So, Newt Gingrich wants to build a moonbase. Bully for him. Being part of the Republican party, an organization not known for its support of grassroots science, it’s probably safe to say that Newt being a flagbearer for a base on the moon is more a political gambit than a scientific one. Back in the Sixties the United States got locked in a race with the USSR to be the first nation to set foot on the lunar surface. And what happened when they won? They promptly stopped sending astronauts there.
However, whatever his intentions, Newt might be onto to something with his idea for a moonbase. First of all, if humankind ever wants to expand into the rest of the solar system for mining, terraforming, or just out of plain curiosity, a permanent base on the moon would make a good first step. The moon, having no atmosphere, would mean that we’d be forced to learn a great deal about how to shield ourselves from the constant flux of solar radiation. This would hold us in good stead for further expeditions to Mars and beyond.
Secondly, with surface gravity being a sixth of the Earth’s, a moonbase would be a great place to host experiments that examine how a low-gravity environment affects things such as semiconductor maufacturing, plant growth, and embryo development. This could potentially be a catalyst for major off-world industries.
And thirdly, with the moon tidally locked with Earth–a situation that took millions of years to happen as the moon gradually lost angular momentum–the far, “dark” side of the moon would be a perfect place to locate telescopes to stare deeper into the universe than ever before.
Can you think of any more reasons to build a moonbase?
Image Credit: Wiki Commons.