Dance on the Moon in 2027
By Rayni Joan

By the year 2027, less than a split second away in geologic time, Moon-dancing may take on a literal meaning for regular folks. Twenty-four hours before a beautiful Full Moon shone down on Earth, NASA held a news conference to announce that we humans would be going for a permanent base on the Moon! According to Shana Dale, deputy administrator of NASA, plans are underway to work with more than a dozen nations and a number of commercial enterprises to develop scientific and "other interests" on the Moon.

Since the lunar poles have near-constant sunlight, allowing for easy solar power generation, chances are one or the other pole will be the site for the permanent lunar base.

How will the lunar base be financed? NASA's current annual budget of $17 billion is not expected to grow because of the Moon Base. Instead, funds now allocated to the space shuttle and International Space Station will shift to the lunar base program. The United States has earmarked the space shuttle fleet for retirement by 2010, which will necessarily go along with less activity around the International Space Station. As of early December 2006, however, when the public announcement of a permanent lunar base was first made, the space station was still actively under construction with shuttle launches in the works.

An international conference, to be held in 2007, will address permanent lunar base planning, including solar power generation, staff and visitor living quarters, laboratories, observatories, and possible commercial development. Preliminary plans call for crews of four astronauts to begin making week-long lunar missions, followed by longer stays at the moon base, and eventually, roving expeditions to travel around and explore the Moon while staying for extended periods without returning to Earth.

How long will it be before super-rich tourists will book stays at the Lunar Hilton or the Moon Riviera? Let's hope the "other interests" these planners are talking about will be peaceful in nature.