NASA's primary mission should be refocused to enable the exploitation of space for national economic gain and competitiveness. The best way to do this is to use the energy, material, and environmental resources of space to increase the size of the U.S. economy. There are vast resources of solar energy and minerals in near-Earth cis-lunar space out to the orbit of the Moon. The U.S. could become a net energy exporter
NASA's primary mission should be refocused to enable the exploitation of space for national economic gain and competitiveness. The best way to do this is to use the energy, material, and environmental resources of space to increase the size of the U.S. economy. There are vast resources of solar energy and minerals in near-Earth cis-lunar space out to the orbit of the Moon. The U.S. could become a net energy exporter if we had a program in place to construct Space Solar Power Satellites (SSPS) in geosynchronous orbit. The materials for constructing the SSPS should be mined and processed on the Moon, at a permanent lunar base. Solar power stations can also be constructed on the lunar surface and power can be beamed back to Earth. In addition to solar power, the Moon offers the potential of mining Helium 3 from the surface to power future fusion power plants on Earth. Extraterrestrial energy sources such as these are environmentally benign and would not contribute to global warming. Global demand for electrical power is predicted to increase for the foreseeable future, and NASA can be the catalyst that creates a new U.S. industry in space power sources. In addition to the energy resources available in cis-lunar space, the Moon is also the gateway to further exploration of the Solar System, as it offers stores of water, aluminum, titanium, platinum, and other material resources that can be used to construct a space-based economy. If NASA were to create a cis-lunar industrial enterprise, in partnership with U.S. industry, it would open up new markets and start an economic engine that would revitalize the U.S. economy. Such a space industrial enterprise would also help to ensure U.S. world leadership and keep the nation secure in the face of aggressive competition for Earth-based resources. Creating a space-based economy for the U.S. will not be easy or quick, but the long-term rewards are well worth the effort. Our national leadership needs to start thinking big again, and not limit ourselves to small, inconsequential endeavors in space.
Before we send astronauts on a one-time reconnaissance mission to a small asteroid, it makes more sense to fully explore the Moon and use the resources it offers to enable further exploration. In comparison to the Moon, near-Earth asteroids offer very little in the way of natural resources and opportunities to exploit them. The land area of the Moon is the size of Africa and Australia combined, yet the U.S. has only sent short duration manned missions to 6 locations during the Apollo program, which ended nearly 40 years ago. There is much about the Moon we do not yet know, and it is an excellent target for further exploration. On a world the size of the Moon there are bound to be unanticipated discoveries and new features that no one can predict without actually going there. No human being has ever stepped on the far side of the Moon, or at either of the Moon’s poles. Other nations, such as China, Russia, Japan, and Europe know and understand the Moon’s importance to their future economic growth and national security and they are planning to go there themselves for the same reasons outlined here. If the U.S. misses out on the resources available on the Moon, it is destined to become an irrelevant Third World country before the end of the 21st century.
full details »