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Moonbase Alpha?

NASA announced yesterday that plans to return to the moon by 2020 also include a major surprise – a permanent settlement designed to support people full time by 2024. While initially they will have to ferry supplies (like air, water, that sort of thing) using the new Orion spacecraft, eventually they hope to take advantage of the moon’s natural resources and being processing the hydrogen, oxygen, and other resources. Hoping for an international effort, they even feel that eventually the base could be run by a commercial entity – but are we really ready for Halliburton in space?

If they call it anything other than Moonbase Alpha I’ll be dissapointed.

9 Comments on Moonbase Alpha?

  1. Yes! Thanks for the nod to SPACE 1999. Everybody forgets about that show. I watched it as a youngster and didn’t miss an episode. Hmm, I guess I’ll be looking for the DVD set…

  2. Kyle Jelle // December 5, 2006 at 1:46 pm //

    Sadly, they already named the space station alpha:

    Maybe they could call the moon base Babylon 5.

  3. Jim Shannon // December 5, 2006 at 11:37 pm //

    With Barbra Bain. Martin

    Landau and Barry Morse,

    what more can I say?

  4. The space station name didn’t stick though – it’s still called the ISS mostly. Too bad – it should have a name (and I admit that I thought it was still called Freedom officially.)

    However, in a bid to bring this back to sci-fi, I’d like to point out that one of the first serious looks at a moonbase was taken by the legendary Arthur C. Clarke who laid out plans in 1954 for a group of inflatable modules that would serve as igloo-like homes for the residents. He also proposed an algae-based air purifier, a nuclear power plant, and an electromagnetic railgun to launch cargo and fuel to vehicals in lunar orbit.

    Note: I cribbed that from an NPR report I heard on the radio (and is up on, an entry on lunar colonization from Wikipedia, and a site on lunar base designs from the JSC. However, as is often the case, I can’t find a citation that shows how Clarke made his plans known. How did he publish it? If anybody knows – fill me in!

  5. Clarke’s plans were probably in the original British Interplanetary Society magazine. He also wrote several books on spaceflight, one dealt with travel to the Moon, but that was for the first flight. These plans may have appeared in “Challenge of the Spaceship”, which was a broader subject book. I’ve got several of his early non-fiction spaceflight books so I’ll see if I can locate the appopriate articles.

    As for Alpha, etc., part of the reason it didn’t stick is that the ISS is not the first space station. The US had previously orbited the very successful Skylab. The Soviet Union (later Russia) orbited several Salyut stations as well as Mir. Freedom was what they called the ISS when it was mostly a US project, it wasn’t changed to ISS until the Russians were added to the partnership (and everything had to get designed again).

    As for the Moonbase, I hope they name it after the location (planned, for now, for one of the polar regions). Giving it a name like “Aiken Base” is a lot nicer than “International Moon Base” or “Alpha” or whatever.

    (As an aside, getting back to the ISS, seek out a book called “Is Peckerhead Hyphenated?” for an utterly hilarious look at the long journey of the ISS to orbit.)

  6. Clarke talks about a moonbase in “The Exploration of Space” (Harper & Brothers in the US, Temple Press in the UK, 1951). He also wrote a book called “The Exploration of the Moon” which probably had the moonbase as well. Alas, that one always goes out of reach for me whenever I spot it on eBay!

    The illustrations, by the way, were by R.A. Smith (drawings) and Leslie Carr (color paintings based on Smith’s original drawings). Some good stuff there.

  7. I don’t think it was in The Exploration of the Moon – all the references I can find point to it being a non-fiction exercise. And multiple sources refer to the year as 1954 – seeming to rule out the things he wrote in ’51 or ’53. It just annoys me a little when facts like this are stewn about without any references. I don’t expect it in a comment or a goofy blog post – but in Wikipedia or on JSC’s site I would at least expect something to back up the statement.

  8. “The Exploration of the Moon” was a non-fiction work!

    Clarke wrote a series of non-fiction works about space travel all around the same period: Interplanetary Flight, The Challenge of the Spaceship, The Exploration of Space and The Exploration of the Moon.

    The Exploration of the Moon (one copy on eBay at $600.00, ouch!!!) was published in 1954 by Harper & Brothers, so that fits your citation of the year.

    In The Exploration of space, Chapter 11, “The Lunar Base”, he describes possible space suits, inflatable huts, a telescope, the search for water in various forms, the railgun, hydroponic farming, and more. So that seems to fit what you are looking for as well.

    All of these elements made appearances in various Clarke stories and novels. For example, Earthlight took place mostly on the Moon and even featured a monorail that connected the various colonies.

  9. Doh I stand corrected – I misread the bibliography entry for Exploration and thought it was a fictional account! That’s definately the source! Thanks Fred!

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