It seems that colonizing the Moon might be 90% less than expected…how often does that happen? Consider a change from $100 Billion to $10 Billion…seems more doable, no?
Why the huge difference? Take a look at SpaceX. They have been in the news quite frequently of late thanks to their amazing development and many successful landings regarding the reusability of their9 rocket, they have been able to slash prices.
Check this out – SpaceX spent $443 million to develop both the Falcon 9 & the Dragon crew capsule where if NASA had developed the same, it would have cost $4 Billion. (Interesting and a little bit scary; not that SpaceX spent so little, but that it would cost NASA so much more!)
So obviously for this to work, NASA will have to take advantage of private partnerships, international ones too.
Okay, so what else needs to be considered? The mining of the Helium-3. Did you know there is approximately $13.6 Billion dollars of Helium-3 on the surface of the Moon? Let me put that in perspective for you – that’s 100 million tons, only 25 tons powers the US & Europe for one year - powers as in fusion. And if you think fusion is either a pipe dream or too far away; think again. According to current estimates from both France & from Lockheed Martin, fusion will be a reality possibly as soon as this Summer. Actually they hope is to be able to demonstrate that it works this Summer (2016) and then progress from there. And if you are wondering from where comes the Helium-3, look no further than the Sun – where Nuclear Fusion occurs naturally. The moon's soil is rich in helium-3, it all comes from the outer layer of the sun and is blown around the solar system by solar winds. (It is rarely found on Earth, accumulates on moon because it is pushed away by the Earth's magnetic poles.)
There is also the ISRU – In Situ Resource Utilization. That means in basic terms, living off the land; taking what you need without sending to Earth for supplies. On the Moon there is plenty of water in ice at the poles, also the soil. The soil is FeTiO3 and there are Hydrogen veins also present. Add that to the FeTiO3 add some energy and get water & some left over stuff. So we can do the Hydrogen thing, the Oxygen thing, the water thing – so breathing, drinking, and fuel for the combustion process, pretty cool, right? Traveling to & from the Moon just became a whole lot more economically viable! Add in the growing of hydroponic plants and your good! (Meat may cause a problem as there are no cattle or chickens hanging on the Moon, but the same benefits can be sensitized.
Okay, so now the Moon is fully attainable. Yes there are other details, but those are the basics…
Next to Mars; when you think of Mars and all of the launches, the expense has to come to mind. In the Shuttle days it was around $799 million. Besides having gone substantially up, we can do it for less.
How about we launch from the Moon?