Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Moon Race

The recent discovery of what could possibly turn out to be trillions of metric tonnes of water on the Moon may be creating the next big "rush" to grab that valuable resource.

On Earth, we take for granted the abundance of water. But, in space, water is the most valuable resource of all and, so far, all of the water we've used in space has had to be transported from the Earth at an enormous expense. That's why all water is recycled on the Space Station---it's more valuable than Gold by far.

If you didn't know, water can be broken down into its constituent elements, hydrogen and oxygen, and used to fuel rockets. Having an accessible source of rocket fuel in space means that access to all the other resources in the solar system is made considerably easier.

For instance, whomever builds a facility on the Moon which can transform the water resources there into rocket fuel will mean that a lunar lander can refuel on the surface of the Moon. Rockets which need to go to Mars or other destinations in the solar system will be able to be refueled at this lunar "filling station", making it much cheaper than hauling all that rocket fuel up from Earth's gravity well.

Of more immediate importance, we have a very valuable set of satellites in orbit around the Earth. Currently, servicing those satellites is far too expensive because of the energy it takes to lift equipment and personnel out of Earth's powerful gravity "well". Our economy, however, has become dependent upon these satellite resources and would be severely damaged were those resources to be threatened. Moreover, there is evidence that the Chinese have developed a network of space-based anti-satellite weapons which threaten our satellite resources. With our military forces heavily-dependent upon its network of military satellites, that becomes our Achilles Heel. A Moon-based "service center" could both service our current inventory of satellites as well as to provide our military with the ability to quickly launch replacements to restore service should a space war break out which damages our existing network. Thus, a Moon base provides the ability to recover quickly from a hostile strike against our military and economy.

And, in the long run, having a manned position on the high ground of the Moon means that any nation wishing to attack us from the Moon will have a very hard time establishing that position and defending it should they launch an attack. If we abandon the idea of having a manned presence on the Moon, we are leaving ourselves open to that kind of attack, which would be impossible to defend ourselves from. It would be very difficult to launch a defensive strike against an enemy base located on the lunar surface from the surface of the Earth, while a manned lunar base would have a much better location from which to launch such a counterattack.

This discovery of massive water resources on the Moon, which has been made only in the last year, means that the cancellation of the return to the Moon mission by NASA was a very big mistake on the part of President Obama. If the US doesn't go back to the Moon to establish a permanent base, it's certain that other nations will recognize the strategic advantage of the Moon and will proceed to be the first to "take" the Moon. China, India, Russia and Japan are not likely to sit idly by and will take control of what is likely to be the most valuable franchise of the 21st century---the Waters of the Moon.

The next time you're outside, look up at the Moon. How would you feel knowing that we have a manned base on the Moon, strengthening our security right here on Earth? And, then, imagine how you would feel if it were China who had established that permanent manned base on the Moon instead?

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