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Who Will Be First To Build A Church On The Moon? And A 711 And Motel 6?



I recently booked airline tickets for an overseas trip and noticed that my passport expiration date was 2037, which seems, for an old guy like me, a long time in the future. I was especially intrigued by that date because there is some speculation that technological advancements are predictive of a permanent lunar settlement within that timeframe— maybe even two, one that comes out of NASA's Artemis program and another in line with China's plans for the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).


You’re probably already aware that NASA's Artemis program aims to return humans to the Moon next year and establish a sustainable presence by the end of the decade, which would lay the groundwork for a permanent settlement. You might be less aware that China, in collaboration with Russia, targets the 2030s for building a lunar research station, which could evolve into a semi-permanent or permanent base.


It’s also worth keeping in mind that SpaceX and Blue Origin have their own plans for commercial lunar ventures, including settlements. Remember, there’s a body of international law known as "space law" that governs activities in outer space, including the Moon, the primary legal framework, since 1967 and under the auspices of the UN, being the Outer Space Treaty (OST), formally known as the "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies." It prohibits any country from claiming sovereignty over the Moon or any other celestial body. Article II of the treaty states that “outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by any means, by use or occupation, or by any other means.” The treaty— and signatories include the U.S., China and Russia— mandates that the Moon and other celestial bodies be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, forbidding the establishment of military bases, installations, and fortifications, as well as the testing of any type of weapons.

 

So let’s get to it… The idea of establishing a human settlement on the Moon has been gaining significant traction in recent years, with several space agencies and private companies developing plans and technologies to make it a reality. First off, if you’re as old as I am you probably remember what happened in late 1957 when the Soviets launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to be placed into Earth’s orbit. Even though just 9, I recall shock and awe here at home with Americans freaking out that it was a demonstration of Soviet technological superiority and a potential threat to national security— remember the “missile gap?”— and immediate pressure on the government to respond, leading to increased funding and support for space and missile programs. We all know how that led to inflated military budgets that have persisted for 6 decades. But there were also benefits to this competition. Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in 1958, providing significant funding for education in science, mathematics, and foreign languages to ensure a future generation of scientists and engineers. Also in 1958, NASA and its first program, Project Mercury, were launched. There’s no doubt that the launch of Sputnik initiated a space race, that inspired a generation of scientists, engineers and students to pursue careers in space and technology, contributing to long-term scientific and educational advancements and leading to the Apollo program to land humans on the Moon, advancing the development of advanced satellite technology, including communication and weather satellites as part of the process.


So… how feasible would it be to establish a settlement on the moon? The technological challenges are immense. The Moon lacks a substantial atmosphere and magnetic field nd that would expose inhabitants to high levels of cosmic radiation. Solutions include building habitats with thick walls or constructing habitats underground. At teh same time, sustainable life support systems that can provide air, water and food are essential. Technologies such as closed-loop life support systems, hydroponics, and in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) are being developed. It gets very hot and very cold up there— ranging from about 260 degrees during the day to -279 degrees at night. That’s going to take some thermal regulation beyond our current capacities. And let’s not forget that prolonged exposure to low gravity causes health issues in humans. 


Here’s some good news I found online that I had previously missed. The discovery of water ice in permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles is a significant enabler. This water can be used for drinking, oxygen production, and as a component of rocket fuel. Lunar soil can be used to create building materials using 3D printing technologies, reducing the need to transport construction materials from Earth.


Like I said, NASA’s Artemis Program is aiming to return humans to the Moon before the end of the year and to establish a sustainable presence by the end of the decade.


Russia and China announced plans to collaborate on building a lunar research station by the 2030s. This project aims to establish a long-term robotic and potentially human presence on the Moon. Take a look at this:



Meanwhile, the European Space Agency (ESA) envisions an international lunar base called the “Moon Village,” which would serve as a hub for scientific research, mining and even tourism in collaboration with other space agencies and private companies. And Musk’s SpaceX plans to use the Starship spacecraft for lunar missions, while Bezos’s Blue Origin is developing the Blue Moon lander— and sent 6 tourists— venture capitalist Mason Angel; Sylvain Chiron, founder of the French craft brewery Brasserie Mont-Blanc; software engineer and entrepreneur Kenneth Hess; retired accountant Carol Schaller; aviator Gopi Thotakura; and Ed Dwight, a retired US Air Force captain selected by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to be the nation’s first Black astronaut candidate— to the edge of space yesterday.



And beyond tourism, there are several potential economic benefits of establishing a settlement on the Moon. That water ice I mentioned above can be split into hydrogen and oxygen to create rocket fuel. This could support lunar missions, refueling stations, and deeper space exploration missions. Even more interesting is helium-3, a rare isotope on Earth that’s more abundant on the Moon. It has potential as a fuel for nuclear fusion reactors— actual  clean energy. Meanwhile, soil samples and lunar meteorites on earth show that the Moon has deposits of rare earth elements crucial for electronics and green technologies (including cerium, yttrium and lanthanum).

 

Some other benefits have to do with what an ideal location the far side of the Moon is for radio telescopes, free from Earth's radio interference, expected to advance our understanding of the universe. And no doubt Innovations in sustainable life support systems will have terrestrial applications, particularly in water and waste recycling technologies. People are going to get rich from this while developing lunar infrastructure creates new markets and job opportunities in engineering, robotics, construction, etc. It’s the perfect example of MMT, spending government money while creating private wealth.


China has already achieved significant milestones with its Chang'e lunar missions, including landing rovers on the Moon and returning lunar samples to Earth. The ILRS collaboration with Russia, plans to build a lunar research station by the 2030s which will include robotic and probably human missions to establish a sustained presence on the Moon. Russia is reviving the Soviet-era Luna program, with plans to launch several robotic missions to the Moon in the coming years.


The European Space Agency has proposed the idea of a Moon Village as a multinational lunar base for scientific research, resource utilization and commercial activities. Meanwhile. Musk’s plans include lunar landings, Mars colonization and space tourism, the Dear Moon Project, funded by Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, that aims to fly artists around the Moon. And Bezos’ lunar lander is supposed to be capable of delivering cargo and eventually humans to the lunar surface.


As best I can tell, available information and trends suggests that the U.S. will probably be the first to establish a permanent settlement on the Moon, although China really has demonstrated significant progress with its Chang'e missions, due primarily to the centralized and well-coordinated nature of their space program and the ability for rapid advancements, given the substantial government backing and long-term strategic goals.


Yesterday, Mark Whittington (Curmudgeon’s Corner) wrote about NASA’s plans for a lunar base camp, which, he wrote “includes ‘a modern lunar cabin, a rover and even a mobile home.’… [T]he criteria for a lunar settlement was set forth by the National Space Society:


  • People moving to the Moon with no intention of ever returning to Earth

  • Residents other than employees

  • Children being brought to the Moon and, gravity and other conditions permitting, being born and raised there

  • Commercial businesses including manufacturing and markets

  • Schools, chapels and religious/gathering spaces

  • No requirement that enough vehicles be standing by to evacuate the entire population at once (though there would be provisions for evacuating people from individual modules in the event of and emergency)

  • Surgical and medical facilities

  • Closed or Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS) that recycle sufficiently to minimize the amount of imports needed for daily living (including food)

  • Some form of local governance

  • Ability to make most repairs using local materials

  • Facilities for visitors, whether scientists, tourists or others

  • Use as a staging point and support facility to develop other lunar settlements.

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3 Comments


Guest
May 21

Amato will develop the 711

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"It prohibits any country from claiming sovereignty over the Moon or any other celestial body." So who issues deeds, the UN? And who is going to develop hugely expensive lunar real estate without a deed or a lease?

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Guest
May 21

Pie in the sky. Axe y'self how it would be different had the Apollo missions been done today rather than in the '60s.

Mostly I would expect that today's missions would be done for profit rather than simply for exploration. And half of america would scoff at it as a hoax. Very soon a hoax devotee would be elected fuhrer and we'll be on our way to "Idiocracy". No different than we are already.


And, based only on what I've read, I see it as a refuge for the rich... ONLY the rich... who can afford the price to go there. Politically, spending on such things won't fly. The nazis will shriek about wasting money and the democraps will quick…


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