Six Reasons Why Humans Should Return to the Moon

Six Reasons Why Humans Should Return to the Moon

An astronaut does a spacewalk on the Moon.

(© Vadimsadovski/Adobe)



"That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

This July 20th marks fifty years since Neil Armstrong, mission commander of NASA's Apollo 11, uttered those famous words. Much less discussed is how Project Apollo shifted lunar science into high gear, ultimately teaching scientists just how valuable the Moon could become.

A lunar-based solar power system would actually be cheaper than Earth-based solar power implemented on a global scale.

During the six missions that landed humans on the lunar surface from 1969 to 1972, Apollo astronauts collected some 842 pounds of lunar rocks and dirt. Analysis of these materials has provided us with major clues about the origin of Earth's celestial companion 4.51 billion years ago, but also has revealed the Moon is a treasure trove. Lunar rock contains a plethora of minerals with high industrial value. So let's take a look at some prime examples of how humanity's expected return to the lunar surface in the years to come could help life here on Earth.

24/7 solar energy for Earth

During the 1970s, scientists began examining the Apollo lunar samples to study how the lunar surface could be used as a resource. One such scientist was physicist David Criswell, who has since shown that a lunar-based solar power system would actually be cheaper than Earth-based solar power implemented on a global scale. Whoa! How is that possible, given the high cost of launching people and machines into space?

The key is that it would be enormously expensive to scale up enough Earth-based solar power to supply all of humanity's electrical needs, since solar power on such a scale would require a lot of metal, glass, and cement.

But the Moon's lack of atmosphere and weather means that photovoltaic cells built by robots from lunar materials can be paper thin, in contrast with the heavy structures needed in Earth-based solar arrays. Ringing the Moon, such a system would be in perpetual sunlight, making it cheaper to collect solar power there and beam it down to Earth in the form of microwaves.

A source of helium-3 for clean, safe nuclear fusion power and other uses

The gas helium-3 is extremely rare on Earth, but plentiful on the Moon, and could be used in advanced nuclear fusion reactors. Helium-3 also has anti-terrorism and medical uses, especially in the diagnosis of various pulmonary diseases.

A place to offload industrial pollution

Since there are minerals and oxygen in lunar rocks and dust, and frozen water in certain locations, the Moon is an ideal home for factories. Thus, billionaire Jeff Bezos has proposed relocating large segments of heavy industry there, reducing the amount of pollution that is produced on Earth.

The Moon could be a place for colonists to get their space legs before humans put down roots on more distant locations like Mars.

Radio Astronomy without interference from Earth

Constructed on the Moon's far side (the side of the Moon that always faces away from Earth), radio telescopes advancing human knowledge of the Cosmos, and searching for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations, could operate with increased sensitivity and efficiency.

Lunar Tourism

Using the Moon as a destination for tourists may not sound helpful initially, given that only the very wealthy would be able to afford such journeys in the foreseeable future. However, the economic payoff could be substantial in terms of jobs that lunar tourism could provide on Earth. Furthermore, short of actual tourism, companies are gearing up to provide lunar entertainment to fun-seekers here on Earth in the form of mini lunar rovers that people could control from their living rooms, just for fun.

Lunar Colonies

Similar to lunar tourism, lunar colonization sounds initially like a development that would help only those people who go. But, located just three-days' travel from Earth, the Moon would be an excellent place for humanity to become a multi-planet species. The Moon could be a place for colonists to get their space legs before humans put down roots on more distant locations like Mars. With hundreds or thousands of humans thriving on the Moon, Earthlings might find some level of peace of mind knowing that humanity is in a position to outlive a planetary catastrophe.

David Warmflash
David Warmflash is an astrobiologist and science writer. He received his M.D. from Tel Aviv University Sackler School of Medicine, and has done post doctoral work at Brandeis University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the NASA Johnson Space Center, where he was part of the NASA's first cohort of astrobiology training fellows. He has written numerous articles covering a range of science topics, from the search for extraterrestrial life and space exploration to the origins of life, genetics, neuroscience, biotechnology, and the history of science. David’s articles have appeared in various publications, including Wired UK, Discover, Scientific American, Genetic Literacy Project, and Cricket Media. Throughout 2018, he did a blog post series on the emergence of ancient science for Vision Learning, covering thinkers from history. Many of these ancient pioneers of science also make an appearance in David's new book, "Moon: An Illustrated History: From Ancient Myths to the Colonies of Tomorrow."
MILESTONE: Doctors have transplanted a pig organ into a human for the first time in history

A surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital prepares a pig organ for transplant.

Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital

Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital made history last week when they successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human patient for the first time ever.

The recipient was a 62-year-old man named Richard Slayman who had been living with end-stage kidney disease caused by diabetes. While Slayman had received a kidney transplant in 2018 from a human donor, his diabetes ultimately caused the kidney to fail less than five years after the transplant. Slayman had undergone dialysis ever since—a procedure that uses an artificial kidney to remove waste products from a person’s blood when the kidneys are unable to—but the dialysis frequently caused blood clots and other complications that landed him in the hospital multiple times.

Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.

The World’s First Longevity Charter City: An interview with Niklas Anzinger.

Niklas Anzinger is the founder of Infinita VC based in the charter city of Prospera in Honduras. Infinita focuses on a new trend of charter cities and other forms of alternative jurisdictions. Healso hosts a podcast about how to accelerate the future by unblocking “stranded technologies”.This spring he was a part of the network city experiment Zuzalu spearheaded by Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin where a few hundred invited guests from the spheres of longevity, biotechnology, crypto, artificial intelligence and investment came together to form a two-monthlong community. It has been described as the world’s first pop-up city. Every morning Vitalians would descend on a long breakfast—the menu had been carefully designed by famed radical longevity self-experimenter Bryan Johnson—and there is where I first met Anzinger who told me about Prospera. Intrigued to say the least, I caught up with him later the same week and the following is a record of our conversation.

Keep ReadingKeep Reading
Ingemar Patrick Linden
Driven by a passion to probe the fundamental questions we are confronted with, Dr. INGEMAR PATRICK LINDEN has been on a journey of discovery taking him from Lund University in Sweden, to UCL in London, to University of California, to New York, where he has taught philosophy for almost a decade. Death. It does not get more fundamental than that. One of the ideas that has remained a firm conviction of the author’s since childhood is that we do not have enough time. We are but the beginnings of complete humans, fragments of what we could be. It was the realization that not all share this view, in fact, surveys show that most do not, that inspired, and necessitated, the writing of THE CASE AGAINST DEATH.