To the Moon, Alice!

My pet space project - take advantage of the moon being only light-seconds away and always facing Earth. Immediately start launching robots to set up an industrial base there.

They could be quite simple robots initially. No need to build in *any* AI - they can be remotely controlled by human operators on Earth. We could download AI software as we develop it later, to reduce the inconvenience of the light-speed delay.

Of course they won't be as capable as humans on site. Though humans would be encumbered by space suits. And they'd be limited to a few hours work outside each day. And of course, each human would require many (many) tons of life-support equipment as well as a reliable ride home in case things go wrong.

While each remote controlled robot would probably be 10x slower than a human on site, they can work 24 hours (with multiple shifts of operators on Earth), so they'll get about the same amount done per day, for perhaps 1/100th the cost.

If we started from scratch today with a serious program, we could have a basic robotic moonbase operating within 2-3 years. A few years of R&D with robots actually on site, and shipping up occasional small payloads of improved robots and tools and raw materials, and we should be able to bootstrap a limited industrial base on the moon.

Anything we can make there, we don't have to ship out of Earth's gravity well, reducing the cost of space access. Liquid oxygen and lunar concrete structures seem likely early products. And of course, lunar exploration and research would be "products" that could be "shipped" to Earth very inexpensively - products that are simply not available on the market today.

Also, NASA keeps vaguely claiming that going to the moon will somehow help us prepare to go to Mars. Building a robotic industrial base on the moon would do that for real.

And we really should set up a station on Phobos or Deimos for a few years before landing on Mars, using remote controlled robots to search for life before we go down and "contaminate" the planet, and building up some basic infrastructure as well, before humans land. Doing so for the Moon first would give us *real* practice for Mars.

NASA apparently isn't interested - this isn't a new concept after all - we could have been doing this for 30 years now. We'd probably have a substantial human colony on the moon and a foothold on Mars by now, even without improved launch capabilities. Robots here on Earth would likely be much more advanced, as well.

But that just shows how short-sighted NASA is, IMO - most of our budget has been spent on endlessly circling the Earth. The X-prizes may finally get it going in 5-10 years.

Anyone in China or India or Japan or elsewhere listening? Here's your chance to leapfrog ahead. Forget sending people into space or to the moon, for now. It's a money pit, and at best you'll appear to copy 40 year old US and Soviet space accomplishments. Your nations' images would be enhanced far more by being cleverer than we Americans have been.

Within a decade, you could be offering to deliver payloads to GEOsynch orbit or to a soft-landing on the moon, for less than it takes the US to get to orbit. If the US really does return to the moon and go to Mars, you can offer help from your robotic moonbase, if we'll let you send along your astronauts - full partners.

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