18 December 1997
"Man left the Moon 25 years ago this month. Since then we've probed the farthest reaches of space, but we've never returned to answer the questions the last Apollo missions left behind. Until now..."
In the January 1998 issue of Focus, a magazine available in the United Kingdom, the author describes many of the reasons companies and individuals are finding for returning to the Moon. Starting with the findings of the Apollo program, NASA's fast-approaching launch of Lunar Prospector (5 Jan 1998), he continues by quoting researchers as calling a Moon with water on it "the most valuable piece of real estate in the solar system", as a time capsule of the solar system and as a source of water, oxygen and hydrogen fuel for a lunar base, "an increasingly enticing concept for the world's space agencies."
NASDA, the Japanese space agency, has long term plans to establish a moonbase, and the first Japanese lunar probe launches the same year as ESA (European Space Agency)'s probe. China wants to set up a moonbase during the first half of the next century. Even Bob Dole wants the U.S. to return to the moon, according to his manifesto for the Presidential race last November.
The author asks, "Why go back to the moon at all?" listing the hazards on the moon: lack of atmosphere, low gravity, high cosmic and solar radiation. Answering his own question, he goes on to list the resources likely to be found there: helium-3 for energy-rich, radiation-free fusion power, aluminum, abundant oxygen in the lunar regolith, all in a location 22 times cheaper to launch from than Earth, as well as the perfect spot for radio telescopes, the far side of the Moon being shielded from all of Earth's radio glare.
Discussion of Lunacorp's plans to land a pair of rovers on the Moon in 2000 brings us to the next logical step, sending people back to the Moon. The Artemis Project wants to get people back to the Moon within a decade, sending an initial team there to establish a permanent private-sector moonbase.
"Artemis is using NASA-agreed designs for their spacecraft and moonbase plans. When it comes to raising money for the enterprise they take Star Wars and Jurassic Park as their models: merchandising and film rights are seen as the key to boot-strapping their members into orbit. It sounds impossibly ambitious - but if Lunacorp does make it big then Artemis [Project] would be an obvious successor project."
"And there'll no doubt be others. From being the dullest place in the solar system, the Moon is turning into the most enticing. The next 10 years are going to be the lunar decade..."
ASI Online News and the ASI Newsmonger would like to thank ASI member Stephen Rymill for his work finding and abstracting the original article.
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