Vi­sion­ar­ies eye lu­nar base pro­to­type on Big Is­land

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By TIF­FANY DEMASTERS

KAILUA-KONA — A lo­cal en­tre­pre­neur is lead­ing the charge to make Hawaii Is­land the site for an in­ter­na­tional lu­nar base pro­to­type a re­al­ity.

Video game en­tre­pre­neur Henk Rogers, fa­mous for his work on “Tetris,” was the host and spon­sor of the in­au­gu­ral In­ter­na­tional MoonBase Sum­mit. The event, which took place at the Mauna Lani Ho­tel and Bun­ga­lows last week, was meant to unite space agen­cies, space com­pa­nies and hu­mankind to build sus­tain­able set­tle­ments on the moon, Mars and be­yond.

While top lead­ers were not all present from the aero­space or­ga­ni­za­tions, Rogers said par­tic­i­pants at the sum­mit have the MoonBase pro­to­type on track to be built on a site on the Big Is­land.

“If we start build­ing it, the al­liance will come,” Rogers said. “It looks like land won’t be an is­sue. We can fo­cus money on build­ing the struc­ture.”

The es­ti­mated cost to build the pro­to­type is $10 mil­lion. Rogers thinks they could start con­struc­tion in about a year.

Three key de­ci­sions re­sult­ing from the sum­mit were where the MoonBase would be lo­cated on the moon; the ter­res­trial ana­log for the In­ter­na­tional MoonBase will be lo­cated on Hawaii Is­land to

take ad­van­tage of the is­land’s fea­tures that mimic the lu­nar sur­face; and the Mahina Lani Sim­u­la­tor is en­vi­sioned to be funded by an in­no­va­tive, self-sus­tain­ing model.

The pro­to­type will test func­tions. It would have dorms and labs that would mimic what would be on the moon.

John Hamil­ton, pro­fes­sor in the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Hilo Depart­ment of Physics and As­tron­omy, said there also would be satel­lite ar­eas where they could test ro­bots trav­el­ing over vol­canic ter­rain.

“This would be for test­ing things for a year or two be­fore ac­tu­ally go­ing to the moon,” Hamil­ton said.

Hawaii would be the place space or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­pa­nies through­out the world would come to test equip­ment be­fore send­ing it to the moon.

“I don’t think there’s any­one in the aero­space in­dus­try where Hawaii won’t be in the con­ver­sa­tion,” Rogers said.

Those at the sum­mit also de­ter­mined they would build the lu­nar base near the moon’s south pole be­cause of the sim­i­lar­i­ties in ter­rain.

“The aero­space com­mu­nity is be­hind the Hawaii spot,” Rogers said. “Now we need the Hawaii com­mu­nity be­hind us.”

It’s not prime real es­tate on which the pro­to­type would be built. Rogers said a site would be se­lected that is des­o­late with jagged vol­canic rock, meant to rep­re­sent the con­di­tions of the moon.

“We’re not des­e­crat­ing any­thing,” Rogers said.

Hamil­ton said this would not be a re­peat of TMT is­sues.

“What­ever is done will be done in the open and with re­spect and through the proper chan­nels,” Hamil­ton said.

A hand­ful of stu­dents who at­tended the sum­mit also are in­volved in bring­ing the pro­to­type project to life.

“The young peo­ple just want to get started now,” Rogers said. “They have a dream now. That’s what’s been miss­ing in the aero­space in­dus­try — a dream.”

Hamil­ton said this is a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for youth on the is­land.

“There are big plans to keep young peo­ple in­volved and in­te­grat­ing them in the process,” Hamil­ton said.

Right now, this is a pri­vate en­deavor. Hamil­ton said this is the right time and the right place.

“It’s un­equiv­o­cal that Hawaii is the best place to test be­cause the ana­log is most sim­i­lar to the moon,” Hamil­ton said.

Hamil­ton added he be­lieves in Rogers’ vi­sion and goal and will be there to sup­port him.


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