Way back when in early 2012, former GOP presidential nominee candidate Newt Gingrich proposed instating an American moon colony, and was highly ridiculed for this proposal. Despite the fact that NASA seeks completely different developments, private companies are once again exploring the option.
NASA, America’s government-funded space agency, hasn’t looked into the idea of a moon colony in a while. Rather, scientists strive to land astronauts on asteroids by 2021 and working with quantum computers to model artificial intelligence in space. The idea of a moon colony maintains an air of science-fiction, but technically speaking it may be feasible through privately-funded endeavors.
Bigelow Aerospace, LLC — a company specializing in inflatable space habitats — has agreed to work with NASA to explore the possibility of landing another astronaut more permanently on the moon in the form of a colony. The Las Vegas-based company would not receive payment for this side job, other private companies such as Uwingu have begun to use crowd-funding to raise money to support such endeavors. Another company, SpaceX, has sold over 50 launches through 2017.
The crowd-funding method appeals to the popular science aspects of landing on the moon. Despite the fact that former astronauts would rather see us trying to land on Mars or an asteroid, moon colonies still appeal. Just recently, one lucky bidder in a charity auction won a trip to sit next to Leonardo DiCaprio on the first ever space tourism voyage for $1.5 million. Public space travel is a marketable reality. It may be a frivolous expense only now available to those with casual millions to spend, but the idea has a public appeal.
No form of space exploration is cheap: Estimates from the Center for Strategic and International Studies show that even a four-person colony would cost a pretty penny of $35 billion dollars. Although private endeavors have at present only raised a fraction of the cost, the fact that they’ve raised anything at all is worth the tip of a hat. At present, NASA’s financial future is uncertain: it’s no wonder the government space-agency chooses its projects strategically for the most obviously beneficial technological endeavors.
Space exploration — and most scientific research in general — is one of the first victims of budget cuts, and when financial resources are limited, it is one of the many fields to be run out of business.
Sometimes, it’s hard to see the direct benefits of any research into the unknown. However, NASA alone generates many spin-off technologies that benefit us in hidden ways. Maybe moon colonies don’t seem to be the most practical form of scientific exploration, but at least the private sector has undertaken some form of research funding to outer space. The government can’t do it alone, and who knows what kinds of helpful spinoffs will result from these investments? It doesn’t matter who is investing in space technologies, or for what motivation, so long as the public is aware and supports the endeavor.