Bigelow advocates his space stations for lunar missions

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The competition heats up: Robert Bigelow today advocated using his privately built inflatable space station modules as a tool for launching future American lunar missions.

Bigelow’s company is eager to put a space station depot in lunar orbit, from which such activities and others can be initiated, as well as support onboard research. “We do not have the technologies, and there is zero business case for Mars. We do have a business case for the moon. And that’s why the moon absolutely makes the best sense,” Bigelow said. “And we can do the lunar activities far sooner than we can with Mars, which stretches out to, NASA’s views are Mars may be in the 2040s.”

His “New Space” company, Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas, designs space habitats, including a fully self-contained space station with 330 cubic meters of living and working space, which he said is ready for a lower-Earth orbit or, in about three years given the expected advancements in rocketry, for lunar orbit.

The key statement above is the comparison between lunar missions and Mars missions, at this time. The Moon has the chance to be profitable in the near future. Mars does not. If you had money to invest (even if it is taxpayer dollars) which would you invest it in?



  • ken anthony

    I’m very glad you asked the question. The answer has a number of facets. Both have great profit potential but in mostly different ways.

    Mars has the greater long term potential because it can be fully industrialized by individuals in variations similar to earth which will reinforce each other. There will certainly be some reinforcement with moon industry but not nearly as much since the moon will be more dependent on earth resources.

    Both will constantly face the question… do it local or import from earth? The answer that makes the most sense will usually give mars a much greater advantage.

    In both cases we may unnecessarily handicap development by not auctioning off the land (the money going into a perpetual development trust.)

  • Edward

    I have two reasons for choosing to invest in going to the Moon rather than Mars, for now.

    1) SpaceX is already investing in going to Mars. I think that they and the Planetary Society (and Mars One, if it is real) will accomplish this goal regardless of my investment. There are many, many people eager to get to Mars, and they will manage to do it.

    2) A large part of the near-term profitability that Robert mentions could come from using lunar water, believed to be frozen in the permanent shadows of certain lunar polar craters. Investors in the Moon can quickly profit from selling propellant made from this water to SpaceX and others as a far less expensive source than lifting propellant from the surface of the Earth, allowing them to spend less money to send heavier payloads to higher Earth orbits or to other places around the solar system. It is far more likely that an investment made today in the Moon will finance my retirement than would an investment in Mars.

    3) A third reason, if Trump chooses to return to the Moon: the US will be eager to make a success of a return to the Moon, and likely will put plenty of resources into making sure of that success. This will require plenty of contractors and services for us to invest in.

    Despite some setbacks, I see a brightening future in commercial space. As more and more companies begin to participate, such as Bigelow, the outlook gets even brighter. I see the combination of both commercial manned space and Bigelow (or other commercial) space stations as the tipping point for commercial space to become an unstoppable force in space exploration and use. Thus, I would also be willing to invest in Launch capabilities and LEO activities, such as commercial space stations.

    Robert Bigelow may have seen space tourists to space hotels as his motivator, but I think the real money will be in scientific research in space laboratories, funded by universities, companies, and countries that cannot afford their own rocket programs but can afford to rent seats on rockets and space stations.

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