The prediction of future activities on the Moon is an inaccurate forecast, at best. Yet predictions are worthwhile because they force planners to estimate the consequences of alternative courses of action, including no action, and then to calculate the benefits and costs of those alternatives. What, then, will happen during the coming century of human activities on the Moon? Given the growth of scientific knowledge and technology, and the application of that technology to lunar exploration and development, what will Planet Moon be like in 2100 AD? Here is our prediction:
An autonomous, self-governing society of more than 100,000 people will be living on the Moon in 2100 AD. A global utility infrastructure will be in place, providing electric power, communication, and surface transportation for the entire Moon.
Millions of megawatts (terawatts) of electric power will be generated on the Moon by solar arrays that have been constructed from lunar regolith materials. Lunar-generated electric power will supply all of the needs of the Moon through a global lunar electric grid network, and substantial amounts of energy will be beamed to the Earth and to other sites in the solar system. The sophisticated manufacturing facilities that have been constructed on the Moon will use lunar regolith, other space-derived materials, and an abundance of solar electric power to produce all of the needs of the lunar economy, such as computers, robots, construction materials, and communication equipment. With perfect observing conditions, the Moon will be the principal astronomical observation platform in the solar system. Thousands of lunar-made telescopes will make high-resolution, long-duration observations of objects of interest in the universe from the Moon at every wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum. Very large aperture optical interferometry telescope arrays on the Moon will not only detect planets around other stars, but also analyze their atmospheres and characterize their habitability. These achievements will lay the foundation for the human interstellar migration that is often referred to as the "Great Diaspora''. Human and robotic explorers will have mapped every important geologic feature of the Moon. Humans will have circumnavigated the Moon at the equator and scaled its highest peaks. Every mountain range, rille, and lava tube will have been explored. Large cities will be present on the near and far sides of the Moon, and a substantial tourism industry will exist. Transportation from any point on the surface of the Moon to any other point will be accomplished in less than 24 hours by means of a global rail network.
The Moon will replace the Earth as the primary site for the construction and launch of spacecraft. Satellites, probes, and autonomous mobile robots equipped with television cameras and scientific instruments will be manufactured on and launched from the Moon to every area of interest in the solar system. As a result, robots from the Moon will have been sent to explore the geography of every accessible solar system body, perhaps including submarine robots that will explore the (now suspected) oceans of Jupiter's moon, Europa. A fleet of solar-sail cargo ships will ply the reaches of the solar system on commercial and scientific missions.
Thousands of near-Earth objects (asteroids and comets) will have been analyzed by telescopes on the Moon and by spacecraft that were launched from the Moon. Those objects that once presented a threat of collision with the Earth or the Moon will have had their orbits altered by Moon-constructed spacecraft. Several of the asteroids and comets that approach the Earth-Moon system will have been mined. They will provide both planets with virtually unlimited raw materials, of hydrocarbons, water, and metals such as cobalt, palladium, platinum, nickel, and chromium.
• Solar power satellites that have been manufactured on the Moon will have been placed in orbit around a number of planets and moons, providing nearby planetary outposts with continuous electric power. Lunar-made scientific and industrial equipment will have been delivered from the Moon to other planets, such as Mercury and Mars, where they will be used for global exploration and development projects. An autonomous and self-governing Martian population, based upon the model of the Moon experience, will have been established, and an active inter-planetary economy will exist between the Earth, Moon, and Mars.
• Telescopes made on the Moon will enable observatories to be established at distant points in the solar system to provide high-resolution images of objects throughout the universe. Spacecraft launched from the Moon will have explored the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud regions, and robotic missions to the nearest stars will have been initiated.
The Earth itself will be the clear beneficiary of the development of the Moon, its technologies, and social institutions. Earth will no longer be dependent on fossil fuels. Social and technological advances that would otherwise have been impossible will provide across-the-board improvements for the lives of all dwellers on the Earth.
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