When a child learns to walk, they take leaps beyond what their skill and strength should allow. They look out at all the people walking around them, and see what is possible. Their muscles may not be strong enough to fully support them, to balance and stand, but they see what is possible. They pull themselves up by a table leg and stand. They may bounce on their feet a few times in anticipation of walking, and then they leap over, stumble a few steps, and fall onto a couch, or into a parent’s arms.
These are a child’s first steps.
When we, humanity, started our space journey our technological muscles were only beginning to be formed. Germanium was still being used in transistors, and Apollo’s computers had approximately 64Kbyte of memory and operated at 0.043MHz.
Landing on the moon was that stumbling first step that a baby takes from the table, lunging towards a couch.
Since then we’ve been strengthening our muscles. We now have cars that can drive themselves and more computing power than we know what to do with in our own pockets.
We have more than reached the time when we need to let go from holding on to the safety of the coffee table. We need to let go, and take steps out into the universe.
We dream of hotels on the moon and we think that we have failed because they don’t exist yet.
But those dreams were the dreams of a baby believing they’re walking because a parent is holding their hands up. Our technological muscles weren’t strong enough to support hotels on the moon.
Our technology has matured and now is the time to build those hotels. Solving the problems that we will need to solve, to have a manned base on the moon, will reverberate through our economy. Such a project will reap dividends beyond our imagination.
There are a lot of technological problems that will need to be solved for man to safely set up camp off our planet. How will we cheaply and efficiently get past lower orbit? What sort of life sustaining systems will we need to build to survive there? Are there building materials there? How much water can be found there?
Cellphone cameras, solar cells, and artificial limbs each were developed by NASA to solve a problem, and each became an industry in itself, generating jobs, creating wealth, and improving our overall quality of life. The solutions we create to set up camp on the moon will do the same.
We should do this in parallel to the missions planned to Mars. The moon is close and shouldn’t wait. What we learn there will apply further out and it should pay for itself in dividends.
We should send man back to the moon. We should build science stations on the moon.
We should build hotels on the moon.