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Lunar Colony Feasibility

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posted on Apr, 22 2016 @ 10:33 PM
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I understand that official dialogue with regard to a lunar colony has existed within the US government since before the founding of NASA. I also understand that both America and Russia have recently discussed establishing such colonies individually. While I have no reservations, I do have questions. Many of you will be familiar with the topics of the questions I've posted below, and so I'd like to know your thoughts on these considerations. What do you think the answers to these questions are?

Has NASA confirmed that resources exist in sufficient quantity on or near the lunar surface that may allow for mining or otherwise acquiring said resources and also transporting those resources back to the surface of Earth in a manner which would involve such profitability to warrant such an operation? For instance, would Helium-3 extraction be a profitable endeavor?

Is the Moon known to possess sufficient quantities of ice or liquid water, on or near the surface, to allow for extraction pursuant to electrolysis in order to produce both potable water and also to convert the remaining water to breathable oxygen?

Would there be sufficient water to safely operate a Helium-3 or other reactor on the moon, and could the heat such a reactor generates be channeled to warm the colony? Would an alternative source of energy such as solar panels better suit the needs of the colony, including in the long-term?

Would such a colony be soonest placed directly on the open lunar surface, or would a location be chosen less exposed to environmental hazards, such as the lava tubes surveyed during Apollo?

If NASA were to produce something along the lines of the NERVA XE and dispatch it to the lunar colony, where supplemented by lunar Helium-3 extraction, would it prove greatly advantageous with regard to long-term costs of an extended campaign of exportation within the solar system? That is, would the start-up costs and colony maintenance expenditure be significantly less than exploring the solar system via launching missions from the Earth's surface?

Has NASA developed the means for which to counter osteopenia on long-term postings? Would simple exercise equipment suffice for crew stationed in the moons microgravity, be it through resistance training or quadrupling the weight for strength training in order to match the weight an astronaut previously worked with on Earth's surface? Or would a more radical means be necessary to prevent osteopenia? Would crew rotations be necessary to prevent it?

Overall, does NASA think it possible to produce a (nearly) self-sufficient colony, and would the benefit outweigh the cost in the end? Is NASA both inclined to and capable of achieving this, and has the funding been allocated, or does NASA anticipate that it will be?

What do you suppose the true answers to these questions are? Are there any questions that you feel need consideration but weren't listed here?




posted on Apr, 22 2016 @ 10:58 PM
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a reply to: Navarro
Your questions:

1) No. There is no physical evidence that 3He exists on the Moon in higher concentrations than it does on earth. However, it is theorectically feasible that it does, due to the direct exposure to Solar radiation.

2) It is known that large amounts of water ice exists in lunar polar craters which are perpetually shadowed.

3) Since there is no such thing as a 3He reactor, solar panels would seem to be the most feasible power source. Sunlight is plentiful on the Moon.

4) Due to increased levels of both Solar and cosmic radiation, underground habitats would be safest. It would also provide protection from tiny and larger rocks from space.

5) Unknown, since actual concentrations of 3He are unknown and since there is no such thing as a 3He reactor.

6) No. Self sufficiency is out of the question for the midterm future. Longer term, sure, why not?



edit on 4/22/2016 by Phage because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 22 2016 @ 11:54 PM
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a reply to: Phage
Fascinating. I was completely unaware that the technology doesn't presently exist to produce a Helium-3 reactor. It outwardly seemed like such technology did exist, in fact. I know of a concept in which Deuterium and Helium-3 would together fuel a propulsion system via igniting the elements in a reaction chamber via inertial confinement attained by electron beams. Project Daedalus featured such a system in concept. So you're saying that energy production through Helium-3 would require more than just a supply of the resource, and also more than just a fusion reactor of today, but replacing the Tritium with Helium-3? I was of the understanding that the technology exists, but that the prevailing issue was the gross lack of Helium-3, given that Tritium is too problematic for effective containment. Of course, I'm no nuclear physicist though.

However, I know Helium-3 has been confirmed to exist on the lunar surface in abundance. In the link to NASA's website, you'll see that they confirmed it's presence on the Moon, and determined it to make up "at least 13 parts per billion" of the lunar surface, which I've seen reputable organizations elsewhere remark that the Moons Helium-3 content adds up to over a million tones of the element. I of course don't mean to appear rude, but either I misunderstand something or your information appears out of date. The real question doesn't seem to be whether or not Helium-3 is on the moon, but perhaps how the lunar dust might be sifted/refined then the Helium-3 transported back to Earth, if not utilized locally.

I've several times heard this about the shadowed lunar craters, and the confirmed presence of ice within those craters, especially those within the vicinity of the poles. When NASA "bombed the Moon" a few years back with LCROSS, I recall NASA remarking that they didn't observe the plumes of material which they anticipated, while earth-based observatories contradicted them, stating that a plume was clearly visible. As I recall, NASA didn't immediately report evidence of water, but later indicated that it had in fact observed both a plume and ejecta, which I thought a strange turn of events, but was relieved that they also reported discovering water within both. Later discoveries yielded that water made up about 4.5% of the surface of such craters. The question I have here would be, is the quantity and concentration enough to allow for sufficient extraction and adequately efficient separation, melting and electrolysis for meeting the water and oxygen needs of a colony, through a practical manner?
edit on 22-4-2016 by Navarro because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 12:02 AM
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Interesting thread and flag for you. Very good questions but at the moment they are mute. The moon has a very fine volcanic glass like dust which is electrostatic in nature. It bothered the Apollo astronauts and could have led to disaster as it cut through 3 layers of Kevlar on one of the suits. It's most likely the cause of the recent Chinese rover failure and so far no way has been found to deal with the problem. Until a way is found to neutralize the moon dust and render it harmless there most likely won't be any long term colonies on the moon. My best,



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 12:07 AM
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a reply to: Navarro
There is no technology for a practical fusion reactor, much less one based on 3He.



However, I know Helium-3 has been confirmed to exist in the lunar surface in abundance.
The presence of 3He on the Moon is known. Its overall abundance is not. A single sample is not sufficient to determine overall abundance. Just as the concentration of minerals vary on Earth's surface, so would they vary anywhere. At any rate, 13ppb could hardly be called "abundant". The level of industrialization necessary to utilize such "abundance" would require far more than a lunar colony could be expected to entail.



The real question doesn't seem to be whether or not Helium-3 is on the moon,
I agree. There is 3He on the Moon. There is also 3He on Earth, and asteroids.

 


The question I have here would be, is the quantity and concentration enough to allow for sufficient extraction and adequately efficient separation, melting and electrolysis for meeting the water and oxygen needs of a colony, through a practical manner?
From what I understand, yes. Indications are strong that there is ample water. But there are other sources of oxygen. Given the large amount of solar energy available, regolith is a good candidate. Preferable to water, which is just as precious as oxygen.


edit on 4/23/2016 by Phage because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 01:17 AM
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a reply to: Navarro

Since there is water under the surface why not go te simpler route of hydrogen reactor... the split can make the much needed oxygen as well.



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 01:48 AM
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Simpler maybe, but whichever method you choose you first have to get the equipment up there to do the job. The key to lunar survival is energy production, because it will be needed to provide every need you have, and even if you choose a relatively simple one like solar power you are still going to need to transport vast numbers of solar panels up there to give you what you need not just during the lunar day but also the lunar night, so you need lots of batteries. While all this is being done you still need to keep whoever is building it alive.

If you look at how big a rocket is required just to get a few tonnes to the moon, and how long it takes (please let's not turn this into another Apollo argument thread), it would take an immense number of launches just to get the basics there, then more to get the construction sorted.

I think it can be done, and I hope it does, but I think it would require a a substantial resource commitment from many nations to get it done, and it would take quite some time to achieve.



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 02:03 AM
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a reply to: Navarro

Great thread, it is not just feasible but it is actually essential that we establish a (Civilian) colony on the moon and maintain a presence there for our won technological and species development, I am actually against mining the moon for a number of reason's but mining it and using what is there for lunar projects is perfectly acceptable.

If however we mine the moon and bring the material back to the earth then we need to place a single launch facility or place all the launch facilitys for the lunar to terra transport of material for the whole mining operation on the moon's oribital leading side so that the removal of material is compensated for by the thrust used to take it off the moon, placing it on the earth facing side would create a tiny thrust that would push the moon away at the same time as reducing it's mass (we would never notice it but it would still be there), launching it on the moon's orbital trailing side would increase lunar orbital velocity and placing it on the dark side of the moon would push the moon into an eliptical orbit so the removal of trillion's of ton's of H3 and other assets should only be done by launching into the moon's orbital direction from it's orbital leading side.

Tiny nagging factors aside we NEED to colonise the moon as a species, especially if we really care about our descendant's because to do otherwise would be a crime against them? and leave our race even more exposed to potential extinction event's as well as hamper our further development.



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 02:09 AM
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Why not just ask the moon people if we can stay in their secret bunkers?



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 02:12 AM
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originally posted by: airforce47
Interesting thread and flag for you. Very good questions but at the moment they are mute. The moon has a very fine volcanic glass like dust which is electrostatic in nature. It bothered the Apollo astronauts and could have led to disaster as it cut through 3 layers of Kevlar on one of the suits. It's most likely the cause of the recent Chinese rover failure and so far no way has been found to deal with the problem. Until a way is found to neutralize the moon dust and render it harmless there most likely won't be any long term colonies on the moon. My best,

That's incredible. I've heard of this issue in a very vague sense, but I had no idea it was such a severe threat. Previously I imagined the issue was comparable to sand clogging up filters or obstructing movement of parts. I've heard it compared to "fine volcanic glass like dust" before, but I hadn't heard that it was chewing through their equipment. Still, I imagine they must have encountered this issue on each mission, including Apollo 11. It wasn't such a problem that they cancelled Apollo 12 pending further research, so why should it necessarily prevent a lunar colony? Still, I had no idea moon dust was so abrasive, and I agree that a resolution to the problem would require address.

Doing a quick search I see that there's a variety of materials available today which claim to possess several times the abrasion resistance of Kevlar. How much of that is just marketing nonsense, and how well these materials would withstand moon dust specifically I certainly can't say. I can say that I see that NASA has over the past few years invested in several projects intent on developing technologies for adequate anti-abrasive materials specifically for the purpose of combating moon dust. Regrettably, NASA's website seems less than enthusiastic about permitting me access to information with regard to this research, preventing me from accessing the PDF files with titles relevant to the subject. Still, I'm entirely confident that NASA is capable of developing adequate materials, particularly considering that they're researching them now and have already announced an inclination to construct a lunar base.

What I think surprises me the most about this though is the fact that this material, which was so destructive to their equipment during Apollo EVAs, didn't also cause serious harm to the astronauts upon returning to the lander and command module, removing their suits, thus exposing their bodies to the dust, not to mention the less protected internal equipment of the craft. You'd think someone would've returned home with a rash, difficulty breathing or a scratched lens of the eye. I imagine then that if they survived the ride back without serious incident, then adequacy may be found in an airlock pressurizing then jettisoning its atmosphere, as it should remove a large quantity of the offending dust, or would some similar approach. So, it sounds like it's all about gaining abrasion resistant material for their suits, which I expect is within their grasp. Fascinating situation though.



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 02:13 AM
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a reply to: LABTECH767



launching it on the moon's orbital trailing side would increase lunar orbital velocity and placing it on the dark side of the moon would push the moon into an eliptical orbit s
So, are all those rocket launches from Earth changing its orbit?
But you know the Moon rotates, right? Any location on its "trailing side" would be on its "leading side" two weeks later. Any location on the "dark side" would be on the "light side" two weeks later.


edit on 4/23/2016 by Phage because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 02:27 AM
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a reply to: Phage

It most certainly does rotate but in Synchronization with the earth which is how it keep's one side facing toward us, launching into the orbital leading direction form the obitial leading side of the moon would nearly precisely (maybe slightly over but not by much) compensate for the reduction in lunar material, now I know that just like any other world in the solar system the moon gain's mass over time from partical bombardment from space but it is often from all directions so in theory compensates for itself and I know that any change in orbital trajectorys caused by our action's would be so minuscule as to appear insignificant on the whole but it is with an eye to the future and making our footprint less harmful that I suggest this point, think if we began massive lunar mining operations and shipped trillions of ton's of resourced back to earth then that impact is not any longer so small, the moon is huge and the impact would be negligable but it would be present nonetheless.

When I referred to the dark side it was not a good choice of word's, I meant the side facing away from the earth, you are though that was just a grammatical point.


edit on 23-4-2016 by LABTECH767 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 02:28 AM
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a reply to: LABTECH767




It most certainly does rotate but in Synchronization with the earth which is how it keep's one side facing toward us, launching into the orbital leading direction form the obitial leading side of the moon would nearly precisely

So. Mobile launching platforms would be the most effective means of material transport to Earth?


Do you realize that your entire post was one sentence? Until you added another?

edit on 4/23/2016 by Phage because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 02:38 AM
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a reply to: Phage

Good point and far more practical, a mobile all in one mining and launch delivery system, but rather I envisage a fixed space port on the orbital exact leading equatorial region of the moon were all mining resources would be shipped for final transport back to earth, orbiting the moon after launch would allow them to both be packaged into delivery train's and to select the most economic trajectory's for earth delivery or earth orbital capture, direct launch such as mass driver delivery from any other location would have detrimental orbital factors and though they would be tiny and even regarded at the time to be of no concern over million's of years there effect would be felt in the orbital pathway the moon would follow, actually as you know the moon is creeping away extremely slowly and this kind of fixed counter orbital launch system would provide a negligable thrust as well which would slightly compensate and slow the moon's progression stabilizing it's orbit.



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 02:41 AM
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a reply to: LABTECH767

Well, no one could accuse you of having short term concerns.

Millions of years. My guess would be that, if we're around, in millions of years we'll be able to push the Moon (hell, planets) around at will.



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 02:52 AM
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a reply to: Phage

Oh that is too true, but what if we are not but our action's are, maybe someone else arises after us so is it really fair to them, our younger sibling's if we wreck the bedroom leaving it a ruin before leaving home or should we as a sentient species think beyond our usually selfish and human narcissistic tendency to be more constructive about our assent (assuming we don't go the way of the dodo within the next few hundred year's).

For me though perhaps it would lead to a branching species and the human race innevitably splitting into new race's more at home in there new environment's we do need to expand our horizon's far beyond the earth, if we ever do then our race (or it's descendant's whom may not always be recognizably human) will indeed then be around for million's of year's and perhap's even longer.

Of course what I am talking about is after our initial period of Lunar ground breaking, not from the get go as it would take time to implement such infrastructure and small operations to first prove the viability of the scheme's involved, but God forbid we should allow the corporation's to run the show without some form of ethical oversight in the longer period, the last thing they care about is aftermath, only profit and short term share price matter to them.



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 03:10 AM
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originally posted by: Phage
The presence of 3He on the Moon is known. Its overall abundance is not. A single sample is not sufficient to determine overall abundance. Just as the concentration of minerals vary on Earth's surface, so would they vary anywhere. At any rate, 13ppb could hardly be called "abundant". The level of industrialization necessary to utilize such "abundance" would require far more than a lunar colony could be expected to entail.

Yes you're of course right. I was impressed by the notion of greater than a million tons of the material being estimated on the lunar surface, but if its spread across 14.6 million miles of the Moons surface, it would seem a rather resource intensive project to acquire those 13ppb. Still, I have no idea of what might be involved in sifting the moon dust for these isotopes. I've no idea what equipment would be required, how much it would cost to obtain those isotopes, nor even how much revenue each isotope would yield, let alone whether or not such an operation would be profitable. I'd guess that if we wanted the Helium-3 that we could obtain it, but I'd also guess that if we haven't the ability to construct reactors to utilize it, the effort wouldn't be very profitable. It sounds as though it'd be like going out've your way to sell diamonds to a culture which places no value in them.

I've just determined that US industrial consumption of Helium-3 currently equates to 60,000 liters per year, and at its high was priced at $2000 per liter. It appears one would require about 77 parts of those 13ppb to obtain a single liter. If NASA were then to saturate the market its own Helium-3, selling 100% of the Helium-3 purchased in America at the quoted high, it would still only stand to gain $120,000,000 in revenue. In today's money, the Apollo program is quoted as costing $110,000,000,000. That's quite a bit more than NASA would appear to stand to gain from Helium-3 sales, and that's not even considering the expenses which would be involved in extracting, refining, packaging and selling. It looks like that without those fusion reactors becoming a thing, an He-3 mining colony wouldn't be a very good business decision.

Though, both China and Google seem interested in acquiring the resource. It could be that if one's taking a trip to the moon anyway, or establishing a lunar base anyway, then it might then be worth extracting He-3 and shuttling back on return trips, as a cost reduction measure rather than as a means for profit. That is, since the space flight itself was going to happen anyway, one could ignore the transportation costs when assessing profit. But, I'm rambling I know.



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 03:20 AM
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originally posted by: BigBrotherDarkness
a reply to: Navarro

Since there is water under the surface why not go te simpler route of hydrogen reactor... the split can make the much needed oxygen as well.

I considered that earlier, but at the time He-3 extraction seemed more promising, and so an He-3 reactor seemed more fitting. Now, of course, He-3 seems more questionable, and thus the incentive for a lunar colony equally questionable. I wouldn't expect anyone to sink hundreds of billions into a project without a damn good reason, and a promise of profit would've been an excellent reason.

If such a colony required a reactor and He-3 wasn't in the plan, then a more conventional reactor would seem called for. Though, a conventional breeder reactor requires a great deal of water, and it appears that water would be too scarce on the moon for such a means of energy production. In that case, if one's not pursuing He-3, then we return to consideration of something less resource intensive such as solar panels.



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 03:33 AM
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originally posted by: OneBigMonkeyToo
Simpler maybe, but whichever method you choose you first have to get the equipment up there to do the job. The key to lunar survival is energy production, because it will be needed to provide every need you have, and even if you choose a relatively simple one like solar power you are still going to need to transport vast numbers of solar panels up there to give you what you need not just during the lunar day but also the lunar night, so you need lots of batteries. While all this is being done you still need to keep whoever is building it alive.

If you look at how big a rocket is required just to get a few tonnes to the moon, and how long it takes (please let's not turn this into another Apollo argument thread), it would take an immense number of launches just to get the basics there, then more to get the construction sorted.

I think it can be done, and I hope it does, but I think it would require a a substantial resource commitment from many nations to get it done, and it would take quite some time to achieve.

I once investigated how much weight an Apollo Saturn V was capable of transporting to the moon. From Earth surface to lunar orbit, it's payload capacity was a whopping 80 tons, or two fully-loaded semi-trailers. Naturally, you couldn't load the rocket with nothing but cargo. You'd presumably need someone to steer it, life support to keep that someone alive, enough fuel for a return trip, equipment to get that cargo down to the lunar surface, and so forth. I expect that we're still talking about having a fairly decent cargo capacity in the end though. You needn't me to tell you that it would be possible, but I think we can both agree that it would be expensive. We've gone there before though, and NASA says it wants to return - it says it wants to establish a base there. So the difficulty and expense involved in getting there and constructing a lunar base seems within reason from NASA's perspective. The question then is, what would this colony look like?



posted on Apr, 23 2016 @ 05:14 AM
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originally posted by: LABTECH767
a reply to: Navarro

Great thread, it is not just feasible but it is actually essential that we establish a (Civilian) colony on the moon and maintain a presence there for our won technological and species development, I am actually against mining the moon for a number of reason's but mining it and using what is there for lunar projects is perfectly acceptable.

If however we mine the moon and bring the material back to the earth then we need to place a single launch facility or place all the launch facilitys for the lunar to terra transport of material for the whole mining operation on the moon's oribital leading side so that the removal of material is compensated for by the thrust used to take it off the moon, placing it on the earth facing side would create a tiny thrust that would push the moon away at the same time as reducing it's mass (we would never notice it but it would still be there), launching it on the moon's orbital trailing side would increase lunar orbital velocity and placing it on the dark side of the moon would push the moon into an eliptical orbit so the removal of trillion's of ton's of H3 and other assets should only be done by launching into the moon's orbital direction from it's orbital leading side.

Tiny nagging factors aside we NEED to colonise the moon as a species, especially if we really care about our descendant's because to do otherwise would be a crime against them? and leave our race even more exposed to potential extinction event's as well as hamper our further development.

I'd imagine that if we were to establish a lunar colony, then we can anticipate that the Moon would eventually become a major port for intra-system travel, because we'd certainly go on to take advantage of the Moon's lower gravity and come to launch the majority of our missions from there. I imagine that if we're to construct a major starport on the moon, we may be inclined to do so at whichever location would prove most advantageous with regard to energy necessary to achieve escape velocity and orbit. From there I assume the energy required to achieve a transfer is the same regardless of your orbital position. Which position would yield the cheapest launches? Would that position change depending on the ultimate destination of the mission? For instance, if a mission were launched to Earth as opposed to Mars?

I also imagine that given the Moons 1/4 gravity, a rocket shouldn't be necessary to achieve orbit. In that case, a space plane should prove adequate. Given that the initial thrust would be horizontal, as opposed to the vertical thrust of a rocket, any effect on lunar orbit would, I assume, be inconsequential. I've never heard it said that launching from the moon bares the risk of effecting the Moons orbit though. Is this a fact? It seems incredible that such a massive object should be threatened by such things.

Anyway, I'd guess any initial colony would be established at one of the moons poles, where the frozen water is located. According to what little LRO mapping I've viewed, the poles also seem to receive a lower dosage of radiation than other areas of the surface. Granted, it would be advantageous to establish a base at a location less afflicted by meteorites, such as the nearside, but self-sufficiency in relation to oxygen and water production seems to outweigh the need for a less eventful neighborhood, and it's hard to ignore those lower radiation levels. So I'd guess NASA will choose a pole for their outpost, and I'd further guess that they'll choose the southern pole since they seem to have concentrated their research on that pole in particular. LCROSS, Lunar Prospector and Impact Probe for example. You could argue that NASA has so much interest in the southern pole because the LRO is on a polar mapping orbit, but they've got a lot more to say about the southern pole than the northern. I think they like Shackleton in particular, especially it's mountain peaks which provide sunlight for the majority of the day, which would be fantastic for solar power generation as well as for forgoing having to deal with severe temperature variations.

You brought up concerns about launching rockets from every point on the moon except for the poles. How do you feel about a lunar colony at Shackleton? As far as colonizing "for the species," I've never understood this position. Why should we care to establish an ark in order to prevent humanity's extinction? I think it's important to preserve the people from destruction, but not to preserve the species from extinction. If the lives of seven billion humans are extinguished here on Earth today, why's it so fantastic that a handful of humans survive on the Moon? All this "repopulate the Earth" and "preserve our culture and scientific knowledge" stuff I've heard repeated over the years seems very strange to me. What's the motivation? Why would a dead LABTECH767 feel so satisfied that a handful of humans live on?

Look at that, it seems that NASA has already directly indicated that it eyes Shackleton for its colony.



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