Freeluna! the Cry for Space Colony Independence
I have often been asked why I chose the name "Freeluna" for my blog and my webpage. The name comes from the "Luna Free State" envisioned in Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" -- a must read for all space afficionados.
While Heinlein's main interest in that story had to do with politics, the social aspects of revolution, and the advantages of living at the top of a gravity well, it seems inevitable to me that most space colonies will not only become self-sufficient, but will evolve socially at odds with Earth, and will consequently demand their autonomy somewhere off in the distant future. It is in this spirit that I envision a lunar nation or nations, independent of the old imperial Earth.
The reason for these impending social change has to do with the differences between living on Earth and living in space. On Earth, despite what you may have heard to the contrary, we are profoundly resource rich. So rich, that it is not obvious to the casual Earth dweller. In particular, the Earth is rich in oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon -- the fundamental building blocks of life as we know it. The oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen are contained primarily in two convenient forms: in the form of oceans of water -- on average 3km deep, covering 75% of the earth's surface; and an atmosphere at a conveniently high pressure, uniformly covering the earth's surface and 100 km deep. Carbon is a bit scarcer, but still easily available -- mostly in the form of the plant matter that covers most of the Earth's dry surfaces.
In space, people will live in small enclosed environments -- little bubbles of life. For each person in the colony, there has to be a reserve of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen in the form of plants, air, and water for that person to survive. For every new person added to the colony, either by immigration or by birth, new supplies of these "life resources" will need to be added to the colony. In space the life resources are typically rare and usually found in inconvenient forms -- oxygen may have to be wrestled out of the oxides in the soil, hydrogen extracted from lunar polar ice (if it exists), carbon and nitrogen from bits of carbonaceous asteroids or similar. As a consequence, the space colonists will evolve a deep respect for their resources that we Earthlings will likely never appreciate. Trash disposal will never be an option in a self-sustaining colony. Everything -- trash, toxic waste, sewage, bodies -- will end up being recycled.
On the other hand, energy in space will be next to free. A network of solar energy stations around the moon could provide continuous power to all lunar habitats. Such a network will be possible because (1) the moon is politically a clean slate, (2) there are no geographical barriers to prevent such a system (such as oceans, etc.) and (3) because solar energy shines nearly 365 days a year on the moon (except for during eclipses). On Earth, universal power access is hampered by all the things the moon is missing -- politics, weather, oceans, largess. As a result on Earth we have to burn fossil fuels to light our way.
These differences in environment will cause the differences in perspective that will lead to the space colony independence movement. No colonist will ever consider converting his local stores of life resources into products for the Earth market. And yet no Earthling would think twice about doing just that.
So be prepared for the impending space colony revolutions. If we are considerate of each other's needs, they need not be bloody.