Tuesday | October 17, 2017
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Visionaries plan to build lunar base prototype on Big Island

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.

Email Tiffany DeMasters at tdemasters@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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