Gene Expression

The moon is not such a harsh mistress

Dynamic of the Cats as some commentary on the LCROSS landing the moon. The “big news” is the very high confidence now that one can put on the proposition that the moon does have water. Since humans are mostly water by weight, this is very important when assessing the practical difficulties of colonization or settlement. Would have been a drag to lug or synthesize H2O.


  1. #1 6EQUJ5
    November 13, 2009

    The problem that the Moon is almost always outside the protection of the Earth’s magnetosphere. Radiation will harm and eventually kill explorers unless they have shielding as good at that provided on the Earth.

    The only practical mass is mass in place, lunar soil, which means humans will spend practically all their time well underground inside pressure-hulls, where they would be doing essentially the same work controlling remotely-controlled vehicles that they could be doing from the Earth at ordinary workstations, which raises the question, what is the point of people going to the Moon?

  2. #2 razib
    November 13, 2009

    which raises the question, what is the point of people going to the Moon?

    yes. fair point. but, do remember that for the first few centuries it was very difficult to get europeans to immigrate to the new world. this is why religious dissenters and criminals were prominent (australia was developed as a penal colony after the independence of the united states). once the states of the new world were stable by the 19th century they became magnets for european migration.

    the point being, there’s a high likelihood that the moon will be a total dead end and a waste for human settlement. but sometimes you never know what the prospects are until the initial costly capital inputs are made.

  3. #3 Onkel Bob
    November 14, 2009

    Umm, isn’t your example a bit of a false analogy? After all the expense of transportation is exponentially higher, and the destination absolutely hostile. Shipping 100 people to Australia was no where near as costly as sending one (let alone three) to the moon. Furthermore, terrestrial explorers didn’t go to places where debilitating bone loss occurs are a natural function of existence, which will happen in the low gravity environment of the moon. Oxygen and water aside, there are far far greater obstacles to lunar colonization if alternative is the creation and occupation of terrestrial places currently uninhabited. Easier to survive the harshest terrestrial place then the most kind lunar one.
    I have a low/no tolerance for astronomical science, I simply see the cost benefit being skewed way way off. But then again, as I tell the frau, (who is a developmental biologist) that scientists are as a tribe, are simply unable and unwilling to make value judgments. For them, no expense is too great, no sacrifice too extreme if they believe it furthers their science.

  4. #4 hukrepus
    November 15, 2009

    >The moon is not such a harsh mistress
    In “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” they mine water from the moon itself.

  5. #5 Caledonian
    November 18, 2009

    Indeed. In Heinlein’s famous work, the limiting factor for Moon colonization – the one that ultimately forced the prisoners to rebel – was the amount of carbon and various other nutrients necessary for biological synthesis present. To the best of my knowledge, the Moon has little of such substances, which would have to be imported.