Los Angeles, CA, March 5, 1998 – The Space Frontier Foundation applauded Dr. Alan Binder and the members of the NASA funded Lunar Prospector Team for their discovery of ice on the Moon’s poles, and called for a human return to Earth’s neighbor. “This is incredible news,” stated Foundation President Rick Tumlinson. “The Moon has just changed from a symbol in the night sky of our dreams about opening space, to the key that makes those dreams possible. We have just been handed the equivalent of a gas station and water hole in what had seemed like a desert.”
The announcement, from the independent – but NASA funded – Prospector Team, showed evidence that millions of tons of water ice mixed with soil exist at the Moon’s polar regions. Until this finding, it appeared the Moon had little or no water reserves, and was “drier than concrete.” Water is not only critical to life, but the hydrogen and oxygen it contains are the main components of rocket propellant.
Tumlinson, who helped start the Prospector mission while working at Princeton’s Space Studies Institute (where the idea was born), congratulated the volunteers who kept the Prospector project alive until NASA decided to fund it as a Discovery mission. “Space settlement advocates are often characterized as being flaky and out of touch with reality. In this case we got real. Dozens of volunteers all across the U.S. who believe in human space settlement and knew we needed this information, started and kept this project going at a time when the agency and others had turned their back on the Moon. Dr. Binder – who was therefrom the start – the grass roots pioneers, and the few folks at NASA who had the wisdom to support this project against internal opposition deserve great praise.”
“This discovery completely changes the economics of opening space to human settlement. Until now, we have had to carry everything we needed to survive in space with us. This has kept costs extremely high, and plans limited. Now, just as our ancestors did when they settled “new worlds” on Earth, we can simply carry our tools with us and use the resources we find when we arrive.”
The Space Frontier Foundation led a campaign that delivered 50,000 signatures to President George Bush in 1989 calling for a Return to the Moon. The group is now calling for the private sector to capitalize on these findings, and is against another Apollo style mission to the Lunar surface. Stated Tumlinson: “No more flags and footprints. Next time, we go to the Moon we go to stay. And that means no government stunts. The only way to build a permanent human presence on the Moon is for someone to make money there. Now that we have water supplies, companies can begin developing business plans for all kinds of Lunar activities. These range from providing support for a Lunar Observatory on the lunar farside, to refining propellant for space missions, to mining Helium3 for use in the production of clean energy here on Earth. I could even see proposals coming together for a Lunar resort or hotel. Just imagine a low gravity honeymoon, with the Earth hanging in the sky outside your window!”
Tumlinson continued, “This is just in time for the new millennium, which I have no doubt will be the space millennium. Space is a different place today than it was yesterday. The Moon is the key to the Solar System, and the gates have just been thrown open.”