It’s Time to Build a Moon Base
BYT at large | Dec 6, 2012 | 1:45PM |

Andrew Heaton lives in New York and makes pithy observations. Other insights can be found at www.MightyHeaton.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @MightyHeaton

It’s ridiculous that we’re already twelve years into the new millennium and I’m sitting here on Earth like a sucker. Surely you feel the same way. Do you not feel constrained by oppressive Earth gravity each time you leap up and down on your roommate’s bed? Here on Earth my roommate is apt to whine about “property damage,” but on the Moon a bed would serve as a trampoline of staggering capacities. As for lunar trampolines– the mind reels.

If you have an ounce of childhood wonder in you, the prospects of a low-gravity colony should set your imagination ablaze. Picture the giddy thrill golfers would enjoy sinking a hole-in-one which spans the width of Vermont. With low enough gravity and a tall enough dome, we might even be able to make baseball interesting again. Lunar ballerinas would be no less than ethereal dancers.

Who has not watched a kangaroo flee from them in terror after hopping the fence at a zoo, only to think: “How majestic you could leap, oh kangaroo, unfettered by this oppressive Earth gravity and the constant nagging of zookeepers yelling at me to get the hell out of the kangaroo habitat!”

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I could go on. Cataloging the Coolness Factor of a lunar base would easily turn into a PhD project and probably earn a Nobel Prize. Let’s turn our attention away from the sheer self-sufficient awesomeness of a Moon base, to reasons boring people might understand and support.

Here’s a question: how much faith do you have in mankind not blowing itself up in nuclear warfare?

We’re not on Red Alert right now, but for thirty years mankind stood at the brink of a Cormac McCarthy novel staring down the gun barrel of nuclear annihilation. Russia and the United States are currently “frenemies,” but there are still at least 11,165 nuclear warheads on the planet.

While there’s a small chance that thermonuclear warfare might result in cool mutations like in X-Men, my understanding is that it’s more probable we’d mostly incinerate, and the few survivors left would eat each other and then succumb to radiation poisoning. (Except for maybe Gary Busey, who I somehow feel would turn out okay.)

Low probability, I know. But peace indefinitely? For the next five hundred years? The next thousand? I’d sleep better knowing humanity has an emergency backup in the event that we obliterate ourselves through tactical idiocy. (And of course I would sleep better in 1/6th the earth’s gravity after a fun day of golfing and chasing lunar kangaroos inside of my domed crater.)

Environmentalists, feel free to pipe in here as well. How optimistic are you that everyone in developing nations will exclusively buy hybrid cars? Even if they do, there are literally more people working in your average McDonald’s than there are on the lookout for extinction-level asteroids on a potential collision course with Minnesota.

Even if we manage to sort out nuclear proliferation, environmental problems, overpopulation and Charlie Sheen, do we really want to live on Earth, exclusively, forever? Assume our species hangs around another 10,000 years. Surely, at some point, intrepid real estate agents will want to expand to asteroids and Mars. If Switzerland ever folds up, where would our beloved trillionaires evade taxes?

Eventually SETI will confirm that intelligent life exists elsewhere, and when that happens we need to be prepared to track it down and seduce it. How can we traverse the galaxy to mack on hot green aliens if we can’t even build a tent city on our nearest orbital body?

A Moon base is pivotal to planetary expansion. Astronauts hanging out on the International Space Station are still shielded by Earth’s atmosphere in terms of radiation. We don’t know what a year-long mission to Mars would actually do to them. But a lunar colony would provide a good test lab. Further, with expansive infrastructure, a lunar installation would be easier to launch rockets from than Earth’s obese gravity.

Presently NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover, one of the greatest technological triumphs in the history of mankind, is puttering around our crimson buddy looking for fossilized microbes, neat locations for Instagram photos, and possible loose change.

Elon Musk, a 39-year-old billionaire and visionary plans to retire on Mars, and he has the money and pluck to potentially pull it off. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, intends to create a space tourism industry.

As we move forward both as as species and as a nation, we’re going to have to make tough calls on budget cutbacks. So I must pose this question to Baby Boomers, our largest voting demographic and the group most directly concerned with impending retirement:

Do you want to top out in Florida with a bunch of alligators, high humidity and tacky pink lawn flamingos? Or would you rather finish up on the Moon, with 1/6th the Earth’s gravity, no need for a cane, and the knowledge that you are pioneering the next step in mankind’s destiny: the stars?