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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Moonbat Idea from Newt?

Timothy Birdnow

In regards to Moonbat Newt's Lunie Moonbase (which I argue is not at all Loonie at CFP, turns out I'm not the only one picking up on that Helium 3 business. Jim Hoft, the Gateway Pundit, has a piece discussing the matter.

From the blogpost:

"Some experts estimate there a millions of tons in lunar soil — and that a single Space-Shuttle load would power the entire United States for a year. Both China and Russia have stated their nations’ interest in helium-3."

He goes on to quote an article in Discovery News: Discovery News reports,
"Thanks to a critical shortage last year, the price of the isotope helium-3 has skyrocketed from $150 per liter to $5,000 per liter.

Helium wasn’t technically “discovered” on Earth until about 1895, despite being abundant in the universe. Almost all of the global supply of helium is located within 250 miles of Amarillo, Texas; it’s distilled from accumulated natural gas and extracted during the refining process.

Since the 1920s, the US has considered its helium stockpile as an important strategic natural resource, amassing some 32 billion cubic feet in an underground bunker in Texas, but for several years now, it’s been selling off that stockpile bit by bit to interested industrial buyers.

Helium is used for arc welding and leak detection, mostly, although NASA uses it to pressurize space shuttle fuel tanks. Liquid helium cools infrared detectors, nuclear reactors, and the superconducting magnets used in MRI machines, too. The fear is that, at current consumption rates, that underground bunker will be empty within 20 years, leaving the earth almost helium-free by the end of the 21st century. This could be bad for US industry."

End excerpt.

Get that? Helium 3 is selling for five grand a litre! That's more expensive than caviar, more expensive than the Kobe beef that Obama is so fond of, even more expensive than a gallon of gasoline in an Obama dream world. And we're going to just sit here and let the Chinese and Russians get it!

The Moon has other rare earth materials worth going after. We need to go there.

And Newt isn't a johnny-come-lately to this; in 1981 he introduced a bill that would manage lunar settlement and set up a way for a moon colony to become a state of the Union!

From Instapundit:

"It looks like the bill was introduced in the 97th Congress as HR 4286, The National Space and Aeronautics Policy Act of 1981. Title IV of the bill dealt with the government of space territories.

The bill had 12 cosponsors — both R’s & D’s, including Tim Wirth, Robert Roe, Charlie Wilson, Bob Dornan, & Ed Derwinski."

End excerpt.

So Newt has been thinking ahead on this issue for some time. And what would be wrong with making the Moon (a planet with the surface area of Africa and room for even more as we would have to settle underground, thus making it actually larger in terms of space than the Earth which is largely a surface-only proposition) the 51st. state? It's close enough for nearly instant communication, and with the internet the settlers would hardly be cut off. The main problem would be the gravity; can children grow in low G? Will people who live on the Moon be able to tolerate a trip to Earth? Maybe not - but that's the whole point of trying. They won't have any shortage of volunteers. (I'd volunteer myself; with my bad heart I might live longer in low G.)

What would a lunar colony be like? It would have to be underground. First off, cosmic rays would zap any surface dwellers (the astronauts reported seeing cosmic rays as flashes on their retinas - even when their eyes were closed.) The big danger, though, are solar storms. If you were on the surface during a solar storm you would die. A moonbase would have to be buried under the lunar regolith. At first, it would be a small affair, just some buried rooms. It would be oppressive. But over time it could would be possible to build much bigger structures.

One suggestion is to build in a rille. Lunar rilles are giant canyons, the remains of collapsed lava flow tubes. They radiate like spokes on a bicycle wheel from impact craters. Build a domed structure in a rille and blast the sides of the canyon, collapsing the dirt onto the dome. Voila! Instant settlement.

But there are numerous flow tubes that haven't collapsed and wont collapse, and some go quite deep into the Moon. We've found the entrances to a couple. A lava flow tube is a long cavern that forms as hot molten lava flows from a volcanoe or impact site. The surrounding matter cools faster than the flowing lava (which is moving) and the tube the lava is flowing through closes up on one end and the lava flows right out, leaving a long hollow tube, usually with a flat bottom. On Earth they tend to be small, but in low gravity they can be huge. On the Moon they can be hundreds of miles long and dozens of miles wide.

And study of the flow tubes we've found on the Moon suggest they are about -50* Fahrenheit. On Earth we would call this bitterly cold, but it drops that low in SOUTHERN Alaska and people live through it. Night time temperatures on the Moon drop to -250, making it far, far colder and requiring much more energy to bring up to a comfortable temperature. The daytime temperature of250* does not affect the tube, which remains pretty constantly cold. A colony could be built in one of these tubes. The proponderance of silicates in the lunar soil would make the walls of such a tube glasslike, so it would be rather like living in a gigantic greenhouse (minus the sun, which could be brought in with periscopes). All that would be needed would be a way to bring in sunlight, power (available from sunlight, or a nuclear reactor) and a pressurized environment. Oxygen is plentiful on the Moon. Lunar dust could be converted into dirt by microorganisms. Water could be brought in from permanently shadowed spots in craters and whatnot.

Eventually such a habitat would be enormous, and not at all like living in a basement. It would appear to the inhabitants like a world, with ceilings hundreds of feet above and miles of open ground, You could have rivers, streams, lakes, forests, and beaches there. Careful use of mirrors would give you the sun, and perhaps the Earth (which would be an impressive night view). Settle near the poles and you don't have the problem of a two week day/night cycle. Use nuclear power in places away from the poles to generate sunlight at night.

Oh, and the first settlers would be able to fly with muscle-powered wings. Those growing up on the Moon would probably be too weak, unless they spend a fair amount of time in higher gravity.

Gravity will be the main problem; we have no real substitute for gravity on a world. In space centrifugal force (yes, I know; that's an illusion, the result of centripidal acceleration) can be used to make a kind of gravity, but that won't work on a planetary body like the Moon. And it is a serious consideration; a 240 lb. man will only weight 40 lbs. on the Moon, and his muscles will atrophy quickly. Returnees from the space station are just about invalids for a time (of course, they are in zero G not in 1/6 gravities.) Even if children could be born on the Moon and grow normally, they will be far more fragile and weak than their Earthly cousins. I don't see any way around that. And they will be susceptible to diseases since their habitats will be isolated and more sterile. It may eb that they will never be able to go back to Earth.

But what of it? Earth is the largest terrestrial planet, and if they can live in low G they can go to any other potentially habitable world and get along fine. Mars would be a bit heavy, but, thanks to lower density, Ganymede and Callisto would be like home, as would Titan. Triton, Neptune's moon, would be a bit too light.

Of course, it may be that we can't live in low gravity, which will mean lunar settlements will be temporary places, industrial complexes. That is o.k., too; we could build permanent colonies in orbit and spin them for higher gravity. These suckers could be HUGE; Gerard O'Neil worked out the economics of space colonies and figured his standard colony as twenty to forty miles long by four to ten wide.

Or you could build a Bernal Sphere, a round structure that offers variable gravity for different people.

The hitch in all of this is solar storm shielding; O'Neil never did work out a good way to protect against solar storms. He suggested special shelters for the public during a storm, which is fine for people but not so good for the plants and animals left outside of the shelters (and the whole point is to create an Earthlike environment). It does not take into account what would happen to microorganisms. What kinds of diseases would be created by genetic mutation?

And the cost would be literally astronomical. I don't see space colonies in our near future. But a moonbse is doable.

We've got to start somewhere.

To steal a phrase from a source I can't recall at the moment "if God didn't intend for Man to colonize space he wouldn't have put a whole planet a couple of hundred thousand miles over our heads". We have the only terrestrial planet with such a situation. Mercury and Venus have no moons. Mars has two puny things that look more like asteroids. Yes, Pluto has a giant satellite, but Pluto is no bigger than the Earth's moon and is composed of frozen gases. It's not really a planet but a kind of super sized comet in a more regular orbit. Even the outer planets with their outsized moons aren't like ours in that they are frozen water ice and gases surrounding much smaller rocky cores. Only the Earth has an actual planetary body in orbit. Why we wouldn't be interested in it is beyond me.

Many people oppose going back to the Moon as a waste of time. Some think we should go on to Mars. I think both views are myopic. My essay at Canada Free Press explains my reasons for wanting a permanent American presence on the Moon, and I think Mankind is an expansionistic species that requires more than just the world around him to be happy and productive. A frontier is needed, a place where the energetic, the ambitious, the old line American types, can go and create. A settled world will slide into despair as the walls of civilization grow ever higher. And going to Mars is silly for now; it's too far, and all we will do is go and look at rocks at a huge expense. We will go and not go back in person. Oh, we'll use plenty of robots, but people just won't bother. That isn't what we need; we need people actually living and working out there. We need settlement. We need money to be made. We need competition.

I was reading the comments at Discover magazine about Gingrich's remarks, and the liberal crowd was complaining about Gingrich wanting America to be there first, because they want us all to go together; they believe in globalism, in one world, and don't want one nation to advance over any other. We'll never accomplish anything that way. The space station has been a huge boondoggle because we turned it from an American enterprise and made it an international cooperative effort. Too many cooks spoil the broth. And competition is GOOD, a force that spurs people forward. The liberal beliefs in the inevitability of internationalism and socialism are horribly misplaced; that way will lead to inevitable decay and collapse. Human beings simply are not herd animals. We need individual challenges, and tribal challenges.

We need a frontier. I would like that frontier to be settled by America and her allies. Western Civilization has been the most productive, most fruitful, fairest civilization in history. We have advanced art, science, technology, all of the things that have blessed the world in modern times have been the product of our unique systems of economics, our philosophy, our Judeo-Christian religion. Should China settle space the colonies would be gulags, prisons with people locked under the thumbs of the state. Ditto Russia. I don't mind them coming along, but WE need to be the standard bearers. Our settlements must be homes to freedom, places where people can get away from statism and control. And we'll be happy to bring the poor and downtrodden with us. We're the only ones who would do that.

The future depends on the choices we make in the present. Open space to commerce, to adventurers, to PEOPLE. The problem that the space program suffered from is the elitism of the lucky few chosen to be astronauts. NASa tried to solve that by sending up teachers and other gimmicky things. No. The answer is to make it possible for any person to go. The key is to make it profitable. The key is to make it a frontier and not a nature preserve. The Federal government did that to Alaska, and look how well that worked. Sure, Alaska is pretty, but nobody would call it a great place to move to - and not because it's cold.

If we want a bright future we are going to have to go up there. And to do that we are going to have to settle the Moon. It really is that simple.

Here is an interesting paper discussing ways to build a moon base.

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