The Moon as backup drive for civilization

September 23, 2006

Backing up civilization’s collective hard drive—its recorded archive—on the Moon and creating a self-sufficient colony there precisely so it can act as a lifeboat in case a calamity strikes Earth: that’s the rationale for a new book from Forge Books, The Survival Imperative: Using Space to Protect Earth, according to author William E. Burrows.

“That should be the overarching reason for moving there, not to mine resources or for the sake of a grand adventure. And the move outward must start with the Moon, not Mars. The Moon is three or four days away, not a year, so it makes logistical sense and is cheaper. And if there’s an accident on the Moon, help or a safe haven are likewise four days away. Finally, the lunar colony ought to be NASA’s overriding (but not only) mission, especially since it walked off a cliff after Apollo. That’s what the book is about.It’s my gift to the home planet.”

Burrows presents a dramatic scenario of a killer-asteroid impact and highlights other existential risks facing the Earth, including nuclear war, terrorism, and in the future, graygoo and nanoweapons—”a far greater danger” than nuclear weapons, he says, quoting Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines. And he lays out a revitalized national space program that coordinates efforts in global defense, environmental protection, communications, and military security.

“Planetary defense should be conducted, not as a major program within the space agency, but as the agency’s highly focused, overarching, mission…. The core mission, in its totality, would send humans and robots to space for mutually supportive operations specifically designed to protect the planet. That is to say, NASA, its collective foreign counterparts, and other cooperating U.S. agencies, should assume the role of Earth’s guardians.” (From Chapter 8, The Guardians, which can be read here.)

Reviving the spirit of Gerard O’Neill

Futurist/author Howard Bloom agrees, and is bringing together key space activists on October 21st in Las Cruces, New Mexico, to help make imaginative new space programs—including solar power from space to head off a global energy crisis—a key factor in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

“One or more generations of Americans does not see a reason for spending a dime on space,” he says. “One or more generations of Americans imprinted as kids on something very different than we did. They imprinted on spaceship Earth, on the view that this is a planet with dwindling resources and that we have sinned against nature and must atone.

“Our goal is to accomplish in the early 21st century what Werner Von Braun, Willy Ley, Chesley Bonestell, and Robert Heinlein accomplished in the early 1950s with their TV show (Tom Corbett Space Cadet), their film (Destination Moon), their magazine articles,and their books. They planted the image of an as-yet-unborn space program so tangibly in the public imagination that it made Americans hunger for space for half a century.

“I’d like to propose an NFL-style press campaign to elevate the visibility of the space efforts of the non-NASA players and to raise the level of public aspiration by inspiring it with the immediacy of a new frontier we can open wide in our lifetime, a new frontier that can dramatically upscale the lives of our children and of their children after them.

“As a scientist of mass behavior who did his fieldwork byf ounding the leading public relations firm in the music industry, I have a sense of a structure that can achieve this aim. Each of our participants also is far above average in organizational abilities. Together I believe we can forge a plan that’s practical, delivers results, and lifts the eyes of humanity.”

The LifeboatFoundation, which also supports this goal, is “assembling the best minds on the planet to develop these and other strategies for dealing with existential risks,” said founder Eric Klien.”In the near future, terrorism will become a serious problem, first with biological and nuclear weapons and later with nanoweapons. It is time to secure the future of humanity by establishing a locationo ff this planet.”

Uploading to the moon?

The moon as digital archive could also play an important future role in the CyBeRev program being developed by satellite communications pioneer Dr.Martine Rothblatt. She visualizes storing one’s life history —”digital reflections of their mannerisms, personality, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values—with as great a fidelity as is possible.”

Future developments in mind-uploading technology and regenerative medicine would then “enable the recovered cyberconscious CyBeRev person to transfer their mind into a synthetic body (including brain), such as one made out of nanotechnological materials.”

Eventually, these would be instantiated into “a flesh body (including brain) grown from totipotent stem cells in which genetice ngineering techniques have suppressed the development of a separate mind.”