My two year old son loves the Moon. He sings about it all day long. He can't wait for nightfall when I lift him into my arms to hold him ever closer to its magical glow. But my son isn't alone in his adoration of the Moon. Imaginative new ideas for using space to protect civilization against existential risks, such as killer asteroids, nuclear war, and global terrorism, are in the works by scientists and futurists from all parts of our world.
You can think of the idea as backing up civilization's collective hard drive—its recorded archive—on the Moon and creating a self-sufficient colony there precisely so it can act as a lifeboat in case a calamity strikes Earth. in my estimation, the overarching reason for moving to the Moon should be safe harbor, not to mine resources, or for the sake of a grand adventure. And the move outward must start with the Moon, not Mars. The Moon is three or four days away, not a year, so it makes logistical sense and is cheaper. And if there's an accident on the Moon, help or a safe haven are likewise four days away. Finally, the lunar colony ought to be NASA's overriding (but not only) mission, especially since it walked off a cliff after Apollo.
In his recent book "The Survival Imperative: Using Space to Protect Earth," author William E. Burrows presents a dramatic scenario of a killer-asteroid impact and highlights other existential risks facing the Earth, including nuclear war, terrorism, and in the future, gray goo and nanoweapons—"a far greater danger" than nuclear weapons, he says, quoting Ray Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines." And he lays out a revitalized national space program that coordinates efforts in global defense, environmental protection, communications, and military security. "Planetary defense should be conducted, not as a major program within the space agency, but as the agency's highly focused, overarching, mission.... The core mission, in its totality, would send humans and robots to space for mutually supportive operations specifically designed to protect the planet. That is to say, NASA, its collective foreign counterparts, and other cooperating U.S. agencies, should assume the role of Earth's guardians." (From Chapter 8, The Guardians, which can be read here.)
would be proud
agrees, and is bringing together key space activists to help make imaginative new space programs—including solar power from space to head off a global energy crisis—a key factor in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. "One or more generations of Americans does not see a reason for spending a dime on space," he says. "One or more generations of Americans imprinted as kids on something very different than we did. They imprinted on spaceship Earth, on the view that this is a planet with dwindling resources and that we have sinned against nature and must atone.
"Our goal is to accomplish in the early 21st century what
accomplished in the early 1950s with their TV show (
), their film (
), their magazine articles, and their books. They planted the image of an as-yet-unborn space program so tangibly in the public imagination that it made Americans hunger for space for half a century.
"I'd like to propose an NFL-style press campaign to elevate the visibility of the space efforts of the non-NASA players and to raise the level of public aspiration by inspiring it with the immediacy of a new frontier we can open wide in our lifetime, a new frontier that can dramatically upscale the lives of our children and of their children after them.
"As a scientist of mass behavior who did his fieldwork by founding the leading public relations firm in the music industry, I have a sense of a structure that can achieve this aim. Each of our participants also is far above average in organizational abilities. Together I believe we can forge a plan that's practical, delivers results, and lifts the eyes of humanity."
, which also supports this goal, is "assembling the best minds on the planet to develop these and other strategies for dealing with existential risks," said founder Eric Klien. "In the near future, terrorism will become a serious problem, first with biological and nuclear weapons and later with nano-weapons. It is time to secure the future of humanity by establishing a location off this planet."
Uploading ourselves to the moon?
The moon as digital archive could also play an important future role in the
program being developed by satellite communications pioneer
. She visualizes storing one's life history—"digital reflections of their mannerisms, personality, recollections, feelings, beliefs, attitudes and values—with as great a fidelity as is possible."
Future developments in mind-uploading technology and regenerative medicine would then "enable the recovered cyber-conscious CyBeRev person to transfer their mind into a synthetic body (including brain), such as one made out of nanotechnological materials."
Eventually these would be instantiated into a flesh body (including brain) grown from totipotent stem cells in which genetic engineering techniques have suppressed the development of a separate mind.