A sampling of the volumes in this Top 50 list of books about the Moon.
Fifty books about the Moon (which aren’t about Apollo)
by Ken Murphy
Monday, July 15, 2019
With the 50th anniversary of the greatest human achievement ever rapidly approaching, and the flood of Apollo-related materials appurtenant thereto, I thought it might be helpful to ponder the target of the Apollo program: our Moon. Delving into the Lunar Library, one can find many works that focus on our celestial sister itself, and the many mysteries and wonders thereof.
To be honest, many of these lunar tomes will reference the Apollo program. It’s almost inevitable given the huge impact such an achievement had on the world, but these books are about the Moon, not a brief visit there a couple of generations back. For this article I’m only considering physical books held in the Lunar Library. There may be ebooks of relevance, but electrons are fleeting and I’m looking for the long-term durability of the printed page. So, without further ado, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Apollo, here are 50 books about the Moon that aren’t about Apollo.
(50) Atlas De La Lune/Atlas of the Moon. Antonín Rükl. 1990/1992/2004. ISBN: 1931559074
An atlas is as good a place to start as any, and this is the one I use for general observing, quick reference, or when I want a bit of history. Interestingly, different editions will use different background colors. My original French edition from ISU has an olive green hue to the images, while the Kalmbach edition is more tan, and the recent Sky & Telescope edition uses blue. If you’re only going to have one Moon book, this would be the most useful all around.
(49) Moon Observer’s Guide. Peter Grego. 2004. ISBN: 1552978885
There are a seemingly endless number of books written to help new telescope owners use their new toy to look at the most interesting thing in the night sky. Some are more comprehensive than others, and it’s hard to strike a balance between newbie observer and more experienced viewer looking for new things to focus on on the lunar surface. This one strikes a nice balance, with ample explanation of not only what can be seen each night, but also overviews of the different kinds of telescopes and how to use them. A good companion to a telescope given as a gift for holidays or birthdays.
(48) Découvrir la Lune/Discover the Moon. Jean Lacroux and Christian Legrand. [autographed: Jean Lacroux]. 2000/2003. ISBN: 2047600073/0521535557
One of the many books on this list that I first picked up in French, and then procured an English-language copy for the Lunar Library later. While the prior book is written more to a high school and up level, this one I would say is accessible down to the early tweens, maybe younger.
(47) Lunar Outpost: The Challenges of Establishing a Human Settlement on the Moon. Erik Seedhouse. 2009. ISBN: 9780387097466
Written in 2009, this one unfortunately places too much emphasis on the then ESAS/Constellation/Orion (now SLS/Orion) potential rocket (80 pages), and too little on things like Lunar Exploration Objectives (20 pages). I say “potential” rocket as SLS has yet, a decade later, to launch. This unfortunately dates the book a bit much, and by focusing on things the rocket that has yet to fly can do in regard to a Moon base (as opposed to launcher-agnostic capabilities), it further weakens the arguments of the book. The first in what will be many “Let’s Build a Moonbase” titles.
(46) Dans le champ des étoiles: Les photographes et le ciel 1850-2000. Musée d’Orsay. 2000. ISBN: 271184014X
Seemingly as if a bit of destiny, while on my way to Strasbourg for a year at ISU I had stopped in Paris to visit a girlfriend and revisit some of my old haunts from earlier sejours. At the Musée d’Orsay (my first visit there) was an incredible exposition of Moon photos and related stuff going back to the very earliest days of photography. The exposition poster hung on my wall the whole year I was at ISU (and, obviously I also have the exposition catalog), a reminder that the Moon has significant cultural as well as scientific/engineering aspects. The Moon as, or in, art is a very old theme, and one we will revisit in this list.
(45) Moon: Man’s Greatest Adventure. Wernher von Braun, Silvio Bedini and Fred Whipple. 1973(?) ISBN: 81090327X
While this one does have more of an Apollo focus, this is mitigated by covering 40 centuries of cultural history along the way. Being an enormous 12”x15.5”x1.5” coffee-table book that is just gorgeous also helps. This is the kind of book you keep around as a showpiece on a lectern. It’s as impressive a work as the author list would suggest.
(44) Return to the Moon II: Proceedings of the Lunar Development Conference. Space Frontier Foundation. 2000. ISBN: 0970127804
Folks have been looking at going to the Moon to “Let’s Build a Moonbase” for a long while now. This entry is from a group more strongly associated with commercial space advocacy than say National Space Society. As is typical of compendiums of conference papers it can be a bit scattered, but there are nevertheless insights to be found therein.
(43) The Moon: Another World We Know[?]. Wang Shi Jie. 2007. ISBN: 9787542841124
This is one of a number of Moon-related books I picked up during a trip to China. While I can’t read Chinese, I do have a solid enough grasp of the science and engineering to have a feel for what’s being talked about from the images. One of which I scanned from this particular book and use in my Cislunar Space talks; it does get peoples’ attention, and is a reminder that we should not underestimate Chinese efforts at lunar development.
(42) Resources of Near-Earth Space. Dr. John Lewis et al. [autographed: John Lewis]. 1993. ISBN: 0816514046
While solidly scientific, this compendium of papers takes more of a materials processing and production perspective on the topic. The book includes asteroids and Mars, but almost all of the first half is solidly on the Moon, proposing ways at getting at the good stuff. I know this is one of Dennis Wingo’s favorite references.
(41) Home on the Moon: Living on a Space Frontier. Marianne Dyson. [autographed] 2003. ISBN: 0792271939
Marianne is the author of a number of educational books, but my favorite is this one for middle schoolers that covers the basics of what we know about the Moon, as well as considerations for actually living there. Includes a number of craft-y activities.
(40) Turning Dust to Gold: Building a Future on the Moon and Mars. Haym Benaroya. 2010. ISBN: 9781441908704
One of the “Let’s Build a Moonbase” works, this one can be thought of as a summary digest of Haym’s other book further up the list. The focus here is on using on-site (or, eggheadedly, in situ) resources to build up on-site infrastructure and assets. Interviews with experts are peppered through the book, and it covers many different aspects of engineering the infrastructure, but unfortunately touches too little on the gold part of the title.
(39) Getting a Feel for Lunar Craters. Dr. David Hurd. 2011. NP-2011-05-733-HQ.
This one is a particular favorite of mine. It is a tactile guide for the blind, and allows one to actually feel the shape of craters. An accompanying CD walks the “reader” through the book, exploring Tycho, Theophilus, even SPAB. While there are a number of tactile, Braille Moon books in the Lunar Library, this one is unique and outstanding. You can get the audio here, but in typical NASA fashion there’s no info on how to get a non-virtual copy.
(38) Moon Rush. Leonard David. 2019. ISBN: 9781426220050
This one is a fresh addition to the Lunar Library and I’m still digesting it, but it’s coming across as a standard lay person’s introduction to lunar exploration and what might happen next. Leonard has a long history as a space industry journalist, so there’s going to be a lot of accrued knowledge in this one.
(37) À la Découverte de la Lune. Géraud de Courtils. 2003. ISBN: 2082008215
This one takes more the form of a travel guide than most of the other works on this list. After some background on the Moon, a series of guided excursions across the lunar landscape are described. Sigh, if only…
(36) Moon: Owner’s Workshop Manual. David Harland. 2016. ISBN: 9780857338266
Modeled on the fix-it-yourself manuals that Haynes, Chilton, and others are known for, this one takes a comprehensive look at the workings of the Moon, laid out in a fashion to make it accessible to the lay reader. The do-it-yourself type. There’s math and physics, cartography, important figures in lunar history, and coverage of the many lunar probes up to LCROSS. It’s a tremendous introduction to the topic, and I could easily see using it as the reference text for a weeklong STEM camp.
(35) A Lunar Gallery: An Artistic Look at Earth’s Moon. Jennifer Baer and Teague Soderman. 2012.
Easily the slightest of entries in this list, this beautiful little booklet was produced by the one-time NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI, now SSERVI and not so much Lunar anymore). Each page features an image provided by Lunar science, with a brief explanation of what information is portrayed in the image. A powerful punch is packed into the sparse 36 pages. Thanks to the generosity of NLSI I was able to distribute copies to kids in their Lunar Sample Bags at a couple of Moon Days many years ago. A PDF is available here.
(34) A Clementine Collection: Moonglow. Naval Research Laboratory. 1994. NRL/PU/1230—94-261
While the prior entry focused on LRO images, this entry focuses on what was the first in what could be considered the next generation of lunar probes that started in the 1990s. Clementine was not specifically a Moon probe, but stopped there to test and calibrate instruments before heading off to a failed rendezvous with its next destination. Little known fact: a lot of deep space probes test and calibrate their sensors on the Moon before heading out; when Galileo test data was processed looking for water, it turns out traces of water (or at least hydroxides) were seen at latitudes far lower than expected. In this book the images and brief explanations are on opposite pages, which leads to a lot of white space which somehow emphasizes the images presented (like a Moon/Venus/Sun combo that’s really cool).
(33) Welcome to Moonbase. Ben Bova. 1987. ISBN: 0345328590
Another entry in the “Let’s Build a Moonbase” series. Here the author uses a fictionalized future history (in which, gasp, a woman! heads the first mission back to the Moon in 2001) as framework for the construction of a Moon facility. The book is presented as a kind of employee manual to familiarize themselves with their new working environment. While speculative, it is grounded in real science and engineering. Unfortunately, it was published during the Challenger hiatus, which likely muted its potential impact amongst the broader populace. Nevertheless, it is a good layperson’s introduction to a Moon base.
(32) The Exploration of the Moon/The Conquest of the Moon. Arthur C. Clarke/Wernher Von Braun, Willy Ley & Fred Whipple. 1954/1953.
This entry goes to a pair of books that were the subject of the first article I had written for The Space Review (see “The Exploration of, and Conquest of, the Moon!”, The Space Review, October 4, 2007.) Both are somewhat iconic, each in their own way.
(31) Back to the Moon: Mankind Returns to the Lunar Surface. Kevin Caruso. [#115/200, autographed] 2001. ISBN: 0970515006
One of the earliest additions to the Lunar Library, this is a very personalized look at the hows and whys and wheretofors of going back to the Moon, including some small commercial projects struggling to get off the ground. Written at the teen level, this one probably merited a wider distribution than it got.
(30) The Value of the Moon: How to Explore, Live, and Prosper in Space Using the Moon’s Resources. Dr. Paul Spudis. 2016. ISBN: 9781588345035
The last of Paul’s books, this one tries to clarify the case for commercial lunar development he made in his earlier work further up this list. Unfortunately, he spends so much time on the hows and whys of where we are today that the actual value part of the proposition seems a bit short-changed. While I always considered Paul a kind of Moon mentor, we did fundamentally differ in our approaches, with Paul more focused on government programs and projects with commercial offshoots, while I focus more on the commercial activities with government as a support mechanism for but not the method by which cislunar space develops as a locale for economic industry.
(29) Mapping and Naming the Moon: A History of Lunar Cartography and Nomenclature. Ewen Whitaker. 1999. ISBN: 0521622484
This delightful book is an excellent introduction to the topic, and highlights many unusual features seen over the years like Heraclides Promontory. This is the one you go to after you’ve ready many of the short bios in Rükl’s Atlas of the Moon and want to learn more about the naming process and conventions.
(28) Return to the Moon. Rick Tumlinson, ed. [autographed] 2005. ISBN: 1894959329
A compilation of short articles on a variety of lunar topics, this one was published at the height of the froth surrounding the VSE. Different experts in the field address how we get there and what we could do on the Moon, along the lines of “Let’s Build a Moonbase”.
(27) A Fundamental Survey of the Moon. Dr. Ralph Baldwin. 1965. Lib. Cong.: 65-25537
Based on two earlier books, “The Face of the Moon” and “The Measure of the Moon”, this one serves as a kind of primer on the topic, at what used to be the high school level (nowadays it would seem more like a junior college level text.) Questions at the end of each chapter include things like “Would an observer on the [M]oon see the [E]arth rise and set?” While much of the data has been superseded in subsequent years, it’s still an interesting introduction.
(26) Moon Morphology: Interpretations Based on Lunar Orbiter Photography. Peter Schultz. 1976. ISBN: 0292750366
A massive textbook, this one was an early effort to catalog similar features in different craters to try to get a sense for the mechanics of why the face of the Moon is shaped the way it is. Complex Meltlike Floors versus Volcanolike and Debrislike Floors, that sort of thing. A solid reference for budding selenologists.
(25) The Modern Moon: A Personal View. Dr. Charles A. Wood. 2003. ISBN: 0933346999
If you haven’t been by LPOD, be sure to stop by. Chuck has been doing an incredible job curating the site, drawing on his deep background in lunar geology. It is that background that makes this such an excellent reference for how the face of the Moon evolved to where it is today from a geological perspective. Dividing things up into easily manageable chunks, we learn all kinds of curious tidbits about the lunar surface.
(24) Kids to Space. Lonnie Schorer, ed. [autographed by a bunch of folks] 2006. ISBN: 9781894959582
While not specifically about the Moon, I did co-write the Moon chapter and have to say it’s rather good. While there are some things I would phrase a bit differently today, this is one of my prouder achievements. The book overall is a compilation of questions from thousands of students, digested and sorted into different categories. These different topics were sent to experts in the relevant fields to answer, with the results compiled into a comprehensive overview of the subject of space. Lots of cool pictures from the kids are included on a CD-ROM.
(23) SP-462: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon. ESA/ILEWG. 2000. ISBN: 9290926892
Still another entry in the “Let’s Build a Moonbase” series, this one from Europe focuses more on the exploration than the utilization part, it is notable for including a significant component from younger representatives in the field through the Young Lunar Explorers, a sort of Moon-specific SEDS. Another compilation of papers and abstracts touching on a broad swath of topics.
(22) On the Moon. Patrick Moore. 2001. ISBN: 0304354694
That’s Sir Patrick Moore to you, buddy. Back during the Apollo era, Patrick Moore was for many the voice of learning about the Moon. He was all over the British media, and with good reason. When he published his original “A Guide to the Moon” in 1953, he was already a Fellow of the Royal Astro. Society, Council Member of the British Astro. Assoc., Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, and member of the Assoc. of Lunar & Planetary Observers. By the time he updated it for the post-Apollo era in “New Guide to the Moon” in 1976 he had also been Director of the Armagh Observatory. By the time of publication of this one in 2001, he’d had a minor planet named after him, been on the BBC’s Sky at Night program for over four decades, and been knighted. The question now is, who is going to be this generation’s Patrick Moore to guide the public through the next round of lunar exploration?
(21) The Lunar Rocks. Brian Mason and William Melson. 1970. ISBN: 0471575305
I do love me some Moon rocks. I even have a set of genuine fake Moon rocks I use for education and outreach purposes. From 1970, this book presents the earliest findings from a mineralogical perspective, and includes lots of electron micrographs of interesting bits and bobs in the samples. I’d put this one as a university-level introduction to the Moon rocks, though obviously much more has been learned since.
(20) Lunar Science: A Post-Apollo View/Planetary Science: A Lunar Perspective. Stuart Ross Taylor. 1975/1982 ISBN: 0080182747/00942862007
While the first has more of a focus on the selenology, and the latter puts things in more of a planetary science context, these books largely overlap in content so I’m putting them both here. Each is a solid introduction to the varied aspects of lunar geology.
(19) Physics and Astronomy of the Moon. Zdeněk Kopal, ed. 1962. Lib. Cong.: 60-16985
Most of the science-y books I’ve included so far have been mainly mineralogy and geology oriented, but there is an older aspect to the science of selenology, and that is the geophysics of the Moon as a body in space. Its orbit, the libration wobble (remember the “does the Earth set” question above?), tidal influences, polarization of moonlight, all sorts of physics-focused research, which this book gives a nice overview of across the many topics it addresses. As I’m looking at it, I’m thinking it may be time to revisit this one…
(18) International Lunar Initiative Organization. ISU Summer Program 1988. Wendell Mendell, ed. [autographed: Bob Richards] 1988.
In the summer of 1988, a bunch of ambitious young space folks got together in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the inaugural program of what would become International Space University. While the Masters program is now housed at their permanent campus in Strasbourg, France, the Summer Session continues to travel the world, hosted each year in a different country, even the US. This year will be in Strasbourg, next year in Shenzhen, China. [Full disclosure: I earned a Master of Space Studies, cum laude, from ISU in 2001.] ILIO was their design study for an international lunar base, and is quite comprehensive, covering a myriad of aspects from communications to first aid. If you’re thinking of designing a Moon base, you probably want to check this one out.
(17) Moonrush. Dennis Wingo. [autographed] 2004. ISBN: 1894959108
A question often posed online is, “What is the economic rationale for going to the Moon?” and subsequent whining that they never get a good answer. Dennis Wingo here makes an attempt from the perspective of harvesting the more precious metals that we know are on the Moon because we’ve found those metals in meteorites on Earth. Since we’ve largely cherry-picked the most readily accessible of the platinum-group metals (PGMs) here on Earth, it’s time to think about other sources and gee whiz, we just so happen to have a big giant resource ball parked in our backyard! Whichever specific resource you’re thinking of, as cislunar infrastructure develops then tapping those resources on the Moon becomes more appealing and inevitable.
(16) Lunar Base Agriculture: Soils for Plant Growth. Ming and Henninger, eds. 1989. ISBN: 0891181008
Since I’m running out of space I’m going to park this one here as it’s on a topic about which I am quite interested, even though it was a rather frustrating read. Lunar botany, or perhaps lunaculture, is a topic that is woefully under-researched. After Dr. Walkinshaw and others in Houston determined during the Apollo program that lunar regolith was not toxic to plant life, all plant growth studies in regolith stopped, despite some rather startling results in plant response to the presence of regolith in the growing medium. The topic was revisited in the late 80s as part of SEI, but all of the authors of the collected papers here basically said the same thing: studies in regolith simulant won’t cut it. Simulant is really designed for mechanical engineering studies, like abrasion or gumming up gears, and is only chemically similar to real regolith at the bulk scale. All of the asteroid impactors focused on in the prior entry have dispersed their contents through the regolith for aeons, vastly enriching it in trace elements that have long since been industrially farmed out of terrestrial agricultural lands. But we’ve only got a limited supply of real regolith for use in research, and we don’t know when we’re going back for more.
(15) Lunar Settlements. Haym Benaroya, ed. 2010. ISBN: 9781420083323
This is a compilation of conference papers submitted for the Rutgers Symposium on Lunar Symposium from back in the late 2000s. These address a broad array of topics, from design issues and soil mechanics to human factors and structural considerations. Some of the details are quite subtle: while I am definitely concerned about electronic assets placed over the lunar farside (permanently at EML-2 and temporarily in lunar orbits), it should be noted that assets placed at the Sun-Earth L-2 will be parked right above the Lunar far side when it’s in its best observing position for radio astronomy.
(14) Kaguya on the Moon. JAXA. 2009. ISBN: 9784103200215
Highlighting many of the most spectacular images provided by the Japanese probe Kaguya in the late 2000s, this small book is, as with so many things Japanese, also a beautiful work of art. While I don’t read Japanese, the layout, presentation, and solid amount of science data presented make it a terrific addition to the Lunar Library. Seriously, the images are just extraordinary.
(13) Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century. Wendell Mendell, ed. [autographed: Wendell Mendell] 1985. ISBN: 0942862023
This one is the O.G. work in the “Let’s Build a Moonbase” oeuvre. Another compilation of papers from a conference, this from a 1984 symposium of the same name. It’s the first to really incorporate the Apollo results from an academic perspective and to take a stab at outlining how a Moon base could come about based on what we then knew.
(12) To a Rocky Moon: A Geologist’s History of Lunar Exploration. Don Wilhelms. 1993. ISBN: 0816510652
Not so much about the rocks themselves (though there’s plenty of that), this one is more of a history of what led to the science we did retrieve from the Moon, and how the geological research was shaped. This is usually the backgrounder recommended for budding lunar geologists.
(11) Where the Winds Sleep: Man’s Future on the Moon – A Projected History. Neil Ruzic. 1970. Lib. Cong. 74-97687
More akin to “Welcome to Moonbase” than his other work higher up the list, in this speculation we look at the many activities with which humans are likely to engage themselves while on the Moon, from 150mph bicycle racing to flying with artificial wings in the much-reduced gravity. Swimming might be a bit more dangerous than one would think, though, thanks to the surface tension of water. A thoroughly enjoyable and likely prescient addition to the “Let’s Build a Moonbase” oeuvre.
(10) The Lunar Base Handbook, 2nd Ed. Peter Eckart. 2006. ISBN: 9780073294445
So there are Moon base books, and then there’s this work which starts off our top ten. I read this one cover to cover at ISU, and this is the one that convinced me that the Moon is where we need to be. If you’re designing a Moon base, I’d better see this one on the bookshelf next to your desk. Thorough and comprehensive, with a lot of expert input, this is the de facto reference work on the topic.
(9) The Moon: Resources, Future Development and Colonization (1st ed.)/Settlement (2nd ed.). David Schrunk, Burton Sharpe, Bonnie Cooper and Madhu Thangavelu. [autographed: Schrunk, Cooper] 1999/2008. ISBN: 0471976350/9780387360553
Similar to the prior entry, this one is a bit more interdisciplinary in scope, addressing more of the whys in addition to the hows. Engineering concepts explored vary from power towers at the poles to a lunarvator up to EML-1.
(8) The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration. Philip Stooke. 2007. ISBN: 9780521819305
Starting with the Thor-Able Pioneer 0 launch in 1958, the author thoroughly documents every scientific probe that we’ve sent to the Moon through 2007. It goes into the background of each mission, how it shook out, and what some of the results were. Definitely a solid reference.
(7) The Clementine Atlas of the Moon. Ben Bussey and Paul Spudis. 2004. ISBN: 0521815282
Sometimes, a regular old Moon atlas just won’t cut it, since it only covers the near face of the Moon. You need something that has the craters for both sides of the Moon, and this excellent book delivers. The Moon’s surface is divided into digestible chunks, and a Clementine photomosaic on one page is compared with an annotated shaded relief image on the other to help draw attention to details. It’s also handy for looking up craters named in works of fiction, like Daedalus crater in E.L. Modesitt’s recent “Solar Express,” site of a radio telescope, or of particular interest, like Texas crater on the far side.
(6) The Case for Going to the Moon. Neil Ruzic. 1965. Lib. Cong.: 65-22124.
As publisher of the trade journal Industrial Research, the author was a strong advocate of putting science to work to advance industry and keep the US competitive in the global marketplace. Early on he recognized the unique features of the Moon that make it an industrial playground for future developments, and so he polled the research community for their thoughts on the matter. To his surprise, most were indifferent. So, he wrote this book to encapsulate his thoughts on the matter, and help document his invention of a lunar cryostat (yes, there’s a patent) which has found other uses in industry. The more technical of his two books on this list, this one is a must read for anyone who wonders “What are we going to do on the Moon?”
(5) The Once and Future Moon. Dr. Paul Spudis [autographed]. 1996. ISBN: 1560986344
This is the one that made me a Moonatic. While everyone else was reading Zubrin’s “Case for Mars” (read it; not sold), this is what I was reading. Drawing on his background in planetary geology and specialization on the Moon, Dr. Spudis made a rational argument that there was commercialization potential on the Moon. He was right, and the rest of us are still trying to grok it.
(4) Le Grand Atlas de la Lune/New Atlas of the Moon. Thierry Legault/Serge Brunier. 2004/2006 ISBN: 2035603366/9781554071739
Another one of the Moon books I picked up in France while at ISU, this is also another of the coffee-table sized tomes. It walks the reader from the third through the 27th day of the Lunar month, with giant photos of the phase on the right side, and details about each day on the left. Every few days there’s a plastic overlay with crater and detail names. It then details a number of lunar features of particular interest, and has some basic observing tips. This is the book I bring with me when doing observation parties with astronomy groups.
(3) Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry: New Views of the Moon. Jolliff et al. [autographed: Clive Neal] 2006. ISBN: 0939950723
Published in 2006 by the Mineralogical Society of America and the Geochemical Society, likely in response to the VSE and the uptick in interest in the Moon (plus the difficulty at the time of actually putting hands on the top pick), this is a comprehensive update to the top pick in this list and according to one of the editors should be considered as a companion volume to that work. At over 700 pages it is quite comprehensive and still rather state-of-the-art.
(2) Lunar Mineralogy. Judith Frondel. 1975. ISBN: 0471282898
Published in the 1970s, this was the first deep dive into the actual chemistry of the minerals that were being brought back for scientists. (yes, fine, by Apollo.) It’s the first glimpse at the nuts and bolts of the resources of the Moon and is quite comprehensive. It’s likely this high on the list as a result of my Asperger’s, which made reading it a fascinating exercise, but it is probably something any Moon miner might want on hand for reference, in addition to our top work…
(1) The Lunar Sourcebook. Grant, Heiken, et al. 1991. ISBN: 0521334446
This is the de facto base scientific reference work on the Moon. The authors compiled all of the lunar research from everyone through the 1980s and digested it into a really useful work first published by Cambridge University Press in the early 1990s. It is thorough, well-organized, and an extraordinary book that I rather enjoyed reading. If this is not on your bookshelf, you’re not really serious about the Moon.
Interesting anecdote: Back in the mid-2000s, the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) caused an uptick in interest in the Moon, with skyrocketing demand (and prices) for this book. The Lunar & Planetary Institute created a PDF copy on CD-ROM for folks, which the US government (USG) promptly slapped an export control on because…well…that’s what they do (and there were likely bulk shipments headed to China; can’t have that.) Until, though, the Cambridge University Press folks pointed out that the contents were published in the UK, and that the USG doesn’t have export control over said contents.
There you have it: 50 books about the Moon that aren’t about Apollo. There is no question that Apollo has had a significant impact throughout human civilization and culture, even to this day, but the target of Apollo was not Apollo, it was the Moon, and that is what this list has focused on. This is but a sampling, and many more non-Apollo Moon books didn’t make the cut. Two decades of Moon exploration has taught me that she still holds many mysteries, and frankly I don’t think a lot of the modern theories built on computer modeling are going to hold up in the longer term. Hard evidence trumps all, and we need to go there to get that.
There are many good reasons to go to the Moon: scientific, commercial, cultural, political, the list goes on. Few seem able to frame a coherent strategy, so here’s my attempt, having digested many, many lunar reference books: Resources and energy. With a soupçon of security.
Understand that the only reason humanity has ever gone over the next hill, or crossed the next body of water, is in search of energy and resources. More and better firewood. More and better clay for our pots. Frontier mythology is nice and all, but resources and energy is ultimately what it’s all about.
There are resources on the Moon—all of the same chemical elements as we have here on Earth, in a much simplified pool of minerals (less than 100 so far, versus thousands on Earth.) Given environmental factors, and the absence of any such factors on the Moon—a sterile, barren, irradiated wasteland of raw materials—it makes sense to ask, “Are there things better done off-Earth outside our ecosphere?” Refining rare Earth elements may be one of those things, as just one of many examples. There may be processes to be discovered on the Moon that make it an ideal location for their refinement and separation. We have to do it to find out. Any of the industrial metals found in the soil will be useful, but mostly to cislunar space, not Earth specifically. And there is energy on the Moon. Here in Texas we know that energy is money, so the details should fall out in short order once we start getting our collective act together.
The security comes from a couple basic science exercises we can undertake on the Moon:
- The first is crater counting, sizing, and dating. This helps us to build an impact record for near-Earth space, one that has largely been erased. The thing to look for is cyclicality in the impact record (as many suspect given the 200 or so craters we know of on Earth and can date pretty accurately).
- Another basic thing is sampling the solar wind traces in the layering of regolith created by crater impacts. This will help us to build a better record of the solar wind output over time, something which will help us better understand the Sun’s life to date (and again, longer term cyclicality).
- Lastly, we can continue looking for small bodies in the solar system, up out of the clutter of cis-GEO space (though I prefer EML-1 for the next location), and determine if they are a threat or resource target.
Tactical efforts then involve the means of getting those resources and energy. Building out a transportation capability. Establishing footholds at key locations like EML-1 or Shackleton Rim. Setting up supply networks and logistics. Developing a communications network. Wiring electrical grids. NASA need not do these things itself, but can play an enormous role in helping it along. Things like developing standardized interfaces between modular infrastructure components that all industry can build to, a kind of PCI or USB, but for space stuff.
As infrastructure capabilities expand in cislunar space, lunar facilities will be called upon to provide more and more value-added goods and services to that marketplace. Packaged oxygen is just for starters; SWIEs contain all kinds of useful gases that can be packaged up and sold in the market. Experiments in the 1970s demonstrated that plants really seem to like regolith in their diet, so bags of raw regolith might be another early export on deadheading resupply transports. There’s also the terroir of the Moon to consider, and its potential effects on foodstuffs. The Moon might provide gravity rehab services to longer-term micro-g workers. There’s certainly no paucity of ideas for things to do on the Moon in lunar fiction, and no particular reason why they can’t exist in reality with a little work.
The issue that government leaders face is that NASA has been focused on Mars as the next human destination for so long that most anything else is intolerable. It was step three in the plan that Wernher von Braun presented to the Baby Boomers on the Disney Tomorrowland TV show in the 1950s, and it still drives thinking today. We’ve checked off the space station, we’ve checked off the Moon (so it’s now more Hecate in NASA’s view than Artemis), now we need to check off Mars. Not check off the Moon twice…Mars!
Of course, government policy by checklist is easy in the age of Twittering, but it leads to poor, as it might be put, strategerizing. A strategy of making the resources and energy of cislunar space accessible to American industry via infrastructure development to make us more competitive in the global marketplace is much harder to explain. And it’s not what NASA wants to do anyway. So we’ll fumble around for a while in an Apollo program nostalgia binge until someone else does something that shocks us into focusing back on the topic of what’s going on in cislunar space, and scrambling to respond.
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