First let me say that I have been,and still am an ardent supporter of the Artemis Project™ since the day I first learned of it early in 1995. I understand and share the deep devotion to the Project shared by most Moon Society members who joined in the ASI days prior to the Moon Society founding convention in July 2000. At that time, the Moon Society took over membership services from Artemis Society International.
I am concerned about legal issues, but am not an expert on them by any means. I do _not_ propose importing the Artemis Project Reference Mission™ into a Moon Society wiki accessible by everyone.
I _do_ propose starting an open-source wiki-based commercial moonbase reference mission -- from scratch. This approach should avoid proprietary issues.
Now if TLRC [The Lunar Resources Company] can ever put together the resources to make the Artemis Project™ real, I will be cheering from the front row.
But establishing a commercial moonbase, as a start towards civilian settlement on the Moon, is a more important goal than helping any one particular for-profit enterprise achieve it, including TLRC.
That is why, a fresh start wiki-based commercial moonbase reference mission, listing and working out the many conceivable options at each phase of such a project, should be a resource available to any for-profit corporation who can come up with the resources to make such an undertaking a reality.
We should not aim at producing a "reference mission" i.e. ourselves selecting the best combination of proposals for each phase. We should leave that to whomever wants to pick and choose from the options sketched in the wiki to put together their own mission plan. But comparing options, brainstorming new ones, to fully flesh out the options -- now that we should help do.
So I am talking not so much about a Moon Society divorce from TLRC/Artemis Project™, as about holding them at arms length while opening up a wider set of possibilities to anyone and everyone who may be interested, TLRC included.
Again, that the goal to be achieved is far more important than the identity of who achieves it. Whether another US based startup goes the distance, or some outfit in Singapore, Russia, or Shangri-La does not matter. As an International Society, we must be open to projects started and/or owned by non-US companies or consortia. That humans settle the Moon is our goal.
We will all be cheering on a US/NASA/International moonbase effort.
Speaking for myself, I will be much more enthused about loop-the-Moon tourist flights and eventual tourist surface excursions, because I personally suspect that this kind of activity is more likely to lead to lunar resource development and civilian settlement. But that's just my personal opinion. And actually, an Artemis Project™ type commercial outpost finds a better fit in that scenario than in the international lunar science outpost scenario.
The chances of such a NASA/partners start being sufficiently open-ended and expansion-driven so as to lead to civilian settlement are realistically next to none. Any governmental/international outpost will put people on the Moon, and brighten our day. But we want a presence that will be permanent, and only civilian settlement can set human presence on the Moon on the path to permanence, immune to politically or economically motivated budget and program cuts.
So that does make the dream that drives the Artemis Project™, the driver behind Moon Society efforts and projects. The point is that realizing the dream is more important than who realizes it.
We all owe our existence to Gregory R. Bennett, Dana Carson, Randall Severy, and Ian Randall Strock, who incorporated The Lunar Resources Company. We'd all like to see them succeed. But we should aim at supplying the idea resources to anyone who might be able to put the necessary resources together.
Right now, on our Projects Page, the Artemis Project is still listed as our flagship project.
I would change that, the Board consenting, to:
"The dream of a commercial moonbase leading to civilian settlement through open-ended expansion, for example, as illustrated in the Artemis Project™, defines the ultimate goal of the Society. All other projects that the Society chooses to engage in should be selected according to their potential to promote achievement of this vision."
Now perhaps we can phrase this more succinctly. But you get the idea. "To the Moon to stay" is a bit too succinct to be useful, as too many people are deluded into thinking that a NASA outpost would guarantee that. Only ghost towns can be promised. Permanence must be earned.
We have tried to outline the Society goals clearly in "Who We Are & What We Do" -- see the link top center on our front page.
Yet many say they are unclear about what the Society's goals are, and where we are headed.
I think that is because some have very unrealistic expectations. We are limited to what we can do by our numbers, our treasury, and available volunteer labor. That makes "bending metal" and going on to establish our own outpost totally unrealistic. But we can make a critical difference!
We do need to prioritize membership expansion. And while inviting anyone and everyone, and valuing everyone’s contributions, we need to concentrate especially on recruiting people with special relevant talents, and people with available free time. We also need to make it easier for people to list us in their wills, etc., so we can build an endowment fund that will enable us to undertake ever more ambitious projects.
From our Artemis Society beginnings, it should also be clear that our goal is not to cheer on or push a NASA/international outpost, as much as we would all like to see it become real. Why? Because the chances of such an outpost going on to be the nucleus of civilian settlement, are as great as those of a snowball surviving a close encounter with the sun. Politics, budget realities, popular support are all both unpredictable, fickle, and irrational. An international outpost in which expansion is not a part of its game plan, is not part of our dream. It's that simple.
Such a limited science outpost will indeed stir up enthusiasm for more in people of talent and ability, however. It will be encouraging. That's good.
At the same time, such an outpost will have made many irrational choices because of budget pressures, and the results of these compromises may lead many to think that the dream is impossible. So a limited science outpost could also be a negative factor. That's bad. In the past, NASA's deep pockets have discouraged would-be startup competitors. Space in general and the Moon in particular, do not have to be as expensive as any government entity will inevitably make it seem.
How can the Moon Society fitting in? Our work as a society can help define, publicize, and promote the development of the technologies, systems, and attitudes that will enable a first outpost to undertake prompt, inflationary expansion, leading to a switch from staffing by temporary personnel on fixed tours of duty to civilians, choosing to adopt the Moon as their new homeland, working to support themselves and to earn credit from exports to attain export-import break-even, and making themselves and their families at home on the Moon.
I am well aware that we may have some members who would be quite content with an Antarctic style human presence on the Moon. But the Society must not itself ever be content with that. The fire in the gut of the Artemis Project™ founders, and ASI members, must continue to blaze in our own gut.
President, The Moon Society