The Moon: Why and How we Should Return

A Position Paper in Response to the Bush Moon/Mars Initiative Proposal

Prepared by Peter Kokh for the Lunar Reclamation Society and the Moon Society, March 5, 2004


In response to the President's new space exploration initiative laying out a plan to Return to the Moon in Preparation for Manned Exploration of Mars, it is important to be clear about just why we should return to the Moon, and how we should do so. Without a 20:20 Moon Return Vision and Mission statement, we risk embarking on a dead-end path at great expense. The current window of opportunity is one we cannot afford to waste by foggy-minded planning.

Vision: We go outward into space to expand the range of the human species and of Earth Life which will accompany us, expanding Earth's insular economy into one that fully exploits the resources of the ocean of space surrounding our island. Our explorations must be scouting ones, finding resources and laying foundations for viable and vibrant new communities of humanity.

Mission: If, among other purposes, our return to the Moon is to provide the fullest possible support to a Mars exploration venture, we must develop the Moon's resources to defray the costs of our operations on the Moon by providing an ever-growing portion of the needs of personnel stationed there, by developing exports to minimize net costs of imports needed to support our lunar presence, and by manufacturing items needed to support the Mars Initiative.

It is vital that private enterprise be as involved as possible in any such effort, both in direct support to international government projects and in indirect ways, at private initiative, to develop lunar resources for profit. These efforts may include projects to tap lunar resources to provide abundant clean energy for Earth's growing power needs, and to support tourism to and on the Moon. Such efforts will inevitably work to minimize the costs of government funded projects by making available consumer-prepaid products and technologies, reducing the list of items and technologies that government space agencies must develop in expensive taxpayer-financed crash research and development programs.

It is essential that the site of the initial lunar outpost be chosen to support these mission priorities, not just to make crossing the first threshold to lunar occupancy in as easy and painless a manner possible. Choosing a polar site could turn out to be a dead-end initiative.

1. Inspiration

In the words of the "Lunar Declaration" signed at the Lunar Development Conference, League City, TX, July 16, 1999

" ... it is the destiny and responsibility of our species to expand our civilization and the biosphere of our home world outward into space.

" ... it is our duty to assure that this movement is safe, supportable, sustainable and unstoppable.

" ... the Moon represents the next and most vital step for humanity as we expand beyond Earth orbit.

"Be it as a training base for future human explorers of Mars and other worlds, a supplier of precious materials for the development of clean energy on Earth and construction in the space between planets, a home to observatories that will probe the cosmos, a location for commercial enterprise including hotels, or simply as land to be settled and owned by individuals who are willing to stake their lives and fortunes to open its bounties; the Moon represents a new opportunity for an unprecedented partnership between the public and private sectors that will results in savings to taxpayers and profits to those willing to take the financial risks."

2. Reasons for a Permanent Human Presence on the Moon

3. Precursor Technology Development

Industry/enterprise-funded projects (encouraged by government incentives) are appropriate to the predevelopment, for the sake of profitable terrestrial applications, of technologies that will be needed to open the space frontier ("spin-up"). Smaller enterprises should be encouraged to participate. Among these technologies are:

4. Precursor Robotic Missions

*Presently available launchers are sufficient to launch most, if not all of the precursor science missions that would prepare for a successful lunar outpost effort. Government agencies, industry and enterprise, and university consortiums all have a role to play in this effort.

*Several countries have the capacity to participate in a coordinated science mission program. "Comprehensive" internationalization of the effort is most desirable: United States, Canada, Russia, Europe, Japan, China, India, Brazil for starters - minimum!

Primary Precursor Mission goals are:

4A. Priority government/agency-funded Precursor Missions should include:

4B. Government/Industry Precursor Mission collaboration is appropriate to:

4C. Industry/Enterprise-funded Precursor Mission efforts are appropriate for preparing for industrial use of lunar resources to establish an Earth-Moon economy and provide options for solving Earth's energy and environmental problems. If the needed data can be purchased from privately funded missions, this is preferable as it reduces the taxpayer contribution.

5. Goals for Establishing a Permanent Lunar Outpost

5.1 Goal #1 Exploring the Moon and launching the development of lunar resources.

The lunar outpost should be designed to grow in open-ended fashion, with additions funded and deployed not only by government agencies, but by industry and enterprise and academia. To this end, the site chosen should:


5.2 Goal # 2. Preparing the way for Human outposts on Mars -- The Moon is the ideal place to field-test habitat designs, equipment, and life-support systems for deployment on Mars as well as to better study human factors engineering issues, and health/medical systems issues. Specifically:

A. Field testing equipment -- New untested and non-debugged equipment on Mars had better work, or be fixable by the crew on hand with tools and parts on hand. Pretesting on Mars "analog" sites on Earth will hardly be adequate. The conditions are not sufficiently similar. Equipment can be field-tested and debugged with far less risk to life on the Moon, where resupply, rebuilding, reconfiguration, overhaul - and, if necessary, rescue - will be significantly easier, safer, faster, and cheaper. An equipment failure on the Moon will be survivable, with recovery relatively swift. Failure on Mars could be crippling and quite possibly catastrophic. Equipment needed in common on Moon and Mars will include:

B. Human Factors Engineering -- In this area of concern, enthusiasts in the Mars Society have made great strides. Analog stations on Devon Island (Canada) and in Utah, have proved their value in testing the effects of isolation on human crews. We have learned much. But despite efforts to "observe simulation," not going "outside" without "spacesuits" and only via an "airlock," we could gain much more confidence in an environment whose unforgiving hostility guaranteed compliance, in which the weight and cumbersomeness of space suits was accurately modeled, etc. No one has spent more than a few days at a time on the Moon. Lunar missions of "Mars Mission length" would have a better chance of exposing any critical problem points.

C. Frontier Health Care -- NASA has been brainstorming a compact medical complex able to handle most emergencies from trauma to appendicitis. Field testing this complex in real lunar frontier situations would guarantee an improved version for Mars, where emergency return to Earth is not an option.

D. Long Range Considerations -- If the lunar and Martian frontiers are opened in step, Moon first, down the road, a lunar settlement could produce some of the heavy equipment needed on Mars at shipping cost savings. The lunar frontier would also be the premier source of field-tested settlers for Mars.


5.3 Goal # 3 Private enterprise participation: The outpost should accept physically collocated industry habitat/lab modules (with added power & life support) sharing commonalities of spaceport, communications access and roads, etc. for purpose of on-site demonstrations of resource development. In turn, such commercial facilities would contribute extra redundancy and safety. But the greatest contribution of collocated commercial facilities will be towards realization of what must be the overarching goal of lunar outpost deployment: to arrive at economic viability. Only profitability can ensure permanence. Without profitability, all talk of "permanence" is empty hype as the initiative could be suspended or abandoned at any time. "If it pays, we will stay."

To that end, the lunar outpost should have "nontrivial" free-enterprise participation:

5.4 Goal # 4 Cutting Edge Astronomy on/from the Moon



6. The Moon Initiative deserves funding without scuttling worthy planetary science missions

Peter Kokh

March 5, 2004

2004 jointly by the Lunar Reclamation Society and the Moon Society

Back to LRS/MMM Papers