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posted by CoolHand on Saturday March 19 2016, @08:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the walking-on-the-moon dept.

A NASA scientist suggests that building a base on the moon would be feasible within a $10 billion budget, in a special issue of New Space focusing on the feasibility of lunar colonization:

What if I told you there's no reason we couldn't set up a small base on the moon by 2022 without breaking the bank? The endeavor would cost about $10 billion, which is cheaper than one U.S. aircraft carrier. Some of the greatest scientists and professionals in the space business already have a plan. NASA's Chris McKay, an astrobiologist, wrote about it in a special issue of the New Space journal, published just a few weeks ago.

Before we get into the details, let's ask ourselves: Why the moon? Although scientists (and NASA) don't find it all that exciting, the moon is a great starting point for further exploration. Furthermore, building a lunar base would provide us with the real-world experience that may prove invaluable for future projects on other planets like Mars, which NASA plans to reach by 2030. The main reason the moon is not a part of NASA's plan is simply because of the agency's crimped budget.

NASA's leaders say they can afford only one or the other: the moon or Mars. If McKay and his colleagues are correct, though, the U.S. government might be able to pull off both trips. All it takes is a change of perspective and ingenuity. "The big takeaway," McKay says, "is that new technologies, some of which have nothing to do with space — such as self-driving cars and waste-recycling toilets — are going to be incredibly useful in space, and are driving down the cost of a moon base to the point where it might be easy to do." The document outlines a series of innovations — already existing and in development — that work together toward the common goal of building the first permanent lunar base.


Here are the articles in question, all of which are open access:

What Do We Do with the Moon? (open, DOI: 10.1089/space.2015.29003.gsh)

Toward a Low-Cost Lunar Settlement: Preface to the New Space Special Articles (open, DOI: 10.1089/space.2015.0039)

A Summary of the Economic Assessment and Systems Analysis of an Evolvable Lunar Architecture That Leverages Commercial Space Capabilities and Public–Private Partnerships (open, DOI: 10.1089/space.2015.0037)

Lunar Station: The Next Logical Step in Space Development
(open, DOI: 10.1089/space.2015.0031)

U.S. Government Funding of Major Space Goals: A Historical Perspective (open, DOI: 10.1089/space.2015.0036)

Site Selection for Lunar Industrialization, Economic Development, and Settlement (open, DOI: 10.1089/space.2015.0023)

Life Support for a Low-Cost Lunar Settlement: No Showstoppers (open, DOI: 10.1089/space.2015.0029)

Using the Agile Approach for Lunar Settlement (open, DOI: 10.1089/space.2015.0038)

Lunar-Based Self-Replicating Solar Factory (open, DOI: 10.1089/space.2015.0041)

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by c0lo on Sunday March 20 2016, @01:31AM

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 20 2016, @01:31AM (#320619) Journal
    Yes, because the purpose is to...(?!?)
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 20 2016, @02:52AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 20 2016, @02:52AM (#320639)

    A major purpose is to sustain the US industrial base. A story from 2011 [] said that

    This year, according to federal contract data, NASA will buy goods and services in 396 of the 435 congressional districts.

    Another purpose is science. Scientists can, I presume, do better work when they don't have to worry about where their next breath will come from and when they don't have health problems from low gravity. The science done on the space stations consists largely of watching the crew gradually become ill, does it not? From a ship, the ocean could be explored and studied in comfort and safety.

    The USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier, was part of [] Operation Tomodachi, providing assistance to Japan after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. I suppose that a lunar base could repopulate the Earth, in the event of an apocalyptic disaster here.

    An aircraft carrier is obviously useful for war. If the premise is that there are already plenty of aircraft carriers for that purpose, a few could be converted to civilian use at, I assume, less expense than building ships from scratch. On the Moon, there's little existing infrastructure that can be repurposed. In a war, it might be deemed impractical to attack a lunar colony, more difficult than even the deepest earthbound bunker. It could allow our leaders to survive, preserving our culture and way of life until the Earth becomes inhabitable again. Hmm, maybe we need a Moon base after all.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 20 2016, @02:59AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 20 2016, @02:59AM (#320641)

      A major purpose is to sustain the US industrial base.

      Money wasted on things you better pray they'll never be used.
      Aren't there any other more efficient means to sustain the research, industry and aid after disasters?
      All cheaper than the 10 billions spent on an aircraft carrier?