“We’re going back to the Moon!
We’re doing it as private enterprise!
You can come, too!”
One of the most depressing things about the state of the post-millennial American psyche is the readiness not only to accept, but actively seek out government involvement in nearly every aspect of life. From Head Start for toddlers to subsidized subscriptions for the elderly, not-so-disinterested parties continually prescribe more government aid to somebody, usually themselves.
I’m far more concerned about American addiction to government largess than any other form of dependence, since history has shown there are only two things which kill large quantities of humans in short periods of time: governments and infectious diseases. But just as it’s hard for many Americans to pass up the chance to acquire some of the more social infectious diseases, it’s also hard to forgo the siren song of a nice fat check from Uncle Sam.
This is why it was so refreshing to page through the strange, but weirdly compelling articles of Artemis Magazine. Named for the goddess of the Moon, Artemis Magazine is, in its own words, “science and fiction for a space-faring age” and is the house organ of the Artemis Project, a private venture to establish a permanent, self-supporting community on the Moon.
Nor are these people quite as reality-challenged as you might imagine at first. For one thing, they have a clear understanding of the primary difficulties facing them, which are not technical, but financial. Hence the presence of articles such as “Spacebiz: Sustaining the Enterprise” which analyzes the Low Earth Orbit market and examines how economies of scale will affect the financing of a hypothetical lunar station.
And for another, some of the companies involved in sponsoring project-related things like the third annual “Return to the Moon” conference don’t bring to mind wild-eyed freaks who’ve seen “2001: A Space Odyssey” too many times so much as the Fortune 500. I really don’t think Bechtel would be involved if they didn’t smell the chance of making a lot of money building something somewhere, someday.
But speaking of sci-fi, there is also good bit of science fiction in the magazine, three short stories and a surprisingly good novelette by Roxanne Hutton in the issue I was reading. The novelette aside, the overall quality isn’t quite up to par with Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, but it’s better than I expected.
The single-minded focus on all things lunar doesn’t distract at all – in fact, it’s quite entertaining in its own right and about halfway through the third technical article, I found myself mentioning to a potentially affected party that, come to think of it, it might be kind of cool to live on the Moon after all. Apparently, the skin-absorptive, mind-altering substance used to coat the pages of the magazine works pretty well.
(“I’m NOT going to live on the Moon!”
– aforementioned party)
Despite its commitment to the free market, the Artemis Project is not as rabidly anti-government as Adam Smith or my own bad self. Its members seem to have a very healthy respect for NASA and its past achievements, but simply aren’t interested in entrusting their grandiose dream to the fumbling, bumbling hands of bureaucratic infighters. The Project rightly takes exception to NASA’s notion that “human exploration is the responsibility of NASA” and, interestingly enough, also appears to disagree with NASA’s current focus on Mars, since it is believed that establishing a base on the Moon is an important first step in the future exploration of Mars.
Myself, I don’t particularly care about the Moon – and, to be honest, I wouldn’t be shocked if we learned one day that the whole Eagle-has-landed thing was faked after all. But it does my skeptical heart good to see a group of determined people banding together and relying on their own resources to pursue their goal, however daunting or quixotic, instead of throwing their energy into trying to steal our money for the job.
I really hope they make it some day. And if they do, I think I just might tag along.