Last night, one scientist became the voice crying in the wilderness amid all the corporate types who were exclaiming over the riches to be made by mining the moon. He alone was urging humanity, especially those in the US, to learn to live within our means here at home before charging off to grab everything we can get from the solar system.
I agree with his view—for all the good that will do.
Then, this morning I had another chilling thought: Suppose we do rush to start shipping bulldozers to the moon? Suppose we once again rush blindly forward without thinking about the long-term consequences of our actions?
Here’s the scenario: The mining equipment throws small rocks and vast amounts of moon-dust, which has the consistency of talcum powder, off the surface. The moon, with 1/6 the gravity of the earth and no atmosphere for the foreseeable future, may not have the power to pull all the debris thus created back to the ground.
Much of it may create a permanent halo or even rings around the moon. How much of the dust may get thrown out of the moon’s orbit completely? 1] What does that do in regards to creating a debris field—thus endangering future space missions? What does it do to the satellites that are already up there? Does it endanger the people on the space station? What of future stations? What does it do to the Hubble telescope? 2] Even more importantly—if enough debris escapes from the moon it could, conceivably, alter the weight of the moon. What does that mean for the tide patterns here on earth?
Another documentary, some months ago, spoke about the fact that the tide patterns were probably instrumental in creating life on earth and, without them, life might be extinguished. It, though, was dealing with the far future when the moon will have drifted too far away to affect the planet. The proposed mining could move that date much closer.
But, of course, we’ll do what we’ve always done. We’ll deal with today’s profits and let future generations deal with the problems we create.