Recreation and Tourism
Section 2.7.
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Quarantine for Lunar Tourism

A quarantine program is one occasionally suggested, both for the outward and inward trip. While there are advantages and disadvantages to such a program, it is an area that merits further study.

Although for Apollo, NASA briefly had an inward-bound quarantine, the program was stopped after Apollo 12. At that point they had learned that there was no detectable risk of importing nasty microbes from the moon. Upon inspection of the Apollo samples, they didn't find any life forms or viruses on the moon, not even much in the way of organic molecules. Carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen -- the stuff of life -- are very scarce in the lunar regolith.

On the other hand, we might need to consider a quarantine for the out-bound side of the trip, to avoid importing microbes from Earth to the moon. The local population will have weakened immune systems from their stay in isolation, and a local epidemic could wreak havoc on productivity. Also, in the closed environment of a spacecraft, the risk of contagion is high, and a virus could ruin the trip for many of the passengers. Finally, a quarantine would provide the perfect opportunity to carry out training and safety instruction, as well as preparation for any useful scientific work the tourists might be able to do.

Despite its advantages, a quarantine would be difficult and tedious. We'd need to quarantine an entire shipload of people together for four straight weeks prior to the flight. That allows for two weeks to share and incubate microbes among that small population, and then another two weeks for their bodies to destroy the microbes so that no live viruses or bacteria would be imported into the lunar community.

Four weeks of quarantine would probably cut way down on tourist traffic, so it may be a bad idea. While there will probably be enough demand to fill the seats even with the quarantine, it will become more and more unacceptable as space travel becomes more routine and frequent.

However, we can at least control importing vermin into the lunar environment. Australia has been fairly successful at this just by spraying airline cabins for bugs and checking on passengers' behavior before the flight. We could use even more effective measures by inspecting and disinfecting baggage and cargo, and even exposing cargo to zero pressure during the flight to the moon.

Recreation and Tourism

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