Monday, November 21, 2005

Private Sector, Low-Cost Lunar Plan

While this blog is intended to allow me to track energy related information, one of my favorite subjects is space exploration, so here is a post about returning to the moon. NASA has projected a cost of 104 billion dollars and 13 years to return to the moon permanently. One has to wonder, however, if NASA is blinded by too much knowledge on the subject of space to consider alternative technology. After all, for a given area of expertise, it's been frequently shown that many significant breakthroughs come from outsiders and not from the experts in the field. It's a natural phenomena for humans to get "tunnel vision" and to thus completely ignore possibilities. The software industry (of which I am a small part) demonstrates this understanding when testing software. It's inevitable that software engineers cannot adequately test a program because they just don't consider all the various ways a user will interact with a program. That's why testing should always eventually include end users.

So, here is a link to a private group that says a return to the moon can be done much cheaper and faster than the NASA plan. Of course, the group simply says they can do it without any significant detail but it is encouraging. I know one thing: Real near Earth space exploration will never become commonplace until it becomes commercially profitable. The question is, what can one do commercially close to Earth or on the Moon that would make it worth going? To be honest, nothing that I have heard of at the moment. The best ideas currently involve using the two natural resources of space: Vacuum and micro-gravity. Unfortunately, there just isn't a lot of call for ubiquitous vacuum or micro-gravity in any existing commercial product without requiring significant changes. Still, a lot smarter business people than I are thinking about it and so I have a high level of optimism for the future of near Earth space exploration.

Companies or organizations mentioned in the article:
SpaceDev
Spaceage Publishing Company
International Conference Moon Base
High Frontier

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