Many reasons for ‘Moonbase Alpha’, including peak oil!

I think the world is about to go into a Great Depression because of peak oil. I wish our governments would adopt an emergency economy implementing the solutions the experts I’ve read put forward. (See Solutions for my 7 R’s of solving peak oil). But in many ways peak oil has been a distracting nuisance (understatement of the century) to my previous hobby of exploring how we might one day set up a base on Mars.

There’s an interesting slashdot piece on NASA discovering how to make enormous telescope lenses on the Moon.

NASA scientists have discovered a way to craft very large mirrors using carbon nanotubes, some epoxy, a little bit of aluminum, and large quantities of lunar dust. They say the technique will allow the construction of massive telescopes on the moon without the expense and risk of transporting the mirrors from Earth. Douglas Rabin of the Goddard Space Flight Center is quoted saying, “Our method could be scaled-up on the moon, using the ubiquitous lunar dust, to create giant telescope mirrors up to 50 meters in diameter.” While this breakthrough was relatively cheap, NASA is currently offering up to $10 million for other good lunar research projects.

It strikes me as just one of a few new ideas for the moon that seem to be floating around the blogosphere and geek-land. For instance, ABC’s Catalyst (science show) just ran a fresh new story on an old idea — space solar power. Massive solar PV satellites microwave energy to the earth in a safe bandwidth that both passes more energy directly through the clouds, and will not fry planes or people moving through the beams. As the wiki shows, traditional solar has the problems of losing energy both to clouds, the atmosphere, and night, while space solar is 24/7, and beams the energy straight to the region that sponsored the satellite. (Image below from wikipedia).

On the left side: Part of the solar energy is lost in its way through the atmosphere by the effects of reflection and absorption. On the right side: Space-based solar power systems are an attempt to convert in space, outside the atmosphere, to avoid these losses.

So why the moon? Because once the moon base is set up, it requires far less energy to launch these satellites due to the far smaller gravity well. Why the moon? Because it could provide a focus that unites nations that offsets the potential for international tension over the remaining oil. Why the moon? Because it could be married to a number of other lunar industries. NASA have set up a new community to discuss the potential spin-offs and purposes of a moon base. Why the moon? Because it’s a stepping stone to Mars.

It’s not very probable that they’ll have the money, manpower or energy for this any time soon though…. it seems like we’ll most probably postpone a lot of this more extravagant infrastructure development when the very basics of life are threatened by peak oil.

But once we build the trains and wind turbines, and reinvent agriculture, and rezone our cities, and…. and…. oh all right I admit it. My longing to see ‘Moonbase Alpha’ is just the stuff of dreams till we come out the other side of this oil crisis.

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