Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, has introduced a bill in Congress entitled ‘‘Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act of 2016.” The bill, H.R. 4752, which is similar to one that Rohrabacher introduced in 2015, would, “require the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to investigate and promote the exploration and development of space leading to human settlements beyond Earth, and for other purposes.”

The idea of space settlements has been around since before the dawn of the space age.

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Rohrabacher’s bill sets out a number of reasons why NASA should concentrate on expanding human presence beyond Earth, both inspirational and practical. For example, settling space would, “create new jobs, catalyze new industries, accelerate innovation, and new technologies, and enable America to tap vast new resources that will generate new wealth, enhance national security, and provide Americans with new and limitless opportunities.” The bill also touched on everything from planetary defense to inspiring a new generation of Americans.

Lunar settlement concept (Credit NASA)
Lunar settlement concept (Credit NASA)

The bill is somewhat vague as to what NASA would do to further the settlement of space. Currently, the space agency is embarked on the Journey to Mars, which would entail the exploration of the Red Planet and not, at least initially, its permanent settlement by humans. A couple of private groups, such as the Dutch Mars One and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, have dreams of Mars settlements.

The European Space Agency is concentrating on a “Moon Village” which would certainly be in line with Rohrabacher’s vision of spreading humanity beyond the Earth.

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The Moon Village would be an international community in which various space agencies and commercial companies gather for mutual support as they seek to explore the moon and exploit its natural resources.

The Rohrabacher bill has one active call for action in that in directs the president, presumably the next one, to “conduct a review of national space policy to incorporate as a long-term goal of the human spaceflight and exploration program to expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit in a way that will enable human settlement and a thriving space economy.” That directive sounds like a proposal for another in a long line of presidential commissions to issue a report.

But, for the dream of space settlements to become reality, leadership, a sound direction and, above all, funding must be made available.

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