Let's build a stairway to the moon

William E. Howard the 3rd has quite a unique piece in today’s Tribune. He argues for human colonisation of the moon – and for greater cooperation between nations. I absolutely agree – if we do not get off this planet, we will not survive.

What might we do on the moon? We can test applications involving nuclear propulsion, radiation control and advanced communications. We can gain experience building habitats in a hostile environment. We can develop solar-powered devices for use in space.

We can investigate the practicalities of using laser power transmission for electricity and develop and refine other power technologies for future exploration. We can develop better long-term life-support systems and medicine appropriate to sustain life in low gravity.

Of course, these suggestions are for the short term. The U.S. space program has already had many spinoff applications and technology developments that have improved our way of life. Just as those improvements could not have been foreseen, there will be many practical spinoffs as the United States develops a permanent lunar habitat that will lead to improvements in our quality of life that cannot now be predicted.

Especially in view of China’s achievements, the lunar space station should be an international program. It would be a powerful vehicle to bring nations together, decreasing the chances for international conflict.

A reoriented and reinvigorated manned space program would offer a viable partnership to other space-faring nations that might welcome this opportunity to participate with the United States in developing a lunar habitat. For the United States, it would be a chance to explore practical ways to exist in space for very long periods.