Wednesday, June 21, 2006

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.


Blogger bill said...

In a comment I posted on, I pointed out how a plan to use lunar polar ice as rocket fuel would be viewed dimly by future lunar inhabitants. When we start exploiting space resources in earnest, I hope we can get beyond our earth-centric points of view in order to consider our impact on future spacefaring generations.

June 26, 2006 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Paul Hasselgren said...

What is the time on the Moon? I can't remember of Heinlein ever mentioned Lunar Standard Time (although I've read many of his books), but it's here now!

You can bet future lunar colonists won't be living by a terrestrial clock - it might be the LST!

September 03, 2007 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not believe that resources would be such a problem for loonies. As Heinlein said, once you have achieved orbit around earth, you are halfway to anywhere. With abundant energy (solar) it would be no big problem to lasso an asteroid or comet with the necessary materials, be it metals, carbon or water (containing H and O2). They would be in an excellent position to supply Earth with resources which are dwindling on Earth.

See Jerry Pournelle's "A Step Farther Out".

Furthermore, the colonists or loonies should be able to generate excess energy from the sun, which can be "exported" (microwaved down) to Earth.

The big problem is cheap Earth-orbit access, which is not so big, if the correct priorities can be set.

December 29, 2007 10:48 AM  
Anonymous John said...

I seriously doubt the US and other powers ( the EU, RUSSIA, CHINA..etc ) will allow a group of pioneering space colonists declare sovereignty / ownership over the moon or even over their little plot of luna-realestate, without a really nasty war.

Particularly, the US would do everything in it's power to control the space colonies near earth, politically, economically, militarily...Our only option, if we desire independence from earth-imperialism is to...

While on earth, we don't express our true intentions to form a politically independent society in space, what we do is create a cooperative / worker owned astronautics corporation on earth..

We develop either heavy lift rockets like the SpaceX heavy lifters or a cargo space plane like Reaction Engine's "Skylon" with it's Jet / Rocket hybrid engine...

We use one of those vehicles to establish a space work station / lab / hangar in LEO..( Using several BA-330 modular space station / habitats manufactured by Bigalow Aerospace..or something similar to that...). .....

..and we begin to build ourselves several large spaceships / space-tankers / cargo-ships / mining ops vessels..When we have all of that ready..We take up a good supply of everything we need from raw materials, seeds, a few animals,equipment, CNC machines, computers..etc ....And we LEAVE..FAR FAR AWAY..AS FAR AWAY FROM EARTH AS POSSIBLE.

We head towards the asteroid built between Mars and Jupiter..( or to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn..) and we begin to build our civilization there..Completely self-sufficient, as far away from the control freak earthlings..

Let them destroy themselves in their greed and stupidity..We will build and then one day..When we are armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and other nasties..We can settle anywhere in the solar system we want..

A group of us ( our grandchildren for example..) could move one or several of their space cities closer to earth, even plant a few on Luna..And what will the US and the other control freaks do? NOTHING..They'll realize that if they F with us, we will wipe them out.

It's a strategy..First we go far far away, where we can grow, develop, then we will truly be free and live wherever we want, without fear of the earthlings.

That's the way I would do it..

Fly Safe
John B

October 26, 2012 2:18 PM  

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