|The Value of the Moon: Creating a Permanent Cislunar Transportation Infrastructure||April 20, 2017|
Over fifty years experience has shown that space benefits society in many ways, especially through the use of a variety of satellite assets in high orbits beyond low Earth orbit (LEO). However, Earth’s deep gravity well is a significant cost deterrent to expanded activities in space. For missions beyond LEO, most of the mass launched is propellant. The International Space Station proves that human- and machine-assembled satellites can be as big and as capable as needed, unlimited by launch vehicle size. However, we cannot today routinely access orbits beyond LEO with people and machines to build and maintain such satellites. A system based around the manufacture and use of propellant made from lunar water can reduce the cost and complexity of new space activities and enable routine access to all points in cislunar space (including GEO and other high orbits useful for space assets) and human interplanetary flight (i.e., to Mars and beyond). Both robotic and human presence is required on the Moon to enable and maintain propellant production from lunar resources. By going to the Moon to establish a permanent presence, we create a reusable, extensible and maintainable (and thus, affordable) transportation system, a “transcontinental railroad” for cislunar space. If the United States undertakes such a program to develop and use off-planet resources, we create new wealth by developing and enabling new technologies, open new and previously unforeseen markets, and assure that free market, democratic pluralism prevails in the new frontier of space.