Near-Term Business Scenario
Near-Term Business Scenario
A Basis for Lunar Business Plans
One of the essentials in the near term is the push past the purely scientific and exploratory Apollo style mission, and move interest away from government funded infrastructure building, and onto commercial applications. An aggressive public awareness program would be necessary to get the people of the world reinvested in space, and a so called Killer-app would need to be discovered to gain corporate interest.
NASA will build basic infrastructure, after that it is up to commercial development. As shown in NASA Exploration Strategy.
Lunar Resource Extraction Settlement
The first economic application for the Moon will likely be a Schmitt mining settlement to harvest Helium-3 and other Volatiles. The settlement would be located at either of the poles or at the equator. The settlement would ideally be started immediately following the astronaut exploration stage, lest interest collapse and the entire plan be scrapped. This settlement will serve as the first small economic toe-hold on the Moon.
For more information about the estimated time of this scenario, please see Timelines.
Settlement Business Environment
The Settlement would likely be run by a consortium of aerospace companies collaborating on the project. This conglomeration will be referred to here as the Company.
People on the Moon
The goal of People living on the Moon is an expensive and difficult proposition. Individuals on the Moon will be encouraged and supported to be entrepreneurs, and will be afforded intellectual property rights. The Company will buy ideas from the settlers while also funding the ore extraction and then having proprietary rights to sell it. Interactions with people on Earth, including economic interactions, will help keep lunar people sane and happy
Scope of Plans
Communication with Earth
A Moon settlement would be the first human settling endeavor which has a large bandwidth with its home country. The effect of this on the settlement will be to greatly lessen the isolation of the settlement in the minds of its inhabitants. They will have all of the comforts of home from books to movies to the Internet; they will be the best connected settlers in human history.
Shipment back to Earth
Shipments back to Earth will be strictly limited, and will be overseen by a Cargo Supervisor. If a shipment is underweight, small ballast can top off shipments: cheap, low in mass (grams). Eventually, an unmanned ship sent from Earth with lunar hydrogen and oxygen for return rocket, and with only a lunar reentry shield, a load in tens of kilograms, on a slow trip. This proposal would be expensive. More of these flights would be possible in long-term than in the short term.
Near-Term Specific Assumptions
The Near-Term Scenario will have the following specific features;
Miners will have some free time. There will be more than enough personnel to run the settlement at any given time because it takes more people to handle emergencies than for normal operations. The prototype shop will be available to miners for use when they are not servicing the Sandworms. The Bone Yard will be available to miners to get basic parts from descent vehicles, broken parts, etc. for use in the Prototype shop. As mentioned in the section on communication, personal activities and interpersonal contacts are critical to good mental health. As such, facilities will be available for some form of recreation, be it exercise or what have you.
Strengths of the Near-Term
An enormous public buy-in for the return to the Moon mission is expected. Also, because cutting edge technologies are available, and individuals interested in the technology field will flourish in the environment. Nationalism will also play a role with competition between countries.
Limitations in the Near-Term
There are many challenges left to over come in the short term. One key problem is the low man power caused by the sheer cost of sending people to the moon. Another is the low availability of electrical power again, because it is expensive to transport solar panels to the moon, and even more energy costly to manufacture them there. Living space will be very limited, and cramped quarters could lead to poor mental health for the miners. The price of shipping anything there or back will be incredibly expensive, and almost negates the value of sending Helium 3 home. Ultimately, the Moon is a dangerous and volatile environment which poses a major stopping block to any form of settlement there, and creates many unforeseeable risks.
Ideas not meeting this near-term scenario can still be great, they simply belong in some other category like Long-Term Scenario.
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