Librarian’s Note: This is a reprint of a blog post that I wrote for Selenian Boondocks, where I guest blog. I haven’t really needed to change the text, but I have updated it with some pictures and weblinks.
25 Good Reasons to Go to the Moon
Whether in water form or not, we do know that there is hydrogen at the Lunar poles. This can serve a minumum of two ends: water for a base, fuel for rockets.
The heavy part of the LH/LOX fuel mix is the oxygen, about 7/8ths of the weight. Instead of launching all the fuel for cislunar maneuvering from Earth, launch 8x the hydrogen from Earth and mix it with the Lunox.
3) 1/6th gravity
This will provide engineering fun and challenges for future generations of engineers. How does one design an extensible tower for a solar mirror with 1/6th the force of gravity?
4) No weather
This goes hand-in-hand with #3. Engineering design will be significantly different in a vacuum environment with no water, wind, rain, hurricanes, or tornadoes. Corrosion takes a different form.
A critical part of many of the engineering processes used here on Earth, requiring the expenditure of large amounts of energy to create a vacuum. The Moon has about 15,000,000 square miles of it.
A good proportion of the Lunar soil returned by astronauts was in the form of glass. Lunar glass has the distinct characteristic of having formed in a water-free environment, making it anhydrous. What advantages this may offer in the field of optics is largely Luna Incognito. Then there’s fiberglass, composites, etc.
Having 1/6th of Earth’s gravity, the heart doesn’t have to pump as hard to supply oxygen to the brain. While for a youth this would have an atrophy-type effect, for those advanced in years it can serve a rejuvenative effect, as the heart is suddenly relatively stronger. This allows for longer productive lives for our citizens. And you can fly in a large enough space.
8 ) Crater history
The Moon is the best record in our local neighborhood of the history of bombardments from space. Earth is too dynamic to sustain a record, but the Moon is perfect. By establishing an impact history in size and time we can look for any cyclicality in the timing of impacts, and if so, where are we in the cycle?
Addendum: Dr. Paul Spudis has pointed out that the Moon also provides a historical record of the Solar System’s journey around the galactic core as well.
At the Lunar poles, there are places the sun never shines. These everdark craters seem to hold the bulk of the hydrogen detected at the poles. Excavations outside the craters can create additional cold-traps for later industrial use.
10) Solar mirrors
Mounted on extensible towers, mirrors can be placed in perpetual sunlight to illuminate selected areas. This requires the high-technology capability to turn the mirror. No batteries required.
11) Solar power towers
Extensible towers at the poles will allow the placement of solar cells or films in constant sunlight. It doesn’t matter so much hitting the perfect peak for one’s ground-based system as making the tower high enough to peek over the horizon, which on the Moon is very short.
12) Radio silence
While not a perfectly radio-silent environment, the far side of the Moon is far better than anything on Earth or even in orbit. Large arrays can allow for a leap in precision for radio astronomy and SETI.
13) Solar cathedral
A number of religions and cultures around the world still use the Lunar calendar in the conduct of their affairs. Part of this involves determining the beginning of each lunar month. Building a Solar cathedral on the Moon will allow an unprecedented degree of precision in making that determination. It’s also a good way of getting different faiths to work together.
The orbital scopes like Hubble get all of the credit for cool deep-space discoveries, but no one’s keeping an eye on our local neighborhood. That’s why we’re finding more and more asteroids after they’ve passed the Earth. The Moon provides the kind of dull, stable platform for the astronomy that no one else wants to do.
Lunar regolith can’t really grow plants by itself, but the addition of humus (not hummus), other nutrients, and careful recycling does allow for plant growth. Plants grown in Lunar soil may provide new fragrances, flavors, and vintages. Spices were one of the early high-value, low mass/volume goods that helped create the trade routes of old.
Vacuum-processed ultra-pure aluminum. Vacuum-processed ultra-pure titanium. Vacuum-processed ultra-pure iron. Vacuum-processed ultra-pure magnesium. You want it? We’ve got it.
The Sun has been burying light elements in the Lunar soil for aeons. All it takes is a little baking at about 1100 K, a little shaking to agitate the particles, and a place to liquefy the output. Cold-traps are particularly useful for this.
18) Extreme sports
Imagine bicycle races at 250 kph. Imagine regoboarding the southside of Copernicus. Imagine flying in a large underground cavern. Imagine high-jumping in 1/6th G. Or long-jumping.
Some items, like advanced electronics, will be shipped from Earth for a very long time. But things like spacecraft structural elements (and fuel) can easily be done on the Moon, obviating the need to waste the lift mass from Earth’s gravity well.
Having such a large neighbor so close by creates a warp in Earth’s gravity well. There are certain areas of relative stability, and one lies on the line connecting the center of the Earth and Moon. Putting a station at that point (or rather in a halo orbit around it) allows for all kinds of unexpected benefits.
21) GEO assets
We have billions of dollars of orbital assets in geosynchronous orbit. It’s cheaper in fuel to go from EML-1 to GEO and back, than to go just from LEO to GEO. Over time, this will allow for a huge decrease in the cost of refueling, repairing, and upgrading, as well as building larger and more capable platforms.
Placement of large solar arrays in GEO orbit allows for the collection and transmission of energy to fixed points on Earth, such as military bases. This will also provide a long-term source of energy, as the Sun is not expected to expire for another 4.5 billion years or so. Besides, most of the energy we use here on Earth is second or third-hand solar power anyway. Pieces of the solar power satellites, like PV cells and structural elements, can come from the Moon.
23) Free-flyer platforms
Another consequence of the warping of Earth’s gravity well is that trajectories can be created that sort of wander out from EML-1, and then wander back (like the Genesis mission which went via EML-1 to SEL-1 and back). This affords materials scientists and companies the opportunity to send free-flyer platforms on long-term, jitter-free production runs. Results can be studied on the station and new production runs undertaken quickly.
24) Constant access
The entire Lunar surface is accessible 24-hours a day from EML-1 for about the same delta-V (~2.5km/s). From EML-1 most inclinations of LEO are accessible for less than 1.0 km/s (with aerobraking and time, ~3.77km/s for a direct burn). GEO is constantly accessible, as is deep space.
25) A true space-faring civilization
The Moon is the ideal location to get our feet wet, and getting there can lay the foundation for a civilization that can go beyond the Moon to Mars and the asteroids and other destinations of interest.
Image Credit: True Kelley, from “What the Moon is Like” by Franklyn M. Branley
NASA decided to get in on the fun with 181 Things to do on the Moon (pdf)
[Update: Additions to the list from The Discovery Enterprise]