Mar 17

Bootstrapping a Lunar Colony, For Real

The Value of Lunar Real Estate, Revealed

Q. What is the one planetoid or planet in the solar system that shares the Earth’s nice, comfortable, warm niche in the Solar System?

A. The Moon.


The moon is officially ranked as the Earth’s satellite, but since it is relatively large and massive with a diameter of 3476 km and a mass of 0.012 that of the Earth, it may better be regarded as a companion planet,” Moore, Patrick and Tirion, Wil. Cambridge Guide to Stars and Planets. United Kingdom: Reed International Books Limited, 1993: 23.

I recently wrote that for a space exploration program to be scientifically sustainable, it must also be economically sustainable: I believe that President Obama missed a great opportunity recently to redefine US policy for space and this will undoubtedly encourage other nations, specifically the Chinese, to fill that gap. It is my opinion that the first person likely to set foot on Mars will be Chinese. The Americans have lost their guts.

But it is also my view that the first destination for a permanent outpost off-planet (after the ISS) is the Moon not Mars.


How To Bootstrap Lunar Colony Video (assistance from former student Mike Stewart)

Some time ago, I asked the question: “What would make a Lunar colony economically sustainable?” Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I answered the question with another question: “What if 1/6th gravity allowed elders to leave 25 years longer, constrained chronic diseases and let folks boogie like teenagers again?”

What if you could tell folks, 75 and over, that you had discovered the Fountain of Youth … on the Moon where people could live to be 125. What would people pay to have a happy, healthy lifestyle from 75 to 125? How’s that for a value proposition?

I suspect that if you set up a retirement colony on the Moon, you might get a lot of folks interested in that (under these assumptions). This lead to a corollary question: “How could we arrive at an estimate of the value of Lunar real estate?” Well, the old industry adage is: Location, Location, Location or Location 3.

The Fountain
Fountain of Youth

What would the value of lunar real estate be under these circumstances and how would you go about realizing that value?

[KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Jan. 15 (UPI) – A U.S. astronomer says a new moon-rock study suggests the satellite has an iron core and might be more like the Earth than thought.

Larry Taylor, director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute at the University of Tennessee, told National Geographic News the findings add weight to the theory the moon formed from debris thrown off when a Mars-size object collided with a young Earth.

“This is the most positive evidence so far that the moon contains a core,” said Taylor. “It’s looking more like a planet every day.”

Taylor says the Earth’s moon is too big to be a moon.

“It’s huge compared to the moons we see around other planets, so it has always been suspected that there was something strange in its origin.”

The leading moon-creation theory is known as the “giant impact” or “big whack” theory, NGN reported. It posits an object about the size of Mars slammed into our planet very early in its formation, with some of the debris aggregating into the moon.

The study involving rock samples from the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 moon missions of the early 1970s appears in the journal Science.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.]

Calculating the Value of Lunar Real Estate

Here is how I might go about giving an approximate value to Lunar real estate:

Jan. 19, 2008 Lunar Colonization– “Live Forever” Valuation

Life Expectancy

On Earth 75 years Males
82 years Females
On Moon 125 years Males
132 years Females

Trip Cost $750,000 One way
Monthly Living Cost $15,000 Per month

Number of Elders 100,000,000
Monthly Revenue $1,500,000,000,000 Net, net, net rent
Annual Revenues $18,000,000,000,000

Capitalization rate 5.75%

Value of Lunar Real Estate $313,043,478,260,870.00

USA GDP Q3 2006 $13,322,600,000,000.00 (US Bureau of Commerce)

Value of Lunar Real Estate/USA GDP 23.50

Annual Revenues/USA GDP 1.35

(To download the spreadsheet in .xls format, go to:

So under these assumptions, transporting 100,000,000 elders and others to the Moon and having them live there with a rent of $15,000 per person per month triple net (that is net of all operating costs, utilities and property taxes) would yield a value for all lunar real estate of more than $300 trillion dollars. It would produce net rent of $18 trillion dollars per annum or about 1.35 times the size of the US economy (as measured in Q3 2006).

Now that’s big.

In addition, you, the owner of this Lunar playground for elders would make money running the concessions: places for elders to eat and play. Plus of course, there would be additional fees for travel back and forth to Earth although, one would soon find that prolonged stays in a low gravity environment would make it tough or impossible to return: the skeletal structure would adapt to the Moon’s gravity; presumably your spine would lengthen, you would have an extra spring in your step, you could fly under your own (wing) power but, on Earth, you probably couldn’t get up off the deck.

Children born on the Moon might all be the height of Shaquille O’Neill but they would be bean poles in comparison.

Lunar Day

The Lunar day is the time it would take the Moon to complete one full rotation with respect to the Sun. Since one side of the Moon always faces the Earth and the Moon rotates about the Earth in (approximately) 28 days, the lunar day is around four weeks. That means that daylight will last for 14 consecutive earth-days followed by 14 consecutive earth-days of night.

Earth Rise on the Moon
Earth Rise on the Moon

Since the Earth is moving about the Sun, the actual day/night periods are a bit longer: around 14 and a half days. So people would have plenty of time for work, play and sleep. A new cycle would arise for human circadian rhythms.

The Terminator Line on the Moon
The Terminator Line on the Moon

Real Estate and Energy Production

The diameter of the Moon is around 3,476 kilometers. That gives it a surface area of approximately 37.8 million sq. kilometers about the size of the US, Canada and Russia.

The nearside of the Moon (the side that always faces the Earth) has most of the seas (mare) which are areas of lower elevation. There are several basaltic mountain ranges presumably formed through impacts on the Lunar surface or perhaps by earlier volcanic action. The far side of the Moon is much smoother: only 2% of the far side is covered by maria versus 31% of the nearside.

The dark side of the Moon should not be confused with the far side of the Moon (i.e., the side that is never seen from earth.) The dark side is simply the night side.

Areas at the Moon’s North pole appear to be continually illuminated by the Sun at least during the northern hemisphere’s summer. There also appear to be mountains that get eternal light because of the low axial tilt of the Moon with respect to the Sun. These would presumably make good locations for solar plants producing electricity for the colony.


Water* may be present on the Moon, brought there by comets and meteoroids. It may remain frozen in deep craters that never receive any direct light from the Sun.

(* Recent NASA estimates put the amount of water ice on the Moon at a minimum of 600 million metric tons. See: If we use that for the total amount of available water ice and using a specific gravity of .92, we could then support 500,000 men and women (185 lbs and 135 lbs each on average, respectively, and doing 40 minutes of exercise per day in a relatively cool environment) for 1,361 earth-years. If we had a population of 100,000,000 instead, lunar water ice would only last for 6.8 years. See the spreadsheet: Ed, July 2011.)

Water is obviously important for its hydrogen and oxygen as well as its life giving properties.

Most Lunar colonization ideas suggest living in domes but why not put a ‘Mylar’ bag around the Moon and create its own biosphere?

The biosphere on Earth is around 120,000 feet high (the distance to near space) but given the smaller diameter of the Moon, perhaps a viable biosphere could be created using a ceiling height to near space of 1/6th or 20,000 feet. This would require wrapping the Moon in a Mylar balloon with a surface area of 38,041,889 sq. km.

Now one thing we know is that machines fail. So probably the only way to have a sustainable Lunar colony is to have a sustainable biosphere.

Life has probably existed on Earth for 3.5 to 4 billion years: think about how unimaginably long that is.

Make it even easier: think about a pump, say a pump that you use at your cottage to pump water out of your well. Let’s say it is a submersible pump and it only gets used for a few months each year and then is only turned on when you are washing the dishes, taking a shower, flushing the toilet, what have you. What is the life expectancy of that pump? Well, if you get 10 years out of it, you have done well.

The human pump (aka, the heart) pumps continuously (or you better hope it does) for say 75 years at say 60 bps or 2,365,200,000 or more than 2 billion times. For most people, it does so with very little maintenance and a lot of abuse from stress, lack of exercise, too much exercise, drinking, smoking, too much eating, eating the wrong stuff, what have you.

Without question, biological agents are much more reliable than mechanical ones. Nothing humans could create would rival a biosphere that can keep organisms alive for 4 billion years: that is 2.92 trillion sunrises and sunsets and it never failed. If it had, if the chain of life had failed once, you and I wouldn’t be here.

Now how could one go about creating a biosphere that is self sustaining in the new colony?

One could support the Mylar bag surrounding the Moon with space elevators which would also serve as transportation on and off the surface.

Space Elevator
The Space Elevator
Moon to Near Moon Orbit

You would need to compartmentalize the bio sphere in case one part of the bag failed. It would also require multiple layers for redundancy in the vertical dimension as well.

Then you would have to fill it up with gas (oxygen and nitrogen would be nice) probably imported from the asteroid belt.

Next you would have to see if you could coax the Lunar regolith to support plants, insects an animals.

Somehow, plants would have to adapt to a circadian rhythm of 14 days of sunlight and then 14 days of darkness. And the heat balance has to somehow work: between 14 day nights and 14 day days, this will take some doing.

You would need to use the mare for seas and lakes: heat sinks. This would also remove 33% of the surface of the planetoid from human habitation.

Next you would have to contain humans in cities so the balance of the lands could be wilderness and natural ecology zones with possibly some farming (although that more than likely would be industrialized. This would absorb, (one would guess), 95% of the balance of the lands leaving 1,266,300 sq. km. for cities, towns, spaceports, parks and other human activities.

The consolidated metropolitan area of NYC excluding its inland waterways is around 10,500 sq. km. So the Moon could have 121 New York’s according to this calculation. That would mean a total maximum population of 969,736,100 or about 1/6th of the Earth’s current population.

You would need to protect the biosphere from solar winds and since the Moon does not have an appreciable magnetic field (probably lacking the earth’s internal magneto generator to do that), the Mylar balloon wrapping the planetoid would have to be coated to deflect harmful solar irradiation.


Well, we can dream, can’t we? Did you know that pretty much every square foot of the planet Earth is owned by someone? A few thousand years ago, if you didn’t like your tribe anymore, you could collect your family and move on. Now you can’t go anywhere without armed guards asking for your passport and does that tube of toothpaste have explosives in it?

We are trapped animals on a shrinking planet with fewer freedoms every day. Bureaucrats keep themselves employed every day by thinking up new laws and new rules and new legislation to ‘protect you’ and, of course, to control you. You know, if you scratch the surface, most people don’t really like their lives and are secretly hoping for a change, maybe even a massive change.

Planet Earth is ruled by the elites: big business, big media and big politics (see my essay on that at: and they use rules (enforced by Vogon-like entities, aka bureaucrats) to enforce them. Vogons look like this:

What Bureaucrats Really Look Like
What Vogon Bureaucrats Really Look Like

But they cleverly disguise themselves to look more like this:

What Bureaucrats Look Like
What Vogons Look Like on Earth

Only Antarctica is supposedly not owned by anyone but the signatories of the Antarctic Treaty (12 countries: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the USSR, the United Kingdom and the United States) would show you the door pretty quickly if you tried to move there and start your own tribe and build your own nation. They would use armed force if necessary I am sure. They are holding it in trust for all humanity but in reality, they are probably holding it ‘in trust’ for their own use some day.

So really, there just isn’t anywhere to go except maybe up.

The first to get to the Moon will own a 313 trillion dollar real estate asset which can grow to more than 3 quadrillion asset at full maturity (i.e., when the population reaches its limit). May the best person, win.

Freedom, that is the worship word of the Yangs,” Original Star trek Episode.

Prof Bruce

Postscript 1: I put together a slideshow on this which you can download as a PPT file from:

Postscript 2: Here’s a folk art animation showing how one would go about terraforming the moon. First, you construct twin space elevators on the moon, followed by encompassing the planetoid with a self-sealing (magnetized) gas bag, then dock gigantic cometoids to those 2 tethers. I suggest cometoids since they are largely made up of water ice and dirt (we think), which would allow us to harvest oxygen for our nice new atmosphere, dirt to improve/fertilize what is pretty junky lunar regolith that you can grow stuff in but not very well, and hydrogen for fuel.

To view the animation, download this file and run it in sideshow mode (F5):

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.