The following is a part of How to Save the World for Just a Trillion Dollars: The Ten Biggest Problems We Can Actually Fixby Rowan Hooper.
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How to Save the World for Just a Trillion Dollars: The Ten Biggest Problems We Can Actually Fix
Al Worden was an old school Right Stuff astronaut. A back-up pilot for Apollo 12, he flew the 1971 Apollo 15 mission to the Moon, and was the first person to walk in space. As he orbited the Moon alone in the Apollo 15 command module, he reached a distance of 2,235 miles from his crewmates on the lunar surface, earning him a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the most isolated human in history. Got it. Like most Apollo astronauts, he was a former test pilot and loneliness didn’t bother him; He said he really enjoyed being alone in the spacecraft. But he did reveal some contemplative nature, noting in a poem, “Now I know why I am here. Not to look closely at the Moon, but to look at my home, the Earth.”
Al died in 2020. But he once told me that it is necessary that we go to the Moon as a staging on Mars, if nothing else. Smoking a cigarette he told me- fearlessly doing nothing to me-harm hero, the kind of person who talks to you instead of talking to you, who probably comes from a lifetime of knowing that his stories will always happen Are the best of anyone else in the room. But I was listening. For Al, the moon came first.
How would you spend a trillion dollars?
His old friend Buzz Aldrin says the same thing. But don’t jump to the conclusion that it’s just because they’ve been to the moon that they advocate going back. I heard similar arguments from several NASA scientists I spoke to. Mars and the Moon are almost equally deadly to humans on the surface, as both have no magnetic field, barely an atmosphere, and require a spacesuit. However, with the Moon you can return to Earth relatively quickly, in just three days, if something goes wrong. It will take anywhere between 150 to 300 days to get back from Mars to Earth. When talking to someone on the Moon the time taken from Earth is 1.25 seconds; On Mars, this is anywhere between 4 and 24 minutes, depending on the position of Mars’ orbit relative to Earth. We need to learn how to live on the Moon before we can step into multi-planet status.
If we choose the Moon, we have the added advantage that a lot of international activity is currently directed at both manned and robotic missions. It has been called the New Space Race. NASA’s Artemis program, an estimated $28 billion, aims to put a man and the first woman on the Moon by the mid-2020s. We can piggyback on that, and grow our trillions further. The Moon also opens up to the rest of the Solar System. The most expensive, difficult and limiting part of space travel is the effort it takes to break free from Earth’s orbit and drop itself onto its target. Rocket engineers call the required change in velocity delta-v, and its value is much less from the Moon than from Earth. This is why the Apollo program required the largest rocket ever built, the Saturn V, to get from Earth to the Moon, but only a smaller rocket to land from the Moon and return to Earth.
Any crewed mission to Mars would be backed by multiple scouting and setup missions, and any continued build-up of resources on Mars would require hundreds of missions. It might be far more feasible, a lot cheaper, to build as much as we need on the Moon and get it from there to Mars, not all the way straight from Earth. The Moon has large amounts of frozen water, which we can use to make rocket fuel to fuel our ships, making return trips cheaper and further missions easier. The rockets themselves wouldn’t need to be that big, so they would be cheaper, and we would be able to more easily send supply ships and one-off investigative probes to places around the Solar System. So it does. Let’s make the moon the eighth continent.
We need to step back a little and examine the reasons why we should be investing in a program to create an off-planet settlement in the first place. There are also difficult ethical questions to consider. We need to defend our choices firmly.
I’m going to try to keep Marvin Gaye in mind here. (It’s generally not a bad rule of thumb: When my wife and I got married, we played “You’re All I Need to Get By” at the ceremony.) On “Inner City Blues,” Marvin played “Rockets, Moon Shots”. , “Through commentary on funding to the Apollo program, while black people’s problems were originally ignored. The words in that song are as relevant today as possible.” Gil Scott-Heron said something similar in 1970: “I can’t pay my doctor’s bills, but Whitey on the Moon.” While many were thrilled with the Apollo program, many were concerned that when on the ground There were enough problems, so it was a huge indulgence to see the space. Not much has changed.
In 2018, Musk’s SpaceX company launched its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time. It’s an impressive rocket, the most powerful built since the massive Saturn-vs that took “white” to the Moon. Elon Musk says it cost about $500 million to develop – keep that in mind. Of all the rockets currently in operation, the Falcon Heavy has the largest payload. Musk’s first flight had a payload consisting of a red Tesla Roadster under the roof, a “Starman” mannequin behind the driving wheel and a David Bowie song playing on the car stereo. The mannequin one hand was placed on the wheel, the other hand rested on the door. Some were outraged by what they saw as macho and patriarchal imagery and the same old middle-aged, rich, white, male-dominated agenda. SpaceX’s CEO is a woman, Gwynne Shotwell, but it didn’t help that the crowd at the SpaceX Launch Control Center was almost entirely white people.
Nor does it help that Musk likes to talk about colonizing Mars and “conquering” the Moon. The language is inflammatory to some because it recalls the evils of imperial colonization and slavery. He also suggested that we atomize Mars—possibly at the poles, to melt the ice there and warm the planet, to kick-start the terraforming process. It’s unclear whether he’s behaving like an amped-up Bond villain to upset his critics, or if he really wants to atomize Mars. Either way, we can do it differently. As it happens, a group of entrepreneurs and former NASA scientists calling themselves the Open Lunar Foundation seem to have similar ideas — we’ll end up collaborating with them.
Some of the reasons cited for space travel, which are not mutually exclusive, are: doing science, exploring, saving the Earth’s environment, starting independent human settlements, as insurance against disaster, spectacular amounts of money. To make, go for glory, go for greed. Some of these are found in the sky, or are delusional, or are intentionally deceptive. I can’t see how anyone is going to make money investing in Moon Base any time soon. SpaceX is well paid for by NASA delivery contracts to the International Space Station, and is looking to make money from Apollo orphans and other wealthy space tourists. Enthusiasts dream of prospecting for valuable minerals on the lunar surface, and a business that could be set up to refine lunar ice to make rocket fuel. But there is no space-based economy and there won’t be one for decades.
Then there’s the insurance consideration. That’s the argument that we need to introduce an off-planet human settlement to ensure the human species survives in the event of a disaster. An asteroid strike ended the reign of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago; A super-volcanic eruption can cause an extinction event of the same scale. But, statistically, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, with Stephen Hawking claiming in his final book that asteroid impacts are the greatest threat to life on Earth. Arguing that we should spend money on space missions for this reason, to create a backup for the human species, seems pretentious. Biodiversity on Earth is actually facing many threats, as we saw in the previous chapter, and we must face them here, and fight them here, and not run away to another planet’s body, which will cause the most People suffered. We must accept this and try not to make our Moon Base plans into something they are not.
Of course, it is highly plausible to claim that the base of the Moon will save Earth’s environment, which is what Jeff Bezos often says. The founder of Amazon and the spaceflight company Blue Origin, Bezos talks about relieving environmental pressure on Earth by moving heavy industry to the Moon. Blue Origin has developed a lunar lander and is building a rocket to get it there. Bezos wants to remove heavy, polluting industry from Earth and move it to the Moon, eventually making Earth a habitable zone with little light industry and very little environmental pressure. Some see Bezos’s plan without the stars as a way to further increase his power and wealth, to an end point where Blue Origin produces goods on the Moon that Amazon delivers to Earth.
Again, whatever the consequences of Bezos’ grand plan, they are far in the future. For some, our waste of Earth’s environment seriously compromises our right to settle on another celestial body; It is hardly acceptable to start strip-mining the Moon when our planet is in such a position. We’ll come to it—I take it very seriously—but the point for now is that Bezos’s goals are long-term; We wish there was some more immediate focus. When people ask why I’m spending so much money on the Moon, I want a simple answer.
excerpt from How to Save the World for Just a Trillion Dollars: The Ten Biggest Problems We Can Actually Fix © Rowan Hooper, 2021. Reprinted with permission from the publisher, The Experiment. Books available everywhere are sold.