Manifest Destiny, Lunar Style

It’s called the New New World of the 21st century. The Moon. That glowing white sphere in the night sky and all her virgin bounty, upon and within, will very soon become what was in the 14th and 15th centuries to the European and Asian naval empires of the time, the newest treasures of extreme profits awaiting today’s space-voyaging mega-corporations, their Boards of Directors and/or private owners and businesses, hunting with little to no restrictions… untapped, untold riches for the taking.

Fifty years after humans first set foot on the Moon, scientific discoveries within the last 3-8 years have fueled excitement to go back, particularly commercial fervor for private businesses to go to the lunar surface—this time, perhaps, to stay and mine profitable minerals and their byproducts. This therefore, for the sake of advancing humankind’s progress of interplanetary travel from Earth.

What has really stoked the flames for immediate lunar commercialization? Water.

But life’s necessary H2O isn’t the only precious treasure up there. The Moon has Helium-3, titanium in highly concentrated form, titanium ore (ilmenite), platinum group metals such as palladium, osmium, iridium, and of course platinum, as well as other rare Earth metals, including the big one: gold. Need we say anymore? Step right up, our next explorers, Lunar 49’ers, to blastoff and begin the Great Moon Rush! Que music

The New New World and History’s Lessons
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When Europeans, and to an extent Asians, discovered the North and South American continents back in the 14th – 15th centuries, what was on their agenda? Why did they arrive? Why did they stay? Why did some return to their native lands? Had everyone benefited? Had everything benefited from the Age of Colonization like the ecosystems and animals? Does there always have to be the human behavior of take, take, take? Suck out, suck out, suck out until all value is zero… of whatever remains!? Will the Moon remain?

One of the corporations almost ready to launch to the Moon is called Moon Express. They are “Redefining Possible“! Their mission is to return “…to the Moon and unlock its mysteries and resources for the benefit of humanity. That sounds noble. I’m quiet sure the naval fleets and explorers of the 14th-15th centuries during the Age of Discovery promoted the exact same message, at least from their kings and queens. Moon Express calls the Lunar treasure chest the 8th Continent. The resources awaiting humanity are, they explain…

Like the Earth, the Moon has been enriched with vast resources through billions of years of asteroid bombardment. Unlike the Earth, these resources are largely on or near the lunar surface, relatively accessible. We are blazing a trail to the Moon to seek and harvest these resources to support a new space renaissance, where economic trade between countries will eventually become trade between worlds.

As a seasoned traveler myself, the unavoidable question at any crossroads of exploration, discovery, and the business of profitable resources at any time in history is this:  can we trust humanity and its leaders to do what is best for all of humanity AND the silent giver, the Mother of More Life or Profits? 

According to Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain, Moon Express now has all the capital it needs to land its small robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon in November or December of 2017. Obviously this did not happen. But the company’s goal is twofold: 1) mine the moon for valuable resources, such as Helium-3, gold, platinum group metals, rare earth metals and water; and 2) help researchers develop human space colonies for future generations. Simple, right?

Maybe not. How well have humans and humanity managed and regulated survival, the greater good for the greatest number, and the treatment of this life-giving planet over the last millenia or even the last century or two?

What are the long-term plans and condition of the Moon now that we will have two planets feeding us and our machines? With so much of Earth’s current ecosystems—e.g. high & low tides—to some degree reliant on the Moon—and some of those ecosystems now so fragile due to human activity and over-industrialization—is there a real danger/risk? In the future could OVER-MINING or unregulated, unfettered industrial consumption cause further damage or exacerbation to our lunar-dependent Earth systems? Consider the environmental and human impacts of our modern strip-mining or surface-mining and dredging.

And then there’s the fact that the Moon has countless craters! New ones about every 5 to 50-years. Now WHY are there craters all over the lunar surface? Does that pose a danger to Lunar-tics? 😉

Ponder this. The Moon is only 1/8th of Earth’s mass. It’s gravity is 1/6th of Earth’s. Is that 1/8th mass beneficial or dangerous to our planet and species? With aggressive, unregulated mining of materials, what will change about the Moon after one or two decades of building our lunar-space creations and putting them into orbit—or somewhere else other than the Moon? When does the Moon’s mass/gravity begin to significantly shift? How would it shift? What effect(s) would that have on Earth?

Losing our Moon or disfiguring it so drastically that it is clearly changed and changing things here on Earth may not have been a question 10-50 years ago, but it should be now. We have always known that our Sun will eventually turn into a Red Giant star and consume or utterly vaporize Earth and the Moon anyway, so take solace in that.

However, we have also always known that the Moon’s orbit is slowly moving away from Earth, by about 4-centimeters per year. A very small unnoticeable amount to 3 or 8 generations of humans. But to 100 generation descendants? Two hundred? Those are unavoidable consequences. Now, presented with the possibility of mining the Moon of all her resources—or to say, all her mass-causing gravity—with little to no forethought of that effect, do we need to concern ourselves NOT of our Sun becoming a Red Giant, but with humanity changing the Moon’s effect/benefit onto Earth? What will 30 or 50 years of aggressive mining and removal of lunar material do to the metaphorical rows and rows of gravity dominoes?

And without the Moon, or its perfect pull right now, Earth’s varying axis/tilt would be more severe, and climate effects would be a lot more severe than they’re already becoming! Does the Moon deserve a lot more respect and awe than we presently give her (and Earth actually) and less What can you give me right now for as cheap as possible or completely free!?

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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47 thoughts on “Manifest Destiny, Lunar Style

  1. Hello Professor. History has shown that the wellbeing of humanity takes a back seat to greed. I wonder if all these plans being made for mining the moon take into account the many treaties dealing with the moon and its uses. The moon is not to be weaponized so how do you secure the mines? Do we return to the days of piracy? I can see robotic machines to mine asteroids and comets, but not the moon. Hugs

    Liked by 4 people

    • All great questions Scottie. We will see. One thing IS certain… the Moon is about to be very populated and NEVER the same again. No different than what happened when the two American continents were discovered by European/Asian fleets.

      I’d trust a scientist over a business mogul ANY DAY, every single time! For me there are very, VERY few exceptions — e.g. Bill and Melinda Gates to name one couple.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Hello Dwain. You are a student of history and the current human condition. Do you think we as a species will ever have a cooperative society such as in the Star Trek universe? Sometimes it gets depressing think our species will always be at our lowest potential and not trying to forward our better nature and enlightenment. I long for the world we could have if we stopped trying so hard to harm and instead tried to help each other. Hugs

        Liked by 3 people

        • I loved Star Trek Next Generation. I loved what earth had become…the vision of what could have been, but after seeing what kind of humans are out there, I just don’t think that vision will ever occur. It makes me very sad.

          I blame religion for a very large part of it…and I guess, man’s reptilian lust for things, power and control.

          Liked by 4 people

        • Hello Mary. In that future humans could have most anything he wanted and still do what they enjoyed for life fulfillment. They could follow their dreams knowing their needs were met. It is such a grand thing, I can see it as paradise. Hugs

          Liked by 2 people

        • Won’t argue any of that Mary. After all, it has become QUIET obvious we evolved from the primates, huh? 😉 Very territorial, very jealous, quick to anger, and for the most part… the dominate male WILL NOT share any of his harem. 🙄 (face-palm)

          However, I do think SOME of us descended somehow or in someway are related to the Bonobos! I’ve lived and played among them and felt TOTALLY at home!!! 😉

          Liked by 3 people

  2. An excellent and informative article, Professor! You raise several important questions that the profiteers of Planet Earth would never consider. After all, such individuals among us have become profit-making robots with no mind of their own.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Indeed Rosaliene. I’ve repeated it so many times what Dr. E.O. Wilson nails:

      Exclusion makes us suffer. Inclusion makes us thrive.

      On Earth and in our long history here on this Pale Blue-dot within the Milky Way… when has foreign investment by foreigners/aliens made that “New World” significantly better by leaps and bounds? Think about it for awhile before jumping to an immediate answer. Was there boundless inclusion or was there increased exclusion in that New World? 🤔

      Liked by 3 people

      • That is a good question. I think exclusion has been more pronounced over the ages, but there have been times in societies of cooperation of different races and cultures…during WWII with our allies, early immigration here before people were filled with fear of them (though I know there were exceptions).

        We are in a heightened time now of exclusion….which causes endless wars, but now with nuclear weapons, we better find a new way of cooperating instead or we are all doomed.

        Liked by 4 people

  3. I tend to agree with Scottie.
    There may be tentative mining operations, but more to test rigs and machines rather than full on mineral extraction.
    I would like to think that we will be operating on non-fossil fuels and renewable energy in the not too distant future.
    We often seem to have a knack for self-destruction, but as a counterbalance there is also a glorious propensity for survival.
    I reckon we’ll be all right in the long run.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I envision a Star-Trek-esque Federation space vehicle from an alien/akin civilization observing this spectacle but following the Prime Directive of course.
    From the trailer: “In tonight’s fantastic episode, watch as Team Earth inserts a gigantic hose to the water within their Moon, a firehose designed to address the climatic firestorms on Earth.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Bill! Great to see you again! Been awhile. 🙂

      Hahahaha! (not that I should be laughing in the least about the seriousness of Climate Change and global warming!) You might be on to something there Bill. Isn’t it quiet ironic that with the continued annual increase of wildfires across all the continents, we keep creating more and more tinder for sparks/ignition, and yet this planet is 71% water/ocean and seas… we’d end up BBQ grilling ourselves into extinction? 🤪

      Perhaps we might reach the desperate point of stringing a fire-hose from the Moon to Earth, huh? 😉 😛

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Given the costs of space travel, I can’t believe mining the Moon for resources would ever be profitable. If one compares the cost of shipping a ton of gold from the Moon to Earth with the price that ton of gold could fetch on the market, I’m pretty sure the math doesn’t work out. If mining the Moon could be made profitable, it would probably be being done already. The only way those resources could be useful is if they were being used by a colony on the Moon, if anybody ever thinks of a good reason for having a colony on the Moon, which I don’t believe anyone ever will.

    The reason the Moon has all those craters is that it has no atmosphere. Cratering is the natural state of planets and moons because during the history of the solar system everything has been hit with meteorites at a steady rate. Earth’s atmosphere erodes away the craters, though, so there are only a small number of craters visible on Earth at any given time. It’s not that the Moon gets hit more than Earth, it’s that the craters there have been accumulating for billions of years instead of being eroded away. Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, so it’s much more cratered than Earth but a bit less so than the Moon.

    The Moon’s mass is actually 1/83 that of Earth, not 1/8. Even so, no amount of human activity could noticeably affect the Moon’s mass.

    I took a look at the Moon Express site and saw a lot of soaring rhetoric and no math, and very little in the way of detailed plans. It’s no wonder they didn’t get anywhere. And do they really believe the Earth’s (or Moon’s) natural resources are the product of asteroid bombardment? Where did these people learn science, Plan 9 from Outer Space? I half suspect it’s a con to rip off gullible investors.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think I lean towards Infidel’s take on all this. One thing that puzzles me is how in the heck do they plan to get the equipment needed to do all this mining, etc. (along with the operators) up to the moon? That stuff may be light on the moon, but it’s going to take some mighty strong rockets to escape Earth’s gravity. (Along with a few bucks to build them.)

      The whole project seems so senseless to me. But those who enjoy enriching their pocketbooks are only concerned about one thing and I doubt I need give any hints on what that thing is.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Infidel,

      Great feedback and point-of-view. Thank you Sir! 🙂

      As far as profitability of mining the Moon, I am not sure of any details/facts between those corporation’s accountants and the planetary scientists, physicists, engineers, etc, explaining and debating those possible operations. It does seem to make MORE SENSE to mine the valuable minerals for a Moon colony and/or lunar orbiting station given the lower gravity and no lunar atmosphere. You don’t think using the Moon as a stepping-stone, so to speak, or a refueling station and launching platform for further voyages, exploration, etc, to other planets?

      On all the craters, I was being rhetorical. I was being intentionally naive in the attempt to stimulate some self Q&A, some critical-analysis to hopefully generate discussions and further inquiry to the pros and cons of a Moon colony and mining. As a former educator, it’s a classroom technique we use to involve, engage our students and keep their little minds from drifting away. Hehehe 😉

      Regarding the Moon’s gravity compared to Earth’s, I’m gathering right now — as I double-check my sources — there are differences between surface gravity and that of mass as well as “weight.” All three are different. Apologies for not making that clear while blowing through the science for the sake of brevity for internet browsers. And thanks to you for catching it and pointing it out! 🙂

      Moon Express gave me the same impression as well: a well designed promotional site. A Sales & Marketing firm does indeed employ cool graphics and animation, like a modern SyFy movie production, to incite curiosity and open, giving pocket-books, huh!? 😄

      Liked by 3 people

      • You don’t think using the Moon as a stepping-stone, so to speak, or a refueling station and launching platform for further voyages, exploration, etc, to other planets?

        I don’t see why that would be the case. We’ve already sent probes to all the other planets and some of their moons, and none of them used the Earth’s Moon for anything. Mars at its closest approach to Earth is 160 times further away than the Moon is. If some country does eventually decide to undertake the utterly pointless dangers and waste of money which a manned expedition to Mars would represent, I don’t see why it would make sense to launch it and then stop off on the Moon, 1/160 of the way into the trip, to refuel or whatever. Might as well just take enough fuel to start with. It would be like setting off on a drive from Dallas to Los Angeles and using Fort Worth as a “stepping stone”. Who needs a stepping stone so close to one end of the journey?

        You were actually right about the Moon’s surface gravity — it’s one-sixth of Earth’s. That in itself poses problems for long-term habitation, since being in very low gravity for long periods has unhealthy effects on the human body. I think it’s now believed that pregnancy and childbirth could not happen normally in Mars’s gravity (one-third of Earth’s), which would seem to rule out permanent colonies there independent of Earth.

        Humans tend to think in terms of analogies, and for many people the dominant analogy for space travel is the age of exploration, when Europeans colonized places like the Americas and shipped resources and products from there back to Europe. The problem is that space travel isn’t actually analogous to such interactions between different continents on Earth. The ratio of transportation costs to potential value of resources is totally different. None of the other planets or moons in our solar system is remotely habitable for humans without onerous and fragile high-tech protection, nor can any of them be made habitable in the foreseeable future, once you get down into the details of what terraforming would involve.

        Moving resources from planet to planet might become economically feasible if we someday invent cheap long-range teleportation, but it would take something as radical as that to make it worth doing.

        Sorry for the lengthy comments. My father worked for the space program his whole career, so I got a fair amount of informal “education” about this stuff, and seeing posts about space travel on the net tends to bring out a lot of it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It would be like setting off on a drive from Dallas to Los Angeles and using Fort Worth as a “stepping stone”. Who needs a stepping stone so close to one end of the journey?

          Another great point Infidel. I am just offering up some of the “perks” by the proponents of Moon colonization & mining — who sometimes never present the negatives or the cons of going. LOL Nonetheless, I do enjoy the visions and visionaries. At the very least they push us to evolve, progress, and improve and most importantly… better understand. 🙂

          Great points about child-birthing. That is definitely something to be examined much closer!

          Humans tend to think in terms of analogies… […] The problem is that space travel isn’t actually analogous to such interactions between different continents on Earth. [and that entire paragraph]

          Indeed. Their challenges and parameters are SO FAR APART and different with SO MANY MORE unknowns! That said, the ISS up in low Earth-orbit has taught us that with enough time, the human body is astonishingly brilliant in adapting better to its present environment — but key operative concept there is “enough time.” That is certainly not the case in a matter of minutes or 1-2 hours with drastic changes.

          OH WOW Infidel!!! How cool to have your Dad work for our space programs! Holy SH*T how lucky are you!!! 😮 No, no… please don’t apologize! In fact, GO as long and as in depth as you want! You have an open invitation! ❤

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks🙂

          In a way, it’s too bad, since interplanetary colonialism would at least be ethical — there are no “natives” on the Moon or Mars to be enslaved or wiped out by diseases from us to which they have no resistance. And I do think in the long run humans will get out into space on a big scale — it’s just that that will take several fundamentally new technologies which we’re nowhere near actually having yet.

          You might be interested in this post on a somewhat related topic, though I was writing about conquest, not mining, and on an interstellar rather than interplanetary scale.

          On colonization of the Moon or Mars, what always comes to mind for me is Antarctica. Antarctica would be much easier to colonize than the Moon or Mars. It has Earth-normal gravity and breathable air. Its temperature extremes are not as bad as those of the Moon or Mars. There’s abundant water (if frozen). And it’s much closer than the Moon or Mars, making it much easier and cheaper to get to. Yet no country has ever tried to put permanent self-sustaining colonies there the way, say, 17th-century European countries did in the Americas. At most there are a few scientific research stations. If colonizing Antarctica is too difficult to be practical, other planets would be even more so.

          My father mostly worked on instrument design. He helped build instruments which are now sitting inside a Soviet space probe on Venus, though no doubt corroded away to uselessness decades ago (this was during the period of US-Soviet cooperation in space). It’s a more interesting legacy than most jobs, for sure.

          Liked by 1 person

        • One other thing — it’s actually from the ISS that we’ve learned a lot about how damaging zero gravity is to the human body. People who have spent six months or a year there have suffered numerous forms of debilitation, including some in surprising areas like eyesight. People don’t adapt to these problems — if they had stayed up there for long enough, they would probably have died. We don’t know if similar periods at Lunar or Martian gravity would have similar (if perhaps lesser) effects, but it seems more likely than not.

          We’re a tropical great-ape species and it’s rather remarkable how well we’ve been able to adapt to environments on Earth quite different from where we evolved. No other species lives in such a wide range of environments. But obviously there are limits.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. However, I do think SOME of us descended somehow or in someway are related to the Bonobos!

    Actually, chimpanzees and bonobos diverged from each other about three million years ago, while our own lineage diverged from that of the chimpanzee/bonobo common ancestor at least six million years ago — that is, the existence of chimps and bonobos as two separate species is more recent than their common ancestry with us. So both of them are exactly equally closely related to us (unlike gorillas and orangutans, whose lineages split off from the human/chimp/bonobo common ancestor much longer ago, so they are more distant relatives).

    Would have replied directly to your comment, but it doesn’t have a reply button.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hah! I LOVE IT when someone can always provide the FINEST of fine-tooth combs to keep everything and everyone… umm, properly aligned with reality versus fiction, or in this case tomato versus to-MAH-toe and pizza sauce, potato, po-TAH-toe and french fries! 😛

      Like

  7. Spoiler alert: I’ve never seen a more terrifying scene than in the movie “The Time Machine” (2002) when Guy Pearce’s character travels to the year 2037 and looks upward to see the moon completely fractured.

    I think it is more likely we will continue filling the moon with garbage as the Apollo boys did (moon boots, deliberately crashed rocket stages, bags of human feces) until it resembles one of our plastic oceans.

    Like

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