The Right Way to Build a Hotel on the Moon

There are three reasons to visit the moon:

  1. Low-gravity sex
  2. To say you did it
  3. It’s the fucking moon.

I have seen in my day more than one plan for a moon hotel. A few of those plans have some good ideas (really tall towers you can jump down the core of), but none of those designs understand a fundamental truth: Construction matters — every mark the construction crew makes on the landscape will outlive humanity.

On Earth, bulldozers level the property, the hotel goes up, and then the landscapers erase the scars of the machines used to create the hotel. On the moon, that won’t work.

Those footprints will still be there long after humanity is forgotten

When I’m looking out the window of Lunar Hotel 6, I don’t want to see the shattered remains of a landscape that will remember each footprint for tens of thousands of years. I want to see the moon, the way it is now. Every mark made during construction cannot be undone, so construction can make no marks near the hotel.

One of my best stories (note to self: submit story to next market) takes place in a hotel on the moon. Much of the story takes place in a dome that was raised from an underground tunnel and deployed like an umbrella, so that no human disturbance is evident on the other side.

I’ve got nothing against towers, either, but unless you want the tower dwellers to forever look out over wretched destruction, those towers have to be built from the inside. (Flashing to a 3D printer that turns material excavated from the tunnels below into the walls of the tower, lifted up one level at a time until the tower is two miles high and the horizon is curved. I might have a spiritual sequel.)

My note to any who might be considering building a hotel on the moon: It’s the moon. Respect that. Understand that. Hire me as a consultant. I’ve just given you good stuff for free, but I have more.

Selling the Moon

In less than twenty-four hours fuego pointed me to two news articles that directly affect my plans for building a hotel on the moon. The first was about a space elevator, and I was excited until I realized that the company involved hadn’t progressed past the press release stage of research. It was nothing more than attention whoring. Carbon nanotubes are the material du jour for building this thing, and when mankind can build them economically I expect we’ll have us a space elevator. That makes me happy.

Except for the problem of the huge transverse force at the base of the elevator to conserve the angular momentum of the Earth. As we move stuff up the ladder, the Earth has to slow down. Not much, but a little. The force to slow the Earth is transmitted through the base of the cable. Our friends the nanotubes are really strong when you pull them, but will snap like toothpicks when stressed to the side as the elevator car rises.

I really want to think of the answer to that one.

Meanwhile, fuego sent me a link to another credulous article, this time about robots which could build structures on the moon, using the materials at hand. Well, duh. You’re not going to carry bricks to the moon to build your house, you’re going to use the materials that are already there. Also, it makes complete sense to have a robot do the work. There is a cool video of a wall-building robot. Apparently the breakthrough that inspired this particular article is an animation of hypothetical robots building hypothetical structures on the moon. Wow! That’s some serious progress! I do note in the animation, however, that past the perimeter wall, the lunar landscape is untouched.

The first moon colony may not even have windows, and even if they do, the inhabitants will likely cover them up, because the construction scars that dominate the landscape will outlive mankind. The first house on the moon will have a view of a junkyard. On their days off the first lunar inhabitants will say, “Let’s go find someplace without footprints.”

They will go to my hotel.