I am of the distinct opinion that space travel in its various forms and intentions represents the pinnacle of humanity’s enlightened achievements. No other endeavour has proved as challenging and profoundly rewarding as our tentative forays into the infinite expanse beyond our humble world. The accomplishments we have made in the pursuit of expansion and knowledge in space are incredible, yet all our efforts have been of a rather limited scope in contrast to the sheer enormity of the cosmos. We have barely begun to explore our solar system with any degree of depth and have not sent people any further than our nearest celestial neighbor. Though what has been accomplished is incredible and speaks to the absolute best our species is capable of, it is time to become bolder in our striving for the stars.
The opportunities available in space are as limitless as space itself. Means by which to seize this opportunity have been available for considerable time now. Humanity possess technology able to perform things that had not even been imagined ten or twenty years ago. The last Moon landing of the Apollo program took place 43 years ago, the technology they used to carry out that astounding mission would seem laughably arcane to a child of today. And yet they did it, they went to the Moon. We have such a technological abundance that to carry out a mission similar in scope to the Apollo landings today would be a complete waste of our immense resources. We are now in an age when our extraterrestrial exploits must be grander and more ambitious merely to keep up with the ability of our technology.
Despite this new technological abundance and ability there are more fundamental constrictions to true large scale space exploration and exploitation. Even with the advanced systems we have today, moving significant amounts of material off the earth is a serious and demanding challenge. Developments such as a space elevator or laser propulsion system would make this task more easily accomplished but limitations will always be inherent. This makes the delivery of large volumes of resources an unviable option for space endeavours. Such restriction makes the establishment of large scale space colonies and vehicles or interplanetary bases seem impossible. Fortunately this is an easily circumvented problem.
The Earth possess incredible elemental resources that have allowed our species to flourish, but it has been established that transporting significant volumes of these resources is fundamentally problematic. The solution is simple, use the resources that are already abundantly available in space. We need not go far to find them, indeed we have already sent men to the nearest depository of raw useable materials in space. The Moon. If we are ever to explore more of our solar system and beyond we must use the resources of the Moon.
The moon is the perfect platform for humanity to begin its journey outward into the majesty of the universe. To get there we need not develop launch systems of any immense complexity to the ones we already have. Sending enough materials to begin extracting and refining the Moon’s abundance of useful resources will be infinitely more efficient and economic than sending those same resources from the earth. Aluminium, gold, cobalt, iron, palladium, platinum, tungsten, oxygen, hydrogen and helium-3, a gas that can be used in future fusion reactors to provide nuclear power without radioactive waste, are all present in the Moon. Using robotic construction equipment and next generation 3D printing techniques, support structures and large habitats can easily be manufactured. Lunar regolith, the dusty material which covers most of the Moon, can be manufactured into an impressively durable concrete like material or can be used to form the basis of huge solar panel installations. Indeed, between the helium-3 and solar energy potential, the Moon has the ability to solve the energy crisis. The Moon’s ⅓ earth gravity makes the launching of interplanetary craft all the more practical and efficient. Spacecraft can be constructed on the Moon primarily using Moon resources with more complex and specialized equipment being shipped from Earth. These spacecraft can then be launched using ⅓ the fuel that would be needed to propel them from the Earth. This allows for much more ambitious exploration and eventually the colonization of other planets in our solar system. As this becomes more achievable so too does the ability to reach other stars. While the technology for that level of exploration is still developing, the technology to utilize the moon has been present for quite some time.
This is not a fantasy, it is a hope and an ambition that is completely legitimate and reasonably achievable. The attitudes surrounding space travel are generally positive, as they should be for such a positive thing, but the politics are confusing and convoluted. Economics for the sake of economics leads to dramatic de-scaling of spaceflight endeavour and intention. Public interest is essential, for everyone who cares about space travel it is your duty to let your interest be known and your affirmation be clear. Without interest the hopes of humanity we be left to slowly crawl along, burdened by policies which give little regard to Human advancement. Given enough attention and serious consideration however, the clear benefits of this noble exercise will become apparent to all people and our potential for greatness will be swiftly be realized.