Maybe I am influenced by having read Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress when it was first published, but I am wondering about all the recent PR for a manned mission to Mars — even by some people who are not named Robert Zubrin — and whether it is just the romance of going to another planet. The Moon seems to make much more sense for a first permanent base (i.e. not an orbital space station) for a number of reasons:
- It’s closer.
- There is micro-gravity.
- If you go underground, you might be in decent shape for protection against high energy particles.
- There appears to be water ice in some of the craters.
- Mining on the Moon might, or might not, be worth the effort of going there. (Isn’t a useful isotope of Hydrogen available on the Moon and not on Earth?)
- The Moon, being out of the deepest part of Earth’s gravity well is, from a propulsion energy perspective, about halfway to anywhere in the inner solar system.
So what are the arguments in favor of Mars and against the Moon, besides “been there, done that?”