Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Trump’s mugshot

I had a thought the other day.  If during all these investigations information is found to not only have Congress impeach and remove Trump from office, but also to have criminal charges filed against him, his mugshot will break the internet, among other things.  Every news show – from major cable news channels to Joe Bob’s News Wrap-Up on YouTube – will air it.  It will be the subject of countless vlogs and reaction videos.  It will be the header photo on a million Twitter accounts and every other person of Facebook will change their profile photo to it.  And then the majority of newspapers – not just in the US but around the world – will print it along with countless magazines.  And then there will be the bumper stickers, and the posters, and the T-shirts, and the coffee mugs, and the shot glasses, and people getting it on cakes, and on and on and on.  I mean, all the movies and TV shows that show a college dorm room with a Che Guevara poster will just swap in a Trump mugshot poster.

This raised two questions for me.  One, who owns the rights to mugshots?  I’m just curious because I’m sure Leroy who makes flags with the mugshot replacing the stars will follow the law on the matter.  But more importantly, two, will having the most famous mugshot in history just stroke Trump’s ego?  Or would it be better if – if he’s found guilty – when he goes to jail to just say, “Good riddance,” and let him fade into obscurity?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Making a quick buck on the moon

Over the years I’ve written several posts – and an ebook – about why I support returning to the moon over rushing off to Mars.  The basic reason boils down to money.  Setting up a lunar base/colony will be expensive, but then in a decade or two resources and new businesses will return the investment with interest.  Setting up a Mars base/colony will be even more expensive, and hopefully billionaires on Earth keep funneling money into to.  Because outside of genuine Mars rocks to be sold to museums and collectors and tchotchkes stamped “Made on Mars” there’s nothing on Mars that will be worth exporting.

These are all thoughts I’ve had for some time, but I started wondering what would be the first business to make money on the moon?  If we can figure out the engineering challenges to beam energy from solar collectors around the moon to Earth, that’s untold billions in profits right there.  But it will take a few decades to hammer the bugs out of the – mostly – autonomous mining, processing, manufacturing, and emplacing of the solar panels.  What businesses could make money with the first return missions to the moon?

Outside of the money private companies will make sending rovers and government astronauts to the moon, the first money making ventures will be small.  These will be genuine moon rocks bought by museums and collectors on Earth, shooting ads, or maybe some company will want to archive some data completely off-grid.  None of these will pay for setting up a lunar base.  They will just be exploring the ways to make money on the moon.

Probably the one business that will make the most money the quickest will be tourism.  I had assumed that Phase I of a lunar base would just be a pure scientific outpost figuring out how to live on the moon, but Phase II of the base might include a hotel.  But then I realized that a hotel at a scientific outpost probably isn’t that great.  Yes, you’d be on the moon, but there wouldn’t be that much you could do.  You could put on a spacesuit and go walk where … dozens of other people have walked in the area right around the base. 

The solution would be to just skip the hotel – until there is enough infrastructure and population to support playing fields for lunar sports, for example – and go with a rover.  Over the years there have been hundreds of ideas for improved lunar rovers.  Instead of little golf carts like some of the Apollo missions had, these would be enclosed habitats that you would drive to some spot and then put on your spacesuit and walk around where no one has been before.  Some of these rovers are also the rocket that lands you on the moon and lets you take off again.  It’s a lot of extra weight to lug around, but it means if there’s an accident you don’t have to drive a hundred kilometers back to where you landed to take off again.  Ideally, these rovers would dock with a space station in lunar orbit where they’d be refueled and sent back down.  These would be ideal for scientists to explore new areas of the moon and for prospectors to find the resources to start building lunar industry.  And they would be perfect for tourists.  Instead of spending most of your time on the moon in a cramped room with a screen showing you camera views from around the base, you could spend your time in a cramped rover with a window with an ever changing view. 

The moon contains untold riches and opportunities; it will just take time to develop them.  Letting tourists take their own “small steps” may be the way to buy that time. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Stuck on the moon

Yesterday I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw that someone had shared a post about people being upset that NASA will be sent back to the moon instead of being sent directly to Mars.  A comment that stuck out was that some people, apparently, are worried that we could end up “stuck on the moon.” This is in reference to humans being “stuck in Low Earth Orbit” for the past forty years since the end of Apollo. 

As someone who wants humanity to return to the moon because that will do far more towards making humanity a spacefaring civilization than going to Mars, I basically said “Bah,” and moved on.  But the phrase “stuck on the moon” … stuck with me, and it was some time later that I saw the flaw in the logic.

The reason we’ve been stuck in Low Earth Orbit for the past forty years is that we don’t have the capability to go farther.  The reason we don’t have the capability is that we don’t have the budget for it.  I mean, Saturn V’s weren’t cheap, and once we beat the Soviets to the moon, NASA had their budget drastically cut.  It’s not too farfetched to think that if NASA had kept the budget it had in the late 60’s, we’d have a lunar colony as well as Martian bases/colony by now. 

So what’s the worry?  That we’ll finally build a moon base and then the budgetary rug will be yanked out from beneath them?  I admit, that is a legitimate concern, but why wouldn’t that also be a concern for the far more expensive Mars base?  I mean, if we lack the technology/budget for a moon base, that also means we lack the technology/budget for a Mars base.  I guess some people think money will just magically appear to support a Mars base because … it’s Mars.

One of the main reasons I support returning to the moon over rushing off to Mars, is that there are things we can do on the moon to make money.  Things from lunar tourism to building solar panels to supply cheap, clean electricity to the billions left on Earth.  Yes, setting up a lunar base/colony will be expensive, but in a few decades it should repay the investment with interest.  Going to Mars will cost money.  The only things that a Mars colony could export will be genuine Mars rocks for museums and collectors and tchotchkes stamped “Made on Mars” for suckers, I mean, space enthusiasts to buy.  Meanwhile lunar colonies could be building communication satellites for Earth and growing food to supply the orbital hotels.

I’m sick of people saying we need to go to Mars to inspire future generations to build the infrastructure to make humanity a spacefaring civilization, who then look down on those of us who want to build the infrastructure to make humanity a spacefaring civilization right now on the moon.  If the choices are tangible results or inspiration, I go with tangible results.