Issue Report: Colonization of the Moon

Is colonizing the Moon a good idea?

The colonization of the Moon is the proposed establishment of permanent human communities on the Moon. Moon colonization is also known as space settlement, space humanization, and space habitation. The most prominent proposal, within NASA, is known as the “Moonbase”. Advocates of space exploration have seen settlement of the Moon as a logical step in the expansion of humanity beyond the Earth. In 2006, US President George W. Bush announced plans to colonize the Moon, although the subsequent economic crisis dampened talk of such a colony under the Obama administration. Yet, the debate continues, framed by multiple questions: Is space exploration and colonization – of the Moon and any other planet – important? Is it important as a source of inspiration? Is is necessary as a means of fulfilling a supposed, innate “human impulse” to explore and discover? Is the Moon a good testing ground for broader space exploration and colonization? Is it a good testing ground and possibly “launch-pad” for a mission to Mars (“Moon-to-Mars”)? Is colonization of the Moon safe? Can humans survive, reproduce, and grow healthily in low-gravity? Is the colonization of the Moon generally feasible, practical, and economically reasonable? Are there commercial/export opportunities on the Moon? Is colonization of the Moon, and any subsequent space exploration important to human survival? Is colonization important to scientific discovery on the Moon as well as of the universe? Can colonization help heal political conflicts on Earth? Overall, is the colonization of the Moon a good idea?

Space exploration: Is colonizing the Moon critical to space exploration/discovery?

Colonizing Moon is first step in colonizing space

Ken Murphy. "25 Good Reasons to Go to the Moon." Out of the Cradle. June 14th, 2008

“25) A true space-faring civilization. The Moon is the ideal location to get our feet wet, and getting there can lay the foundation for a civilization that can go beyond the Moon to Mars and the asteroids and other destinations of interest.”

Moon colonization similarly important as colonizing America

"Why Go Back to the Moon?" NASA. January 14, 2008

“To put the arguments for a return to the Moon, and a lunar outpost, in the most general terms: the Moon is essentially a whole planet, one that has so far been barely touched. But this new planet is only a few days travel away and we have already camped on it. To turn our backs on the Moon would be equivalent to European exploration stopping after Columbus’s few landings, or China’s destruction of its giant ships to concentrate on domestic problems in the 15th century.”

Moon colonization satisfies human desire to explore

Robert Roy Britt. "10 Reasons to Put Humans Back on the Moon." December 8th, 2003

“1. Satisfy the soul […] Beyond the basic needs for food, shelter and clothing, we humans are a restless lot. Exploration seems to be in our bones. The quest for knowledge is not an exclusive motivator in the desire to venture across land, sea, air or cosmic frontiers. ‘The practical case for manned spaceflight gets ever-weaker with each advance in robotic probes and fabricators,’ Sir Martin Rees, one of the world’s leading theoretical astrophysicists, told last week as the rumors swirled. ‘Indeed as a scientist I see little purpose in sending people into space at all. But as a human being, I’m nonetheless an enthusiast for space exploration — to the Moon, to Mars and even beyond — as a long-range adventure for (at least a few) humans.'”

Moonbase would be ideal staging area for space exploration

The energy required to send objects from the Moon to space is much less than from Earth to space. Ease of landing on and launching from the Moon makes it an ideal construction site or fueling station for spacecraft. Some proposals even include using electric acceleration devices (mass drivers) to propel objects off the Moon without building rockets.

There are too few practical reasons to colonize the Moon

Gregg Easterbrook. "Moon Baseless". Slate. Dec. 8, 2006

“The United States will have a permanent base on the moon by the year 2024, NASA officials said on Monday. What does the space agency hope to discover on the moon? The reason it built the base. […] Coming under a presidency whose slogan might be ‘No Price Too High To Accomplish Nothing,’ the idea of a permanent, crewed moon base nevertheless takes the cake for preposterousness. Although, of course, the base could yield a great discovery, its scientific value is likely to be small while its price is extremely high. Worse, moon-base nonsense may for decades divert NASA resources from the agency’s legitimate missions, draining funding from real needs in order to construct human history’s silliest white elephant. […] What’s it for? Good luck answering that question. There is scientific research to be done on the moon, but this could be accomplished by automatic probes or occasional astronaut visits at a minute fraction of the cost of a permanent, crewed facility. Astronauts at a moon base will spend almost all their time keeping themselves alive and monitoring automated equipment, the latter task doable from an office building in Houston. In deadpan style, the New York Times story on the NASA announcement declared, ‘The lunar base is part of a larger effort to develop an international exploration strategy, one that explains why and how humans are returning to the moon and what they plan to do when they get there.’ Oh–so we’ll build the moon base first, and then try to figure out why we built it. […] NASA itself can’t really offer an answer, though it does offer a free, downloadable ‘Why the Moon?’ poster. According to the poster, a moon base would ‘enable eventual settlement’ of Earth’s satellite—which might happen someday, but represents an absurd waste of tax money in the current generation. (No one has any interest in settling Antarctica, which is much more amenable to life than the moon and can be reached at far less than 1 percent of the cost.)”

Colonizing Moon is just about funding for NASA

Gregg Easterbrook. "Moon Baseless". Slate. Dec. 8, 2006

“So, what is it for? Transparently, the true goal of the moon base would be to keep budget lines and contracts flowing to the congressional districts and aerospace contractors wired in to current NASA spending.”

Health: Is the colonization of the Moon healthy for humans?

Moon colony would feel comforted by site of large Earth.

On the lunar near side, the Earth appears large and is always visible as an object 60 times brighter than the Moon appears from Earth, unlike more distant locations where the Earth would be seen merely as a star-like object, much as the planets appear from Earth. As a result, a lunar colony might feel less remote to humans living there.

Artificial gravity can overcome health risks on Moonbase.

Artificial gravity is not a very difficult task to accomplish. The technology already exists in many forms and will continue to advance with a focused effort to develop it for a Moonbase. This will overcome any major health risks associated with the low-gravity levels on the Moon as well as on Mars.

Moonbase advances knowledge of human viability on alien planets.

It is critical that humans begin the process of understanding the health implications of living on alien planets, including the Moon, Mars, and possibly others in the distant future. This requires understanding – among other things – the implications of living in a lower-gravity planet, such as the Moon, and developing techniques – such as artificial gravity – to cope with any issues that may arise. The Moon is an ideal place to begin this technological process.

Low-gravity Moon would be healthier for elderly

Ken Murphy. "25 Good Reasons to Go to the Moon." Out of the Cradle. June 14th, 2008

“7) Human factors. Having 1/6th of Earth’s gravity, the heart doesn’t have to pump as hard to supply oxygen to the brain. While for a youth this would have an atrophy-type effect, for those advanced in years it can serve a rejuvenative effect, as the heart is suddenly relatively stronger. This allows for longer productive lives for our citizens. And you can fly in a large enough space.”

Moon's gravity is too low for human health

"Why the Moon will Never be Colonized." Phil for Humanity

“The Moon will never be colonized for a single reason. Basically, the Moon’s gravity is less than 17% of Earth’s gravity, and people can not survive long periods of time at such low gravity. […] Even though people could easily survive short time periods in this low gravity, it would be extremely unhealthy for prolonged periods of time especially when returning to Earth. For instance, long stays in low gravity can and will result with significant loss in bone density and muscle atrophy, just to name the two most common issues with low gravity.”

Children would not develop properly in low-gravity Moon colony

"Why the Moon will Never be Colonized." Phil for Humanity

“The bigger problem with colonizing the Moon is the effects that low gravity will have on children. The human development process has evolved perfectly with Earth’s high gravity. On the Moon, children would most likely develop severe and possibly fatal deformities under low gravity. For instance, their bones would be extremely brittle and break often. Their hearts would be very weak and never fully develop, as well as possibly all of their other muscles too. Children would literally grow to extreme heights that will cause severe complications on the spinal cord and digestive systems, because these organs have limited stretching capabilities. As a result, colonists on the Moon might not be able to have healthy children capable of living long enough to have children of their own.”

Moon-to-Mars: Would colonizing the Moon aid a mission to Mars?

Colonizing the Moon would test new technologies along with testing space colonization.

Colonizing the Moon is now far more important than colonizing Mars now. Firstly, the Moon is a far more easier place for people to live since man had stepped foot on Moon, making Moon an ideal place to colonize first. Secondly, Mars have a more hostile environment than the Moon. Thirdly, technology preparing to colonize the Moon is far more developed than technology preparing to colonize Mars. Fourthly, colonizing a place like Moon first will test our abilities to colonize far, hostile planets possibly filled with equally hostile aliens.

Colonizing the Moon is a good test for colonizing Mars.

If the Moon were colonized then it could be tested whether humans can survive in microgravity. Those results could be utilized for a viable Mars colony as well.

Moonbase could be used to launch rockets on mission to Mars.

A lunar base could also hold a future site for launching rockets to distant planets such as Mars. Launching rockets from the Moon would be an easier prospect than on Earth due to the Moon’s lower gravity requiring a lower escape velocity.

Moon base would spark public interest in Mars mission.

The creation of a base on our small companion would spark the public’s interest, as the creation of such a base would most likely take less than a decade. After this, wait perhaps another decade or so and viola, you have yourself a Mars landing. If we were instead to mount a mission to Mars directly, it would take decades before the mission would be underway. The general public despises long waits, which equals to a lack of funds completely immobilizing the would be Mars landing.

Colonizing the Moon is not a logical step toward Mars

Gregg Easterbrook. "Moon Baseless". Slate. Dec. 8, 2006

“Don’t we need a moon base to go to Mars? No! When George W. Bush made his Mars-trip speech almost three years ago, he said a moon base should be built to support such a mission. This is gibberish. All concept studies of Mars flight involve an expedition departing from low-Earth orbit and traveling directly to the red planet. Stopping at the moon would require fuel to descend to the lunar surface, then blast off again, which would make any Mars mission hugely more expensive.”

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