NASA: Moon colonization will cost 5 times less than Olympics in Sochi


To the date, only 12 men walked on the moon, and no human set foot on it since 1972. Meanwhile, a new study of a special NASA commission shows that we can build a permanent base on the Moon, and all that needs to be done is to mine lunar resources, and partner with private companies.

The conclusion of the Commission states that building a settlements on the Moon can cost up to 90% less than it was thought before – not $100 billion,  but only $10 billion (according to Boris Nemtsov’s report, the Olympic Games in Sochi costed about $50 billion). Currently, NASA can afford such an expense as part of the budget of its program of controlled flights into deep space.

The study was conducted by two non-profit organizations: National Space Society and the Space Frontier Foundation, and endorsed by a team of ex-NASA executive employees and astronauts.

To achieve such a radical cost reduction, NASA intends to take advantage of the partnership with private and international organizations, including the European Space Agency, Boeing, and SpaceX. For example, the development of the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon crew module by the company SpaceX costed only 443 million dollars, while NASA would have spent $4 billion on it.

For further cost reduction, the plan relies on the creation of recoverable spacecrafts and lunar landers. The strategy also involves mining of fuel for the base from the lunar soil: the data received from the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) probe indicate that there is a vast amount of water ice on the Moon, especially near the poles. This is extremely important because the ice can be used to produce hydrogen for rocket engines, and oxygen for breathing.

Moreover, the obtained fuel can be launched into lunar orbit, where it can be uses by any space transport travelling to Mars, or other solar system. Such a “refuelling” would reduce the cost of delivery of goods (or people) to Mars by $10 billion a year. To produce the required fuel it is enough to have one industrial base with 4 astronauts, and in 12 years from the deployment date it can produce 200 megatons of fuel worth of $40 billion.

However, before this happens, NASA and private companies need to send robotic probes to lunar poles in order to determine the amount of available hydrogen that would solve the problem with the economic viability of its extraction. NASA researchers have already suggested such a robot: Resource Prospector might use a rover that will drill the lunar regolith, collect, and then heat the samples to determine their composition. If this mission gets funding, it will be the first mining expedition on another planet (in fact, the Moon is not a planet – RRT).