Statement to the National Academies questionnaire on space policy

Solar Power Satellites Constructed with Lunar Materials

by Dr. Peter J. Schubert
(Packer Engineering, past Director of the Moon Society, current Moon Society Advisor)
January 22, 2009

Energy independence, climate change, and reducing nuclear proliferation are  critical issues facing our generation.  All three areas can be addressed together with a scalable, reliable, sustainable, and clean energy source.  There is only one such source - sunlight.  Terrestrial solar suffers from four drawbacks: (1) night, (2) clouds, (3) energy density, and (4) effluents from manufacturing. 

A superior approach is to collect sunlight in space, which has three key advantages :  (1) scalable, (2) always available, and (3) inexhaustible.  For decades, NASA studied space solar power (SSP).  Launch costs, however, make it unattractive.  There is another solution.  Use materials from the moon, and launch only factories. 

The moon is 21% silicon, the constituent of most solar cells.  A lunar factory can produce all raw materials  needed to build solar panels, which can be installed in orbit, where they collect sunlight and beam the power via low-density radio waves to receiving antennae on earth. 

This approach is scalable, sustainable, and clean.  SSP using lunar materials is the one technology which can provide an answer to each of the 3 critical issues of our time.  SSP can provide energy for all of mankind for all time to come.

The Dept. of Energy does not work with satellites.  NASA dropped all work on SSP, despite a strongly favorable recommendation by the National Space Security Office in October 2006.  A technology with so much promise must be an on-going portion of our goals for the civil space program.  Political winds change more often than it will take to achieve a sizable portion of our baseload electrical power from space.  It is imperative that a long-range vision be developed, so that critical technology components can be developed, integrated, and tested.

By the time we return to the moon, a decade hence, we should be bringing factories which can help assure a sustainable environment on our home planet,  and energy independence for our nation.

Personally, I will work towards this goal regardless of what the US civil space program or Congress chooses to do.  In my opinion, this is the ultimate answer  to our energy-related issues.  Sooner or later, this awareness will reach enough
people to build momentum and make it happen.  I will be ready.  My appeal is to start this work now - it will take a long time - so that it will be ready when we need it.  As the Chinese saying goes:  "Dig the well before you are thirsty."

Thank you for your consideration.


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