Moonrush: Improving Life on Earth with the Moon’s Resources: Apogee Books Space Series 43
February 10, 2013
- author |
- Dennis Wingo
- year published |
Recently, the World Wildlife Federation declared that it would take the equivalent of two more Earth’s to sustain our planetary population at the level of affluence that the western world enjoys. Today we live in a world of six billion people who are gobbling up our planet’s resources at a tremendous and accelerating rate. The advent of cheap emergy in the form of oil has been the key factor that has enabled us to develop a planetarey civilization of unprecedented size, complexity, and comfort. However, that same energy is accused of altering our climate and at best will be depleted within a hundred years. Additionally, tremendous amounts of water and air pollution are generated by the extraction of increasingly minute amounts of nickel, copper, aluminum, and other primary metals from the Earth. In other areas, resources are strained; from the fisheries of the North Atlantic to clean water in India and China. Indeed, many in the environmental movement believe that we have gone beyond the limits to growth and that it is only a matter of time before the whole system collapses.
“More Worlds” is what this book is about. While in this solar system there are no more Earths, there are several planets, hundreds of Moons including our own, and millions of smaller planetoids that can provide resources for the betterment of life here on the Earth. This book will concentrate on the economic development of the world that is closest to us in space: our Moon. The author will outline a scenario about how the resources of the Moon can dramatically increase our planetary wealth, to help transcend our dependence upon oil, provide for a diversified energy and resource future, and provide the means to improve all of our lives. The technologies and resources developed there can aalso make the grand human voyage to Mars much more than what we were given in Apollo -flags and footprints.
This scenario is intended to broaden the participation in space efforts beyond the solely scientific approach that is the hallmark of NASA. NASA will be a vital contributor of space-specific technology and will be a valuable paticipant in the enterprise, but if we are going to actually develop these resources as an economic engine, the effort must include, to the maximum extent possible, the participation of private enterprise and more than a few government employee-scientists-explorers. The eventual goal is for the economic development of lunar resources to contribute taxes to the treasury and to help tilt the balance of payments (the ratio between imports and exports)to one more favorable to the United States. If we were able to fully develop technologies associated with fuel cells (Lunar Platinum Group Metals) and the “Hydrogen Economy”, we would be able to use the vast resources of methane ice located at the edges of the North American continental shelf. Dropping our dependence on foreign oil would eliminate the dramatic deficit today between imports and exports. Recent advances in technology make this much more than just a dream. Indeed the Moon and Mars could become the testing ground for the full implementation of the Hydrogen Economy.
In the past 30 years since the end of the Apollo Lunar missions, a technological revolution has taken place tht has given us satellite television and radio, and a personal computer in almost every home in the developed world, connected to a global Internet whose impact is still growing in our lives. A profound digital divide has developed between Silicon Valley and the aerospace community to the detriment of aerospace. A simple example is that the code that operates our desktop computers is orders of magnitude more complex than that used in computers on spacecraft. This divide will be examined and examples will be fiven of how the dramatic advances in the world of silicon devices and the skills of Silicon Valley can help lower the costs of space hardware and enable The Second Space Age. It is even very possible that the first landing on Mars will come from a space ehicle that is built on the Moon. With the advances in tele-presence, computer controlled fabrication, and human jparticipation this may be the most cost effecitve way to open Mars for human exploration and development.
Lowering the costs of executing this vsion of space for the Moon and Mars is absolutely neccessary and we must look beyond the traditional NASA/contractor model to do this. In the past the U.S. government has provided incentives for entirely new modes of transportation.In the early days of the U.S. as a nation, canals were built to speed the transport of goods across the northeast. In 1804 Robert Fulton’s steamship was given statutory support from the state of New York that enabled private risk capital to bring the steam age to shipping. The railroads were similarly enabled by government policy in the Railroad Act of 1862 to bridge the North American continent with bands of steel.
Early in the 20th century, Teddy Roosevelt’s administration and congress passed laws that enabled the construction of the Panama Canal brining the U.S. to commercial parity with the great nations of Europe. Succeeding administrations created similar incentives and passed laws to enable the rise of the U.S. aerospace industry that has helped make the U.S. the world’s greatest superpower. As the 21st century dawns, we must examine these historical precedents and implement similar ones that do not bankrupt the treasury and enable private enterprise to enter this new domain. As the 20th century was the Century of Flight, the 21st century should be the Century of Space. This is a proper role for government: to foster, facilitate, and proide incentives to enable private enterprise to open up a new world for development. This is a role that transcends NASA’s solely scientific efforts although NASA will be a vital part of this process.
There are many who would say that today is not the time to go to the Moon or onto Mars. It has been said since the end of the Apollo program that our national treasury would be better spent on education, or healthcare, or the environment. This argument did not sway the Congress or Lincoln in the depths of the War between the States when, in the midst of fighting for the life of the nation, money was spent and laws were passed for the completion of a “National Railroad”, to bridge the North American continent. When the very future of the nation was in doubt, and thousands were dying per day on the battlefields of the divided nation, these leaders looked a hundred years in the future and provided scarce funds to enable a better day for their posterity.
For a nation to provide for its citizens, it must create wealth. Education, healthcare, and the environment are all noble areas to spend taxpayer money, but without new sources of wealth, very few of those noble areas can be addressed successfully. On the Moon, Mars and the other bodies of the solar system there is wealth to help power our civilization for hundreds of thousands of years. This is our task today to provide for our posterity.
This is why we need to go to the Moon and on to Mars and do it now: to make life better for all of us on the Earth, not just for today, and not just for a hundred years. The World Wildlife Federation was right; it does take more than one Earth to enable a prosperous future for all the people of the Earth. Fortunately there are literally millions of worlds just in our solar system for our use. This can be the best legacy that our generation leaves the world: a way beyond the limits to growth, and toward a peaceful and prosperous future.