The following is an excerpt from our feature on Moon colonies in issue 7 of All About Space, on sale 13th December.
The best way to colonise the Moon might be to realise the commercial benefits of it, space settlement expert Al Globus told All About Space. Globus knows his stuff when it comes to talking about colonising space and the Moon. He’s previously worked on the ISS from Earth and, alongside being chairman of the National Space Society’s Space Settlement Advocacy Committee, he is a big proponent of space settlement and has written many papers on the subject.
By the end of the 2010s, Globus said, governments around the world will have a number of landers and orbiters on and around the Moon. The big change in manned space exploration, however, will be the huge growth of the private space sector. Sub-orbital tourism (with companies like Virgin Galactic) will take-off, with over 1,000 people a year reaching space by 2020.
The next two decades will see lunar mining companies begin to spring up on the Moon, continued Globus, although they could struggle financially at first. They key for their success will be the growth of the space tourism industry; even though the ISS will be decommissioned in the early 2020s, space hotels will be launched into Earth orbit and significantly expand the private space sector. Over the next 50 years the number of space tourists could even grow to millions, not just thousands.
This, Globus says, is where privatising the Moon will be key. Mining resources from the lunar surface, such as water, could provide essential supplies for these hotels. It’ll take a while for lunar mines to become profitable, probably not until the 2050s, but by the 2070s they could be supplying most of the materials necessary for space hotels.
Furthermore, if NASA or another agency constructs a lunar mass driver on the Moon, which would allow for cargo to be sent easily and cheaply back to Earth, then Globus says the lunar mining business will become extremely profitable, allowing it to potentially dominate the metal markets on Earth. In the 2050s these mines would need just a modest crew of 20 people, but by the 2080s there could be thousands of people living on the Moon and operating them.
Images courtesy of NASA and the Santa Cruz Sentinel