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Stanford Alumni Moon Project

Statement of Explanation and Purpose

Steve Durst, founder of Space Age Publishing Company in Palo Alto, introduced the idea of “Stanford on the Moon” to the Stanford Class of 1965 during its 35th Class Reunion Panel in October 2000. A “Stanford on the Moon exploratory committee”, drawn to thinking about the future and where humanity is going, developed in the following 18 months. Recognizing the creativity of human beings, the intrinsic need to explore new horizons and new possibilities, and the fact that we cannot know just where these explorations will lead and what horizons may suddenly appear, we see space exploration as a vital part of the future of humanity.

With this vision of “Stanford on the Moon”, a group from the exploratory committee visited the Stanford campus in May 2002. At the Overseas Studies Program Offices, the University President’s Office, the Stanford Alumni Association Center, and the Stanford “Dish”, we explored a wide variety of experimental and incremental initiatives that could lead to a major Stanford lunar presence by 2015.

The Stanford University community of students, professors, scientists, and administrators will be at the forefront of any new and ongoing lunar research and development. Physics, engineering, aeronautics, astronautics, radio and optical astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology, cosmology, environmental studies, ethics and behavior (among other disciplines) will pioneer and grow through interaction with the lunar reality with possibilities ranging from sophomore seminars to satellite engineering, biosphere studies to telemedicine, telerobotics to radio telescopes.

The Stanford Alumni community also has a unique and unprecedented opportunity and responsibility to explore and develop our nearest neighbor. This opportunity will eventually include travel and tourism, but more immediately encompasses commercial, scientific, educational, and international enterprises of many kinds.

As the generation that entered the University with the New Frontier's promise of the stars and the moon, and graduated with strong, expanded ideals and vision, Stanford Alumni of the '60s and '70s can finish what was started, can achieve what was imagined - in sharp contrast today's reality, where hundreds of thousands of soldiers occupy dozens of countries around the world, yet not one person stands on the Moon, much less on Jupiter or Mars.

The humanitarian and philanthropic aspects of a "Stanford on the Moon" initiative likely will equal or transcend scientific and commercial ones, yet will still reflect Stanford's pioneering, enterprising ethos in bringing us face to face with the implications of humanity's evolution to a multi-world species.


Stanford Alumni Moon Project FAQ

In April of 2003 members of the Stanford Alumni Moon Project Exploratory Committee met to discuss publicizing their project to the larger Stanford community. Participants included Stanford alumni Steve Durst, Jim McCotter, Kristi Nelson, Ruth Richards, Chia Tze, Sharon Swinyard and Bill Brown. Also in attendance were Greg Nemitz of Orbital Development and Jennifer Valcov of Space Age Publishing Company. The group decided that a question and answer (or FAQ) format might be used to both clarify the position and interests of Committee members and to introduce the concept to Stanford alumni, faculty, students and friends. The result of this discussion led to placement of an advertisement in the September 2003 issue of Stanford Magazine as well as a story about the project in the magazine's "Red All Over" section.

Many of the questions require further consideration, but it is hoped that this brainstorming approach will spark interest and generate a dialogue between people of various disciplines and talents. This dialogue could potentially lead to a project which, if undertaken, would have tremendous social, educational, and political implications well beyond the Stanford community.

We welcome your ideas. Contact us for ways to become involved in this exciting project.

Why should Stanford get involved in returning to the Moon? How does this Moon Project serve Stanford educational and research goals?

As a world-class institution, leading rather than following is the appropriate activity for Stanford and its alumni to encourage and support in regard to robotic and human activities on the lunar surface. Think of the chance for astronomical research where there is no interference from the Earth's atmosphere.

Going to the Moon will necessarily involve the talents of many people from multiple disciplines. A Moon mission would be a problem solving exercise without compare. It could provide "laboratory" hands-on learning, giving students, faculty and alumni an opportunity to engage in a multidisciplinary, cooperative approach to real world problem solving -- a skill which certainly any educational institution aims to instill in its students.

The laboratory model could be used in various ways by students from many disciplines in work / study projects customized to enhance their own area of academic interest. Stanford University could set the standard for lunar research with the development of a Lunar Studies Institute. This would be more than a geological discipline - there are other campus that have that - this would be a small department initially, but its focus would be broad-based. How about a Sally Ride Chair in the Lunar Studies dept., or something like thatů A Moon Society chapter or other Stanford base organization of associationů Why Stanford? -- a Return to the Moon is not a matter of if, but when. If it's not Stanford it will be somebody else, and while the SOM folks are committed to an international cooperative approach, there is no doubt that having the strategic advantage of being there first is a good thing...

"China plans to orbit a human, maybe this year. China has openly stated that they are aiming for the moon, in the not too distant future. What is the future in space for the United States? Dr. Werner von Braun was fond of saying: Who will control the oceans of space? I have been somewhat disappointed in my career in that we had Americans walking on the Moon in the 1960's, but I will not live to see people return to the Moon or go beyond. Now, I believe I will see people on the Moon in my lifetime, but they will speak Chinese. Where will America be when this happens?" ----- Byron Wood of Boeing speaking before Senate Science, Technology, and Space Hearing on Space Propulsion 3 June 2003 


Why is it important to go to the Moon at all?

Because exploration and expansion of frontiers has always been a part of human existence --we stagnate and die without it. Because the Moon is the closest and costs the least to do. With the knowledge we gain on the Moon, other opportunities arise.

How will going to the Moon address our problems on Earth, and how will it affect us as human beings - socially, psychologically, philosophically and spiritually?

How often we hear it, that our technological progress outstrips our human progress-our ability to understand ourselves. Now in an era of conflict and terrorism, and WMD, this is all the more important. As we from Stanford broaden our horizons toward the stars, we don't want to forget the lessons from our freshman year History of Western Civilization class. We want to take a broad and comprehensive view. It is timely to build centrally into this Moon project, an initiative to learn more about who we are as human beings, and "where we are going" in our own personal and species development.

As one example, new progress in Western consciousness studies allied with understandings which have come to the West from Eastern philosophic and spiritual traditions are opening fruitful doors for this inquiry. Some may ask do the Kennedy era vision and goals, as manifested in the Apollo program, need to be revisited in view of our world today? We say that it's our current goals that need to be revisited, renewed, refreshed. The Moon project could inspire new generations of Stanford students to excel in leading edge science, business, and law, by providing a new arena of activities, on the Moon. It provides a new frontier for young people to strive for and give their lives internal meaning.

How will we get there and when will we get there? All logistical and technical details fall into this area transportation, construction, habitation.

Robotics will likely play an important role in initial activities on the Moon. The burgeoning field of telerobotics will allow operators on Earth to guide the activities of robots on the Moon. Many tasks having to do with exploration and initial construction of a base facility may be performed by sophisticated robots of the sort now being developed by the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute ( and others. One scenario could involve setting up a radio observatory on the Moon. A dish on the near side, appropriately oriented so as to avoid Earth interference, would be capable of SETI-type observation. A location on the far side would be ideal for other types of astronomical observing.

According to Dr. Paul Lowman, Goddard Space Flight Center Geologist and Lunar expert: "Observatories on the Moon have been repeatedly endorsed by a number of scientific workshops and repeatedly dismissed because of their presumed high cost. These dismissals are based on the assumption that lunar observatories need astronomers on the Moon. This assumption has, in fact, long since been invalidated by the success of space-based telescopes; recent technological advances invalidate it for Moon-based ones." (Astronomy from the Moon: A Second Look, Paul D. Lowman, Mercury, March-April 2000, pp. 31-33, web reference at Dr Lowman estimates that the cost of a start-up program consisting of three robot lunar telescope landers would be about $300 million, and compared to other astronomy projects such as the Earth-based European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope estimated at $540 million, it is well within the realm of reasonable spending on astronomical observing projects. "There is no longer good reason to automatically reject Moon-based instruments on the grounds of high cost," says Lowman. University of CA at Berkeley Ph.D (Physics) candidate Yuki Takahashi proposes robotic placement and operation of a very low frequency radio observatory on the far side of the Moon and he is currently putting together a team to accomplish this. (see Other lunar tasks that may be performed robotically include mining, solar cell manufacturing, exploration for water or other important features.


How much is it going to cost, who is going to pay for it and why should money be spent on a Moon project at all - Wouldn't that money be "better spent at home"?

"Wouldn't that money be better spent at home?" New ventures have received this criticism throughout history, yet potential benefits are many. Other countries and groups at home are taking this step. It will happen. Stanford can play a shaping and innovative role. Let us find the greatest benefit here, for Stanford, for human progress, and broader humanitarian goals. Multiple opportunities exist to create profitable enterprises on the Moon. Alumni can provide the networking and financial knowledge to support and encourage these activities, and to profit by them.

Should there or will there need to be involvement from government agencies?

Government regulation may not always be the first answer to potential problems. Many times things work out very well when private citizens act on their own interests without government oversight.

Who else should be involved, then?

You! Contact us to join this nascent effort to establish a Stanford University presence on the Moon and help usher in a new age of enlightenment.


Resources for Further Exploration:

Stanford Alumni Association:; Eighteen astronauts are Stanford graduates

Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute

The Moon Society:

The Lunar Embassy:

Moon Miners Manifesto:


Google Lunar XPrize:

International Lunar Observatory Association:

ESA Moon Village, Ministerial Council 2016:

The Stanford Dish:

The SETI Institute:

The Kavli Foundation:

Lunar Enterprise Daily:

Space Calendar: 

TransOrbital: Had been authorized by the US State Department and NOAA for commercial flights to the Moon. The TrailBlazer lunar orbiter was set to send personal items to the Moon in a special capsule. Items include: certificates, business cards, cremated remains, jewelry, artwork etc.

SpaceDev: Created and sold space products to government and commercial enterprises. Provides smaller spacecrafts - generally 250 kg mass and less - and compatible small hybrid propulsion systems. A 25,000 square foot facility in Poway California includes a Small Spacecraft Assembly and Test facility. Jim Benson CEO working closely with ILO on lunar mission designs. Now part of Sierra Nevada Corp.

LunaCorp: Attempts to engage the public's interest in space via direct participation in space exploration. Working on broadband Moon probes that will let the public explore through use of "telepresence portals" at science centers or theme parks, as well as via the Web, TV shows and sweepstakes.


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