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Starbucks on the Moon?

07/26/2006 12:38 PM

National Geographic has an interesting article about NASA's plan to open up the moon for commerce. Although any such activity is a long way off, NASA sponsored an event about this last spring and invited 180 entrepreneurs, business leaders, government officials, and space scientists. Just so there's no confusion, this goes beyond exploiting resources found on the moon; they're talking about building and opening up stores...

Said Paul Eckert of Boeing, "When we talk about commerce on the moon, it's not just contracts where the government buys services. We're also talking about businesses selling to each other and also to consumers."

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#1

Why are you surprised?

07/26/2006 10:49 AM

This is part of a larger discussion on setting up colonies on the moon. If you want to get people to live there, you have to offer them at least the semblance of a normal life. This would include places to shop as well as schools, restaurants, places for entertainment, etc. Likely this would not be stage 1 (landing, building basic shelter for essential personnel) or even stage 2 (site expansion, beginning of resource exploitation, light terraforming and agricultural development) of the moon colonization process, but if you are going to envision a colony, it doesn't hurt to think about what is needed for it to survive and grow.

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#2
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Re:Why are you surprised?

07/26/2006 1:23 PM

Cart before the horse...It's not that I'm really surprised that this level of thought is taking place, but c'mon, do you honestly think it's necessary at this point? Do you think that we'll even have a lunar base by 2025? I don't. Heck, we have enough problems resupplying the ISS, which isn't even finished. What does a moon base really get us anyway?

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#3
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Re:Why are you surprised?

07/27/2006 8:52 AM

I'd bet that my yet unborn great grandchildren won't see commerce on the moon, and I'm not sure they will see any significant geological exploration. It just don't make a lot of sense, unless there's minerals there that we just MUST have to make a handful of people billionaires.

If the moon was easy to get to with enough supplies to last a few months, we would have already done it. The space station is the closest convenience store to the moon, and we're having problems keeping them supplied.

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#4
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Re:Why are you surprised?

07/27/2006 9:12 AM

History repeats itself. I seem to remember that european governments sold commercial
concessions for areas of the rest of the world to private interests during the 1700's.
At least this time there seem to be no natives to be exploited.
We'll have to provide them.

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#5

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

07/27/2006 12:52 PM

Someone said, "History repeats itself". Indeed it does. Travel from Europe to America in the 1600's was also very expensive, and very dangerous ("Here there be sea monsters!"). The first colonists faced a harsh environment, unknown wildlife, unfriendly natives, sickness, etc. Yet, as technology improved, barriers were overcome, more settlers arrived, and the American Nation was born and prospered.

Would anyone have thought, 140 years ago that man would travel to the moon and back? Well, at least Jules Verne did, in 1865, in his book "From the Earth to the Moon", but everyone just assumed his fantasies would never come true. Verne also foresaw many other technological breakthroughs, including SCUBA gear, nuclear-powered submarines (although he never actually described the energy source), long distance airship flights, and more. And Verne was not alone. While Verne described extensions of then current technology and science, other writers, notably H.G. Wells and others, took the laws of physics more liberally in describing their inventions. One of my favorite Science Fiction authors, Robert A. Heinlein attempted to straddle the line between scientific reality and total fantasy. Being a real engineer (US Naval Academy graduate and working Aeronautical Engineer), most of his works of what might be in the future are well-grounded in scientific fact and practical engineering. His 1966 book (40 years ago), "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" describes a Lunar Colony, including life support systems, agriculture, commerce, politics, and revolution!

Will this happen in our lifetimes? Probably not, but many never thought they would see a man on the moon in their lifetimes either.

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#6
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Re:The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

07/28/2006 2:35 PM

My grandfather, born in 1893 and died in 1972, said the year before he died that he had lived in the most amazing century in man's history. In his lifetime man had gone from horse and buggy to man on the moon. He might have been right, but I suspect that the next century will be just as amazing, albeit in different ways. Now that the real driving engine for exploration, commerce, is finally in the game, things should move very rapidly.

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#7
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Re:The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

07/28/2006 4:16 PM

You are so right. Look at the American West. Sure we had government sponsored explorers, Lewis & Clark, Zebulon Pike, John C. Fremont, etc. But these men relied up scouts who were usually hunters and fur trappers (commercial interests there), and were quickly followed by fur traders, miners, and pioneers (mostly farmer and ranchers). Then of course there were military ouposts. Occasionally you had some adventurers as well. They were probably the first "extreme tourists"

Today, or in the future, I think we might see minerals companies sponsoring exploration mining, space tourism (for the adventurous billionaires with more money than sense), perhaps even scientific consortiums doing independent research. Interestingly, in his book, Robert Heinlein's Lunar Colonies were mostly settled by convicts who were "transported" to the Moon by various nations on earth, not unlike how Australia was started from penal colonies of "transportees" from the British Empire. In Heinlein's vision of Lunar Colonies, these people and their offspring became miners and farmers, carving out sub-surface caverns and growing food using redirected or artificial sunlight and hydroponics. His transport ships did not depend completely on chemically fueled rockets, but upon huge catapults (like those used to launch jets on aircraft carriers) to "slingshot" their vessels outside of Earth's "gravity well".

Who knows, perhaps Heinlein, the Aeronautical Engineer, knew something about what he was talking about!

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#8

I think is not neccessary

07/31/2006 6:24 AM

To me, I think the money that will be use to set up this vision will tripple the one we can use here on earth. And also lets not forget that the force of gravity does not exist in the moon and oxygen also is insufficient or even lacken there. I only think It is possible, if these factors (oxygen as so on) can be established there first..

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#9
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Re:I think is not neccessary

07/31/2006 4:29 PM

Jeremiah,

You are not thinking clearly. The moon is a large mass, not as big as the earth, but still on the same scale. Scientists used to say that lunar gravity was 1/6 that of earth, but this was based on theoretical calculations. Now we have orbited satellites around the moon as well as visited there, we know that gravity on the surface of the moon IS less than on earth, but it does EXIST, otherwise the Apollo astronauts would have bounced off the surface and gone into orbit, wait, no gravity....no orbit, just flying off into space! Well, they didn't. They just bounced around like kangaroos, due to the lower gravity.

Oxygen does exist on the moon in many forms, just not in the gaseous form we can breathe. The Prospector satellite has found water in the form of ice, by estimates between 10 and 300 million tons, in pockets at the lunar north and south poles, where they would be shielded from the sun's energy from melting and evaporating. Otherwise, yes there is very little or no atmosphere. However, with our current technology we can build domes on the surface or sealed caverns below the surface and generate oxygen from materials on the moon. Simple electrolysis of water (H20) will separate Hydrogen from Oxygen gas with electricity, which could be generator by solar panels. We also have the technology to re-use oxygen by "Scrubbing" carbon from CO2. This technology is used on the space station and on nuclear submarines.

BTW, there is lots of infromation on commercial possibilities on the moon at the URL's below for (in order), Space Today, NASA, and The Artemis Project, but be careful of Googling, there a lot of real "loonies" out there claiming "life exists" on the moon, "Alian Bases" on the moon, etc.

http://www.spacetoday.org/SolSys/Moons/TheMoon.htm l
http://lunar.arc.nasa.gov/
http://www.asi.org/index2.html

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