The Moon vs. Mars again

Monday, June 29, 2009 has an interesting opinion piece today arguing for colonization of the Moon before Mars (it's interesting because it's quite a bit longer than your average article on Spaceref), which I agree with when the only two options being considered are the Moon and Mars. At the moment the idea of sending people to Mars is simply not doable, not without a ton of extra funding and will, and if that funding were to exist it would still make more sense to go to the Moon first.

Two other things to note:

- Even if we were to decide the location purely on resources (i.e. not having to take all the resources from Earth), Ceres would still be a better bet than Mars
- Since the Moon is so scarce in terms of resources, plus the extra effort in having to blast off from the surface of the Moon again before returning, the argument is often made that simply colonizing LEO or some other orbit around or near the Earth would be a better idea. Artificial gravity is said to be difficult to create due to a space station having to be quite huge (1g could be created with faster rotation but this causes nausea due to the Coriolis effect), but remember that this is assuming the same gravity as on the Earth, and that much gravity wouldn't strictly be necessary - a certain amount simply to keep objects and liquids manageable and walking possible would be acceptable. This graph shows the required rotation period for 1g with certain sizes, so take the rotation period and multiply it by maybe five to ten times to imagine what partial gravity would require.

Back to the Moon: here are some of the arguments the article makes.

- Location - short trip, always accessible. Mars and other locations require launch windows and long wait times.
- Polar locations are ideal - most of the Moon has 14 days of day and 14 days of night, but polar regions are different (almost permanently lit by the Sun) and also have a more friendly environment temperaturewise. Then there is also the lack of weather (something I also noted on the Ceres-Mars comparison) and seasonal variation that makes planning much easier.
- Many existing rockets could be used to place solar power platforms on the Moon right now (followed by people later on).
- The Moon still has enough metal available within the regolith to build structures using resources available there instead of having to bring them from Earth.

It then gets into a number of other subjects related to the construction of such a base, after which summing up the article gets a bit difficult so anyone with their interest piqued should read the whole thing.

One blog here written by someone I encounter on from time to time is also worth reading, and he is also a Moon first advocate.


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