a welfare program for career bureaucrats. That such bureaucrats too often turn into public clowns--such as James Hansen--is regrettable but to be expected.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Blogger IConrad said...

> While large space stations in La
> Grange orbits provide more logical
> "stepping stones" to the rest of
> the solar system

They are only logical insofar as reaching them is easier than reaching the moon.

The economies of energy expenditures to escape gravity wells makes the moon 'more logical' as a stepping stone assuming that our fuel for any other location is found on the moon. Even if that fuel were, somehow, merely electrical energy -- that 1/6 energy well escape makes the moon a vital stepping point in terms of economies of energy; and as that has direct effect on the economics of all space exploration it is plain to see.

Of course, you know all of this. :)

Tuesday, 01 January, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Good point. The moon's utility as a refueling station cannot be overstated.

The important thing is to go from the "space tourist" approach of NASA, the ESA, and other governmental agencies to the "pay as you go" approach of business expansion. Expansion into space has to find ways of paying for itself.

The Google prize should be the barest of starting points. If Bill Gates had any true intelligence, he would be putting a lot of money into this enterprise instead of flushing it down the drain via the BM Gates foundation.

Tuesday, 01 January, 2008  

Post a Comment

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts