The bad financial reputation of a lunar colony

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There is a considerable fraction of the population that considers the concept of a lunar colony inherently unsound in terms of finance. Their line of argument goes something like this:[1]

The high startup cost of a lunar settlement necessitates funding.
As a baseline for comparison, the 7 Apollo crewed landing missions cost around $20bn (2010) each, including research and development costs over the decade preceding the first landing.
In the context of the global economy, this cost amounted to roughly 0.2% of contemporary (circa 1960) gross annual world product.
A comparable rate of financial commitment today would amount to roughly $135bn annually, sufficient to fund the entirety of an Apollo-scale program each year. Nevertheless, even at that level only a modest concentration of equipment, supplies, and personnel would still be possible -- likely insufficient to achieve anything close to real economic productivity on any scale short of generations.
In any event, from that starting point it is possible to begin budgeting a truly substantial commitment to a near-term working colony.

In this way they consider it is definitely shown that a lunar colony is wasteful nonsense and usually do not bother to discuss the matter. If pressed they may refer to it as something more colorful.

Financial prospects of a lunar colony

The Apollo program has only a limited relationship to a lunar colony. It demonstrated that the laws of physics were amenable to manipulation by engineers so people could be transported to the moon, survive on its surface, and return safely to Earth. It was never intended to be the start of a colonization effort. It was done because it is hard to do and demonstrates ability. Like running a four minute mile, it is not worthwhile of itself. The Apollo program was part of a cold war effort to impress the population of the world with the superiority of the American system of government. Although there are still differences of opinion on which is the best, or least evil, of systems of government; the Apollo program was successful for its part in the contest. It was not a model of how to start a lunar colony.

Having demonstrated the physical possibility of transporting people back and forth to Luna, the steps in lunar colonization include:

1) make a general plan for financial success of a lunar colony
2) explore Luna with robots taking note of the situation of all readily accessable resources there that can aid the plan
3) develope a detailed plan to build a colony and put it into operation
4) sell the plan to those nations of Earth whose cooperation is needed and to any organizations which will have a financial stake
5) execute the plan

While people are still involved in making a general plan, selling the plan can be addressed in a partial manner. We can emphasize that sending people to Luna is not the first item in the plan, robotic operations can accomplish building of lunar infrastructure with all people involved remaining on Earth, and when it is time to send people to the moon, the existing infrastructure will make this less costly per person than the Apollo program.

See also


  1. This line of argument is taken from a category created by User:Fructivore at 04:17 hours on the 18th of April 2012. The category was deleted because it was not properly a category