Would You Want to Live and Work on the Moon?

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Going to the Moon Again Is All the Rage This
Summer…

…despite President Beeblebrox’s best efforts to keep the message on Mars. To tell the truth, though, either one seems really sexy — but there aren’t many out there who disagree that the Moon needs to be the proving ground for our future Mars missions. Except, of course, the current occupant of the Oval Office. Corporations like SpaceX and Blue Origin are keen to get there, too. But if they do, would you really want to live and work on the Moon?

With the anniversary of Apollo 11 and the new space race heating up, journalists (and I, also) have been filling up the internet with all kinds of Moon fodder. We talk about why we haven’t been back in over forty years. Sometimes we write about what kind of partnerships NASA has with companies like SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin. Often we talk about which rocket is the best, which capsule worked this week, and why Mike Pence shaved four years off of the Artemis timeline. One thing many of us haven’t been talking about, however, is what we’re going to do when we get there. An article on Slate today, however, points out that there may be a dark side to these lunar plans.

Read More:

NASA will go to Study, SpaceX and Others Will Be There for Proffit.

Officials at NASA and other international space agencies sell their lunar plans as a staging ground for getting to Mars. They also sell it as a way to study the Moon’s polar regions, which we know very little about. Aside from the lofty and laudable goal of exploration and furthering the human condition, however, they plan on building mines.

Part of the reason the Moon makes such a promising testing ground or deeper exploration is that it has a lot of the materials needed to get us out there. While each agency and corporation has its own vision of what lunar or Martian colonization will look like, the general consensus seems to be this: The first astronauts back on the lunar surface will build their own shelters. In time, they’ll grow plants, and mine hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel, as well as rock for building material.

Jeff Bezos has already talked about building factories on both the Moon and Mars — and not just to further space exploration. In his vision, the factories that are currently killing the planet with greenhouse gasses would be transferred to other worlds and run by colonists. Those colonists would live and work on the Moon and/or Mars. They would also need goods and services. Do you see the problem?

Watch the Battlestar Galactica episode “Dirty Hands” if you’re not sure what I’m getting at…

If you don’t have 45 minutes to spare, let me give you the basics. The last surviving members of the human species are running from the Cylons they made to serve them. They’re deep in space with no homeworld, and they have to manufacture everything they need for the survival of the species within the fleet itself. The fleet has mining and refinery ships. The trouble in this episode revolves around how the people on those ships get treated when compared with the people on most of the other ships. Workers on the refinery ship decide to strike, threatening to bring the fleet to a halt and put everyone’s lives in danger. 

What Would Work on the Moon Look Like?

Well, if you think it’s only going to be astronauts and highly-trained adventurers up there, you’re mistaken. Sure, Moon jobs will probably pay more than Earth jobs – at first, anyway – but history has a way of repeating itself. 

A little over 100 years ago there were places called company towns. Depending on your age, you may remember the song “Sixteen Tons,” by Tennesee Ernie Ford. That song is about company towns. It’s the story of the average worker in a company town. The chorus may sound familiar:

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older, and deeper in debt.
St. Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go…
I owe my soul to the company store.

The story typically went like this. A mining company would find a vein somewhere in an undeveloped area, and they would build up an entire town around the mine. The mining company would own all or most of the stores and services in the town. So, in essence, every dollar that the company paid its employees in wages went back into the employer’s pocket through the company stores. Company stores were also infamous for inflating prices on goods. That meant that many times employees would actually go into debt at the company store just to get the things they needed for the week. Essentially, they borrowed against their next paycheck – like a payday loan – and got stuck in a cycle that they could never break.

So Now Do You Want to Live and Work on the Moon?

Both Bezos and Musk are famously anti-union. And sure, maybe their rhetoric is sincere. Maybe Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos really do believe, as Musk put it, that unions promote “divisiveness & enforcement of [a two] class ‘lords & commoners’ system. They might both even think that they’re treating their employees better than their competitors by going above and beyond what government regulations require.

What if those regulations weren’t there, though? I mean, if those pesky safety and minimum wage requirements are the reason so many jobs get outsourced to developing nations, what is to stop Blue Origin or SpaceX from exploiting their employees who work on the Moon? Of course, it’s not a foregone conclusion, but let’s be real. If corporations are people, then they’re the worst people on Earth. They are at best narcissists, and at worst complete psychopaths. If there are no regulations for workers’ rights on these colonies, then we’ll end up with the same problem on the Moon this century that we had on Earth last century. Yay progress! Am I right?


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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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