- policy recommendations for the current administration -


Retirement Doug Plata presents the case for why retirement savings will be the major source of revenue for an initial settlement.

Who will the initial settlers be? Most of them will have three characteristics in common:
   - They will have lived long enough to save up enough money to afford the ticket and living costs.
   - They will be free of child-rearing responsibilities.
   - They will be free of occupational responsibilities
Retirees fit this profile perfectly. There can be little doubt that retirees will be over-represented among the first settlers.

It is anticipated that private settlers will start arriving on the Moon and on Mars towards the end of their respective international exploration phases. They will not only pay for their own transport but would have to pre-pay for their housing and life support for the remainder of their life (homelessness is not an allowable option on the Moon). These private settlers could arrive in two phases:
   1) The Early (Founder) Private Settlers: This would be a unique and very historic group of people. They would fully pay their way and be willing to contribute their skills (usually voluntarily) for the purpose of playing an historic role in getting the settlement ready to grow in population size. Those private settlers with certain anticipated needed skills (e.g. dentists) would find themselves being pushed towards the front of the line.
   2) The Later (Regular) Private Settlers: This group include those who may have higher quality of life requirements and/or who would rather be fully retired than be doing a lot of work in their retirement. And/or it may be that their spouses will want to wait until the lunar settlement has a lot of amenities.

It is understandable that some will question how an initial settlement would be able to provide the services needed and desired by settlers, especially retirees who may be used to having a lot of conveniences. To understand how this can be addressed, consider the likely order in which settlement will occur. It would start with the Initial Crew who are essentially astronauts who require no amenities but are happy to be fulfilling their life dream. The next phase would be up to 500 international astronauts also fairly young, healthy, and happy to suffer some deprivation for the purpose of building up the infrastructure necessary for settlement. Likewise, the Early Private Settlers will be a select group of people. They would need to be healthy so as to not burden the lunar medical system with conditions that it is not prepared to meet. Paying their own way they would need to be wealthy. But they cannot be part of this group unless they are also willing to give of their skills and experience for the growth of the base in preparation for the next phase. The organization determining which settler goes when will have a roadmap of what skills are needed at what point of development and settlement size. Later Settlers can be more typical of retirees with higher expectations and poorer health. By the time that they arrive the quality of life and medical care will be at a level which they expect.

Some people object that retirees would not want to want to settle the Moon or Mars because the quality of life would be so poor that it couldn't compete with the quality of retirement opportunities on Earth. But the belief that off-Earth settlement has to be some sort of cramped, dangerous, deprived lifestyle fails to take into the account the many things which could easily be done to address the quality of life issues in an off-Earth settlement. There are also a number of unique experiences that only a lunar settlement could provide which would not be available on Earth. Then, there is the common mistake of presuming that off-Earth retirees would be typical of on-Earth retirees. There are about 1.4 billion people between the ages of 55 and 70. Certainly, among such a large group are those with the wealth and who would be attracted to the opportunity to play an historic role in helping humanity start to move off Earth.

For later settlers, they could have very large living areas, be part of a community more exclusive than any on Earth with the best entertainment and fine dining. From the Moon, they could attend their loved one's events on Earth via telepresence. Large habitats could provide many of the activities found on Earth such as swimming, golfing, and visiting the spa. And the 1/6th gravity would allow older people to have a mobility and to do feats which they were unable to do even in their youth. To learn more about what the quality of life could be like on the Moon, click on the button to the right.

Older people would receive special benefits from living in the 1/6th gravity of the Moon. For starters, the pain of arthritis would be relieved by having less weight bearing down on their feet, knees, and backs. They would be able to more easily arise from a seated position. But more than this, older people on the Moon would be able to do unimaginable feats such as back flips.

Very importantly, older people would be able to be active in a manner that they had never been before. They would be able to jump higher than they've ever been able to jump before. The dance classes would be particular popular as everyone would be able to be airborne longer than even Baryshnikov. Physical activity is very important for maintaining health during older age.

Certainly, osteoporosis is a concern in the elderly and 1/6th gravity could speed this process. But the increased activity including impact exercise would help and momentum is maintained on the Moon so the impacts should have the same effect as on Earth. With exercise being more fun, the amount of exercise done each day would likely increase and, with the new type of exercise being done on the International Space Station bone mineral density loss has almost been stopped.

Given that it is cheaper to retire on Earth and there are many wonderful places on Earth to retire to, what would motivate retirees to settle down on the Moon. Certainly the activities described above would be attractive but attractive enough to justify the expense? And certainly retirees don't retire in order to make a profit. They retire expecting to spend money not make money.

There are three non-economic but still powerful reasons that would attract certain people to retire on the Moon:
   - Personal significance: People who are part of the initial settlement will know that their story will be going down into history. Later generations would know what their great (great?) grandparents did to help humanity move off Earth. So, one can retire on Earth to relative insignificance or retire on the Moon and literally make history. For some, this will be pretty strong motivation.

   - Prestige: Not everyone is wealthy enough or skilled enough to be part of the first settlers to move off Earth. Thousands of people apply to a few astronaut slots. Here is an opportunity for someone who has "made it" to demonstrate to their peers and family the ability and courage to do what few are able to do. Off-Earth settlements can only be populated by the wealthy and successful. The typical net worth of the settlement citizenry will likely be higher than any community on Earth. Being part of such a community would be noteworthy.

   - Unique Experiences: Living on the Moon would allow the settler to not only do unbelievable activities such as flying but to tour the Moon as well.

Compared to Mars, the Moon offers retirees certain advantages. The most significant will be proximity to the grandkids. This factor alone will probably make settlement on Mars less likely than settlement on the Moon. The round trip time delay for telecommunications between the Moon and Earth is about 2.6 seconds. This is short enough to allow telepresence at family events such as graduations, weddings, and holiday gatherings. For Mars it averages 14 minutes which limits communications to sending video emails. Business consulting is likewise better from the Moon than Mars. Also, the Moon's 1/6th gravity allows for more amazing activities than can be done on Mars (38% of Earth's gravity). Finally, anyone would find the month-long confinement in a craft going to Mars inconvenient. For the Moon, the trip is only three days.

However, settlers (whether to the Moon or Mars) will want to take advantage of sight-seeing opportunities along the way. So settlers going to the Moon will want to spend a good amount of time in a hotel in low Earth orbit (LEO). Likewise, settlers going to Mars will want to take advantage of hanging out in the LEO hotel and take the Grand Tour of the Moon before the long journey to Mars.

Retirees will be the main ones with the free time and money to be able to move off Earth.

Next: Path to Settlement