Lunar Bases and Settlement

Excerpt from speech of John Marburger
Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
Executive Office of the President
March 15, 2006

The Moon has unique significance for all space applications for a reason that to my amazement is hardly ever discussed in popular accounts of space policy. The Moon is the closest source of material that lies far up Earth’s gravity well. Anything that can be made from Lunar material at costs comparable to Earth manufacture has an enormous overall cost advantage compared with objects lifted from Earth’s surface. The greatest value of the Moon lies neither in science nor in exploration, but in its material. I am talking about the possibility of extracting elements and minerals that can be processed into fuel or massive components of space apparatus. The production of oxygen in particular, the major component (by mass) of chemical rocket fuel, is potentially an important Lunar industry.

What are the preconditions for such an industry? That, it seems to me, must be a primary consideration of the long range planning for the Lunar agenda. Science studies provide the foundation for a materials production roadmap. Clever ideas have been advanced for the phased construction of electrical power sources – perhaps using solar cells manufactured in situ from Lunar soil. A not unreasonable scenario is a phase of highly subsidized capital construction followed by market-driven industrial activity to provide Lunar products such as oxygen refueling services for commercially valuable Earth-orbiting apparatus.

Low lunar gravity allows new kinds of sports. Painting by Pat Rawlings courtesy NASA.

Annotated Bibliography of Recommended Reading

2007:  The Moon: Resources, Future Development and Colonization, Second Edition. David Schrunk, Burton Sharpe, Bonnie Cooper, and Madhu Thangavelu. Springer Praxis Books. 400 pages. [Amazon link]. Considers the rationale and steps necessary for establishing permanent bases on the Moon. Argues that the Moon has sufficient resources for large-scale human development. Emphasizes the advantages of a base at the lunar south pole. Much more reasonably priced than the first edition in 1999.

2006:  The Lunar Base Handbook: An Introduction to Lunar Base Design, Development, and Operations, 2nd Edition. Peter Eckart. McGraw-Hill. 860 pages. [Where to buy]. A good technical treatment of all aspects of building a lunar base. Written primarily for engineers but the clear writing is quite accessible for interested laymen.

2006:  Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space. Harrison H. Schmitt. Praxis Publishing. 336 pages. [Review]. [Amazon link]. A former U.S. Senator and the only geologist so far to walk the Moon makes the business case for mining Helium 3 from the Moon. The problem: we don’t yet have the fusion reactors to use the Helium 3 for fuel.

2005:  Return to the Moon. Edited by Rick Tumlinson and Erin Medlicott. Apogee Books. 208 pages. [Amazon link]. A collection of articles with strong emphasis on policy issues rather than technical ones.

1996:  The Once and Future Moon. Paul D. Spudis. Smithsonian Institution Press. 308 pages. [Amazon link]. A popular science book on what is known about the Moon and its geology for the general reader. The latter third of the book describes the rationale for returning to and settling the Moon.

1995:  Moon Handbook: A 21st-Century Travel Guide. Carl Koppeschaar. Moon Publications (out of print). 142 pages. [Amazon link]. This small but delightful book is a clever blend of fact and fiction done in the exact same style as the excellent series of Moon Travel Handbooks. It includes interesting background facts about the Moon and then describes the best places for accomodations, food, sightseeing, and how to get around (e.g. “From the Moon Museum, you can catch the northern-bound monorail to the ghost crater Lamont, headquarters of the Lunox oxygen and concrete production plant”).

1991:  The Lunar Sourcebook: A User’s Guide to the Moon. G. H. Heiken, D. T. Vaniman, and B. M. French, editors. Cambridge University Press. 756 pages. Hard copy is out of print but book is available on CD-ROM. [Amazon link] [CD-ROM version]. The only work to date to collect data gathered during the American and Soviet missions in an accessible and complete one-volume, encyclopedic reference of scientific and technical information about the Moon. Primarily for scientists but is also quite accessible for the interested layman.



NASA’s Return to the Moon:

Planned lunar missions:


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