Why go to the moon? Mars? Or anywhere?

A lot of controversy has arisen from Newt Gingrich’s call to establish a moon colony. And most seem to deride this as silliness. Is it?

If you look at it from an individual perspective, why expend billions when there are people starving right here. But this same argument can be applied in many aspects. Why expend money on anything when there are people who hungry? Sure this is a complaint by many against Stealth Bombers and aircraft carriers. But why spend money building new schools or solar energy when there are hungry children?

The presence of a need, does not necessarily preclude pursuing other activities. If that were true, why would anyone watch TV or read a book when they could work extra hours at McDonald’s or Walmart and earn extra $$$ to feed the poor.

One must look at the overall benefit and the future benefit, as well as the intrinsic benefits Space exploration brings.  First off, dreams…how many successful entrepeneurs are where they are today because when they were small kids they dreamed of going into space. While most of them never went to space, that ‘dreaming’ aspect led them to pursue other dreams successfully.

There are many benefits and new technologies that stem from space exploration. But many will question whether the investment provides equivalence in return. Did we gain a value equivalent to the $100 billion spent on the International Space Station? I am not sure…

Many like myself will argue that we’ve failed to re-coup our investment because we so often compromise on achievement. For example, we tend to stay close to home, low orbit and very safe. The result is an ISS that if not supplied will quickly fall and burn up in the atmosphere.  Nor has it been allowed to grow. It is kept afloat by governments. Likewise, these same governments are tied to ever-present social issues that prevent their investment in space. (We currently have no means of reaching the ISS from the U.S. since the shuttles were retired.)

But are there other benefits to be had?

What benefit does the moon hold for earth?  What could a colony on the moon off us?

  1. First off, preservation.  While the cost of establishing a base on the moon would be exhorberent. Doing so would provide the first level of survivability for the species. However unlikely, one sufficiently large asteroid impact on earth could probably wipe out humanity.  While such mike make the earth unlivable for decades, even more, life would eventually regain it’s footing on earth; sans humans. A colony on the moon would allow a potential re-population of the earth by humanity.

    How do you put a price tag on saving the human race?  Is $1 trillion dollars to much to save all of humanity?  Is Earth just one big New Orleans waiting to happen? Will we, like New Orleans, realize only to late that we should have spent the money on the dikes?

  2. Second reason for my support. Many will say “You’re speaking of an unlikely hypothetical disaster in the distant future. Give me something more tangible and immediate.”  Okay, pollution. A large amounts of our planet are being polluted by industry, strip mined for minerals and resources, and left in a toxic moon like state.

    The moon is the perfect place to establish an industrial zone.  Strip mine all you want, you’re still outclassed by craters. Pollute the environment…what environment? Habitats are going to be destroyed because there are zero habitats on the moon.  Not every industry could be moved to the moon. It is doubtful we’ll find oil or coal on the moon. But the mining of many metals and minerals could be possible as the moon’s composition is much like Earth’s.

    After establishing a colony on the Moon, the building of a space station at null gravity (place between Earth and the Moon’s gravity wells) will become more economically feasible as materials could be launched from the moon’s lower gravity well. This station could then send out deeper colonial missions to Mars.  A location with greater resources for a colony to establish and flourish.

  3. Lastly, because it’s there. Mankind has always pursued opportunity. Why do people climb Mt. Everest, is it because of the view (mostly clouds)? Or because it stands there saying “Overcome me if you can!”.  Why did we colonize the New World? A task only slightly less daunting for it’s time than the Moon or Mars would be for ours. Granted they never had to worry about breathable oxygen, but they did have to worry about potable water, food and disease.  The journey often took many months and the hardships were immense with many colonists perishing shortly upon arrival, and even in transit.  But look at the immensity of advancement that came from the journey to, and colonizing of, the new world.

    One would be hard pressed to argue against the fact that the standard of living for the entire planet went up during that colonial period.  For thousands of years, the world remained much the same. Small incremental advancements in sail, metallurgy, science, medicine. Then within a couple of hundred years of discovery, we advanced more than in the thousands of years prior. Could we see a similar state of advancement?  Might venturing to the Luna & Mars be the catalyst to a period of advancement that leads us beyond many of our troubles.  Reducing further problems like hunger, obesity, poverty.  

How do you calculate such benefits?

Going into space is an investment. One much akin to the stock market. One has the potential to lose their shirt, break even, or be extremely profitable.  In my personal opinion it one worth making.  Also in my personal opinion, it is one we’ve been doing wrong for years.  Government was the sole entity allowed to invest in space. But that is changing, and I believe that grants and incentive awards should be offered to encourage space exploration.

And while I may be mistaken, it seems to me that Newt Gingrich’s talk on colonizing the Moon was focusing on encouraging and facilitating private enterprise to do so. As opposed to financing it all with government dollars. And that is something I support even more strongly.

How might the government be able to facilitate such?

  • How about a tax free moon?  No seriously, any goods created or services provided on the moon would be tax free including income.  I imagine this alone would get the finances started to explore space privately. 
  • X prizes – awards, both financial and meritorious, for those private ventures that achieve set goals. First private entity to land a craft on the moon – $1 million.  $25 million to the first to land a return a human being.
  • Allow such venture to be donated to in a tax free manner. Google needs a big write off, so they donate $50 million to an established fund that feeds such X-prizes.

But this can be done, with minimal cost to the tax payer and the potential of much benefit. Now, we just need Mythbusters to do some tests on how firearms function in a low gravity vacuum.

Published in: on February 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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