25 Good Reasons to Go to the Moon

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

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1) Hydrogen

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.

2) Oxygen

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.

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5) Vacuum

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.

6) Glass

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.

7) Human factors

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.

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9) Cold-traps

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.

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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.

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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.

14) Neighborhood watch

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.

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15) Greenhouses

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.

16) Metals

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.

17) Volatiles

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.

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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.

19) Spaceships

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.

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20) EML-1

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.

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22) Solar power satellites

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.

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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.


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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]

25 thoughts on “25 Good Reasons to Go to the Moon

  1. Pingback: 2 For Good » Blog Archive » 25 Good Reasons to Go to the Moon

  2. G’day,

    Heres a couple more:

    1) Quarantine. One of the reason we will to Mars and other worlds is to search for life. There will always be a chance of contamination. A moon lab would be an ideal place to study interplanetary samples.

    2) World Conquest. A Lunar mass driver would make a very effective WMD. For national security purposes it would be prudent for major powers to have a moon base, not so much to build military mass drivers but to make sure nobody else does.

    ta

    Ralph

  3. That is awesome! Although Ralph’s mention of military bases and quarantine should both be added to the list (even if the public is nervous about the former).

    While there are many reasons for us to visit the Moon, I was wondering what your thoughts were about us visiting Mars? Do we even have 10 reasons? (let alone 25)

  4. Mr. Clayton,

    Sorry, I don’t do Mars. I have my hands full with the Moon, thank you very much.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing someone put together an Arean Archives similar to the Lunar Library, but I just don’t have the wherewithal to cover Mars as well. Given that, I really don’t think it’s my place to try to come up with reasons to go to Mars – it would be ignorant speculation.

    I like to think of Ralph’s contributions as fodder for the Next 25 Good Reasons to Go to the Moon…

  5. Good to hear the Moon has H and O. We also need N and C.

    3. 1/6 g is cool, but our bones may need more. Spin? “Life on the Merry-go-round.

    4. No weather. We may have to go underground on the Moon like the 6 Million Dollar Man episode, which was seemingly science-free entertainment. Going underground is cheaper on Earth, and is also weather free.

    5. Vacuum. If we start really using the Moon, we’ll surely pollute the vacuum with our exhaust. Dr. von Braun predicted this. Plenty of Vacuum in LEO, as the wake shield experiments showed.

    6. Glass. We can certainly make glass on Earth without water. It’d be cheap to figure out it’s properties.

    7. The Moon would be an expensive retirement community. You’d need some of those younger people as care takers. Do we have rich enough elders that could go?

    8. We could send landers and rovers to do this. Robots are cheap, and don’t require radiation insurance.

    9. We’re really hot to tap lunar resources. We should do the science that can be done there first. I don’t want to hear “Opps, it’s gone” again.

    10. So, we can put light in a spot near perpetual darkness?

    11. We can also gather the energy in space and beam it down. It’s cheaper to maintain, because it’s very expensive to get down to the surface in the Moon’s gravity well.

    12. Radio silence. We could just turn off our cell phones and use fiber optics here on Earth. Noise pollution, light pollution, radio pollution can be ended in a few milliseconds.

    13. We already have retroreflectors on the Moon. How are we going to improve on that? Besides, these ancient religions used the Moon because it was easy. Why make it difficult?

    14. No no. We’re finding asteroids after they pass the Earth because before they pass, they’re coming from the Sun. It’s very hard to pull them out of the glare. Better to put an asteroid finding mission in Venus or Mercury orbit. Cheaper too. HST isn’t designed to search for asteroids. If it were, it’d have a wide field of view, and so on. LSST (Large Synoptic Survey Telescope) should give us an idea of what we might see, wide field, from the ground. It’s very expensive, but not even pennies on the dollar compared with a Moon scope. Besides, either a lunar telescope will have to cope with Earth Glare, or have trouble communicating. Or is this at the pole too?

    15 Greenhouses. We have those already. Communication to the moon is cheap, but physical trade? Can you say $20,000 a pound? Platinum is very cheap by that standard.

    16 Metals. The stuff is there, but call me skeptical.

    17 Like HE3? Maybe. But $20,000 a pound is going to be good if you can get it.

    18 Extreme sports for the ungodly rich. I can imagine the wealth divide that could make this possible. I’m not looking forward to it.

    19 Space ships from the Moon will be very expensive compared with space ships from Eros or some other NEOs.

    20 EML1 is a good place. No question about that. No need to go to the Moon to reap benefits from that. We use SEL1 right now. We didn’t have to go to the Sun.

    21 So, we’ll outfit EML1 from the Moon? Could it be done robotically?

    22 It’s hard to imagine that Moon to LEO could be cheaper than Earth to LEO even on large scales. I’d need to see the Math, then the feasibility studies.

    23 EML1 is good. I thought we were talking about the Moon.

    24 So, we’ll outfit EML1 from the Moon? Could it be done robotically?

    25 A true space-faring civilization. It’d be nice to wet our fee from lunar stuff. We’ve got to solve several problems. Radiation and cosmic rays, low gravity. Making stuff we need from stuff hanging around. Remember, we have places surrounded by seawater that complain they have no water. This is easy stuff compared with making water from dirt. Do we have enough dirt to prove it can be done? We don’t know how to cope with the static rich sharp edged lunar dirt that gets everywhere. And, are we learning any of this stuff on ISS? I doubt it. Going to Mars might be easier. Yet, going there to stay is the best reason of the bunch.

    Let’s say you have a genius in a room. She’s got like a 300 IQ. Now let’s say you have two of them. And they plan a trip to Europe. The trip isn’t as good as either of them could have planned – there are compromises. Now get a third. There are politics, and the trip starts to suck. Now imagine Congress or the UN. That’s the trip we’re going to get to the Moon. Not Burt Rutan, or SpaceX. We’ll get a trillion dollar project that gets us nowhere, and we’ll pull out of the project the moment our international obligations are over, which is well before we could accomplish something. Burt would get funding up front, and then finish the job.

  6. Hi Stephen, thanks for stopping by.

    Um, is there a point to your comment, or did you just stop by to dump on my post? Call me obtuse, but I’m not seeing what you’re driving at. Most of your responses barely reflect what I said in my text and are loaded with ‘may’, ‘maybe’ and other qualifications.

    What do retroreflectors have to do with a Solar cathedral?
    What does the engineering challenge of construction have to do with bones?

    Two items that really stuck in my craw:
    “We should do the science that can be done there first. I don’t want to hear “Opps [sic], it’s gone” again.”

    So if I’m understanding this comment correctly, you feel that scientists have an a priori claim to the Moon. From whence derives the authority for this a priori claim? How long does this claim last? 10 years? 50 years? 100 years? And why do you feel that it is permissible for my tax dollars be used to fund scientists pursuing their interests on the Moon while any attempts by myself to do so on my own dime would be blocked? You may be okay with deciding how my money gets spent, but I’m certainly not.

    “Extreme sports for the ungodly rich. I can imagine the wealth divide that could make this possible. I’m not looking forward to it.”

    I’m looking forward to it, as I’m working hard to make myself wealthier. That you seem to think it’s within your purview to decide the dispensation of my money I find a bit unsettling. I have to side with Anousheh Ansari on this one, and her recent comment at ISDC:

    “I worked hard for my money and can decide how to spend it. However, I also am taking advantage of the experience to communicate the joys of space to a wide audience of young people and others.”

    Every single one of my adventures to date in the space field has been on my own dime. From going to Vienna for the Space Generation Forum at UNISPACE III, to Space Camp, to the STAIF conference in 2000, to a year in Strasbourg for ISU, to numerous road trips to Houston for LEAG and other conferences like this year’s LPSC. Every single item in the Lunar Library was paid for from my earnings (excepting review copies, of course ;-) .

    And if it ever gets to the point where I can afford a vacation on the Moon where I get to fly, then how dare you stand in judgment of me. I have a very low regard for class warfare at my website.

    That being said, I don’t have time for a point-by-point whack-a-mole. If you do some homework and make some reasonable arguments I’ll take the time to discuss, or if readers want me to do so, but otherwise I don’t have the time. I’m too busy trying to make money on the Moon, starting right here on Earth.

  7. i think that this is all made up that they never went up to the moon they made astudio up and it took set there

  8. Valnita, thanks for stopping by.

    Question: Do you have any data to support your thoughts, or references you can cite to bolster the merits of your supposition?

    Librarian’s Note: There are actually several of the ‘Moon Hoaxer’ titles in the Lunar Library, filed in the Cultura Lunaris section. Frankly, they’re not very good, or terribly scientific, so I try not to draw too much attention to them. For the record:
    -’How America Faked the Moon Landings’ by Charles T. Hawkins
    -’Moon Landings: Did NASA Lie?’ by Philippe Lhereux

    For the fringier types in the whole ‘Moon Hoax’ nonsense there are also such speculative titles as:
    -’Who Built the Moon?’ by Christopher Knight & Alan Butler
    -’Secrets Of Our Spaceship Moon’ by Don Wilson
    -’Somebody Else Is On The Moon’by George Leonard

    I’ve seen the evidence proffered by those who claim that the Moon landings occurred in a movie studio. I do not find it compelling in any way. Poor Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy frequently has to waste his time on this nonsense, even though he has thoroughly debunked all of their major issues. This seems to be a meme that will not go away, which is a shame as it really is a waste of time.

  9. Debatepedia has a pro/con article on colonizing the Moon that is pretty good:

    http://wiki.idebate.org/index.php/Debate:_Colonization_of_the_Moon

  10. You guys really think it could happen, l am seo expert, so do not reckon that you can

  11. amazing post about 25 Good Reasons to Go to the Moon I’m very interesting in this topic and amazing picture

  12. Sorry fellows, there are no good reasons to go to the Moon. Not now, not never. Sorry.

  13. I enjoy and agree with your points. In addition I would like to elaborate on number 14.

    Lunar astronomy will be a massive plus. Making the structure, lenses, and mirrors out of lunar materials will cut cost of such an undertaking by a great degree. The only real necessity for import to be the imaging device.

    In addition, the light lunar gravity will allow for massive mirrors to be made and supported without distorting the image.

    Thirdly we might point out the limitations of Earth bound telescopes and orbital telescopes. The HST orbits every 97 minutes, limiting its ability to focus on any object for an appreciable time. Earth bound telescopes suffering this every 12 hours at best. Lunar scopes will be able to focus on an object or section of sky for a full 14 days without interruption.

    Lastly we might talk about the vast unclaimed land on Luna. An organization could, if they had the lunar industry to back it, place a nice cluster of telescopes every 10º of longitude and latitude on Luna. Transmit the streaming images to universities worldwide for inspection.

  14. you said heart become relatively stronger in 1/6 gravity of moon. Life will be prolonged. How? There is no atmospheric pressure and that would burst your body and you may enjoy some other adverse effect.

  15. Ummm…the point is that the retirement home is a home, i.e. a pressurized living environment.

    The heart only has to pull blood against 1/6th G instead of the full 1 G of Earth. I doubt this means that the heart will be pumping six times as much blood to the brain, but I do think there can be some expectation of an increased blood flow to the brain and consequent greater degree of oxygenation.

    And again, since the heart is acting on blood suspended in a 1/6th gravity environment it does not have to work as hard. Its work is less of a strain.

    ISS studies probably have some applicability in this regard, but then again the Moon does have a fair gravitational field which should help to mitigate against some of the more nefarious effects of zero-g like bone loss.

    If you’re interested in Moon medicine, I highly recommend the first ISU study paper, International Lunar Initiative Organization, which has the most extensive treatment of the subject that I’ve seen to date.

  16. 1st, let me say I grew up during Gemini and Apollo( check your history books kids)and I as well as most of the country if not the world thought these guys were true heroes.
    Why did we go to the moon? Some say for science,etc. national pride… Some say “This was how you have thousands upon thousands of aerospace workers making ICBMs and ensuring top quality work ( “We’re makin’this stuff for the astronauts!”). All the while keeping all these ICBM’s a secret!
    Wanna go back to the moon? Answer me these questions: 1) What will it cost.
    2)What could we do to help people here on Earth and in America RIGHT NOW instead.
    3)What (in tangible financial terms) is the pay off. I’m stuggling along with a whole bunch of other people to just “get by as best we can”, and find it difficult to pony up even MORE tax money for this as opposed to revitalizing our economy, feeding the poor etc. Like I said, I’m a big fan of space travel, but, maybe this time around it should be a privately funded endeavor. We just spent on Wall St what we spent on the ENTIRE nuclear submarine program!! Now, about that National Debt thing…..

  17. Ummm…the point is that the retirement home is a home, i.e. a pressurized living environment.

    This is your actual post you realize how ridiculous this is? I.e. If we create a pressurized environment we are more or less creating one that as the gravity, oxygen, and etc. To match out needs to allow the Hunan body to function I assume you do not insinuate people live their retired days in a space suite??!! So you want to go to the moon to create a living environment that is as earths?

    Just can only waist time to explain one topic but they all have no merit you know it cost $450,000,000.00 to currently do a space mission so is one second you have to have no brain to have a interest to go 250 mph on a bike, we can do that called motorcycles! Just funny how some people dream I just think dream of reachable goals so one day you can actually make your dreams come true my dad use to say get your head out of the clouds, get your out of space, or maybe thats all you got between your ears. Dream on!

  18. Interesting comment there, Cj. Wading through the poor grammar and punctuation, let me see what I can do to address your concerns.

    “you realize how ridiculous this is?”

    Which part is technologically unachievable? Please specify.

    “If we create a pressurized environment we are more or less creating one that as the gravity, oxygen, and etc. To match out needs to allow the Hunan [sic] body to function”

    Yes, people are considering living environments on the Moon. People are designing them. You might want to run the term “Space Settlement Design Competition” through your favorite search engine, as one example.

    “I assume you do not insinuate people live their retired days in a space suite??!!”

    That’s exactly what I’m proposing. I for one would love to retire to the Moon. I’m not alone in that desire.

    “So you want to go to the moon to create a living environment that is as earths?”

    Somewhat. The gravity is only 1/6th that of Earth. Does make it easier to fall and still get up.

    “Just can only waist [sic] time to explain one topic but they all have no merit you know it cost $450,000,000.00 to currently do a space mission so is one”

    The cost, or course, varies. And there are things to consider like marginal costs. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    “second you have to have no brain to have a interest to go 250 mph on a bike, we can do that called motorcycles!”

    Not under your own power you can’t. You might want to check out a book called “Where the Winds Sleep” by Neil Ruzic, who also wrote the great “The Case for Going to the Moon”.

    “Just funny how some people dream”

    Some people call it ambition, trying to get an early bead on the next opportunity. When dealing with new realms of endeavor such ambition is often derided as dreaming. However I am well familiar with the current state of technology in the private sector, and have a decent sense of what can be worked up the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) ladder.

    “I just think dream of reachable goals so one day you can actually make your dreams come true”

    Everything I’ve described above is technologically achievable within the next century. Sooner if we put our minds to it, however you offer evidence of not being so inclined. History happens to those who show up. You can be part of it, or sit on the sidelines and cast aspersions at those who make it happen.

    “my dad use to say get your head out of the clouds, get your [sic] out of space, or maybe thats [sic] all you got between your ears.”

    Oh, ad hominem. All I’ve got is space [void] between my ears. How can I argue with that?

    How about a Master of Space Studies, cum laude. What do you bring to the table my friend?

  19. Sorry about grammar broke a finger and trying to type in a I phone I’ll use a lap nex time lol

  20. I certainly enjoyed the way you explore your experience and knowledge of the subject!

  21. I look forward to reading what you’re planning on next, because your blog is a nice read, you’re writing with passion.

  22. This helps a lot

  23. Hey Ken,

    This was a very interesting post. I’m not necessarily expecting these things to be done within my lifetime, but then again, it was less than 70 years since the first flight and the first man on the moon…

    I think the only way a moon settlement/colony could ever work well (or begin to meet any of these 25 reasons to visit the moon) would be with strong private investment. We are already beginning to see a privatization of space flight and space equipment for the ISS. If there is ever a cost-effective method for lunar travel development, the possibilities are fascinating. I hadn’t realized the implications for engineering (vacuum-capabilities, virtually corrosion-free environment, etc.) until I stumbled across this post. A potential obstacle that I would like to see you address: meteorite/asteroid and other space-object collisions. What would be the likelihood of serious devastation, especially with no atmosphere to protect a potential community?

    Anyway, I’m slightly romantic about the idea. I’d give almost anything to go back in time and tell the ancient civilizations that we have been to the moon and back – that the human spirit is incredibly capable, and the best is still before us.

  24. Seriously ?

  25. It will cost $1.295 million USD for a 100% chance to go to the moon, one-way. About 25% higher for a round-trip visit. Departure would be sometime between 5 and 14 years from today.

    Here’s a site talking about the idea…
    http://lunarpole.blogspot.com/

    You can donate to the cause by contacting the site author and arranging a payment of $395.28 for a 1 in 32,756 chance to go.

    Not a hoax, not something involving the US Government, a private, grass roots Lunar Colony Program, according to the blog.

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