Probably the weirdest headline I’ve seen this week that isn’t in the Onion, Domino’s Japan apparently wants to build a pizza restaurant on the moon. The link gives further links to the Japanese site, with a charming video of the Japan CEO explaining (in a spacesuit of course) about how this madcap project will pan out – at an estimated cost of $21 billion.
1) Private investment (alongside government funding) is probably necessary if we want a permanent presence on the Moon. It’s definitely a good thing – look at the Panama Canal (an example I’ve cited before in a paper about another crazy expensive scheme). We’re already seeing a budding private space industry in attempts to build astronaut taxis for the ISS – setting up lunar colonies would be the ultimate high-hanging, game-changing fruit for such an industry.
2) Permanent presences are all about the infrastructure. We’ve been able to send capsules to the Moon in the past, but they haven’t been able to stay very long. Apollo 17 was only able to remain on the lunar surface for a couple of days. Staying for any length of time requires supply chains to be set up, either by exploiting resources available on the Moon or frequent deliveries from Earth, such as the ISS gets (or doesn’t get, as the case may be). Setting a target like being able to run restaurants on a lifeless rock is one way to focus on solving fundamental logistical problems relating to living on other planets. Let’s face it, if you can make pizza on the Moon, what can’t you do?
OK, so this is not going to happen anytime soon. Domino’s Japan apparently only has about $5m in capital, so they’ll not be funding a moonshot at $21 billion (not factoring in ballooning project management costs, as Edinburgh residents know all too painfully). What I think is important about ideas like this is that they assume that future humans will regard inhabiting the Moon as an everyday occurrence, just as Europeans view inhabiting North America as normal.
So normal in fact, that they’ll demand that desirable lunar residences have good amenities nearby. Fair enough, not everyone wants Domino’s down the road, but they’ll want some breed of restaurant. And the latest fashions, Apple products, Internet access, the whole nine yards. The first colonists will not live on a Moon of all mod cons, but if human history is anything to go by, then one day their descendants will. In a time where space exploration is at a particularly low ebb, it’s nice to know that the dream is being kept alive – even if it is for PR reasons.