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Moon Space Science

What Shall We Do With the Moon Once We Get There? 524

Posted by timothy
from the good-place-for-wedding-chapels dept.
MarkWhittington writes "For the first time in over thirty five years, the Moon has become the next frontier. The United States has committed to returning human astronauts to the Moon by the end of the next decade. China has hinted that it intends to do this also. A variety of countries, including the United States and China, but also India, Europe, and Japan, have either sent robotic probes into lunar orbit or are on the verge of doing so." Contribute your favorite moon ideas below; I'd like to see it used as the set to film The Moon is a Harsh Mistress .
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What Shall We Do With the Moon Once We Get There?

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  • Obvious (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:00PM (#23703209)
    Strip-mine it
    • by mrbluze (1034940) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:06PM (#23703267) Journal
      We've got crackers!!!
    • Why do want to go to the moon? Because the Chinese are going?

      Let's see... why did we want to go last time? Oh, because the Russians were going. Aha.

      Putting a man on the moon may be inspiring and make for great geopolitical drama, and it's fun to touch the moon rock at the Air and Space Museum ... but it's otherwise an utterly worthless dick-swinging contest.

      It's extremely expensive to get there, and the fact that we still have no idea what to do with it (as evidenced by this very article!!) suggests it a
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ArcherB (796902)

        Why do want to go to the moon? Because the Chinese are going?

        Let's see... why did we want to go last time? Oh, because the Russians were going. Aha.

        Putting a man on the moon may be inspiring and make for great geopolitical drama, and it's fun to touch the moon rock at the Air and Space Museum ... but it's otherwise an utterly worthless dick-swinging contest.

        It's extremely expensive to get there, and the fact that we still have no idea what to do with it (as evidenced by this very article!!) suggests it ain't worth it. Until there's some compelling economic or scientific reason for a moon visit, I believe it's simply a boondoggle for the things-we-can-do-by-wasting-enough-fossil-fuel industry.

        Simple: [space.com] Helium-3 [wikipedia.org]

        Fusion [asi.org] a good enough reason for ya?

        Let's suppose that by the time we're slinging tanks of He3 off the moon, the world-wide demand is 100 tonnes of the stuff a year, and people are happy to pay $3 billion per tonne. That gives us gross revenues of $300 billion a year.

        To put that number in perspective: Ignoring the cost of money and taxes and whatnot, that rate of income would launch a moon shot like our reference mission every day for the next 10,000 years.

        • by mjaworsk (1271170) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:58PM (#23704581)
          This is a problematic approach given the current direction in fusion energy research. The problem of D-He3 fusion is that the cross section for reactions is more difficult to attain than D-T fusion. Sure, there are neutrons involved in the latter, but obtaining satisfactory plasma conditions is the main reason we don't already have fusion power. To jump over to D-He3 and up the temperature and density requirements would push the plasma capabilities further still. Additionally, there's still the issue of fuel dilution, which in the case of D-T fusion, only a single He4 is left over to (somehow) remove. The neutron removes itself not being confined. In the case of D-He3, there's an He4 and a proton diluting the fuel, essentially, twice as much as in the D-T case. Dealing with fueling and fuel dilution issues is part of the mission of the ITER project, but there are still a lot of issues remaining in this area and it doesn't get easier with D-He3 fuels. Finally, claiming that the fuels will be aneutronic is not entirely correct. Namely, one still has a bunch of He3-He3 reactions as well as D-D reactions occurring whenever these species are in the same plasma. While having lower cross-sections than than the D-He3 reaction, they still occur and still produce neutrons. So even though the single D+He3 reaction is aneutronic, a reactor based on that fuel combination still will not be and will still have a non-zero activity level associated with it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kestasjk (933987)

          Fusion [asi.org] a good enough reason for ya?

          Depends on the expense, fusion research is certainly worthwhile but we still need to ask how much we're prepared to invest in it. I haven't even heard a figure for the expected cost per kWh of power from a commercial fusion reactor.
          If it turns out to cost considerably more than current power it won't be widely used, no matter how eco-friendly or technologically advanced.

          Let's suppose that by the time we're slinging tanks of He3 off the moon, the world-wide demand is 100 tonnes of the stuff a year, and people are happy to pay $3 billion per tonne. That gives us gross revenues of $300 billion a year. To put that number in perspective: Ignoring the cost of money and taxes and whatnot, that rate of income would launch a moon shot like our reference mission every day for the next 10,000 years.

          Well the problem is tritium is created in fusion reactors; as more reactors are built more tritium is produced so even more reactors cou

        • by Rorschach1 (174480) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @11:23PM (#23704769) Homepage
          No, it's not good enough - because He3 fusion is LONG way off by all accounts, and you're assuming that you can't find a suitable fuel here on Earth. And it's not like He3 doesn't exist on this planet. I've got some here on my desk, for that matter - self-luminous tritium glow tubes that by my math should have decayed to about 30% He3 by now.

          And IIRC, the He3 on the moon is still pretty thin on the ground. You've got to process a lot of regolith to extract it.

          I'm all for going back to the moon and staying there, but He3 is not the reason. Learning to live there IS a good reason, IMHO. I'm just looking forward to the day when automated fabrication technology gets to the point where we can build maybe 80-90% of what we need in-situ without huge factories and manual labor. I'm not expecting magical nanotech assemblers any time soon, but you don't need to make EVERYTHING there. Just make the big, heavy stuff - and learn to design what you need using the materials you've got, even if it's sub-optimal.

          The day when an off-world colony can produce enough wealth to pay for what it must get from Earth is the day we stop being an Earth-bound species. We'll get there by working both ends - reducing what needs to be sent up (and reducing the cost of doing so), and increasing the economic output of an off-world colony. But we need to go there first, even though it's expensive, and start learning the lessons that need to be learned.
          • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Monday June 09, 2008 @10:05AM (#23708559)
            Finally, a sensible post! But I'd like to add something.

            You said we'd be building big, heavy stuff in factories on the moon. Yes, that's the right goal to aim at. But what will that "stuff" be? Not construction beams for a new lunar suburbia. They will be parts for space stations, space telescopes, spaceships, and all kinds of other stuff that we will want in orbit. Why should that stuff be made on the moon? Well, because all the raw resources are there, because automated manufacturing there should be feasible, and because it will be very easy to launch heavy things into orbit from the moon: With such low gravity and essentially no atmosphere, things can be launched with a simple railgun.

            I don't think it will be so great to live on the moon, with all that nasty dust and weak gravity. I say we should cover the moon with solar panels and maybe some fission reactors, and use all that energy for smelting lunar ore, both precious and ordinary. There is no end to the usefulness of the satellites we can make from raw materials on the moon. One of those things: photovoltaic cells which we could railgun into geosynchronous Earth orbit to generate clean power for us. Another thing we need in orbit are big construction pieces from which we could build a large, rotating and mostly self-sufficient space station. That's where we should live - in orbit (maybe at a liberation point), not on the stupid moon.

            Also, try to imagine assembling segments of a gigantic (as in 100+ meter) metallic mirror in lunar orbit. The resulting telescope could actually resolve exoplanets!

            That's what we should be doing on the moon! Of course, before all that is possible we still need to take steps to refine our technology of automated manufacturing, and we don't need to be on the moon to do a lot of that work. But we do need to learn about the special conditions there, like issues having to do with the dust, the diversity of the geology, the feasibility of certain smelting techniques, the optimal design of nuclear powerplants for the moon, etc. (Yes, the first operations must be powered by fission, get over it. It's the fucking moon.)

            So there's my answer.

        • by hot soldering iron (800102) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @11:25PM (#23704785)
          I'm sure a lot of people also said that most of the previous space missions were "an utterly worthless dick-swinging contest". They were so fucking stupid. And so fucking wrong. They mistook the declared target for the actual benefit. The big win was in the fallout of the programs: improved electronics, aerospace design, optics, space medicine, materials science, etc ... These things would probably have developed on their own due to market pressure, but a "national goal" quite literally "put a rocket under their ass". The greatest benefit of a colony presence on the moon would be the general technology developed. As a card-carrying geek, that's enough for me. Anyone here that feels that going to the moon is just an expensive waste of money and time needs to have their geek status revoked and they must join the ranks of the PHB morons.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            The technological advances came as part of the war effort more than just having a race to the moon.

            Anyone here that feels that going to the moon is just an expensive waste of money and time needs to have their geek status revoked and they must join the ranks of the PHB morons.

            No anybody here that falls for every piece of government propaganda or patriotism needs to have their slashdot card revoked, because that's all the moon-race is. It doesn't address the real issues of the times, lack of hope in lower class areas leading to increase in crime that's only going to speed up as time goes by, lack of money for both people and a country as a whole, outsourcing of everything stretchin

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cliffski (65094)
            wow. arrogance = ARROGANCE_MAX

            I'm a geek, but I don't see the point of going to the moon, in fact i think its exactly the kind of showy, dramatic, expensive and ultimately useless project that a PHB suggests, and which geeks should roll their eyes at.
            We got velcro and non stick frying pans. yippee, but given the potential costs of going, and the problems right here of climate change and global poverty, I think there are better uses of the cash. if that means I'm not a geek, then big fucking deal.
        • by alizard (107678) <alizard&ecis,com> on Monday June 09, 2008 @05:14AM (#23706717) Homepage
          or whether it can be used in practical fusion facilities or not, we know that there's silicon there. A highly automated mining and metal refining facility designed to ship semiconductor-grade silicon (the crystallization is better done in microgravity) to Earth orbit might be a good way to provide the solar cells for a SPS (space power satellite) array to solve Earth's power needs and after or concurrent than that, it can be used to feed orbital wafer fabs. I've heard one can grow defect-free semiconductor crystals the size of basketballs in microgravity for cheaper CPUs with higher profit margins. That's a for instance.

          There are lots of things one can do if one has zero-gravity, for practical purposes, free energy, and transportation.

          Once upon a time, the American West was looked at as an unprofitable, useless wasteland.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I believe it's simply a boondoggle for the things-we-can-do-by-wasting-enough-fossil-fuel industry.


        Only because those bastards won't let us use nuclear weapons to launch rockets. Freekin Hippies.
      • by RustinHWright (1304191) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @11:41PM (#23704899) Homepage Journal
        I'm less interested in WHAT we do than in HOW we do it. I would hate to see us end up spending more decades with our thumbs up our metaphorical posteriors waiting for NASA and their associated agencies to get something built up there.

        What should NASA do? Damned if I know. Or care all that much for now. AFAIC the real concern is for a private group to choose some location well away from the various government-run bases and just bloody well start shooting itty bitty robots up there ASAP. As I've said about Mars [typepad.com], the rational thing to do is to start processing minerals, digging tunnels that are deep enough to be radiation resistant, establishing power generation capacity, and maybe even starting a few teeny separate greenhouse enclosures in which the beginnings of working ecosystems can get going. In the next few years. Not to mention building the kinds of expertise one only gets through real world implementation.

        To wait to do this with human-optimized vehicles or even simply to wait to do this until the billions of dollars in funding needed for a full mission can be rounded up and the milions of man-hours in research and development needed to make a moonbase human-capable is as boneheaded as, say, using only Microsoft products "because that's the established approach".

        We already know that dust is going to make every job bloody difficult. We already know that our attempts at equipment that reliably works in vacuum and under those temperature changes haven't gone all that well. We have a lot of learning to do. And it will all go a lot better if the first humans get there to find as much mass and equipment already waiting and running as possible. So let's start with the least demanding tasks and get more ambitious as we go.

        So I say:
        A.) Put a couple of relays in Moon orbit. This massively cuts power and complexity demands down for the devices we later send moonside. If they can take pictures of the moon as they orbit, that's jim dandy too.
        B.) Have at least two teams launch at least two different approaches to digger robots. These robots will, hopefully, if nothing else, build the first enclosures in which other robots can do things like wait out the worst radiation storms.
        C.) Send more robots to survey the local area for mineral resources. Each package also includes some amount of additional power generation capacity. Ideally some mix is used of solar, temperature differential-based systems, and other approaches.
        D.) And only then send robots to start doing things like making rocket fuel from moon mass.

        Maybe I'm wrong about the ideal order. But I'm pretty damn sure that I'm right about my basic point. We should be launching payloads as soon as we possibly can. Barring some other group stealing what we send, we lose far more than we gain by waiting.
        Oh, and if we do it right, the group that does so may even get to have that /. classic become true.
        E.) PROFIT!!!!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by solitas (916005)

        Why do want to go to the moon? Because the Chinese are going?

        Let's see... why did we want to go last time? Oh, because the Russians were going. Aha.
        The British have already been there - in 1899 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Men_in_the_Moon_(1964_film) [wikipedia.org] ).

        It's on Turner Classic movies right now.

      • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:55AM (#23706297) Journal
        Look, get past all the W. rhetoric. Living on the moon just became relatively cheap. For us to live there is going to sending loads O2, or providing lots of power to mine it. We are currently looking at solar power, but that really is not going to provide enough. In particular, solar will not do the job away from the poles. It would require beaming it combined with storage. That is until recently. Japan has found lots of uranium there. Not earth level, but it appears to be more than we could ship easily. Japan also has a nuclear reactor designed for the moon (the toshiba 4S). That will open up the moon to be relatively cheap.

        But more important than that, is that from that uranium, we can breed plutonium that we can use to power ships as well a sats elsewhere and perhaps a base on mars. In addition, with that kind of power, we can build a rail launcher on the moon. Even more important than the He3, is the simple fact that it opens up the solar system for us. That uranium being there will do that for us.
    • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Funny)

      by davolfman (1245316) on Monday June 09, 2008 @01:39AM (#23705633)
      Use the zero gravity to pretend to be ninjas.
  • The Obvious (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:00PM (#23703211)
    Kill each other for the land
  • by Crotch Jenkins (1229438) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:01PM (#23703217) Journal
    Carve it up and eat it.
  • by BorgCopyeditor (590345) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:03PM (#23703229)
    America can, should, must, and will blow up the moon. The time is now. Children are our future.

    "You know you can't mess ... with American pride."
    • by cartman (18204) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:11PM (#23703309)
      There are unconfirmed reports of Al Qaeda on the moon. Furthermore, we have it from very reliable sources that Saddam has been working to establish lunar colonies in order to mine the tritium there for use in hydrogen bombs. We must not wait until there is a mushroom cloud over Earth.

      We shall blow up the moon ourselves, if necessary. Nobody can deny us our right of self-defense against the moon. If the French happen to think the idea of blowing up the moon is silly, then we'll rename food products just to spite them ("terrestrial fries"). Anyway, the French don't have the right to oppose our ideas because they're only French and they don't even run the planet anymore, much less the solar system.

      • Simpsons^W Mr. Show did it first.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Z34107 (925136)

        I always thought the whole "Freedom Fries"... err, your "terrestrial fries", thing was hilarious.

        The delectable dietary staple has nothing to do with the French, and very little to do with "freedom." In fact, they come from Belgian.

        So, I call them "Belgium-fried potatoes." Or, "botatoes" for short.

        Now, how inept are the French? Can't even hijack potato recipes properly, let alone solar systems. Yeesh.

        • by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @11:42PM (#23704909)

          The delectable dietary staple has nothing to do with the French, and very little to do with "freedom." In fact, they come from Belgian.

          That's somewhat true. Pre-WWI, they were called German fries. We rechristened them French Fried in honor of our allies. No doubt, they were too polite (and desperate for our help) to object to denegrating their cullinary reputation.

          And then 100 years later we think they will be insulted. Kinda sad.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by 4D6963 (933028)

          Now, how inept are the French? Can't even hijack potato recipes properly

          All your fry are belong to us! (yup, I'm French, although I must say we didn't hijack it, we don't call them "French fries" but "frites", it's you the hijackers)

  • TFA is vacuous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:05PM (#23703251) Homepage Journal
    Call me critical but I think if you don't actually have anything new to say on a topic then you shouldn't write about it. And people shouldn't post the link to Slashdot.. did you even read it first?

    YAWN
  • by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:05PM (#23703253) Homepage Journal
    It looked better in the brochure.
  • by phantomcircuit (938963) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:06PM (#23703259) Homepage
    What else? [slashdot.org]
    • by Zobeid (314469) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:18PM (#23703375)
      The far side of the moon could be the perfect place to build an array of radio telescopes. With the whole mass of the moon between the telescopes and the Earth, it would be well shielded from all the RF interference that our modern civilization sprays in all directions.
    • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:32PM (#23703487)
      There are a lot of uses for a low gravity, low temperature* (half the time, anyway), high sunlight satellite. Power generation would be easy if we could solve the transportation issue. Retirement village for those who are extremely wealthy, taking a lot of pressure off of their joints. Tourism, of course. Data processing centers for those applications where scientists wait months before being able to use the computing power anyway. Eventually, assuming that colonization ended up being practical, it could be used as a refueling station/rest stop for space craft, giving them a place to land which doesn't require as much power to take off from.

      Most importantly, I'm reminded of Amara's law: we're going to overestimate its usefulness in the short term, and underestimate it for the long term.

      *The lack of an atmosphere will make it so that heat doesn't dissipate in that direction very quickly, but I'm thinking that the dark side of the moon itself would be a kickass heat sink.
      • by seifried (12921) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:16PM (#23703747) Homepage
        A server farm is a terrible idea, first you got to schlep all the stuff up there, build infrastructure and (drum roll please) cool it. Cool it into what though? There's no atmosphere. So you need to build a radiator farm, but when you're facing the sun good luck radiating all that heat away. Much saner to leave the server farms on planet earth. About the only thing that makes sense is mining it for the deuterium on the surface and using it as a launch base for interplanetary stuff (no atmosphere +less gravity = much better, plus you could fire stuff using a rail gun.
        • by WankersRevenge (452399) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:55PM (#23704037)
          i just watched the documentary "For all Mankind" which was a brief history in video of the Apollo program. At one point during a moonwalk, a mission control dude remarked that the temperature of the light on the moon's surface was around 135 degrees fahrenheit, whereas the shade of the lunar module was -150 degrees. Seems like an easy way to solve the heat problem. Just errect a simple shade, and viola, heat be gone. Kind of blew me away, though, that two extreme temperatures exist side by side.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by argStyopa (232550)
        You've neatly categorized why it's quite important to get there FIRST.

        "There are a lot of uses for a low gravity, low temperature* (half the time, anyway), high sunlight satellite."

        There are precisely two places on the moon where you can have all of those things, all of the time:
        - solar power AT ALL TIMES
        - low temp AT ALL TIMES (by digging a shallow hole, or finding a handy crater) ...and that would be the poles.

        First there gets his pick of 1 of 2 sites, or if he's resource and capability-rich, he could gra
  • will serve the same purpose in the near future that it has in the past: a nationalist chest thumping exercise

    1. it demonstrates to other nations technological prowess. don't mess with us, we have the tech to go to the moon

    2. it demonstrates to citizens how wonderful the usa/ china/ india is. they forget their earthly concerns

    there is absolutely no other valid purpose besides that, for the short term

    as for the long term, i won't pretend to know there might not be a more long term purpose, if you don't preten
    • by icebike (68054) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:17PM (#23703365)
      > there is absolutely no other valid purpose besides that, for the short term

      For some values of "short".

      Reminds me of Seward's folly. Buy Alaska? What a total waste of money. Can't possibly justify such a waste while there is still one "Poor person" left anywhere in the world.

  • by kaufmanmoore (930593) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:11PM (#23703305)
    We'd finally get real Nymphos from outer space
  • by szyzyg (7313) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:11PM (#23703307)
    The raw materials are mostly there (silica, aluminium) and the energy requirements to get smething to geostationary orbit around the earth are about 3% of a launch from earth. Sure, there's not enough volatiles to launch economicly using conventional rockets, but not having an atmosphere means most of your launch velocity can come from a linear acelerator.

    Of course, this kind of thing would need serious investment, but you could use such a network to reder most earth based power generation obsolete, and you'd get a nice global death ray system thrown in for free.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumG (50515) *
      But what's the time frame for this? If cheap fusion power is available then going to the Moon or elsewhere in space gets a whole lot easier. Problem is, that same technology makes motivations like solar power stations obsolete.

      I've never seen a study of SPS that includes an estimate of how long it will take to build them (that isn't just fantasia bullshit that is). If it will take 30 years before you break even then its not hard to justify just waiting around for something better to come up.

      Don't get me
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by amightywind (691887)

      The valuable materials are refractory metals, like Ti, Mg, Ni, Cr, Mn. The lunar surface is relatively Aluminum poor. The lunar highlands are made up of anorthosite which contains some aluminum, but it is tighly bound no more a useful ore there than it is on earth. We don't need to go to the moon to mine silica. The mare and highlands ate silica poor. The moon would yield strategic metals.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by camperdave (969942)
        The valuable materials are refractory metals, like Ti, Mg, Ni, Cr, Mn.

        Wouldn't we be able to get these materials far, far, cheaper by mining our own waste dumps. How much of the highly refined metals is "rotting" away in aircraft graveyards all over the continent? How much are electronics dumps? How much are we just burying in old mines along with the coffee grinds, disposable diapers, plastic wrappers, cereal boxes, and tons of other trash?
  • What do the presidential candidates say about it? I'm tired of ten year plans when at best a president's going to get eight years in the hot seat.

    Do either McCain or Obama have policies about space exploration in general and the moon commitment in particular?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RobBebop (947356)

      Quoting an e-mail distributed by the Mars Society in reference to a McCain speech from within the current week:

      "I am intrigued by a man on Mars and I think that it would excite the imagination of the American people," said McCain. He argued that NASA needs to do a better job of inspiring the American public, as was the case during the race to the Moon in the 1960's. "I'd be willing to spend more taxpayers dollars [to support NASA]," he said.

      This is good news for pro-exploration voters, but I believe this is political posturing. He was in Florida while he gave the speech, and NASA is big business there. Until I am convinced that McCain has intentions to spend less on military conflicts, I cannot bring myself to even consider giving him my vote.

  • Same thing we do every night, Pinky - pillage. Duh.
  • It's ... OK, never mind.

    Seriously, at this point there is no purpose to going to the moon for the US. We don't have the tech (or the budget) to set up a self-sufficient base, much less a colony. The transport costs for supplies are too expensive. Personnel would have to be rotated off--at additional cost of money, resource, and risk to their safety.

    What we need to do is develop and send some form of unmanned, containerized, modular base, that can autonomously set itself up and start producing power, oxy

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Even if you are going to have people live up there, what's the point. In case you haven't figured it out yet, life is much better down here. Much less severe conditions, and you have people to talk to. And if you don't like the people you're currently talking to, you can go off and find some more people. Unless we can actually find a way to mine the moon, cheaper than we could find the same elements on earth, I really don't see the moon as being a useful place to visit. The first time around was nice,
      • by jeiler (1106393)

        Precisely. Based on current knowledge, there's no economic benefit in going to the moon, whether it's a "day trip" or a colony.

        But if we ever discover that there is an economic advantage, my proposal is (IMhO) more workable than manned missions.

  • OK, if a He3 reactor comes online - fine, let's mine the moon. But we sure as hell can't live there, it has 1/6th the gravity of earth. Human beings are not adapted to 1/6G, we are adapted to 1G. If there is material on the moon worth mining, then people won't do it - machines will. We can make machines that would work in 1/6G far easier than we could adapt ourselves to live in 1/6G.

    The moon is a canard. As is living on Mars.

    I predict that within 500 years humanity will have spread throughout the solar system. But we won't live on a single planet or planetoid. Nor will we "teraform" any planets or moons in our solar system. We will instead *build* our habitats and live within them in orbit around various planets and moons which have materials we happen to need.

    I could imagine a large rotating space station in orbit around Titan, dropping a nanotube straw to the methane atmosphere and/or oceans for energy. Or we might live in orbit around Earth, Venus, or Mercury in order to extract abundant sunlight for energy conversion.

    Once we get off of Earth's gravity well, why in God's name would we build another society within another gravity well? Space is where we should live. And in space, we should build habitats suitable to our evolutionary history. And once we can do that, the notion that we waste our time looking for "habitable planets" becomes a canard. Our only interest is to look for stars and planets with enough energy to support our biological needs.
    • Human beings are not adapted to 1/6G, we are adapted to 1G.

      This morning I felt like I was far from adapted to 1G. 1/6G would have been just the thing to help me get out of bed!
    • Once we get off of Earth's gravity well, why in God's name would we build another society within another gravity well?
      Cause that is where the resources usually are?
  • . . . animals on the moon. Russia, China, and the EU could probably get a person on the moon in a decade or so but let's see them get a rhino or crocodile up there in a special space suit. Eventually they might counter with China sending a panda, Russia sending a Siberian tiger, and the EU will going classy with a fancy horse or something but then we bust out the space shark.
  • 1) mining helium 3 currently there are no viable fusion reactors to use any of it though
    2) space telescopes
    3) forget the moon, visit an asteroid instead- the moon requires that rockets carry much more fuel for laeaving the moon than an asteroid, also the moon is deficient in volatiles in comparison to many asteroids/comets
  • Live there (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Crookdotter (1297179) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:20PM (#23703397)
    I want us to set up a large colony, or as large as we can at the current time. Get a biosphere or two setup. I'm sure I read that there are machines that can convert moon rock into a variety of materials, not the least is oxygen and concrete. Large habitats chock full of people would suit me fine. Moon City One sounds pretty cool to me. I doubt I'll see it in my lifetime, but I hope I'm wrong.
    • Without an atmosphere, you'll be totally dependent on soil extraction for materials. It's unrealistic that you'd be bringing anything in really large quantities from the earth. That said, lunar soil is pretty much devoid of Carbon and Nitrogen. [permanent.com] Both are necessary for sustaining human and plant life. That's a pretty huge impediment to a sustainable human presence on the moon.

      There's plenty of metal and oxygen, and plenty of sunlight, so it might be a better plan to send up a fleet of teleoperated mac
  • obvious (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:23PM (#23703423) Homepage
    The first pioneers will be whalers, but eventually it will be a theme park with hookers and blackjack.
  • by mikelieman (35628) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:26PM (#23703441) Homepage
    We should commit to actually developing a colony, rather than these expensive tech demonstrations. Treat it like the south pole stations. Send 50 people and a shitload of supplies and raw materials, and Good Luck.

  • Rape it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@woCURIErld3.net minus physicist> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:32PM (#23703503) Homepage
    This is a serious suggestion, not a troll. There is no life on the moon, nothing much worth preserving (aside from the odd monolith) so it would hardly be much of a "loss". Might as well extract as much benefit as we can from it.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for saving the rainforests, but the moon is essentially a rock.
  • Simple answer... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by david.given (6740) <dg@cowlark.cNETBSDom minus bsd> on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:37PM (#23703549) Homepage Journal

    ...we'll learn stuff that will turn out to be useful in really unlikely, impossible-to-predict ways.

    Pretty much the same answer as with any pure science initiative, really. Remember: economics may come and go, but knowledge is the only investment that will pay dividends for eternity.

    • Re:Simple answer... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by coaxial (28297) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @11:33PM (#23704847) Homepage
      But what is there to learn on the moon, that can't be learned on Earth? All it is is a rock. A rock without an atmosphere and 1/6 gravity. Vacuums are easily creatable in the lab. Nothing has been found to require a lack of gravity to be made.

      Face it. The only reason /.ers want to go to the moon is romance. As Bruce Sterling [well.com] said about about space colonization:

      I'll believe in people settling Mars at about the same time I see people settling the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is about a thousand times as hospitable as Mars and five hundred times cheaper and easier to reach. Nobody ever writes "Gobi Desert Opera" because, well, it's just kind of plonkingly obvious that there's no good reason to go there and live. It's ugly, it's inhospitable and there's no way to make it pay. Mars is just the same, really. We just romanticize it because it's so hard to reach.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by david.given (6740)

        But what is there to learn on the moon, that can't be learned on Earth? All it is is a rock. A rock without an atmosphere and 1/6 gravity.

        If we knew that, we wouldn't need to go there, would we?

        But for a start, we'd learn huge amounts about practical engineering in environments with no atmosphere and 1/6 gravity, and I'm sure there'd be all kinds of interesting knock-on effects of that. Not to mention the effects of low gravity on the human body (which has never been studied before), which could well lead to new insights in medicine. And all that's just spin-off knowledge from the primary purpose of any lunar expedition, which will most l

  • by dgym (584252) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @07:40PM (#23703575)
    It is the perfect set, don't let it go to waste.
  • Hey, we're only a couple of decades late, but store all of our nuclear waste on the moon, then it can blow up and leave orbit, just like on tv!!! LOL.
  • by NerveGas (168686) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:31PM (#23703829)
    Steal it from the natives.
  • 1. No Starbucks. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jpellino (202698) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:40PM (#23703915)
    2. Inspect the stuff we left there 40 years ago so we know what specs to build to for the next 40 years.

  • by BRUTICUS (325520) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @09:45PM (#23703961)
    This will give us a means of getting things to the moon. We can just keep a shuttle and park it at the elevator to travel back and forth.

    Imagine being able to siphon water out of the ocean. Have it collect into a giant ice ball and crash that ice ball into the moon. There you have a source of oxygen AND water...

    What if in the center of these ice balls you had a heating device that was solar powered. The heat was distributed JUST enough to keep the center of the ice ball liquid. Thus allowing you to have FISH inside of it. Algae and seaweed inside of it.
  • Space: 1999 (Score:3, Funny)

    by jetpack (22743) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:22PM (#23704261) Homepage
    It better come damn close to being Moonbase Alpha [wikipedia.org] or I'm gonna be seriously pissed off!
  • by O2H2 (891353) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:46PM (#23704487)

    The only real reason for lunar operations is industry. Judging what is on the Moon from a few measly soil samples and surface imaging is a joke. We really don't know much of anything about what might be there. We do know that a lot of stuff has impacted on it though. Prospecting will be an early high priority task.

    Once people start staying there more than a few days there is going to be a significant degradation in the local vacuum and the moon will start to acquire a tenuous atmosphere. Humans are a contaminant wherever we go. The extraction of lunar O2 will be first and foremost and that is mining plain and simple. Tons of lunar material will have to be processed on a monthly basis leading into the thousands of tons per year. We will create tailiings from this process and they will have to be dealt with. If water is found the same thing will happen there.

    You can forget about lunar surface habitats. Unless you are fond of mutation. Living will be a lot like being on a submarine for a long time. The establishment of habitation space that does not require the delivery of hardware from earth will be a prime task. You can expect lots of digging, detonations and surface fracture and pulverization activities. These are all dirty, ugly things best done by people without PhD's. Scientists will be seen as a nuisance for quite a while.

    Preparation of a large landing pad area will be also be a high priority as will the manufacture of local roads to suppress dust . The manufacture of many large cisterns for water and waste storage will be a big task too. Water paranoia will be the guiding principle on the moon. It will not be wasted. A complete system for the synthesis, liquifaction and storage of LO2 and LH2 also has to be installed using the decent stages of lunar landers for starts. The synthesis of real soils for lunar agnriculture will also be critical. In short, all the boring stuff that few people even thing about are the top priorities on the moon- not searching for He3.

    If we want to do this it will take hundreds of people on the surface at any time and they will have to be there for at least 1 year stints to make it economically digestible. The transport is what eats you alive here. You must compel a moon-centric thought process as soon as is practical. If everyone is looking to earth to bring every damn thing the colony will fail. You must be able to repair and replace everything. Most aerospace technology is not amenable to this at present. There will be an evolution of hardware that works on the moon. High performance stuff that is finicky or prone to failure will be ditched. It is this engine of innovation that will be one of the most valuable things we "discover" on the moon.

    As for the far side of the moon being radio quiet- not for long. The L2 point is a valuable location and it needs a telecom relay satellite to talk to it. One of the first things we will put up will be a telecom network in orbit and/or at L1/L2. Exploration of the far side will be a far higher priority than a radio telescope. That means comm, machines with electronics and hence noise. Not that they won't declare some small area to be "radio quiet" .

    If we discover industrial scale sources of water on the moon its value as a base will be incredible. It is a bio-safe location for people to work. By that I mean they can live and work without the fear of being irradiated to death. What an astronaut will put up with for a few days is utterly different to what a welder should have to put up with over a two year tour of duty. We need the best welders, mechanics,seamstresses, cooks, farmers, doctors, dentists etc etc to make this work. If it is perceived that working on the moon is a death sentence it will be hard to find good help. Working in high orbit like L2 and L2, while necessary, will be minimized. Those are just the equivalent of runways anyway- not much industry that cannot be automated there.

    If we go to the moon with some sort of tou

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:53PM (#23704543)
    Once we get there, the first thing we have to do is kick out the natives!

    What the hey. Why break a successful pattern?
  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @10:55PM (#23704557)
    Seriously, did /. need this much time for somebody to state the obvious?

    Of course, this was supposed to have begun 9 years ago, and gone into its second phase about 7 years ago. But hey, better late than never....
  • Why bother? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Sunday June 08, 2008 @11:34PM (#23704865) Homepage

    Been there, done that. It's a big airless rock. Unless we get some way of lifting stuff to orbit at a price comparable to, say, China to US air freight, forget it. Chemical rockets are about as good as they will ever get, which is not very. Maybe with nuclear rockets or something new, but redoing Apollo is pointless. (Also, the current NASA would botch it.)

    We have trouble keeping the ISS supplied and staffed, and can't find any really good reason for having built it in the first place.

  • by multicsfan (311891) on Monday June 09, 2008 @12:15AM (#23705121)
    Vacuum is very useful in a variety of manufacturing processes. Gravity is also useful as you don't need expensive zero gravity toilets, etc. I remember reading that titanium is one of many elements available on the moon. With lots of solar energy and raw materials, I would think a moon base/colony could become self self sufficient.

    In the longer term be able to provide materials to nearby space for orbital constriction easier then launching the materials from earth. The choice of material may change, but the cost could be much lower.

    Going to the moon only makes sense if you look at it as a long term investment where the break even/profit is many years away. The benefits may end up being measured more from increased human knowledge then from direct financial profit.

    One of the major problems large companies have with investing in R&D is the investment is always a long term process that may take years before showing a result and even longer before showing a profit.

    The longer the payback time frame and/or more expensive the research, the harder it is for a business to justify the research. Look at the internet. The basic start was back in the 70's as Arpanet. Until the mid 90's most people had never heard of the internet. Now not only has almost everyone heard of the internet, almost everyone has some type of internet access. Communications satellites were science fiction until the 60's when the first one was launched.
  • So many things... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by humbro (1227756) on Monday June 09, 2008 @03:19AM (#23706111)
    I know some of these have been mentioned already but here are a few tings that come to my mind.

    1: Lunar space elevator/slingshot to launch payloads at high velocity.

    2: Giant telescopes. No atmosphere, low gravity, and no jarring lunch into space makes huge telescopes easier.

    3: Radio spectrum analysis on the far side of the moon would block spectrum pollution from earth.

    4: Resources. Titanium, Helium-3, and others.

    5: Laser interferometer gravitational wave observatory (LIGO on the moon). Since there is less seismic activity on the moon the detection of gravity waves would be easier.

    6: Asteroid/comet detection. An array of observation stations could scan the sky to track and catalog potentially dangerous space objects.

    7: Earth defense from asteroid strikes. A laser array (or a mass impactor) could slightly deflect a asteroid on a collision path with earth.

    8: A base of operations for manned interplanetary missions since it is easier to launch a craft from its reduced gravity field.

    9: Earth observatory. It would be a stable, long term point from which scientists could monitor many aspects of earth.

    10: Fun. Who wouldn't love a rock climbing wall, swimming pool, or pedal powered flying machine on the moon.

    11: Profit. I'm sure there would be a monetary incentive, either in the resources or tourist like activity, for people to go to the moon.

    12: (Insert next hundred ideas here...)

    Indeed there is no shortage of ideas or reasons to go, the article seems more focused on the potential problems of land management/rights/claims. i.e. Who gets to make the rules for the moon.

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