- a proposal for America’s space program during the current administration -


An space program committed to establishing humanity's first, permanent, off-Earth foothold will have plenty of opportunities to inspire the American public and the rest of the world. For the American public, they will feel as though they are getting their space budget's money's worth. They would also identify with the program in that they would watch the crew establishing their home and doing a number of activities of human interest. For the children, they will have specific role models trained in specific fields achieving important objectives. And, of course, the kids will simply adore the dog and other animals.

There is the real potential of virtual reality (VR) playing a significant role in how the public engages with the program. For example, a pole could be placed near by the landing pad at the lunar base prior to the arrival of the first crew. On top of the pole would be a high-resolution, 360 degree camera. While the general public is watching 2D video of the crew landings, others would be able to don virtual reality headsets which would give them the impression that they are actually standing on the Moon about to witness this historic event. The VR viewers could look up and see the exhaust of the lander as it comes down to land. Even though the pole is within the gasseous blast zone of the vehicle while it lands on a tarp, the viewer would, of course, suffer no harm. Immediately upon landing, the suited up crew could exit the lander and walk right past the VR viewers (perhaps pausing and waving at the camera).

The viewers could then pop to the 360 camera near the airlock of the UniHab as the crew comes to it. They could be inside the airlock during pressurization. Then they could pop into the UniHab to see the crew and they enter and are embraced by any crew already there.

The 2D video could be made free for viewing around the world. But the VR experience could be charged for by the participating companies. If 1% of the world were to pay $50 for the experience of each of the four crew missions, this would come to about 97% of the overall budget of the program up to the crew landings. Whether there would be that many viewers willing to pay that much is a question. But the point is that the public's interest could be a significant source of revenue which should be considered. A portion of that revenue could be used to repay NASA's investment in the participating companies.

Other forms of VR could be strategically-placed cameras within the UniHab, cameras on the rovers, and perhaps a DoggieCam too!

Several years of TV programming suggests itself which would cover the various phases of the program. Although it is tempting to think about the cameras inside the UniHab as lending itself to some sort of tacky reality TV show, in fact, the show would be more real than the over-dramatized antics of reality TV stars. Here is a hypothetical scenario for a set of TV series:

1st Year Series - The public would probably be interested in the selection and training of the crew who were going to be going on to become humanity's first, permanent, off-Earth representatives. This series would also cover the history of the prospecting mission, and vehicle, hardware, & habitat development.

2nd Year Series - The second year would kick off with the four, historic, crew arrival missions. Then the public would be able to follow their settling in, overcoming any challenges, the steady progress of producing from local resources, as well as demonstrating a variety of music, dance, culinary, and other talents.

3rd Year Series - The third year could be the year in which, on a weekly basis, international crew from various countries could arrive, be greeted by our initial crew of eight, and share elements of their cultures (e.g. food, clothing, dance, music, and animals). They would then go on to conduct their own Apollo-scale exploration of the Moon using a refueled lander. Meanwhile, some crew would also work to set up large habitats dedicated to specific infrastructure needs for a growing base (e.g. a farm habitat). A sports habitat allowing for activities not possible on Earth could form the basis for several interesting shows.

4th Year Series - During the fourth year, private individuals could start arriving (on their own dime). Their personal stories could be highlighted and we would watch as the base begins to turn into a settlement. A modest-sized inflatable "Hotel Luna" could be set up with some wealthy and/or famous visitors. Additional large, inflatable habitats providing amenities (e.g. swimming pool, golf driving range) could be set up during the year setting the stage for additional private individuals (e.g. retirees) who would need a certain quality of life if they are to move to the Moon.

5th+ Year Series - Finally, the development path started on the Moon could be repeated on Mars with a UniHab and initial crew establishing a base there again providing propellant to lower the cost of accessing Mars for all follow-on missions.

Space settlement, even starting at this humble level, is of great historic importance and will be the aspect of the program which will be of great interest to the public.

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