Lunarians but not Lunatics
There was a time when talking of visiting the Moon was the prattle of lunatics — but no more. The Moon is now close enough to envision regular visits to its surface. Technology has made our Moon our neighbor; for some of our descendants, it may become their homeland. I will share with you how I think things are likely to develop in the future of our nearest and dearest heavenly body.
As the freight capacity and proliferation of Moon-capable rocketry progresses, we will surely want to visit the Moon for our own material benefit, not just to satisfy our curiosity. And what benefits might we expect? Well, that depends on the explorers’ ambitions. Certain terrestrial powers will want to declare the Moon to be their property, as did powerful nations in claiming vast territories during the colonization of the Americas. Other more-industrial entities may want a share in exploiting the resources of the Moon; after all, the Moon the rocks we have examined are very similar to Earth’s rocks; perhaps there are minable deposits there also. In both cases, confrontation and conflict can result.
The first issue is therefore to settle jurisdiction over the Moon as a whole. It will not do to make these arrangements bilaterally or even multilaterally; the Moon must be held in trust for all peoples of the Earth. The presently dysfunctional UN will have to become better organized; it will have to measure up and take charge or another international body will have to be formed. The UN has a track record, in that it has kept the exploration of Antarctica more or less open to all. However, I am not clear as to how Romania or Egypt would go about claiming a site for their own exploration in Antarctica, especially if it was to be close to a site currently assigned to one of the 20 or so parties presently operating permanent stations in the Arctic. Who will coordinate and police such claims on the Moon? We will have to do that on the Moon. Except for limited efforts such as the Law of the Sea, WHO, and the Kyoto Treaty, it will be our first genuine attempt at a “One World” operation.
The details of the administration of the Moon and its resources should be worked out now, before claims are made by currently uncoordinated, even hostile, powers which will soon be capable of setting up permanent outposts on the surface of the Moon. The framework of this arrangement is unclear, as is the means of enforcing it in the future. The UN needs to get busy, perhaps at the expense of some of its less-useful preoccupations. A disastrous situation will arise if some power seizes a significant portion of the land area and resources of the Moon.
Once a jurisdictional framework has been agreed upon, exploration can proceed in earnest. And what would we be looking for? The first and most important resource will be water. I expect water will be found, not only in small amounts in the permanent shadows of some craters, but also in underground aquifers. If there is enough water on the Moon to produce rocket fuel, using electrolysis to obtain hydrogen and oxygen, it will have a huge influence on our future space faring ambitions.
Given sufficient water supplies, we can establish industrial outposts on the Moon; outposts which eventually will be permanently manned (or, in Trudeau-speak, “personned”) by lunar residents who will over some generations come to think of themselves as “Lunarians.” Their cities will probably be underground to avoid the cold, the lack of atmosphere, and the radiation and solid particles which bombard the surface. Underground, they will be safe and warm and able to maintain a diurnal rhythm that our species is attuned to.
However, until the day arrives when we can deliver large quantities of nitrogen to the Moon, breathing apparatus will still be required, even underground. The Lunarians will soon adapt to the lower gravity and become unable to visit Earth without mechanical assistance. They will become a separate race, even a sub-species of homo sapiens. As such, they will demand that they have full authority over their own world. This process of adaptation is likely to be rapid and take no more than ten generations of permanent occupants. After that the human race will be bifurcated forever.
The initial industry of these lunar cities will be the production of rocket fuel for the exploration of our solar system and, in particular, for the colonization of Mars. To do this, we will have to equip them with adequate nuclear power. No other source of power is available on the Moon, since solar panels would be in darkness for protracted periods of time and there is no wind to turn windmills. Moreover the “waste” heat of nuclear reactors would be a welcome source of heat in human habitations and industrial areas.
The Moon can become our principal point of departure for a future Mars colony, and for all other expeditions into our solar system. Traffic will be able to depart from Earth fueled with only enough fuel to reach the Moon. Return trips will be refueled with hydrogen and oxygen made from the Moon’s water resources. Trips onward bound from the Moon would involve much more capacious rockets which will leave the much smaller gravity of the Moon with sufficient fuel and lifting capacity to maintain an off-Earth presence on Mars and perhaps elsewhere; direct return trips between Earth and Mars will continue to be uneconomical until such time as we develop a new form of propulsion such as the EK drive, something I have discussed in the Zamora Texts. There are also several Lagrangian points with zero gravity in the Earth/Moon neighborhood which offer attractive possibilities for development. This and much more is the subject of my book “Region of Luna,” in the Zamora Texts series, available from Amazon.com. (See cover below).
All this activity will initially have to be coordinated from Earth by an earth-based international authority, if we are to avoid conflict and not leave our descendants with an even greater heritage of discord. At present the UN is the only body that is in a position to form a suitable authority and assure us of peace on the Moon. If it is successful, it will in due course have to deal with lunar separatism and demands for self-government. These are issues which the UN has not dealt with effectively on Earth; will a future agency be able to deal with them on the Moon?
The short and sweet of it is that the Moon must become a steppingstone to our future space venturing. Its surface may even have enough metal and mineral resources to develop a sophisticated industry on the Moon, one capable of building space ships or at least maintaining them locally. The key to these developments and a sine qua non is the presence of adequate water on the Moon to sustain operations for a long, long time. If water is not found in sufficient quantities on the Moon, and no energy source such as the EK drive is developed, our space voyages will remain rare, expensive and unlikely to sustain a colony on Mars.
For more on this topic and others related to future space travel, see my Zamora Texts series on Amazon: Space Exploration, Region of Luna, and A Chronicle of Martian Colonization, at amzn.to/2ozDlNY.