Mars is to NASA as a new Lego set is to a young child. A child sees the fantastic castle on the front of the Lego box and immediately wants to open the box and see the castle ready to play with; however, the castle must be built first following hundreds of steps: some minor and some major. Mars is that Lego castle and as much as the scientific community wants to establish a Martian base as soon as possible, there are thousands of steps that must be completed before doing so. A major step that must be completed before a Martian base can be established is a functioning human settlement on the surface of a celestial body much closer and more forgiving than Mars. This celestial body that must be settled first is Earth’s Moon.

The eagerness to establish a human settlement on Mars stems from the many possibilities and rewards of establishing such a settlement on the planet. In Robert Zubrin’s, The Case for Colonizing Mars, Zubrin states “Among extraterrestrial bodies in our solar system, Mars is singular in that it possesses all the raw materials required to support not only life but a new branch of human civilization” (Zubrin 1). This statement reveals the most desirable outcome of a Martian settlement is to establish a new branch of human civilization. Establishing a human settlement on Mars that could expand to sustain many humans is the root of the eagerness to settle Mars. In All the Reasons Why Humans Shouldn’t Colonize Mars, According to Experts, by Brad Jones, it is stated by University of Michigan’s Aaron Ridley that “I am a big believer in baby steps, so it makes a lot of sense to try to do something on the moon, and then move on to Mars.” (Jones). This statement shines light upon the fact that humans must prove that they can sustain a base on a more forgiving surface before taking on the challenges of Mars. While mankind is eager to settle Mars, we as a species must acknowledge our inexperience with extraterrestrial colonization and shoot for a more achievable goal, which must be the Moon.

What makes a human settlement on the Moon a more viable option than other possible projects, such as building a new space station or even establishing a human settlement on Mars? First, a comparison between the benefits of a new space station and a human settlement on the Moon must be made. Regarding cost, a new space station would cost much less than a settlement on the Moon when it comes down to initial set up. However, in the long run, a human settlement on the Moon will prove to cost less than a new space station. The reason for this is that a space station has very limited self-sufficiency which can greatly be contributed to the maximum amount of space that can be provided in a fully functioning space station. While the space station can be modular and expand to satisfy needs, it still must rely on frequent resupplying missions from Earth. In addition, there is very little that can be done that hasn’t already been done on the current International Space Station.  In the case of a settlement on Mars, the main purpose of each project is entirely different and therefore the benefits and possibility of each project must be evaluated. Of all the planets that orbit the Sun, Mars is the most like Earth. The purpose of a Martian settlement would be to test a settlements ability function on a planet that is most like Earth within our solar system. In contrast, a settlement on the Moon would test a settlements ability to function on a celestial body, not at all like Earth and provide great opportunity to expand future space exploration to other celestial bodies, including Mars. The applications and benefits of a settlement on the Moon greatly outweigh the benefits and applications of a Martian settlement, because the goal of establishing a human settlement on the Moon is far more attainable due no experience with colonization beyond Earth. Because of a settlement on the Moon being more attainable future missions can more readily be improved with feedback provided with the guaranteed success of a human settlement on the Moon. Lastly, a Martian settlement would prove to be far more expensive to establish due to the distance between Earth and Mars being much greater than that of the Moon and Earth. The cost-effectiveness, as well as the scientific benefits, yielded from a human settlement on the moon make a lunar colony the most viable and logical choice to directed funding towards.

The strongest arguments for such a settlement are rooted in the interest of improving an understanding of space exploration as well as paving a way for future applications regarding space exploration. An example of an application of establishing a human settlement on the moon is that having a settlement on a celestial body would provide accurate feedback on the means to operate human settlement beyond our planet. The experience of operating an extraterrestrial base would provide data that is crucial to the interest of colonizing other celestial bodies beyond Earth’s Moon. In addition, such a settlement could serve as a more efficient launch station when launching rockets into deep space. The greater efficiency of rocket launches on the moon compared to launched on earth stems from the fact that the gravitational pull when launching from the Moon is not nearly as strong as the gravitational pull a rocket must overcome when launching from Earth. Furthermore, research relating to problems and phenomena on earth can be explored from a different angle; a different angle of examination may provide different results or solutions to problems that have only been explored on Earth. These applications not only justify the purpose of a lunar settlement but also prove that such a settlement is entirely necessary.

To expand on the efficacy of research which would be done on the lunar surface, key examples of contrasting results between Earth-based research and Lunar based research must be evaluated. An example of a specific field of research that would yield different when being conducted on the Moon instead of Earth would be environmental research. Niklas Jarvstrat, a member of the Norwegian Astronautical Society, states in his article, Sweden Leads the Way to Lunar Colonization that “Research and development on the moon would contribute to new environmental and technological solutions on Earth” (Jarvstrat 9).  The possible new solutions offered by research and development conducted on the Moon may provide solutions that would not have been attainable if said research was conducted on Earth. Moreover, research and development are not confined to just environmental and technological fields, for the application of variances produced by research on the lunar surface can be applied to many other fields such as medicine. A specific example of research that would differ on the Moon would be the effects of gravity on the human body. Experiments on the impacts of reduced gravity on the human body mostly are conducted using simulations on Earth, conducting these experiments on the Moon would provide real-time results without the use and possible interference of a simulation. In the research article Changes of Gait Kinematics in Different Simulators of Reduced Gravity, published in the Journal of Motor Behavior, changes in running and walking caused by reduced gravity are explored using simulated reduced gravity. Significant changes in the velocity of leg swing are observed in the experiment. Utilizing the true reduced gravity on the moon would produce less error and be used in experimentation for greater amounts of time. Research and development on the Moon would provide valuable data that can be used to compare similar examples which have been evaluated on Earth or, perhaps, produce entirely new opportunities for research and development.

Much like the way that a map guides an explorer, a human settlement on the Moon would pave the way for the colonization of other celestial bodies. A human settlement on the Moon would serve as the basis of colonizing a planet such as Mars. This is supported by Fiona Macdonald’s article, NASA Scientists Say We Could Colonise The Moon by 2022… For Just $10 Billion: “The lessons we’ll learn and the technology we’ll develop building a human base outside of Earth will eventually be the key to colonising Mars, and other planets, according to the experts” (Macdonald). Establishing a settlement on the Moon is a much easier and attainable goal than establishing a settlement on Mars, therefore the Moon must be settled first before an attempt to establish a settlement on Mars can be made. The Moon settlement serves as a trial run for future settlements on other celestial bodies, and data from the said trial will prove to be of the utmost importance for future missions to establish settlements on celestial bodies.  Colonizing the Moon provides many challenges which is revealed in D. Elsworth, J. Kohler, and S. Alexander’s report, Lunar Resource Recovery: A definition of Requirements, “The highly evacuated, low gravitational, cosmically bombarded lunar environment, subject to massive temperature swings, presents untold challenges and hardships in terms of mere daily survival” (Elsworth Kohler Alexander 407). A human settlement must first conquer these challenges provided on Earth’s moon before a settlement can be established in more hostile environments. Overcoming the challenges presented on the Moon would better prepare a project with a goal to establish a human settlement on another celestial body such as Mars. While establishing a human settlement on Mars is a worthy goal, a moon first approach is a wiser way to get to undertake such a mission on Mars. The Moon’s proximity serves as a tool at mankind’s disposal to prepare for a mission to settle on a further and more hostile celestial body, making it the most logical choice for establishing the first human settlement beyond Earth.

Establishing a human settlement on the Moon by no means would serve as a lifeboat for Earth. The term “lifeboat” in this context is a celestial body besides Earth that could serve as a place for humanity to exist if life becomes unsustainable on Earth. Most proposals for lunar settlements offer a maximum population in the hundreds, for only key researchers and operators will be found living in the settlement. In the NASA technical report, Design of a Lunar Colony it is stated that “Note that at the colony threshold point (about 180 personnel), there is still some degree of earth-supply dependence” (Dalton et al 5). It is not reasonable to try to turn the Moon into a self-sustaining back up for the Earth because most project plans are focused towards sustainability for a small human colony. A self-sustaining back up for Earth must be another celestial body besides the moon.

Therefore, spending on establishing a human settlement on the Moon must be viewed as a progressive and evolving budget. The human settlement cannot be established entirely at once, for the project allows a process of expanding and evolving which is directed by the needs presented by the initial settlement as well as meeting the intended usefulness of the human settlement. The project by nature serves as having infinite applications so long as the budget still has funds to support future expansion in the applications of the settlement. To simply establish a nearly self-sufficient human settlement on the Moon a minimum budget of twenty-billion dollars must be established. The initial fifteen-billion-dollar budget can be established by comparing the cost of relatively new lunar colonization proposals. In a recent proposal presented in the year 2016, it is stated “…Including leading NASA scientists, has now produced a special journal edition that details how we could establish a human colony on the Moon in the next seven years – all for US$10 billion” (Macdonald). The colony discussed has similar objective goals to the one proposed in this paper, however, the magnitude of applications for a human settlement is much less in the ten-billion-dollar budget discussed above.

A joint lunar colonization project between NASA and the private space company SpaceX will result in a far more cost-effective strategy than if NASA alone were to establish the human settlement on the Moon. SpaceX is a private space company that is producing rockets that are proving to be revolutionary. An example is SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. According to the SpaceX website, SpaceX.com, the Falcon 9 rocket is a rocket that has been optimized for reliability as well as reusability, for this rocket offers multiple uses before being discarded. In addition, it is stated that the rocket can deliver a payload of 8,860lbs to Mars. SpaceX.com website states that the cost of a Falcon 9 launch in 2018 is sixty-two million USD. To establish the affordability of the Falcon 9 it must be compared to the Saturn V. In T. A. Heppenheimer’s monograph, The Space Shuttle Decision: NASA’s Search for a reusable Space Vehicle, the Saturn V rocket is described as the most powerful rocket built by NASA, and it was the Saturn V that allowed the United States to land on the Moon. Heppenheimer states that the cost to purchase a single Saturn V rocket in 1966 was 185 million USD. Adjusting the price of the Saturn V to USD in 2018 brings the rocket to a cost of $1,434,180,503.14. The affordability of the Falcon 9 is clear given that it is twenty-three times less expensive than the Saturn V.  The affordability of the Falcon 9 makes it clear that it should be the basis of carrying supplies as needed to a human settlement on the moon. The rocket required to deliver scientists and the materials required to establish the initial human settlement on the Moon would be SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. According to SpaceX.com, the cost of a single Falcon Heavy rocket is a mere ninety-million USD. SpaceX.com states that the Falcon Heavy rocket can carry a payload of 37,040 lbs. to Mars. The Falcon Heavy is the 2018 equivalent of the 1966 Saturn V, however, when accounting for inflation the Falcon Heavy rocket is nearly one-sixteenth the cost of the Saturn V rocket. According to NASA’s online government publication, Project Apollo: A Retrospective Analysis, the total cost of the Apollo 11 mission came out to be 25.4 billion USD in 1969. Adjusting for inflation brings the cost of the Apollo 11 mission out to be $176,386,185,915.49 in 2018 dollars. Using the fact that the Falcon Heavy is the modern equivalent of the Saturn V which was the rocket used in the Apollo 11 mission and the Falcon Heavy comes out to cost one-sixteenth that of the Saturn V, to get a rough estimate of the cost of another mission to the Moon in 2018 the total cost of the Apollo 11 mission in 2018 dollars can be divided by sixteen to result in the cost of a 2018 mission to the Moon, the total estimate comes out to be merely 11,024,136,619$, or around half of the twenty-billion-dollar projected budget is dedicated to arriving at the Moon. The resulting nine billion can be dedicated to establishing the settlement and resupplying.

Such a project must be used in a way that will prove to be the most cost-effective and produce the greatest long-term results, therefore a human settlement on Earth’s moon must be the project funded, for such a settlement proves to be cost-effective and of great benefit to the future of space exploration. The budget for a human settlement on the Moon is reasonable and justifiable, as well as flexible enough to adjust. A human settlement on the Moon is an attainable goal that can be achieved with the cooperation of NASA and companies such as SpaceX. The cost of the project is justified by the infinite applications and new opportunities for space exploration that are presented with a human settlement on the Moon. A human settlement on the Moon must be established and must remain the focus of NASA until humanity has enough experience to face the challenge of colonizing other places in the Universe.

Annotated Bibliography

Sylos-Labini, Francesca, et al. “Changes of Gait Kinematics in Different Simulators of Reduced Gravity.” Journal of Motor Behavior, vol. 45, no. 6, Nov/Dec2013, pp. 495-505. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00222895.2013.833080.

Citation: In the research article Changes of Gait Kinematics in Different Simulators of Reduced Gravity, published in the Journal of Motor Behavior, changes in running and walking caused by reduced gravity are explored using simulated reduced gravity. Significant changes in the velocity of leg swing are observed in the experiment.

This study closely looks at changes in the gait of a human when under the effects of reduced gravity. The information is reliable, for the people involved in the study are experts and have reliable expertise in the field of study. I used this information to solidify a point regarding true field research and experimentation without the aid of a simulation.

“Sweden Leads the Way to Lunar Colonization.” Futurist, vol. 40, no. 4, Jul/Aug2006, p. 9. EBSCOhost,search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bsh&AN=21200489&site=ehost-live.

Citation: An example of a specific field of research that would yield different when being conducted on the Moon instead of Earth would be environmental research. Niklas Jarvstrat, a member of the Norwegian Astronautical Society, states in his article, Sweden Leads the Way to Lunar Colonization that “Research and development on the moon would contribute to new environmental and technological solutions on Earth” (Jarvstrat 9).

The article expands on the efforts of Sweden which are being made to produce a possible plan for the colonization of the Moon. Benefits of lunar colonization are detailed. In addition, the cost in dollars and manpower is explored. I used this information to back up my claim that many benefits will result with a lunar colony.

Macdonald, Fioana. “NASA Scientists Say We Could Colonise The Moon by 2022… For Just $10 Billion.”Sciencealert.com, 22 March 2016, https://www.sciencealert.com/nasa-scientists-say-we-could-colonise-the-moon-by-2022-for-just-10-billion. Accessed 15 June 2016.

Citation: This is supported by Fiona Macdonald’s article, NASA Scientists Say We Could Colonise The Moon by 2022… For Just $10 Billion: “The lessons we’ll learn and the technology we’ll develop building a human base outside of Earth will eventually be the key to colonising Mars, and other planets, according to the experts” (Macdonald).

The article discussed the possibility of a lunar colony that would cost 10 billion dollars. The information provided includes details of the timeframe for such a mission, in addition to the benefits of doing so.

Elsworth, D., J. Kohler, and S. Alexander. Lunar Resource Recovery: A Definition of Requirements. Rep. no. N93-13978. N.p.: n.p., 1992. Web. 16 June 2018

Colonizing the Moon provides many challenges which is revealed in D. Elsworth, J. Kohler, and S. Alexander’s report, Lunar Resource Recovery: A definition of Requirements, “The highly evacuated, low gravitational, cosmically bombarded lunar environment, subject to massive temperature swings, presents untold challenges and hardships in terms of mere daily survival” (Elsworth Kohler Alexander 407)

The article describes the requirements for a lunar colony. The article is a government publication backed by experts in space exploration, therefore it is a very reliable source. I used the information to project that the Moon is still a challenge for our space scientists to conquer, but it is easier than colonizing Mars: therefore, we must colonize the moon first.

United States. NASA. “Project Apollo: A Retrospective Analysis.” 21 Apr. 2014 Web. 16 June 2018

According to NASA’s online government publication, Project Apollo: A Retrospective Analysis, the total cost of the Apollo 11 mission came out to be 25.4 billion USD in 1969. Adjusting for inflation brings the cost of the Apollo 11 mission out to be $176,386,185,915.49 in 2018 dollars. This information is used to compare the budget of a lunar colonization mission.

The information used is part of a conference paper that reflects on the Apollo project. Do’s and don’ts are explored throughout the papers. In addition, experiences and data gathered was discussed on how it could be used for future applications of space exploration.

Works Cited

Dalton, Charles, et al. Design of a Lunar Colony. Tech. no. NASA-CR-129164. Houston: United States, 1972. Web. 16 June 2018

Heppenheimer, T. The Space Shuttle Decision: NASA’s Search for a Reusable Space Vehicle. Washington, United States, 1999.

SpaceX. “SpaceX.” SpaceX, SpaceX, www.spacex.com/. Accessed 16 June 2018.

Jones, Brad. “All the Reasons Why Humans Shouldn’t Colonize Mars, According to Experts”. Futurism, 18 November 2017, https://futurism.com/humans-shouldnt-colonize-mars-experts/. Accessed 16 June 2018

Zubrin Robert. “The Case for Colonizing Mars”.National Space Society.http://space.nss.org/the-case-for-colonizing-mars-by-robert-zubrin/ July 1996 Web. 17 June 2018

Link to Image used: http://www.businessinsider.com/nasa-mars-crewed-exploration-plans-sls-2017-4