[ExI] The Moon's Cold Embrace

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Thu Aug 13 21:02:09 UTC 2020

> ### If the ROI
> is very low, the doubling time from the initial technology seed would be
> too long to make it viable.
> When you mention ROI, then you must have a profit model in mind for
> what lunar settlers are doing.  Building condos or what?

Presumably one or more of:
* Exporting energy back to Earth
* Exporting ores back to Earth
* Constructing satellites and launching them into Earth orbit

Any buyers, at least at first, will be on Earth.  Therefore, any initial
ROI can only be from services & supply back to Earth.

Fuel stations to the rest of the solar system is simply an insignificant
market.  It'd be doing well to generate even a few million dollars per
year, nowhere near the cost of setting up a lunar colony.  Services to
things already in orbit generates even less money, within most potential
investors' time horizons.  So neither of those ideas are worth serious

> > ### Maybe you could mention the problems that don't have recognized
> > solutions.
> >
> > The worst problem is why?  Why are people needed on the moon at all?
> >
> ### Why not? If an affluent person can afford the trip, many will. I would,
> if the social situation was right.

For all but the richest, it'll be a one-way trip - without friends and
family who prefer to stay on Earth (which is almost everyone).

Would you go, if it meant you would never see any of your current friends
and family ever again (aside from over video with light lag)?  Or could you
perhaps convince your family to move?

If you could convince your family to move, would you need teachers &
schools for your children?  You presumably would work on the necessities of
the colony - helping build more infrastructure, or helping establish that
ROI - but what would your spouse do?  Or would this only be for unmarried
folks with weak to no family connections?

And what exactly would you do, with regards to building more infrastructure
or establishing that ROI, that could not be done better by a robot (perhaps
autonomous, perhaps being teleoperated from Earth, whichever works better)?

> ### Sure, using NASA-level inefficiency would make the whole endeavor
> completely useless but I am talking about orders of magnitude improvements
> in launch and build efficiency that should be possible with conceivable
> technologies.
> I agree if you are talking about nanotechnology. If you are talking
> nanotech, landing a coke can sized package is enough to industrialize
> the moon.  But this side of the singularity, I don't think it is in
> the cards.

Nanotech isn't needed, actually.  There has been a lot of work on
macro-scale sets of tools that can self-replicate.

One of the key ideas is that "sets of".  Rather than having one monolithic
nanoreplicator, you have vehicles to prospect & mine regolith for useful
ores; refineries & smelters to turn the ores into various types of
feedstock; printers, extruders, & tools to shape the feedstock into useful
components; assembly robots to put them all together; solar panels to power
the whole works; and central computers and communications to guide
everything (with oversight - but not minute-by-minute direction - provided
from Earth).  You make sure that each element is a thing that can be fully
constructed by the full set (this is most difficult for the vehicles, which
have many components of their own, but doable).  This means you're shipping
up multiple tons for a starter version of this full set, so it's in the
millions of dollars for transportation costs on top of obtaining that
initial set of things, but millions of dollars for a credible plan to
industrialize the Moon can be raised - especially with a good ROI.

> > The next worse problem is radiation.  There are solutions, but it is
> > not obvious that people can live underground
> ### People definitely can live underground, deep enough to take care of
> cosmic radiation.
> Can you think of an example where people live underground for years?
> I don't know of any.  Even being inside and able to look out windows
> causes serious mental problems for a lot of people if they do it too
> long.

If it's big enough, windows that look out across the open space inside the
colony itself might suffice.  Of course this means you have a lot of
"wasted" space inside the colony - except that all the open space will
ideally get used for the kinds of impromptu street stuff that pops up in
vibrant city downtowns all the time; the colony plans just have to leave
enough room for it to happen.
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