Aviation Week: No lunar base?

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j05h

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<i>> Many people? Who?</i><br /><br />Frodo, Holmec, others. Space Cadets all, but they use this "we're going to build it on the Moon" argument to squelch all other space ideas. Read back on this thread and others.<br /><br />EDIT: I don't want to sound like a jerk, but what are the root goals? The VSE. Not ESAS. There are better ways to do these things. The press is only interested in space controversy or danger - "SATELLITE FALLING ON USA!!" shock headlines. We as the space community have influence by spurring intelligent discussion, policy makers and reporters obviously read some of these boards. Frodo and Holmec provide their own interesting views that I rely on as well - i especially value their technical skillz. The thing that has become objectionable is the "get on board or else" attitude (not just F&H by far) that is similar to when X33 program collapsed. Fact is that ESAS is not working as advertised. The root is still how to enable the VSE? <br /><br />Josh <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div align="center"><em>We need a first generation of pioneers.</em><br /></div> </div>
 
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j05h

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<i>> If we can't afford to keep maintaining the ISS beyond 2016, what makes you think we can afford a Moon base? We are not going to manufacture anything on the Moon in the next 50 years at minimum.<br />There is nothing on the Moon that we need. Therefore we will not stay for more than a few days/weeks.</i><br /><br />I have to disagree that the Moon has nothing. The view is stunning. A market is definitely there at some price point for watching Earthrise - about $100M for the flyby and how much for 2 weeks in the Lunar Hilton? Lunar exploration has it's own merits, which is what we are discussing, and sorties can make sense well before building a base. There are certainly long-term resources that require a real industrial base, but the Moon has uses now. <br /><br />ISS operations are supposed to shift to another funding mechanism after assembly complete, into some kind of national lab. The money problem is in Ares development with no end in sight and first crew flight receding into infinity. <br /><br />Josh <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div align="center"><em>We need a first generation of pioneers.</em><br /></div> </div>
 
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samkent

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In 2006 0.001% of the Earths population had a net worth of $30 million. That’s on paper, it’s not spare cash on hand. And even if a two week stay was only $100 mil, what percentage of people could afford it? I know you are thinking of when the price of getting there drops. But in the past 40 years we haven’t come up with a way to drop the price. In fact the price has kept up, if not exceeded inflation. Granted upping the launch rate will give a bit of savings, but not the orders of magnitude needed to spur tourism.<br />I can’t imagine any president supporting increased funding to build a lunar base. A base that will give nothing in return. <br /><br />What tangible benefit has the ISS gave us? More experience living in space? That’s just a PR phrase. All we got was more experience with dead astronauts and a congressional designed shuttle? <br /><br />The ISS has sucked the life out of NASA and so would a lunar base. <br />
 
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j05h

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<i>> Granted upping the launch rate will give a bit of savings, but not the orders of magnitude needed to spur tourism. </i><br /><br />Flight frequency is the single most important factor, and it does have the potential to bring launch costs down by an order of magnitude. Soyuz and Proton are excellent examples, Falcon promises a native solution to same. The thing to pay attention to is "cost" vs. "price". $500/lb spacelaunch enables all sorts of tourism and other space industry.<br /><br /><i>>What tangible benefit has the ISS gave us? More experience living in space? That’s just a PR phrase. All we got was more experience with dead astronauts and a congressional designed shuttle?</i><br /><br />ISS is international cooperation, relation-building (TTI, JAXA, ESA) and a side helping of science. It is a political and research station. STS preceded ISS by almost 2 decades. AF had hand in design, STS was extremely comprehensive. Experience has to be documented to be really effective.<br /><br /><i>> The ISS has sucked the life out of NASA and so would a lunar base. </i><br /><br />The Lunar base can be affordable and expansive, if it's part of a larger system. <br /><br />Josh <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div align="center"><em>We need a first generation of pioneers.</em><br /></div> </div>
 
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halman

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samkent,<br /><br />There are several ways to lower launch costs. One of them is to mass-produce launchers on an assembly line, knowing that we will use them at some point in the future.<br /><br />Many people think of Thomas Jefferson as being a brilliant man, who understood many things that escaped the average person, yet I believe it was him who said that the United States would not be able to utilize the Louisiana Purchase until the year 2600. The acquisition of Alaska was called 'Seward's Folly', in reference to the Secretary of the Interior who negotiated with the Russians for what was considered to be 'worthless wastes'. Considering that the Moon is made up of most of the same elements as the Earth, believing that there is nothing that we can use there strikes me as being shortsighted.<br /><br />I am probably the only person on these boards who believes that the most important aspect of a lunar base would have nothing to do with resources, position in the gravity well, preparation for further exploration, or any other tangible asset, but I firmly maintain that no other achievement will affect the public like the establishment of a base on the Moon. There is no other off planet destination which is as visible as the Moon, as easy to understand for a layman in terms of where we are going as the Moon. I simply cannot believe that any other effort will alter people's perceptions about space as much as a base on the Moon would, because anywhere else is just a point of light in the sky, but the Moon is a 'place'.<br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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kelvinzero

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>I have to disagree that the Moon has nothing. The view is stunning...<p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br /><br />that verges on irony <img src="/images/icons/wink.gif" />
 
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samkent

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In 2003 the estimate for duplicating the Apollo missions was 175 billion.<br />At the time there were 131 million tax payers. That comes out to $1332 each.<br /><br />It’s not worth $1300 for a few jpegs or a couple of youtube videos. Because that’s all most of us will get out of a ‘Man on the Moon’ mission.<br /><br />We can get that much from a rover or two for far less money.<br /><br />Plus if we build a simple base there the price would surely double. That doesn’t cover the ‘re-supply’ missions as we do not know how to ‘live off the land’. Imagine if Columbus told the Spanish crown to keep sending re-supply ships because he can’t find food or repair parts along the way!<br /> <br />We’re centuries away from being able to live off the land as we go. <br />There is no promise of water on the Moon.<br />If there is, there is no reliable way to convert it into O2. You can’t have a lunarnaut hacking chunks of ice and dropping it into a hopper. This process would be a full time job for someone even with specialized equipment.<br />Then you have the food problem. In the end you come back full circle. WHY? Not on my nickel.<br /><br />Lets just do an asteroid mission as our next stunt and call it a day.<br />
 
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radarredux

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> <i><font color="yellow"> am probably the only person on these boards who believes that the most important aspect of a lunar base would have nothing to do with resources, position in the gravity well, preparation for further exploration, or any other tangible asset, but I firmly maintain that no other achievement will affect the public like the establishment of a base on the Moon.</font>/i><br /><br />I think many people would agree on its incredible psychological importance, but there are two problems with this. First, we have been on the Moon already, so its psychological value is greatly diminished. Even by the end of the few short years of the Apollo program people had really stopped paying attention.<br /><br />Second, and related to the first, is whether a base would be politically sustainable. Clearly Apollo wasn't. In fact, a huge percentage of the population in the 1960s were against the money being spent on the program. Even now public opinion is very tepid to the idea of the money being spent on VSE.<br /><br />Of course, the same will be true of NEO missions, Mars missions, etc. There must be a reasonable reason beyond just being there in order to sustain the effort, money, and the inevitable loss of life.</i>
 
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radarredux

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> <i><font color="yellow">I am probably the only person on these boards who believes that the most important aspect of a lunar base would have nothing to do with resources, position in the gravity well, preparation for further exploration, or any other tangible asset, but I firmly maintain that no other achievement will affect the public like the establishment of a base on the Moon.</font>/i><br /><br />I think a good alternative model is the nascent suborbital tourist market. When Burt Rutan's team won the Ansari X-Prize, it garnered a huge amount of media coverage and positive public attention despite that fact that governments had been doing far more impressive feats for decades. Now the field is attracting millions of dollars of private investment to build out this new industry. Part of the explanation for this excitement that I have heard a number times is that people can look at this endeavor and, in a sense, see themselves participating, that they too could possibly go into space. There is none of that hope and excitement in the general public for the national space programs.<br /><br />I think ultimately something similar has to happen with manned space beyond LEO. Maybe in 10-30 years the economy will have grown enough, and costs can be brought down enough, that there will be a substantial number of people with enough wealth to travel to the Moon or Mars as tourists or settlers. Maybe on a NEO, Mars, or distant moon signs of life will be found, and that will generate huge amounts of excitement to learn more about our position in the Universe. Maybe PGMs or other resources will be found to justify the costs of an extensive beyond LEO industrial effort. Maybe a second colonial age will begin as nations try to race each other to make property claims on distant lands.<br /><br />There are lots of "maybe"s here, but the main point is that I think there must be something else proffered up beyond what has already been articulated by the President and NASA</i>
 
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j05h

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<i>> the main point is that I think there must be something else proffered up beyond what has already been articulated by the President and NASA in order to draw enough energy, hope, excitement, and money to build a long-term, substantial, and sustainable beyond LEO manned space effort.</i><br /><br />Property rights. Claim-stakes, zone-of-control and Colony Charters. Those are things the government can do at zero cost, now, to spur space development. Without those things, the investment won't come.<br /><br />It's pretty obvious that you (as a company or govt) own a space station you place in LEO. What about one on the Moon? The Outer Space Treaty can be argued communist- so you might not own that station. What about claiming the 10km around your Mars base? Can you go to a bank having placed a probe on an asteroid, claiming to own it? Not sure, so the bank is going to laugh you off. <br /><br />Being able to make solid property claims in space would go a long way toward sustainability.<br /><br />Josh <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> <div align="center"><em>We need a first generation of pioneers.</em><br /></div> </div>
 
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vulture2

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>>governments had been doing far more impressive feats [then Rutan] for decades. <br /><br />If Rutan is able to reach his cost targets, he will be flying passengers into space much less expensively than has ever been done before. Cost and efficiency are as worthy of recognition as performance.<br /><br />As for the lunar base, I have to recall the reporter who asked people on the street what they thought of Apollo 12, our second manned lunar landing. A common reply: "What, we're going back??? But we've already been there." The announcements of reduced emphasis on lunar flight by some candidates have not been met with major opposition, supporting my contention that there is no major base of public support for it.<br /><br />Moreover I am not convinced that a lunar base would bring sustained public excitement, or that public excitement is a justification for human spaceflight. It should be productive in itself, and that means cost must be reduced. <br />
 
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halman

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RadarRedux,<br /><br />Having lived through the entire Apollo Program, I remember how electrified the world was when Apollo 11 touched down. But by the time that Apollo 12 landed, it was obvious that there was no plan to stay, to do anything, these were simply stunts. NASA had a few concepts that it made public, but they were 'wish list' items, not funded even for further development. Interest quickly waned in the program, and resentment grew, because we were not DOING anything on the Moon, except playing tourist, and each mission was hugely expensive. Even the Moon Car inspired derisive commentary, instead of recognizing it as the tool of exploration that it was. Somehow, the public seemed to grasp that this was a dead end, merely an exhibition of technological superiority.<br /><br />The knowledge that there were people on the Moon living and working would be far different than the reports that another two men had spent a day or so on the Moon, because there would be a sense of purpose behind maintaining a presence at a Lunar base, I believe. The total lack of any follow up, of any long term plans, in our exploration of the Moon was a complete public relations disaster for the space program, in my opinion, which it still has not recovered from.<br /><br />Everything must be done to make the public aware that a base on the Moon is to learn what is needed for private enterprise to get established there, not to claim territory, create a military presence, or subsidize the founding of a colony. The only justification the government has in building a manned base on the Moon is to pave the way for the private sector to begin operating there. Everything else can be done robotically. But robots will be far too expensive to pioneer mining methods, develop means of collecting solar energy that are ultra efficient, or any number of other things which will be completely experimental.<br /><br />Once a Lunar mine is in operation, and running smoothly, then the robots can be <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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spacester

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<font color="yellow">I am probably the only person on these boards who believes that the most important aspect of a lunar base would have nothing to do with resources, position in the gravity well, preparation for further exploration, or any other tangible asset, but I firmly maintain that no other achievement will affect the public like the establishment of a base on the Moon. There is no other off planet destination which is as visible as the Moon, as easy to understand for a layman in terms of where we are going as the Moon. I simply cannot believe that any other effort will alter people's perceptions about space as much as a base on the Moon would, because anywhere else is just a point of light in the sky, but the Moon is a 'place'. </font><br /><br />You are NOT alone halman. I am on the same page. Beautifully put, you have refined your position to a tee. I agree, I firmly agree, with the word and spirit of that paragraph. That line of thought is foundational to my thinking about the moon.<br /><br />You want the gummint to perform the role it has played historically. That's where you and I part ways. I am of the opinion that those days are gone. There has been a fundamental, irreversible shift in the real-politics of funding large projects. The historical examples can only be offered as analogies in the first place, but this fundamental shift has made all the analogies invalid. That's my firm opinion, so my logical development proceeds from the assumption that the government funded mega-project is dead.<br /><br />The old mind-set is dead and we need to find a new mind-set to get this job done. I think a mega-project is still in play, but the path to making it happen will be as radical a departure from what came before as is the idea of free-flying in shirtsleeves with wings you strap on and flap. Ooops, sorry, getting ahead of myself there. :)<br /><br />These kinds of discussions were among the ideas that led me to derive a solution. I've been waiting fo <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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halman

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samkent,<br /><br />I would like to believe that enough has been learned about space technology that merely sending people to the Moon will be somewhat cheaper than the original Apollo program cost. And we really have no idea what maintaining a base on the Moon will cost, because we have never tried to do anything like it. Surely, automated rockets can carry some supplies to a lunar base, so every consumable used does not have to be piloted to the Moon by a human. And the increase in launch frequency is almost guaranteed to bring costs down, as rockets are produced on an assembly line, instead of one at a time by hand.<br /><br />Locating the mineral deposits of the Moon will be a combination of orbital surveys in magnetic fields, seismic soundings with explosive charges, and test wells for core samples. Excavation on the Moon might be as simple as drilling a hole big enough for a small nuclear device to be lowered a hundred meters, and then standing back. Collecting the debris would be simple, as it would be lying all around the crater, if the charge is the correct type, and extremely low residue nuclear fission explosions are eminently possible.<br /><br />These materials are what will make the exploitation of the Moon a lucrative effort, I believe, by providing the raw materials for the zero-gravity orbital factories. But no one will know if we never go there, and we are certain to find things that we never imagined if we do. In the process, we can drive the cost of accessing space down to the point where the private sector is willing to invest in the technology required. The government has got to get out of the launch business as soon as possible, but there has to be a reliable, established business to replace it, so that the various applications using satellites can be serviced.<br /><br />This is a unique situation, because private investment has always supplanted government early in the development of nearly every technology. (Where allowed.) But the costs <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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samkent

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There could be titanium bars laying on the lunar surface and it still wouldn’t be profitable in a business sense.<br /><br />Titanium = $1800/troy oz<br />1000lbs = $19.5 million<br /><br />Clearly mining is not going to happen.<br />There is nothing there that we don’t have here, substantially cheaper.<br />The concept of building rockets there, to travel elsewhere is almost ludicrous. It must be all of those TV shows and movies.<br /><br />Only tourism has the potential to be profitable. Even then the customers would have to pay the entire cost of the rockets and launch services, plus a profit. <br /><br />Never mind the hardware, I wonder what the fuel costs would be for a round trip? Can anyone say “Fuel Surcharge”?<br />
 
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centsworth_II

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<font color="yellow">"Titanium = $1800/troy oz<br />1000lbs = $19.5 million"</font><br /><br /><img src="/images/icons/laugh.gif" />Right. Try sending even a robotic mission to the moon to pick up <br />those pure titanium bars and return them to Earth at a profit! <img src="/images/icons/laugh.gif" /><br /><br /> <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> </div>
 
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halman

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samkent,<br /><br /><br />I agree that the Moon will be a major tourist attraction, but I think that the revenue generated by such tourism eventually will be a fraction of the wealth generated from exploiting the Moon. I maintain this opinion based upon the belief that manufacturing in solar orbit is going to become a major enterprise, simply because we can do things there cheaply that we either cannot do on Earth, or which are prohibitively expensive on Earth.<br /><br />Aluminum from the Moon will become a major commodity, I believe, because we can do things with aluminum in zero-gravity which are completely impossible here on Earth. By injecting gas into molten aluminum, and then annealing, or cooling the aluminum very slowly, we can manufacture ultra lightweight, yet super-strong items from this common metal. And these parts will be in demand, I am sure, as energy costs force the development of extremely lightweight vehicles, aircraft, and even space ships.<br /><br />I don't see manufacturing happening on the Moon for a very long time, if ever, but I am certain that we will mine the body extensively, because we can launch ore from the Moon without using rockets. An electromagnetic catapult would be capable of accelerating payloads to escape velocity, which means that raw materials from the Moon will be substantially cheaper than raw materials lifted from Earth, or just about anywhere else in the Solar System. <div class="Discussion_UserSignature"> The secret to peace of mind is a short attention span. </div>
 
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kelvinzero

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I sincerely hope mining is going to happen, though obviously the motivation isnt going to be to make profit in the short term or even the medium term.<br /><br />Reasons could be:<li> To eventually provide materials to other projects at a cheaper cost than launching from the earth. Oxygen is the most obvious one.<li> To actually build something substancial on another world that will not fall back to earth the moment we lose interest in it.<br /><br />I admit that these are very hard problems, but to me they feel like one of the three or four truely worthwhile hard problems we face.<br /><br />Perhaps the only money to be made is from fulfilling the hopes of people like me but after 30 or so years of the alternative, there could be quite a bit of that sort of money lying around</li></li>
 
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no_way

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<blockquote><font class="small">In reply to:</font><hr /><p>titanium = $1800/troy oz<p><hr /></p></p></blockquote><br />Try something like rhodium or rhenium.<br />Its not the market price that matters, by the way. Its the availability and enabled products. <br />There are lots of organizations in the world that are not satisfied or secure about availability of precious resources on earth. Take the recent news about South African power outages, which is severely impacting the mining industry there already. Now look up how much market prices for several important metals are impacted by such seemingly simple thing.
 
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neilsox

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'> Opening up a new frontier means learning how to extract wealth from it as soon as possible. We probably can find resources which will be easier to extract once we develop a catalog of NEO's, but the meantime, we could be extracting resources from the Moon, and making money off of it. Creation of wealth is the name of the game, because greed is what drives investment. As long as space exploration is viewed as primarily a quest for scientific knowledge, funding is going to be difficult to obtain. If off planet exploitation becomes recognized as a way to make money, then getting money will be no problem. I agree 100%. There has to be an economic reason to exploit another world, for the benefits of the rest of us stranded on Earth. I saw a program on the moon where they heated just the moon dust to a temperature of about 800 Deg. F and got water out of it! From there you have oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for rocket fuel. There are also large deposits of titanium that was already mapped on the moon (for vehicles, structures, etc.). I doubt you'd get any of this from an asteroid (although I could be wrong), and definitly not from L1. One last comment. Why does NASA have to do it alone? Why not swallow your pride, and team up with the ESA, and just do it!</p><p>I read recently that there are tiny asteroids at Earth-Sun L1 and L2. These likely have much the same&nbsp;resources as the moon with much less gravity. The cost&nbsp;of a base and the lead time may be no higher than for the moon's surface, and a base on a near Earth asteroid should be quicker and cheaper, but the Moon is better for PR reasons.&nbsp;&nbsp; Neil&nbsp;<br />Posted by kyle_baron</DIV><br /></p>
 
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frodo1008

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<p><BR/>Replying to:<BR/><DIV CLASS='Discussion_PostQuote'>There could be titanium bars laying on the lunar surface and it still wouldn&rsquo;t be profitable in a business sense. Titanium = $1800/troy oz 1000lbs = $19.5 million Clearly mining is not going to happen. There is nothing there that we don&rsquo;t have here, substantially cheaper. The concept of building rockets there, to travel elsewhere is almost ludicrous. It must be all of those TV shows and movies. Only tourism has the potential to be profitable. Even then the customers would have to pay the entire cost of the rockets and launch services, plus a profit. Never mind the hardware, I wonder what the fuel costs would be for a round trip? Can anyone say &ldquo;Fuel Surcharge&rdquo;? <br /> Posted by samkent</DIV></p> <p>In the first place the materials on the moon are NOT going to be smelted and then sent back to the Earth to be used.&nbsp; These materials are going to be used in space to build a true space faring civilization.&nbsp; In that case your following statement:</p> <p>"There is nothing there that we don&rsquo;t have here, substantially cheaper."</p> <p>Is totally incorrect!&nbsp; It is incorrect because it does not take into account the very high (at least $10,000 per pound of material to get just to LEO, let alone further out) cost of launching materials off of the Earth itself.</p> <p>It is indeed true that initially building a mining operation on the moon is going to be very expensive.&nbsp; But once in place literally millions of tons of space age materials can be shipped off of the moon for a very small fraction of what it would take to get such materials up from the Earth.</p> <p>The moon has such a small gravity well of only 0.16 g, and no atmosphere at all.&nbsp; This means that an electrical system can be used to actually throw either raw materials off of the moon (to be processed in space), or such materials smelted on the moon itself and then thrown off of the moon to be further processed in space.<span>&nbsp; </span></p> <p>And even this is to say nothing of the fact that Apollo was just a very bare beginning of the exploration of the moon itself.<span>&nbsp; </span>For instance, just how many people have we actually had exploring the entire hidden (not dark from the Earth, but hidden) side of the moon?<span>&nbsp; </span>How about NONE!</p> <p>Even on the visible side we have an area larger than the state of Texas, and we have explored an area smaller than the San Fernando Valley!<span>&nbsp; </span>Even the actual Apollo astronauts were well aware of this.<span>&nbsp; </span>We have NOT been there and done THAT, not at ALL!!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p>
 
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