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The polis of Artemis on the Moon

Can Andy Weir’s Artemis, the setting for his new novel of the same name, be best described as a city or a town? Or is it better to think of it, as Ioannis Kokkinidis does in the essay that follows, as a ‘polis’? The ancient Greek term carries through the centuries to inform Ioannis’ musings on Weir’s creation, as he examines Artemis, a tourist destination like no other, from a deeply international perspective. Well known for his attempt to keep the science of The Martian accurate, Weir set a high bar, one to which Artemis will invariably be compared. Ioannis Kokkinidis is a resident of Fresno, CA with an abiding interest in deep space. He holds a Master of Science in Agricultural Engineering from the Department of Natural Resources Management and Agricultural Engineering of the Agricultural University of Athens. He went on to obtain a Mastère Spécialisé Systèmes d’informations localisées pour l’aménagement des territoires (SILAT) from AgroParisTech and AgroMontpellier and a PhD in Geospatial and Environmental Analysis from Virginia Tech. Just how realistic, Ioannis asks, is Weir’s polis on the Moon?

by Ioannis Kokkinidis


Andy Weir’s new novel, Artemis, is a heist story set on the first lunar town, named Artemis. The book has had a large number of book reviews in the press mostly dealing with its literary qualities. Reviewers though have not quite dealt with the realism of the setting, a town on the Moon named Artemis which lives off tourism, mining and through providing a base camp to space agencies (ESA and ISRO are specifically mentioned) exploring the moon. Over the years many rationales have been given to colonize the Moon. This is the only story I have read – granted I have not been able to read that much science fiction – where tourism is the primary driver of colonization. Andy Weir has said that he first created an economy of the town and then went on to write the novel. His description of a tourist dependent city though has several assumptions that, while mostly true for some American destinations, are quite odd for tourist destinations outside the US. This is an analysis by a person who comes from a country whose economy is highly dependent of tourism, has visited some 30 countries and lived in 5 of them. I am trying to keep this review as spoiler free as possible so as not to ruin the enjoyment of the book to anyone who has not read it, though I hope that those that have not read the book will be able to follow my arguments and form their own opinions. I will also admit freely that I am a biased reviewer; much as I criticize Weir for having an American bias when creating his city, I admit that I have a Greek bias.

Literary Setting

Artemis is the story of Jazz (for Jasmine) Bashara, a young Saudi born woman who has lived most of her life in Artemis and belongs to the first generation to have grown up there. She is the only narrator of the story. We spend the entire novel in her head, and most likely she qualifies as an unreliable narrator in that what she understands is not necessarily what is actually happening. She works as a porter, delivering cargo from the cargo ships to various destinations in Artemis and doing smuggling on the side. One of her clients hires her to do a heist, and following the law of unintended consequences she finds herself forced to do another job with higher stakes to save the city. I will leave the plot description at that, which generally corresponds with the blurb, so as to avoid spoiling it. In the course though of the story she experiences Artemis from a variety of viewpoints, including as a tourist to the Apollo 11 site and describes a functioning town on the Moon as she understands it. Andy Weir has created a variety of characters that, as has been noted, ticks off a large number of diversity boxes, though it also has been noted that the different people he mentions do not quite act as people of their described background do today. On the other hand, considering that the book is set decades into the future on the Moon, we cannot be certain if people will act that way then. Just like The Martian the time the book is set is not given, and while through orbital mechanics you could work out that The Martian was set in the 2030s, the only mention of time is that Star Trek is 100 years old. My sense was that this would place the setting in the 2060s though other sources on the web claim that it is the 2080s.

Andy Weir has an agreement with Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the writers behind the pen name James S. A. Corey so that their works are set in the same Universe. The Expanse main series begins 150 years after the short story “Drive” which is about the invention of the Epstein Drive, a revolutionary type of high power high efficiency ion engine by one of the first colonists of Mars. The idea is to form a coherent future history of humanity with a strong basis on science rather than just space opera, from the third expedition to Mars to, well, I am not sure what the end game of The Expanse will be, intergalactic conflict? The Expanse can help fill some of the details in Artemis, the general Wild West type lawlessness of Artemis is what will evolve to the Ceres which, as Detective Miller comments, “has no laws, only cops”. To the best of my knowledge though we have not had published information on what is the actual extent of the collaboration between the three authors so I will be speculating here out of necessity. My critique of the novel should not be understood as dismissal of it. It is after all far easier to tear down than to build, and Weir has done an admirable job in world-building. While Artemis is not as good as the Martian I truly enjoyed Artemis and could not let it down until I finished it.

Tourism in the United States and in Europe

On the two sides of the Atlantic tourism takes very different forms. It is very well known in Europe that Americans only get two weeks of paid vacation per year –the poor for that matter get nothing- as opposed to the European norm of 4 or 5 weeks. The US is more economically polarized than Europe and a far more consumerist: What a European will spend on vacation; an American is more likely to spend on a bigger house, bigger car, bigger appliances etc. The typical American worker will take a day or two off next to a holiday and go with his family to the nearest beach/national park. They will take that one time trip to New York City/Washington DC/Disneyland/Las Vegas, college students will go on Spring Break but generally vacation is not as important as for Europeans. Andy Weir’s lunar vacation is the very American special vacation type: Rather than go to that trip to Las Vegas his vacationers go to Artemis. Since vacation is special anyway, they might as well splurge on it. For a European though some year the vacation may be special, but it is something that will happen every year. European destinations are designed so that you want to come every year, this does not seem to be the case in Artemis.

Another thing that Weir fails to understand is seasonality. Different groups of people come at different times of the year at the same destination, and the destination needs to be flexible enough to leave all satisfied. While in Greece have winter destinations like Arahova and Kaimaktsalan and city break destination like Athens which receive tourists all of the year, some 70% of tourists in Greece arrive between June and September. The tourist season goes as follows in Greece: Two weeks before Orthodox Easter is the High School senior 5 day field trip. 12th graders, accompanied by their teachers but not their parents, visit destinations such as Corfu and Rhodes in theory for educational purposes –they do visit the museums and archaeological sites- and in practice to go clubbing; to drink, sing and dance until the break of dawn or until a student gets smashed and the rest are returned to their hotel while a teacher accompanies him or her to the hospital. Next week is what we call in Greece Catholic Easter –for us Orthodox Christians it is Palm Sunday- and we see European tourists come for their break. Greek tourists join them since the next two weeks are a school holiday due to Orthodox Easter. The two weekends afterwards are the college student party trips to places such as Mykonos and Santorini, similar to American college student Spring Break. By that time it already mid-May foreign childless tourists abound. July and August, when schools are off, are the main tourist months with the peak of the peak being the first 20 days of August. After Dormition (August 15) people start returning home from vacation, school starts in Europe in late August though in Greece on September 10. We still get tourists though until the end of September. Weir’s tourist city somehow it lacks a tourist season, seasonal employees and for that matter tourist destinations beyond the Apollo 11 site.

Physical setting

General Description

Figure 1: A map of Artemis. Credit: Crown Publishing

Artemis, population at the time of the novel being 2,000 is referred as a city. Physically it is located in Tranquility Bay on the Moon some 40 km from the Apollo 11 landing site. I have an issue with the use of the term city: in Greece that a village has a population of less than 2000 inhabitants, a town 2,000-10,000 and a city of over 10,000. For this reason I use in this article the ancient Greek term polis to refer to the settlement. I believe that this term is also more appropriate than city because it also has the connotations of an independent city state rather than just an urban settlement. Artemis has the appropriate size for a small ancient Greek polis: Plato considers that the perfect size for a polis is 5040 citizens, which in his time meant free adult men, and that when it gets to 10,000 citizens it is too big. As Nikias though put it (in Thucydides’ History 7.77.7) “men make the city and not ships and walls empty of people”; which in our case I would amend to “men and women”. We do not know the demographic breakdown of Artemis, how many men versus women, what the age distribution is except that children under 6 were not allowed when Jazz moved and that at the time of the novel the minimum age is 12. Pregnant people are moved to the Earth to give birth. In The Expanse this problem has been solved, but not in Artemis. A lack of children creates very interesting problems, which I discuss later.

Using the analogy of Greece I can attempt to estimate how many tourists visit. As mentioned in 2018 we expect 30 million tourists, 70% of them (21 million) visit the four regions of the Ionian Islands, North Aegean, South Aegean and Crete which per the 2011 census are populated by 1,338,946 people. If we use a similar 15 tourists per inhabitant ratio for Artemis then it should have 30,000 tourists visiting it every year. That would make it a minor tourist destination. Can 30,000 people a year afford to spend something in the order of $100,000 to visit the moon? In view of the studies over who can afford a Virgin Galactic suborbital hop today, I think the answer is yes.

Artemis is described as a playground for rich tourists served by an underclass of workers, one of which is Jazz. Weir has rightly noted that since robots can do everything in space much cheaper than people, tourism becomes the only reason to visit space. Monetary unit of Artemis is the Soft Landed Gram or slug, which is in reality an account with the Kenyan Space Agency that is used to exchange funds on the Moon. Artemis is composed of 5 domes that have different functions: As Weir said during New York Comic Con “Armstrong is industry, Aldrin is the tourist center with casinos and hotels and stuff, Conrad is where the blue-collar folks live, the low-income people. Bean is sort of like suburban life; it’s middle-income folks. And then Shepard is where the really rich people live”.

Those who permanently live in Artemis are retirees who have moved their savings there to avoid taxation, workers in the limited industry that Artemis hosts, service employees for the tourists and Space Agency scientist. In other words Artemis is a cross between the Wild West of the western movies, Monte Carlo and McMurdo Station in Antarctica. These three functions though often clash. For example Monte Carlo is a police state; it has the highest per capita police force per its population in Europe. Somehow though in Artemis a single Mountie, Rudy Dubois, is capable of providing security that the tourists and locals need.

McMurdo station which is the main base of operations for Antarctica has on its own a population of 2,000 people mostly made of supporting crew to the scientists. Will automation in the late 21st century be such that the Moon, which is larger than Antarctica, can have a base of support smaller than that of Antarctica today? We can only guess.

Travelling to Artemis

Andy Weir has written an article where, based on the ratio of the cost of airplane fuel to ticket price for a trip he calculates that the cost of a roundtrip to Artemis will be US$70,000 in 2015 dollars. His premise is that future spaceships will have similar economics to today’s airplanes. If he was to choose passenger ferries as the economic base I am sure he would come with a different number, but I am willing to go along with his price. What I do doubt are his assumptions for the trip specifics. While it is not mentioned explicitly, all would be lunar tourists travel to the Kenya Space Center and blast off to the moon from there. We are not told of any other launching sites sending people to the moon and when one of the characters who is from Hong Kong leaves Artemis, Jazz tells her Kenyan pen pal and accomplice Kevin to track him in a way that assumes that he could only be leaving towards Kenya. The trip from Earth to the Moon and from the Moon to Earth takes 7 days each way. Why do visitors to Artemis need to fly to Kenya first rather than leave from a spaceport closer to their home? For one thing every visitor to Greece does not enter through Eleftherios Venizelos Athens International Airport and then travels to their final destination. Elefterios Venizelos airport is a hub for connections to Greece especially if you are flying a transatlantic flight or your final destination is pretty small but European tourists will often fly directly to Corfu, Mykonos, Rhodes, Heraklion, Santorini or wherever they are going, especially if they are in a low cost or charter flight. Airplanes though are not the only way to visit the Greek island, very often tourists will go by boat. While Corfu has a direct connection to Italy and the islands of the east Aegean direct boats to Turkey, the typical port of origin for a trip to Greek island is my home city Piraeus, the port of Athens. Greece has 107 inhabited islands per the 2011 census, from Piraeus you can get a boat to most. Not all ships travel at the same speed, summer visitors have the option of taking a slow boat, a fast boat or a hydrofoil, in addition to the airplane of that island has an airport with a regularly scheduled flight. Why is Kenya Space Center the only origin to passenger flights to Artemis and why are they slow 7 days trips when Apollo took 3 days other than reasons of novel plot? Shouldn’t there be fast flights to those willing to shell out the money? This is not just an issue of convenience but also of competitiveness as a tourist destination. Studies about Greek tourism get often printed on the Greek press and one of the problems we have is that we are too far away from the countries most of visitors originate compared to our competitors. For a British traveler Crete is twice the air time distance than Ibiza. I cannot guess what travel times will be when Artemis is set, but for a busy CEO who gets very limited time off work, spending two weeks to and from the destination does not seem to be wise. Then again it could be that a trip to Artemis is something like a cruise: It is the cruise ship that is the destination and the passengers just get out for day trips.

We are not told of what engine the crewed spaceships use though the Hermes on The Martian used an ion engine and in The Expanse ion engines are described as the old type used. We are not told how many passengers each ship carries. We are not told if there are specialized cargo ships that make the trip without passenger carrying bulky or heavy loads, or if the passenger ships are the only way to ship stuff. We are not told if the ships have artificial gravity, as the Hermes did, if they have their engine constantly firing to provide gravitation as happens to the ships of The Expanse or if they follow an Hohmann transfer orbit style one firing and coasting in microgravity for most of the trip. All we know is that there is regular service to the Kenya Space Center. My guess is that the ships doing the line between KSC and Artemis have are similar to the Adriatic ferries between Greece and Italy: There are several different accommodation types ranging from deck tickets to luxury suites. Also there are all sorts of amenities on boards such as at least two restaurants, bars and a disco. I also guess is that on the disco they play Nicki Minaj’s Starships, Prodigy’s Out of Space, PPK’s Resurrection and similar relevant space songs.

Foundation of Artemis

The person behind the foundation of the city is Fidelis Ngugi, formerly Kenya’s Minister of Finance. We are told that she managed to create the Kenyan Space Program and later Artemis out of nothing by taking advantage of Kenya’s equatorial position and offering unspecified incentives. Andy Weir never specifically mentions how the whole project started. We are not told who actually financed the construction of the city and of what nationality is the capital that did so. Retirees and criminals provide the capital that expanded and currently sustains the city. Is Kenya the origin of the capital that built the city? On the one hand Kenya has hosted a space program in the Broglio Space Center, located on the San Marco offshore platform. The Italian Space Agency operated the platform and used it to launch the American Scout launch vehicle 9 times between 1967 and 1988. On the other hand as a Piraean when I take a walk at the Marina of Zea in Piraeus I see a lot of megayachts flying the Liberian flag, but rarely if ever the Kenyan flag. Commentary on the web has noted the Spaceresource.lu initiative to mine asteroids, but has not noted that the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is also offering its own money to start ups as part of the initiative. Will Kenya of a few decades in the future be able to offer significant money, as opposed to just a favorable legal status, in order to be the host country of the lunar city? Also considering the kind of status this sort of project confers to a country, why wouldn’t any of the major powers try and be the host country, especially if they are the ones providing the capital? McMurdo Station is located in Antarctica in the New Zealand claim and has people from all over the world, but from the description I have had from classmates that have worked there, it is at its core an American town.

Another thing we are not told about the city is who the people that founded it were and how they were selected or allowed to live there. Was a tender put out for colonists and who was allowed to answer? We know that Ammar Bashara, Jazz’s father, was not one of the original colonists but moved very early on. The smelter is managed by Loretta Sanchez who invented the -fictional- process used to smelt aluminum and seems to have been there since the start. The city grew with the push pull phenomenon typical of the settlement of the United States: an immigrant would arrive and he or she would bring his relatives – compatriots to live with him, leading to ethnic enclaves. The environmental systems are run by Vietnamese, welders are Saudis, Hungarians control HIBs which are a sort of maintenance robots. When Artemis was founded was there an original person doing that job from that particular country? And how was each job selected, was there an immigration type agreement to hire people of one job only from one country in exchange for that country actually funding the Artemis project? Is there some sort of limitation to immigration to Artemis? For the last parts we are led to believe that this is not the case. Jazz does not know of any agreement forcing all welders to be Saudis for example, is offered other jobs when young and is specifically told that the city welcomes retirees who bring their savings with them without limitations of origin.

The American example of immigration as the choice of the individual is not the only one that exists. The foundation of past poleis has been more of a state affair. Herodotus (4.150-153) mentions how Cyrene in modern day Libya was founded by the people of Thera (also called Santorini) (translated by A.D. Godley):

When Grinnus king of Thera asked the oracle [of Apollo in Delphi] about other matters, the priestess’ answer was that he should found a city in Libya. “Lord, I am too old and heavy to stir; command one of these younger men to do this,” answered Grinnus, pointing to Battus as he spoke. No more was said then. But when they departed, they neglected to obey the oracle, since they did not know where Libya was, and were afraid to send a colony out to an uncertain destination. For seven years after this there was no rain in Thera; all the trees in the island except one withered. The Theraeans inquired at Delphi again, and the priestess mentioned the colony they should send to Libya. So, since there was no remedy for their ills, they sent messengers to Crete to find any Cretan or traveller there who had travelled to Libya. In their travels about the island, these came to the town of Itanus, where they met a murex fisherman named Corobius, who told them that he had once been driven off course by winds to Libya, to an island there called Platea. They hired this man to come with them to Thera; from there, just a few men were sent aboard ship to spy out the land first; guided by Corobius to the aforesaid island Platea, these left him there with provision for some months, and themselves sailed back with all speed to Thera to bring news of the island. But after they had been away for longer than the agreed time, and Corobius had no provisions left, a Samian ship sailing for Egypt, whose captain was Colaeus, was driven off her course to Platea, where the Samians heard the whole story from Corobius and left him provisions for a year […] As for the Theraeans, when they came to Thera after leaving Corobius on the island, they brought word that they had established a settlement on an island off Libya. The Theraeans determined to send out men from their seven regions, taking by lot one of every pair of brothers, and making Battus leader and king of all. Then they manned two fifty-oared ships and sent them to Platea.

Reading Artemis I got the sense that most of those that have made the move are middle class to wealthy people who had a hunger to change scenery. The working class of Artemis seems to belong to the richer 10% of the globe rather than the poor masses of the Third World. The majority though of people who migrate today tend to be poor and often refugees. A $35,000 one way ticket price is not necessarily an obstacle for someone from a poor country to migrate to Artemis. Per the media smuggling into Europe from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East or South Asia already costs in the order of $10,000. Per a Washington Post article a North Korean family paid in 2017 $30,000 to smuggle itself to South Korea. It is not at all necessary that the originating country pay for the trip: During the 2015 Aegean immigrant crisis in Greece we got the sense that the Visegrad countries would rather pay to send refugees on the moon than allow then to settle in their own country. Could it be that in several years into the future rich countries will pay to send the poor to colonize space in the same way that they financially support today refugee camps in Third World countries rather than allow refugees to settle in the rich countries? My personal opinion is that if all it takes to settle in Artemis is just paying a ticket to get there, it can easily turn into a dumping ground for the undesirables of the world. There is one major stumbling block for this: The prohibition on children under 6 (originally) and 12 (currently). One of the principal reasons for the postwar depopulation of the Greek islands was the lack of educational facilities. Entire families would move just so their child could go to high school. If children are not allowed, which is also a major limitation to tourism, we are likely to see entire families return to earth as soon as the mother gets pregnant. A city without children, while common in fantasy literature, is not viable in the real world.

Life support

Artemis has a pure Oxygen atmosphere at a pressure that is equivalent to the partial pressure of Oxygen on the earth’s surface. In the real world American spacecraft up to Apollo had a pure oxygen atmosphere, but even Skylab had a mixture of 75% Oxygen 25% Nitrogen due to fears of toxicity from long term exposure to pure oxygen. All other spaceships and the ISS have atmospheric composition and pressure closer to Earth sea level. Ships to Artemis that come from Earth begin with sea level atmosphere and slowly change it over the trip to pure Oxygen. The aluminum smelter produces huge amounts of Oxygen which is then piped in the polis. CO2 from breathing is separated and piped for agricultural use. On earth aluminum smelting produces CO2 rather than O2. The Sanchez process though uses rods made from Carbon and Chlorine that somehow produce O2. The pure oxygen atmosphere, other than serving an important plot point, is a design choice by Weir. I strongly feel though that he has not thought through all the implications. For one thing how do the trees in Aldrin Park that Jazz visits survive under pure oxygen in low atmospheric pressure is a mystery. If all the CO2 in the atmosphere is collected and pumped to the food farms, what could they be possibly photosynthesizing? Also plants get mixed signals at low atmospheric pressure leading them to show water stress even when fully watered. Finally without nitrogen, how would the nitrogen fixing bacteria in the soil fix N2 into nitrates? It could be that nitrogen for the plants is artificially provided through fertigation. Still though, a pure oxygen atmosphere is not very conductive to healthy soil functions.

Another question that is never addressed is what happens to other types of waste. Per Weir water is composed from local Oxygen and Hydrogen that was transported from earth and is continuously recycled. This implies tertiary treatment of wastewater. We are not told where the wastewater treatment plant is. What do they do with biosolids, a.k.a. activated sludge? Do they recover the nutrients? Do they compost it and use it as soil amendment? Do they just dry it and dump it out of the airlock? For that matter what do they do with solid waste in general? In The Expanse there is a universal recycling system, even used instead of burial for the dead. Who collects the garbage in Artemis? Who cleans the street and, more importantly how often do they go on strike? If anything tourists do not like to visit places that are dirty.

Artemis as a tourist destination

Artemis hotel capacity guesses

Weir has said, and it is noted in the novel, that the population of Artemis is 2,000 people. He does not mention though how many people visit the polis as tourists. I will use Greek analogies to try and give an estimate. In a place whose economy is dependent on tourism there are three types of inhabitants: the permanent population, those having temporary accommodation such as a second home who live part of the year –a category that can also include seasonal workers- and tourists which in general far outnumber the local population.

There are several forms of accommodation for tourists. In Greece formal tourist accommodations fall in three categories: hotels, rooms-to-rent (ενοικιαζόμενα δωμάτια) and campgrounds. I am pretty sure that everyone is familiar with hotels. They are generally categorized into star categories depending on the services they offer. Even a 1 star hotel though must meet a minimum number of requirements. Rooms-to-rent is an accommodation type that is described in tourist guides to Greece as “like a bed and breakfast without the breakfast part”. They are often owned by a local and are a family run business. Generally they are required to be licensed by Greek National Tourist Organization (GNTO), like hotels though they have much looser standards than hotels. They are quite popular with Greek tourists because they are cheaper than hotels but they often offer fewer services. Their rooms are often optimized for family vacations. A typical studio has one big room with two queen beds, a kitchenette and refrigerator plus a separate bathroom. They might not even have a reception and it is very rare that they offer breakfast. Very often bookings are not available on the internet, though you can often find the owner/manager’s phone number and call them at any time to book a room in advance. One of the rather typical scenes of summer in a Greek island is rent-a-room owners waiting right behind the catapult of an arriving ferry boat yelling the name of their room and their price in (tourist) English and whatever other language they can speak, trying to get clients among those that did not book accommodation before arriving on the island. In general this is the hardest part of hotel type accommodation to track, the Hellenic Statistical Authority has trouble tracking them because there are several that belong to the informal part of the economy. In other countries there are similar types of non-hotel permanent accommodations such as youth hostels, which are rare in Greece.

Camping in Greece can be in organized campgrounds or outside them, a practice known in Greece as free camping. In general free camping is forbidden in Greece, especially right now with the ongoing refugee crisis. There are several organized campgrounds, private and public, authorized by GNTO and tracked by the Hellenic Statistical Authority. In the last decade the sharing economy has also appeared in Greece with lodgings appearing in AirBnB and similar websites. The Greek government’s first reaction has been to crack down on the practice because of unfair competition to authorized and taxpaying hotels, rooms to rent and campgrounds. The problem that arose that often those putting their vacation home on the internet are people who are foreign citizens that are not permanent residents of Greece. Thus the government has been working with the websites to ensure that this kind of practice is legalized provided the owners of the accommodation pay the kind of heavy tax burden that formal accommodations have. Unfortunately it is difficult to find how many beds are available through the sharing economy, and even less so to find data on how many people have a summer house in a tourist destination that might bring over a friend for a visit.

Greece has 107 islands which mostly live off tourism. Several of them are of similar population to Artemis. On table 1 is a list of islands that had a winter population between 1,500 and 2,500 inhabitants in the 2011 census along with the accommodations they have. Now note that none of these four islands has an airport, though they have heliports mostly for medical evacuations. Visiting them from abroad means for Paxi landing in Ioannis Kapodistrias Corfu International Airport, going to the harbor and taking a ferry boat. For the other three islands which are in the Aegean it means landing at Eleftherios Venizelos, getting to the port of Piraeus and taking a boat trip lasting several hours. For hotels and campgrounds I used the Hellenic Statistical Authority to find capacity. For rooms to rent I used a variety of online sources, most important being the magazine “Diakopes” which has an online website (diakopes.gr) that mentions the capacity of rooms to rent. While there are several sources giving names and phone numbers of rooms-to-rent, only Diakopes had number of beds.

Figure 2: The 4 islands of table 1. From Google Maps

Of these 4 islands the only one I have visited is Paxi in late August 2009, which is in the Ionian Sea, where I stayed in a lighthouse. On top of the tourists staying in hotels, rooms to rent, campgrounds and sharing rooms with friends or strangers on the sharing economy, there were also several yachts both docked on the ports and marinas but also anchored offshore. It is very hard to guess how many people were there visiting, but my guess would be that they were more than the winter population. When complaining about the shortage of medical facilities the local governments gave some numbers to the press: Amorgos claims that while their winter population is 1,800 people, their summer population reaches 10,000. Kea claimed one year to have 5,000 people at the peak and another 10,000. Now islanders are known to exaggerate in order to get more resources from the national government. Table 1 shows that Paxi is rather less developed than other three islands in the Aegean that have a similar population to Artemis. The tourist peak in Greece comes in the first 20 days of August, when it is very hard to find any kind of vacancy, all the bed in Table 1 are definitely slept on by at least one person. If Artemis has the kind of tourist density of Paxi, I would conservatively guess that at the peak it has at least as many tourists as permanent residents, thus 2,000 people. If it has the tourist density of Ios, then at the tourist peak it has over 10,000 tourists.

Somehow all the tourists fit in Aldrin, having rooms that are bigger than Jazz’s cramped submarine bunk type room in Conrad. Weir thinks that a place that per his main character lives off tourism can do so while having significantly fewer tourists than residents at the peak of the tourist season. Granted, it is a long and expensive journey to Artemis, and Artemis also lives off the limited industry it has, supporting the scientists and the retirees. Still in Mediterranean tourist depended town such as Portimão in Portugal, Malia in Greece, Kusadasi in Turkey or Agia Napa in Cyprus, which I have all visited, tourist accommodation and services take more urban space than accommodation and services to locals. Also during the off season the tourist districts are ghost towns, everything boarded up in the main thoroughfare and if something is open it is most likely quite empty of visitors. Jazz never mentions the off season, likely because Weir thinks that as a destination it is not very seasonal. The question of hotel ownership, which is tied to the issue of who provided the capital that built Artemis, is never raised.

The Artemis tourist experience

Artemis follows the day night cycle of Kenya, which is simulated through artificial lighting. Weir describes a polis that generally follows a typical 24 hour cycle as is familiar to him: people wake up in the morning, go to work during the day and sleep at night. When Jazz sneaks out in the middle of the night for her job, she finds the place deserted. This is not how places that receive tourists always work: for one thing you will have many tourists suffering from jet lag. When I last visited Greece I would wake up at 1 am at first, it was 11 am in California. At the end of the 7 day trip, assuming the spaceship follows Kenya time, tourists would have adapted to the change. This is not the case though with shorter trips. Another issue is that individuals have their own time preference, and a comment that we make in Greece is that every nationality has its own cycle: Swedes are known to wake up early in the morning and sleep early even when on vacation. On the other hand we Greeks, who are known sing and dance until the break of dawn, sleep in the morning, waking up no earlier than noon. Working hours and arrangements of the tourist zones adapt to the tourists rather than force the tourists to adapt to them. I was utterly shocked when in Agios Nikolaos in Crete where I worked for 6 months in 2008/9 I discovered that the souvlaki grill was selling meat on Good Friday, until I realized that they were catering to the tourists, not to Greeks. Similarly I remember eating yaurtlu kebap in Chania at 4 am after a night out dancing at a local night club with friends while the store was starting to cook tiropita, bougatsa and other breakfast items for the morning crowd. They would start coming around 5 am when the boat from Piraeus was due and Western tourists were expected to wake up. Furthermore the last time I was in Thassos the super market had gained a large selection of vodkas to serve the needs of Eastern European tourists that are frequenting it. This was not the case during my childhood when foreign tourists were mostly West Germans that drunk beer.

The tourist experience is a two way street, both the locals and the tourists create the destination. However there is an innate tourist experience which is depended on the availability of the attractions at the destination. When I went to Mykonos as a student on I went there to take part of the Mykonos experience: Waking up briefly in the morning to catch hotel breakfast, sleeping again and then after finally waking up after noontime going to Super Paradise Beach to dance with some 2,000 others, mostly students to the electronic dance music played by the DJ. After 6 or 7 pm we would return to the hotel, have dinner, walk around and eventually end up at a more typical night club -the hottest place at the time was called “Space Dance”- no earlier than 11 pm. Afterwards we would go to Cavo Paradiso which opened at 2 am on weekdays and midnight on Friday and Saturday night, though it was wiser to show up after 4 am to listen to lounge music (and drink) while waiting for the sun to rise. Of course Mykonos has many other things to do: a waterpark where we had fun one afternoon before going to Super Paradise, awesome beaches to swim and do watersports, an archaeological museum which I did visit. More importantly, it is the visitation point for the sacred island of Delos where Apollo and Artemis were born which is completely protected as an archaeological site. The Mykonos Experience is not typical of Greek islands: Paros and Naxos for example are more oriented towards families while Tinos receives pilgrims who visit the Church of the Virgin Mary which holds a miraculous icon purportedly painted by the Evangelist Luke. This does not mean that you cannot do most things on most islands; it’s just that each island has a somewhat different tourist character. What is the typical tourist experience in Artemis? What is it that drives people to take such a long trip to the moon?

Jazz impersonates a tourist at some point, so we get to see at least part of it. She wakes up in the morning at a hotel, takes the train to the Apollo 11 site and goes out on an EVA to enjoy the site from behind a fence. The other thing mentioned is going out on a hamster type ball in the lunar surface and bouncing around and visiting the night life, which in Jazz’s case means silently drinking without music. She does mention though clubs where you can dance; she just doesn’t like that kind of entertainment. The Mykonos experience I mentioned is something that you can only really do for a long weekend. More than that you get tired of the dancing, and just go out to experience the beaches, cultural heritage, physical environment, different settlements on the island and other type of attractions. The Artemis experience mentioned above in the end will also fit a long weekend. Day 1 you go to Apollo 11, day 2 on a hamster ball and Artemis is not exactly described as the sort of place where you can go on bar crawls lasting days. Who would really travel two weeks just to spend 3 days on Artemis? There is always people-watching, when you sit on a coffee shop on a main thoroughfare and watch people going by. I remember when in the last year of my undergrad studies we visited Monte Carlo with the university, classmates of mine engaged in people-watching while I went with others to the Oceanographic Museum. As they told us afterwards they were near the casino and would see expensive sports cars driving there to let their patrons off. Apparently my male classmates ogled the cars while my female classmates were salivating over the expensive designer clothes that the fashion models in the passenger seats were wearing. Why doesn’t Artemis have other attractions, such as guided rover geology tours of the surface around the polis, guided tours of the smelter or the nuclear reactor, some amusement park type destination? If you want people to visit, you need to offer them things to do that will take a longer time to accomplish than the trip getting there.

Visitors to Artemis

Tourists described in the novel are families with older children, a married Arab woman without her husband and retirees. This does not quite capture the gamut of categories that choose to go on tourism. If you visit Greece during the school year you will run into foreign schools on educational trips. Much as a trip to Artemis is far more expensive, I see no reason why schools should not be there. I am pretty sure that students of Swiss boarding school, British Public schools or American Preparatory Academies can afford to take a trip to Artemis. Alternatively busy parents can send their kids with the nanny while they are running their corporation. Much as Artemis is rather expensive and too long a trip for Spring Break, the current price for Semester at Sea ranges between $23,950 and $31,950. I am pretty sure that a Semester at Artemis program would appear. We are likely to see corporate retreats for the upper management at Artemis, though scientific conferences seem unlikely: grants will pay a few thousand for a trip of a professor with a few students but not $100,000 each. No religious site is mentioned in Artemis, so we are not likely to see pilgrims before the first monastery is founded there, if not a few generations later after said monastery has produced important personalities. For that matter The Expanse describes a solar system without monasteries of any kind, which I find very weird. If indeed the world of The Expanse is a continuation of today’s world, I see no reason why this kind of religious expression would disappear considering how common it is around the world.

No sporting events are mentioned in the text and thus it is unlikely we would see mass sport tourism. In general it is hard to have physical sports on the moon due to low gravity: you need real training to send a soccer ball in the goal post as opposed to kicking it off the stadium. What would be likely to see is e-sports, a.k.a. video games so long there is no 3 second lag. There are several channels showing e-sports on basic cable, if the company making them wanted they could sponsor a tournament to the moon to raise publicity. Medical tourism is a very high possibility, a case is even mentioned, but for now Artemis lacks the infrastructure to really support it. In the case mentioned a wealthy Norwegian has moved with his daughter to Artemis because of her condition. This is quite realistic to expect. What Weir though seems to ignore is how generous is the welfare state is outside the United States. National Health Systems of wealthy countries do pay for rehabilitation abroad today. Jazz should not be surprised that there is a Norwegian there for that purpose, but that there isn’t a colony of recovering people taking advantage of lunar gravity with the cost being underwritten by their national health systems. As a general note though, tourists crave safety and strong law and order. People do not visit a place so as to get robbed there. Surprisingly Artemis does not offer that, there is only one Mountie that is supposed to offer security for all the people all the time.

Life in the polis

Law and Order

When people are on vacation, they often do things they would not dare do at home, especially after a few drinks. On top of that policing tourists often creates a moral dilemma: How much of their behavior do you police and following which legal and moral code? Tourists come from another society that often has differing values. Do you want to enforce your own society’s values on them? Do you create a tourist enclave under foreign law and if so, how much do you allow of your own people to partake in the vices of the tourists? What should be the case about behavior which is considered normal or at least tolerable in your society but not in the visitor’s society? Should the tourist enjoy the advantage of both societies without either’s obligation? These are issue on top of the more generic issues between law and society for the local population. We really do not see much of tourists being policed in the novel. What we do see is policing of the locals. I was utterly shocked when I read in the novel that Andy Weir’s version of law and order in Artemis features lynch mobs! Why would you ever want to go to a place where your everyday behavior might lead the locals to lynch you and you have no recourse? Tourists are by far the most fickle people over security, they demand absolute security from all dangers real or perceived; this is not what Artemis is offering. This is even more prominent in places that cater to the rich. Monte Carlo is a police state, this is part of the appeal. Italians can display their expensive cars and expensive clothes and jewelry without fear of being robbed, which is a real danger in Northern Italy.

When you live in a tourist country, things that tourists do will make the news. Over time you learn to recognize patterns in behavior, which may or may not correspond to how they act in their home country. Tourists want to participate even partially in the life of the destination, but also want to be part of their home country to which they will return after all. The most typical tourists request is that they watch a home sporting event taking place when they are outside. I most certainly remember when I last was in Thassos every seaside cafeteria/bar in Limenaria was advertising how they were the best place to see the Champions League qualifying game between Partizan Belgrade and Steaua Bucharest. I have no idea how the game went or its aftermath though my sense is that nothing happened afterwards. The issue arises when a game, especially of the kind that attracts passion, has a questionable call. A celebration by the team that the call was in favor can lead to a knuckle fight between groups of fans. While you can expect the establishment’s security to kick you out, this might just lead to a street brawls between mobs of sport fans. Is one Mountie really capable of breaking up a fight between 100 fans? Should Artemis then make watching sports illegal? It is simply not just an issue of sports.

We have had cases in Greece of a tourist killing another tourist because he made advances on that tourists’ girlfriend in a club. I remember the case of a 200 kg female Scandinavian tourist going from bar to bar, causing damage to the places after her advances to male patrons were rebuked, getting thrown out until eventually she made it to the main road, stopped a car by sitting on it and causing hood damage, and then dragging out the driver and sexually assaulting him. But much as these are all sporadic events, and I am sure that everyone living in a tourist country has such stories to share, there is the systematic event known as closing time. In Greece in general the idea of closing time was legislated in the mid-1990s and abandoned after popular outcry: adults do like to be told when to sleep. Still just because tourists do not all leave at the same time, this does not mean that they do not do stupid things on the way out, just that it does not have a specific time it happens. When leaving the bars at closing time in Blacksburg, Raleigh or Fresno the sober will notice the massive police presence out at the time. Drunk people can assault other people for no reason. Getting drunk reduces sexual inhibitions, and this not just leads to sexual assault but also to sexual activity in full public view. A major Cypriot newspaper had in its front page pictures of tourists at Agia Napa behaving indecently at 4 am. Cypriot police did respond to the public outcry by increasing police presence, but this was only up to a limit: Party places live off people behaving in ways that are unacceptable at home. Bar and hotel owners are known to lobby for light treatment, send them to a room or at most to a prison cell for a night, do not send them in prison for long or outlaw the behavior completely. As mentioned earlier there is a strong possibility that Artemis would be a place that never sleeps. Is Rudy capable on his own of managing mobs of drunkards at Aldrin?

Much as tourists are known to get rowdy and be a danger to themselves and others, they also need protection from the locals. I remember a case of bouncers beating a tourist to a coma and killing him because they thought wrongly that he was a potential thief. Dangers to the tourist do not need to be though so obvious. In the novel a barkeep is creating an adulterated distilled alcoholic drink which he tests on a willing Jazz. This sort of behavior is extremely dangerous; in Greece we have had people go blind after drinking adulterated drinks that had excessive methanol. It has not only been tourists: a soldier on the Evros border was visited by his family which crossed into Turkey and bought a bottle of Yeni Raki which they gifted to him. He went permanently blind from drinking it. There are also several other activities that tourist police does in order to preserve the quality of the tourist experience and name of the destination. If a taxi driver, hotelier or restaurant owner overcharges you, the tourist police is where you find recourse. If the restaurant serves you rotten food, there should be police force for that. If the owner of the establishment is not giving you receipts, cooks the books and cheats on his taxes, he should not be allowed to compete with legitimate businessmen. Rudy is shown having great knowledge of criminal activity in Artemis all the way down to domestic abuse, but is he also the kind of person that performs analysis on food and drink, criminal fraud investigations, has knowledge of taxation and economic laws enough to smell a scam? If so, I guess then that after Artemis he ought to apply for the Avengers or the Justice League, he definitely has the qualifications.

But tourists are not the only people on Artemis, there are locals. As mentioned, locals come from many cultures, each with each own values. Artemis though does not have any written laws. If you do something wrong Rudy will beat you, if it is something very wrong you get deported to Earth. Rudy though is not the only source of law, ad hoc morality polices form from among the Artemisians and lynch whoever did something that is against their code of justice. The major problem is, what really informs said code of justice? We are given an example in the novel of someone being lynched for living with teenagers. What if said person was the owner of the largest employer in Artemis? Would people lynch him, or would they protect him and feed his sexual urges with unsuspecting teenagers in order to protect their jobs?

The problem is what happens when we talk about less important things that are offensive to one group but not another. I remember when I was in Portugal in Praia da Rocha near Portimão in Portugal a group of preteen non-Portuguese tourists, each with a beer bottle at hand, walking on the main thoroughfare at the seaside. In Portugal, and in Greece for that matter, this is legal behavior; there is no minimum alcohol age and walking in public with an alcohol container is fully legal. Me and my Portuguese friend were commenting that this is disgraceful behavior but in the end those kids were only imitating their parents, who would also be going on a bar crawl soon. In the US this sort of behavior is considered criminal, both for the kids and their parents (child endangerment). Should American-Artemisians form a morality patrol that trashes stores selling alcohol to minors and lynches store owners, kids and their parents that tolerate this sort of behavior? What happens if the relatives of those so attacked go and attack the lynching mob and their relatives? In Aeschylus’ Oresteia, the only theater trilogy that has survived from antiquity, we have Agamemnon returning from 10 years leading the Greeks in the Trojan War where he is killed while taking a bath by his wife Clytemnestra for cheating on her in Troy, with the help of her lover. Then their son Orestes kills his mother in vengeance for his father’s death, but is then haunted by the Erinyes or Furies, spirits of matriarchical vengeance. Mad from the tormenting of the Erinyes he flees to Athens, where the Areopagus, the court of law for issues of murder, tries him and finds him the killing justified with the goddess Athena casting the tie breaking vote. The theme of Oresteia is moving from a primitive society of the holy law of vengeance to a human political society of laws and courts. Alas Artemis is a primitive society in anarchy, not a socially developed political society. But then again the political system of Artemis is even more problematic that lynching.

Institutional structure

Artemis, with a population of 2,000 people, is approximately the size of a small ancient Greek city state. After reading the novel though it is obvious that politically Artemis is absolute monarchy ruled by the administrator and founder, Fidelis Ngugi. Rudy DuBois enforces the law, which at times he makes up, but he defers to Ngugi, not the people of Artemis. In her person she holds legislative, executive and judiciary power. King Battus as the founder of Cyrene never had the kind of power Fidelis has.

Ancient Greek city states had for the most part a tripartite power structure: at the top there was a king or some other type of titular leader, in the middle there was an assembly of selected men, the modern equivalent would be Parliament and at the bottom there was the General Assembly of all male citizens, the ecclesia of the people. The specific power vested at each level of the governing structure and the composition of each body, let alone the name, depended on the specific city and the time. Macedonia was a monarchy ruled by the king. Below him were the Royal Friends (Vasiliki Eteri) who, in addition to forming the cavalry in battle, advised the king and below them were the Foot Friends (Pezeteroi) who formed the infantry but were also the body that selected who would be king among the male members of the Royal House, would remove a bad king and appoint regents if the king was a minor. In Athens, which was a democracy, the head of the state was the Archon whose main job was to preside over the religious ceremonies of the state. Below him was the Parliament (Voule) which would prepare laws but all the power was at the hands of the ecclesia, the assembly of all free Athenian males which would vote laws, declare wars, sign peace, appropriate money and generally do all acts of power. A citizen who would not take part in politics was called an idiotevon, which is where the word idiot comes from: someone so dumb he is not even interested in politics.

It seems that the polis of Artemis-on-the-Moon is inhabited by idiots living in an absolute monarchy for not only do we not hear of any political body, we do not even hear of any political process. There is no city council or assembly of the citizens. We do not hear of any political discussion for that matter in the entire novel. Worse of all the whole plot of the novel confirms the aphorism about dictatorship that I heard in Barcelona when referring to Franco’s regime: In a dictatorship everyone is oppressed, but if you have the right connections you can do whatever you wish. Jazz is a pawn in a plot of a powerful person to append the current economic structure of the polis. When you do not have an institutional structure in place, violence becomes the only recourse. Much as Weir has tried to build a techno-utopia, scratch under the surface and you see a dystopia where the law of the jungle rules. There is a not so benevolent leader on top who has decisions over life and death among the inhabitants. Those on her good graces can do whatever they please. The rest must suffer lynchings if what their actions do not please some constituency and can suffer arbitrary loss of property, if not life without any hope for recourse.

The issue with the lack of laws and courts not just a theoretical concern. In order to survive and grow Artemis needs external investment. Playgrounds for the rich such as Monte Carlo, Gstaad, Paris and London are also places where the wealthy park their wealth in various forms such as real estate or various financial instruments. Large investors demand a stable institutional framework that spells out what is allowed and forbidden, what are the potential economic benefits and costs and what is the recourse that can be taken if there is a dispute among parties. Say that the property of an absentee landowner is squatted by an Artemisian. What is the course of action he would partake? Ask Fidelis or Rudy directly? What if both prove derelict in their duties because the squatter is strongly connected? Should the landowner hire a mob to evict the squatter? What about the case that we are talking about the landowner demanding higher rent than is in the rental contract and then hiring a mob to expel the tenant? Laws are out to protect everyone from the arbitrariness of others. The irony is that we do see state employees in action: Artemis has a policeman, the inspector that Jazz bribes as part of her smuggling, those controlling the environmental systems and those picking up the garbage. What rules and regulations determines their conduct is never quite told and at times we are led to believe that they just do what they want.


Artemis is somehow both a generally tax free zone and not a financial center. Monte Carlo is a major financial center; wealthy individuals use it in order to hide their assets from their home tax authorities and a safe refuge from political upheaval. The only country that has free access to Monte Carlo’s asset information is France. This comes from an agreement between Prince Rainier and Charles De Gaulle after the French president complained how the Principality is used as a tax haven by rich French. The agreement is that the French are allowed to see French assets but in exchange Value Added Tax of Montegascin industry collected in France is passed on to the principality. Some two thirds of the Principality’s state income comes from VAT in France. In the 1950s, before the agreement with France, Aristotelis Onassis tried to take over the Principality and reduce Prince Rainier to a figurehead. He saw that having sovereign cover to his business would allow him to do things that he could not simply do by only having a corporation. Still Onassis kept the base of his businesses there. Monte Carlo hosts an entire ecosystem of financial services supported by lawyers, financial analysts and other similar jobs. It has though a series of laws to ensure that the wealthy actually reside in the Principality. Corporations cannot take advantage of its tax status unless 3/4th of their turnover comes from within the Principality. Why Artemis does not cultivate this kind of services, considering that having access to cheap capital for financing would allow development of the colony, is unknown, or more in universe a major failure by Fidelis Ngugi.

Agriculture and Food

Per Weir himself the only food grown in Artemis is the green algae Chlorella. It is grown in vats under artificial illumination and then processed through the addition of artificial flavors into gank, the food of Artemis. All other food is transported from Earth and it is quite expensive since at the conversion rate of the slug being 6 slugs per US dollar, each thing transported costs $166/kg. Weir is far from the only person to claim that in the name of efficiency the only crop grown and eaten in space will be algae; that idea seems to be quite popular online. As an agronomist I really do not understand why a concept from the 1940s which from the 1960’s on it had become obvious that did not pan out has such a following among the futuristically inclined. For one thing it was not a topic discussed at the Tri-Societies meetings (Agronomy Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, Crop Science Society of America) when I attended them as a PhD student, as a promising future food source. Searching around the web growing algae for food is more in the purview of the Phycological Society of America. I went to their website to find a snapshot of their current research so I looked up their 2016 Annual Meeting program, which is the most recent on the web. The majority of the sessions and talks were about the biology of algae and seaweed in general, their use as indicators of environmental health though there was once session about algae use as biofuel. I went to Google Scholar and searched “Chlorella production methods”. Of the first 10 papers returned 7 had the word biodiesel in the title, of the other three one was a general review paper on production methods, the second had the word biodiesel in the abstract and the third is a patent to produce a high value ketocarotenoid. Simply put Chlorella production as a food source is not a major research priority today. I realize though that people do not get their information through a search in the scientific literature, as the sections above and below show neither do I when I try to understand a topic on which I am not a specialist. So I looked up the Wikipedia page. It seems that Chlorella specifically, and algae in general, were identified as a promising technology to fight world hunger in the 1940 because it can be grown supplementary to field crops on local ponds and because they can capture 8% of solar radiation in photosynthesis. As Wikipedia though continues in the Chlorella article:

Although the production of Chlorella looked promising and involved creative technology, it has not to date been cultivated on the scale some had predicted. It has not been sold on the scale of Spirulina, soybean products, or whole grains. Costs have remained high, and Chlorella has for the most part been sold as a health food, for cosmetics, or as animal feed. After a decade of experimentation, studies showed that following exposure to sunlight, Chlorella captured just 2.5% of the solar energy, not much better than conventional crops. Chlorella, too, was found by scientists in the 1960s to be impossible for humans and other animals to digest in its natural state due to the tough cell walls encapsulating the nutrients, which presented further problems for its use in American food production.

Eating Chlorella and single cell protein has several disadvantages, beyond the unpalatability. Per Wikipedia eating 50 g/day of single cell protein, and algae qualifies as such, is toxic to monogastric animals such as humans. The reason given is that it contains too much nucleic acid for animals to digest well. Since Wikipedia is not always the best resource I tried to source the statement to something more academic. Turns out review articles on the use of Chlorella mention toxicity due to metal contamination, but do not mention anything about excessive nucleic acid. Thus I looked up to see articles on Chlorella and algae in general as animal feed. Simply put there haven’t been that many recent papers but what I did find was that it is possible to have animal fed up to 10% algae without animal mortality rising. The specific effects depend on the animal species and dose, with some having positive outcomes from substitution and others negative. There haven’t been that many experiments since the discouraging experiments of the 1960s to 1980s because algae derived foods cost 10 times as much as normal animal feed. I could not find experiments on humans to see what a full algae diet would mean, if anything the recommendations online on eating Chlorella are in the order of 2 or 3 g per day with even enthusiasts eating about 15 g/day. The average person eats 1,878 grams of food per day which ranges from 1,012 kg for Somalis to 2,729 for Americans (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/what-the-world-eats/). Is it safe to eat that much Chlorella per day, every day for your entire life? Is Chlorella capable of providing all the nutrients humans need to survive? Per the internet six types of nutrients are necessary for human survival: proteins, carbohydrates, lipids (fats), vitamins, minerals and water, with fiber mentioned as a seventh component in other sites. This categorization is pretty consistent with the nutrition requirements for animals that I am familiar with as an agronomist. Is Chlorella alone, even with additives and artificial flavors, capable of providing the right nutrients of the right biological value (think saturated versus unsaturated fats or why olive oil is superior to butter) at the proper quantities for a proper human nutrition. My feeling from my experiences as an agronomist and from life experiences in general is that it is not.

Efficiency is a very fluid concept and one needs to balance a large series of parameters. Per my college textbooks factors affecting agriculture are categorized into climatic and edaphic (soil based) factor. Climatic factor include solar radiation, temperature, humidity, wind, evapotranspiration and CO2 concentration. Edaphic factor are soil structure such as mechanical properties, soil composition and nutrients. In following Weir’s efficiency fallacy, rather than choose radiation efficiency I choose nitrogen use efficiency. The crop with the highest Nitrogen Use Efficiency is almonds with a value of 70% when the rest of the major crops are closer to 40%. Thus if we are to follow Weir’s logic Artemisians should only eat almonds which they turn to almond milk, almond oil and other almost products. Artemis’ food production facilities should look then like Fresno, after all most of the world’s almond crops are produced in California’s Central Valley.

ESA’s MELiSSA project is, to the best of my knowledge, the most advanced ongoing project to create an artificial ecology that produces sufficient nutrient food for all. I have talked about them before here in Centauri Dreams. They use 9 crops (wheat, tomato, potato, soybean, rice, spinach, onion, lettuce and spirulina) and they have enlisted Michelin starred chefs to make food that is tasty in addition to nutritious. Also their configuration is tied to the life support system, turning human waste to food. A mature MELiSSA system will not need the aluminum smelter pumping oxygen into the system; it will be able to recycle the entire nutrient supply. So far MELiSSA is in development of the regenerative systems to supports its cycle but it has made significant progress into creating palatable balanced food. Their finding, which is also corroborated by other space food research, involves the use of energy bars for space nutrition: put the entirety of a balanced meal in a compact calorie laden bar that takes little volume to store and can be eaten rapidly. This is far less innovative than it seems: the food that hoplites brought while on campaign away from home was pasteli, a bar made of sesame seed and honey. It seems that the food eaten by astronauts exploring Mars will be a descendant of what Alexander’s pezeteroi ate while conquering half the known world.

But what would be the required area to locally feed Artemis using hydroponics? A number I remember from my undergrad days is that hydroponics requires 250 to 500 m2 of growing area to feed a person for a year. Now growing area does not meet geometric area, if you grow three crops of potatoes in an area of 100 m2 then you have a growing area of 300 m2 but a geometric area of 100 m2. This is very important when you consider that crops grown hydroponically have a faster growth cycle than soil grown crops. Assuming 250 m2 per person, to feed 2,000 people you would need 500,000 m2. Per Figure 1 the domes have a diameter of 200 m, or a radius of 100 m meaning that their area is π*1002 = 31,416 m2. Dividing the two values we need the surface area of 15.9 domes. However the dome does not have only one level, after all Aldrin Park alone takes 4 levels. Conrad bubble has Up 19 and Down 6, thus at least 25 levels.

Another common fallacy that Andy Weir falls into is related to artificial flavors. He seems to believe that they can be sourced on the Moon. Artificial flavors are not, for the most part, mineral flavors. Their many sources are petroleum and coal. These are not known to be found on the moon, thus they would need to be imported from earth. If so, why do they not just import natural flavors and have beef flavored gank made with bouillon?

Speaking of flavor, if Jazz has been eating gank since she was 6, by now she should find it very tasty because of what I call the black broth effect. Spartans ate a staple soup made of boiled pig’ legs, blood, salt and vinegar, known in Greek as μέλας ζωμός. By all accounts it was horrible to taste: a Sybarite upon eating it remarked “Now I know why Spartans do not fear death, to die is to be relieved from eating it”. Yet Spartans ate it with pleasure and often did not like other food. When a Spartan delegation visited the Lidyan king Croesus and asked what they wanted, they rejected the luxurious Asian foods he offered and wanted black broth. Jazz ought to welcome eating gank after 20 years on it.

In terms of drink what is mentioned is beer and hard liquor. Hard liquor comes from earth but we are led to believe that that beer is local, even though Artemis does not grow barley or for that matter rye and wheat. It is very likely that Weir has in his mind a definition of beer that significantly differs from the Reinheitsgebot that includes the use of Chlorella in brewing, otherwise at $166/kg Jazz should not be able to afford getting drunk. If some sort of beer-like concoction is grown locally, why is yeast not also consumed afterwards as food as is the case with marmite and vagamite? Or is the yeast used in the creation of gank? We are not given an ingredient list for gank after all.


Artemis is not a major industrial location nor is industry a major employer. Two major heavy industries are mentioned, Sanchez Aluminum and the Nuclear Power Plant. One light industry is specifically mentioned too, Queensland Glass. Other than that the tourist trinket shops sell models of the Apollo Lunar Landers made out of lunar dust that seem to be factory made rather than hand maid. Sanchez Aluminum is the biggest industry employing 80 people. As mentioned earlier they use a fictional process for smelting of Aluminum that also produces oxygen as a byproduct. In actual aluminum industry what they use is carbon rods made from tar and coal. Sanchez Aluminum consumes 80% of the power produced by the nuclear power plant. We are not given specifics on the nuclear power plant, but there is good reason to believe that the nuclear fuel cycle takes place on earth rather than the Moon. Artemis, simply put, is not energy independent. The specifics of the light industry inside Armstrong are not spelled out beyond the glassworks.


We are told of Jazz’s backstory through a series of letters with her Kenyan pen pal Kevin and Jazz apparently has had teachers who told her that she has a lot of potential. We are led to believe that these teachers live in Artemis. All four Greek islands of table 1 have elementary, middle and high school. In these islands though children are allowed to be born, this is not the case with Artemis where children under 6, and eventually under 12 are not allowed. We have seen islands be depopulated by families moving to the nearest city so that their children can go to middle or high school. Realistically the entire family would move from Artemis as soon as the woman got pregnant, not just the mother. Not allowing children is not conductive to the long term development of a place, and the school system is the epicenter of the problem.

Speaking of the school system, who does it work for and what is being taught? Who sets up the school curriculum and who do the teachers answer to? Who decides what is to be taught in say Physics class? Where can the students appeal if they do not like their grades? Who has written the school books and what is their ideological slant? In the US homeschooling is driven by many reasons but for most parents choosing it, it is to avoid the secular wickedness of public schools. In Greece debates over what is in the school history books are known to bring down governments. Is Fidelis the one who in the end decides what is the next generation of Artemisians getting taught? Does she promote democracy as the preferred regime, or is education used to justify her absolutist regime? The educational system of the Byzantine Empire taught students about democracy in the Ancient Greek city states which it considered its direct ancestor (see for example emperor Leo the Wise’s Tactics or George Sphrantzes Chrlonicle) and about the Roman Republic (after all it saw itself as the Roman Empire) but considered the absolute monarchical regime as the best possible. The Byzantine Emperor was the Ideal Perfect King of Plato’s Republic. What are Young Artemisians taught that ought to be their place in the polis and in the Solar System? Are Artemisians taught that they are God’s chosen people in the way that youth of the Byzantine Empire were? Are they taught that Artemis is a unique exceptional state in the mode of American Exceptionalism? Are they taught that the individual is only worth as the cog in the machine of juche and must submit to the will of the Dear Leader to create the perfect socialist regime? We are not told.

We are not even told what is the official language of Artemis, though we are told to believe that it is English. A major omission that I saw is the lack of multilingual education, at the very least in order to cater to the tourists. When Jazz showed up in the hotel impersonating a female Arab tourist who did not speak good English, why did the receptionist did not speak Arabic to her or call someone who did? Having lived in a tourist zone, the first requirement for receptionists is multilingualism. In Agios Nikolaos of Crete I did run into ads requesting night receptionists that spoke French, I seriously considered staying in the city after my agronomist contract ended to work as one since I am fluent in four languages. Who in Artemis would teach Cantonese, Arabic (to mention tourist languages specifically spoken in the novel) or any other language and who would certify the tests? Even if they use state certification from Earth, who would be the one administering the tests on the Moon?

Artemis apparently has no university though it hosts quite a large number of PhDs exploring the moon as members of their space agencies. Monte Carlo has a university more specialized towards business. It is located in Stade Louis II, taking up the space below the bleachers. Since Artemis has the staff, it could host a university that would also attract people from Earth to immigrate there as students. Then again, it would also need an education authorization body and we have not seen any such bodies in the novel.

Health Care

Health care in Artemis is provided by exactly one doctor, Dr. Melanie “Doc” Roussel. She has a small private medical clinic that is capable of limited medical care and hosts a few beds. No nurse is mentioned or any other medical personnel and apparently it lacks intensive care. If you come down with something serious in Artemis and Doc Roussel cannot cure it, you will die unless you can survive long enough for a 7 day trip back to Earth. No other medical practitioner on the surface of the moon is mentioned. Now this is a rather typical case for the rural United States as I have learned from experience but for a European this is unacceptable. ESA has a medical doctor stationed at the Concordia station in Antarctica doing medical research on the isolated researchers there during winter, as part of human factors research for space exploration. Why would ESA, or any space agency for that matter, allow its personnel to be in such a medically limited location as in Artemis? For that matter McMurdo Station, which also has a population of 2,000 people does have a hospital staffed by the National Science Foundation. Per what I could find of the internet it has a staff of 5: 3 doctors, 1 nurse practitioner and one plain nurse. It is not just the scientists that need a hospital, the tourists also need a place to mend alcohol intoxication or broken bones and, more importantly, for retirees. I will leave aside the possibility of medical tourism. In the studies on how make Greece a more attractive destination for European retirees to live there one thing consistently mentioned is that retirees demand a large and well equipped hospital near because being elderly they have significant medical needs.

The Greek islands host medical facilities for the locals and the tourists. While there are private doctors in all of Greece, the Greek public national health system provides services to all of the population of Greece. Our health system is composed of hospitals, health centers and farm clinics and it follows the administrative division of the country. There is a publically owned hospital in the capital of every prefecture in Greece (the American equivalent is the county) and below that there are health centers and farms clinics in the subperfectures and municipalities depending on the population. To use the example of the four islands from table 1, Amorgos health center has a pathologist, a general doctor, a microbiologist and a pediatrician. There are also 4 farm doctors –the Greek state requires medical school graduates to work two years as farm doctors before they are allowed to start medical specialization- plus two ambulance drivers and one lab technician. Ios has 6 doctors of which one is a general practitioner, one is a pathologist, one orthopedic, one pediatrician and two farm doctors. Also it has 3 nurses and one midwife. The locals complain that this is insufficient. Kea has two general doctors, one pediatrician, one nurse, one lab tech and one ambulance doctor. Paxi has one pathologist, one general practitioner, one pediatrician, one dentist, 3 nurses, one medical equipment technician, one physical therapist and one general duties technical secretarial staff. The people complain that they do not have specialized doctors such as cardiologists, psychiatrists, gynecologists or ophthalmologist. They have only one ambulance driver but considering that they get only 1 to 2 incidents a month that require transportation they find it sufficient. Now the Paxians are I would say a bit over complaining. Per article 5 of Greek law 4486/2017 these are the staffing analogies that primary health facilities should have: 1 General Practitioner per 2,000 to 2,500 adults, 1 pediatrician per 1,000 to 1,500 children, 2 radiologists per 25,000 to 30,000 inhabitants, 1 biopathologist per 25,000 to 30,000 inhabitants, 1 cardiologist per 25,000 to 30,000 inhabitants and 1 dentist per 10,000 inhabitants. Since Paxi isn’t that big, for specialists they should be able to find them in Corfu or Igoumenitsa. Alas though Artemis does not have any other medical facilities closer to earth, so it ought to have a small hospital with a staff of around 10 people and an intensive care unit. How though would the people to pay for health care if there is no health insurance on the Moon?

Labor conditions

Going on vacation most often means that you have paid leave on your work contract with your employer. If you are self-employed you can close your business, which is likely to happen at time when business is low anyway. But what are the labor conditions of those working in Artemis, servicing the tourists? In addition to slugs what else is part of each paycheck? Do Artemisians get paid time off themselves? Do they get retirement or health insurance? If they have a complaint with their boss, who is to arbitrate it? I think that it is safe to guess that employees of Earth based space agencies and their contractors have to broad protections and rights their Earth bound colleagues do. Since Artemisian employees are generally unionized we can expect those working for major employers such as Sanchez Aluminum to have some benefits to go with the paycheck. It is obvious though that Jazz has absolutely no benefits in addition to whatever she scrapes by her gig. For that matter, the person that she bribes so that she can do her smuggling also does not seem to have any benefits: if he was certain of his future, why would he need a bribe? Rather the whole premise of Jazz taking The Big Job is that she can retire, most likely because there is no retirement system. Most certainly we do not hear of people discussing just how many stamps or days they needed to get before the system gives them a pension or they qualify for unemployment benefits. Granted, Jazz hangs out at a bar where people drink in silence, rather than the modern day ecclesia: a coffee shop where people constantly talk about politics, gossip, sports and relationships. Still the only time that a union is mentioned is Ammar Bashara saying that it is stupid to pay 10% of his paycheck as union dues, it is just taxation. If members of the welder’s union get health care and pension as part of their contribution, then Ammar is the one being stupid. The labor conditions of Artemis are what the communists in college when I was an undergrad were deriding as the evil medieval future that was coming if we did students did not rise in a worker’s revolution against capitalism. Considering that the people rose against Existent Socialism and brought its end 8 years before I first entered college, I was not keen on revolting. They did have a point though: the Uber-ization of work means that my generation works in worse labor condition than my parents’. Weir believes that this will continue on, until by the time of Artemis workers have no rights and we are back in the era of Karl Marx and the Reserve Army of Labor.

Up until the late 19th century your prosperity in life was associated with the years you were able to be productive. Starting with Bismarck and Napoleon III we have seen in Europe the construction of the welfare state: The idea that everyone deserves a minimum of rights in life, such as a safe and healthy job, health care so that being sick does not mean going bankrupt, income at the end of life when you are too sick and frail to work, financial support when you are between jobs, paid vacation so that you can look forward to when you are doing a monotonous job. Now there is a long discussion over what and how much the welfare state should cover and when does it become a hammock holding back the economic well-being of society. What is certain is that Artemisians do not have any sort of safety net. When I was living in Agios Nikolaos in the winter of 2008/9 I would see every 15 days people lining up at the unemployment office to receive benefits. I was told that they were hotel workers who do not work in the off season while the hotel is closed, the tourist season after all does not last more than 6 months for most of Greece. The relationship is mutually beneficial to the hotel owners and the state: The money that their seasonal employees get in the winter is money that they will not demand in the summer as higher wages. Unemployment status in Greece also gives health insurance under some limitations. What is surprising about Artemis is that an informal welfare state also appears to be nonexistent. As a good grandson I took care of my grandparents at the end of their lives, just as they had taken care of me as a baby. In Artemis children under 6 originally and 12 by the time of the novel are not around. Would young Artemisians feel responsibility to take care of their grandparents if all they really knew of them was the grumpy old person who is telling teenager you what not to do? Also monasteries are known to act historically as retirement communities: The Byzantine historian Sphrantzes at the end of his life wished to retire and discovered that the only way he could get elderly care was as a monk. So he was forced to divorce his wife, which they both loved each other very much and they both took monastic vows in separate monasteries. It is during this time that he wrote his Chronicle, giving an inside view of the Fall of Constantinople since he was a personal friend of the Last Emperor, Constantine XI. Artemis is a place for the rich to go and die, the rest are better off if they do not reach old age.

Final thoughts

During my last bout of unemployment I decided to catch up with the Arrowverse. I started watching Arrow first, and after I had seen all the episodes I wrote a post on Facebook what I saw as wrong. The show, at least in the first seasons, tries to be rather realistic and anchored in the real world. Afterwards I moved up to The Flash. Much as I enjoyed it far more, and I do think that it is the better show, from the moment I was willing to accept superpower granting Dark Matter and the whole concept of the Speed Force I really could not complain about them getting some things wrong. Andy Weir has written a science fiction novel with a very high degree of realism that invites the sort of nitpicking I have engaged in in this article. His World Building does leave gaps but this is understandable, even the master World Builder of our era, George R. R. Martin has left quite a few gaps in A Song of Ice and Fire. I look forward to reading Andy Weir’s next novel and I hope that he addresses some of the questions I raised.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Robin Datta April 14, 2018, 2:09

    Great book review, thank you!

    With an entirely plant food diet, the problem is the essential amino acids (per a old -1966- mnemonic, for humans L³T²PMV: lysine, leucine,isoleucine, tyrosine, threonine, phenylalanine, methionine and valine: differs with different animal species) are not all found in adequate quantities in any one plant species. A careful assortment of plants can ameliorate this problem.

    One’s tastes for foods are established very early in life, centered upon the food one is fed in those early years. Both smell and taste are closely associated with the limbic system, the “lizard/reptilian brain” which is very difficult to override, and they become hard-wired by adulthood.

    • Alex Tolley April 14, 2018, 9:59

      Indeed. If you haven’t eaten Marmite or Vegemite as a child, you will find it disgusting as an adult. Each nation seems to have its own example of a food that a local will eat, simply because they have always eaten it, at least on occasion, but a foreigner will not.

      • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 24, 2018, 18:09

        Sorry to be replying a bit late to this. I agree, an all plant diet is undesirable and dangerous even. I wrote an article in the past here, https://www.centauri-dreams.org/2016/03/11/agriculture-on-other-worlds/ I am sure that at first we will be seeing meat come from Earth, in the same way that Polynesians import their Spam today. The easier things to grow would be fish and insects. Beyond that, how animals would work in low gravity, is something that needs to be explored more. In The Expanse meat is not available in the Belt, only Earth and Mars

  • J. Jason Wentworth April 14, 2018, 3:17

    “White…green…white…green. I hate this f#$@&*g place! I hate this f#$@&*g place!” These were the words of a self-exiled man at Thule Air Force Base in Greenland in the late 1960s, who had taken a job there to avoid being killed due to a mafia vendetta against him (as my late friend Gary Moore, who worked there as a civilian contractor, related to me; the man–who was normal when he arrived months before–wandered listlessly from room to room, endlessly repeating those words as he watched the base’s control tower beacon light change colors), and:

    Compared to the Moon–and even to other locales on Earth–that isolated, near-polar outpost is overflowing with natural beauty and life, as Gary’s many pictures (and books and films I have seen) showed. I have no doubt that physically comfortable habitation on the Moon can be established, and that that world has many advantages for science and industry (as Neil P. Ruzic’s books “The Case for Going to the Moon” and “Where the Winds Sleep: Man’s Future on the Moon–A Projected History” discuss in detail), but:

    Of all the reasons to live on the Moon, tourism is not only the least likely one, but it is–no pun intended–pure moonshine. Most people, I’d wager, wouldn’t want to go there at all; spending three to five days in a cramped spaceship to get there (microgravity isn’t so fun when eating and excreting are necessary; the wonder would soon wear off) would be no cruise ship–or even jetliner–passage. Then, for those who would go:

    While our natural satellite does have “a stark beauty all its own,” as Neil Armstrong commented, and moving in the one-sixth (of Earth’s) gravity would be fun for a while, life there would be, by necessity, an indoor existence. All outdoor vistas would always be seen through a window (of a building or a pressurized vehicle) or through the visor of a spacesuit helmet, and suiting-up and checking suits before leaving an airlock will be time-consuming, because of the risks (even in Thule, outdoor nature walks during the warm months–and in the winter, with proper clothing–were enjoyable outdoor activities). Even using sinks and toilets would be an adventure on the Moon, because water splashes much farther in the low gravity. In addition:

    A lunar visit would be interesting for a few days at most, but after that the hardships, the safety-enforced, time-consuming routines, the stark surroundings, the lack of color–in short, all of the things that we take for granted here on Earth–would become increasingly conspicuous by their absence. Many people would get “cabin fever,” as that man in Thule had (it’s a phenomenon we Alaskans are familiar with–it has led to heavy drinking and even murder, for the slightest of motives). After a while, living there would become a psychological endurance contest, and sooner or later, most would want to go home to Earth (some might–as have some Antarctic base personnel who have “cracked” in a different way–tell their families [including their spouses and children] at home, “Sell all of my stuff, because I’m never coming back! I want to stay here forever!”). No, I don’t think the Moon will become a tourist attraction, although as a place to do scientific and industrial work–with rotating personnel rosters–I think it has a future.

    • Alex Tolley April 14, 2018, 10:14

      I lived in Bermuda for 2 years. Friends who visited all were bored by the place within a week. Artemis would need to be like a cruise ship, or bubble resort like Disneyland, rather than a destination.

      For some tourists, travel hardship isn’t an issue. Ecotours, National wildlife/safari parks are all a bit primitive. That starts to wear off as one gets older. For the sort of “developed” tourism of Artemis, my sense is that the ships bringing the passengers need to be large, confortable, liners. Artificial gravity a must, with all modern conveniences. Plenty of recycled water for bathing. Micro-g just for a temporary experience, not to live in for 7 days. Imagine being spacesick for part of the journey. Cruise ships have technology that all but eliminates seasickness for the passengers. I would expect tourist spacecraft to be designed similarly.

      I do think lunar tourism is a distinct possibility, but it will need to cater for a wide variety of needs – from indoor pleasures, to excursions to “see the sights”. It just requires imagination and good marketing. After all, people do visit places on Earth that appear quite unattractive to others.

      • J. Jason Wentworth April 14, 2018, 13:32

        I think the engineering for such tourist-friendly spaceship and lunar settlement amenities isn’t impossible, but–although I wish it were otherwise–I have strong doubts about whether they could be, or could become, affordable for anyone besides billionaires. The tourist flights to the ISS were only possible because the station was taxpayer-funded (from all of the partner nations) and because Russia, a major partner, needed the money and insisted on them (Dennis Tito was first blocked from entering the Johnson Space Center for training). A privately-funded tourist station would never have gotten off the ground. I would–if I had the money–ride Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicle, but anything beyond such a suborbital jaunt wouldn’t attract me.

        • Randy Chung April 14, 2018, 19:22

          I am not sure if climbing Mt. Everest counts as tourism, but many people aspire to it. Here’s some info from a Mt. Everest climbing blog: “In 2018, … a fully custom climb will run over $115,000. Guided climbs on Everest is like any competitive marketplace, it’s driven by supply and demand and the demand is huge! …
          Bottom line: Look for Everest to become more crowded, more expensive over the next five years, regardless of which side you climb, and six to eight people to lose their life each year”
          Lunar tourism may be more expensive than climbing Everest, but it almost certainly will be safer. And you’ll be able to brag to friends “I played golf on the Moon!”

        • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 14, 2018, 22:11

          When I last visited Ayia Napa I remember there was an announcement outside the City Hall at Paralimni: these are the 48 hours a week that there will be water on the tap per municipal district. Every place had water 3 days a week in 16 hour intervals, EXCEPT Ayia Napa / Protaras tourist zone which had tap water 24/7. Since the farmers of the potato villages behind Ayia Napa / Protaras are also hotel owners at the tourist zone, and their workers were also waiters in the zone, no one was complaining. In the end catering to tourist has a higher economic return on water than growing potatoes in the summer. I am pretty sure that if tourism takes off on the moon and if the place lives off tourists, they will optimize the place for them

      • Patient Observer April 14, 2018, 21:00

        The book review was brilliant – far more thoughtful and reality-based than most.

        A visit to Artemis could be a trophy vacation – done to impress friends and relatives; like climbing Mr. Everest but not nearly as much hardship. That one (1) week travel did seem inexplicably long. Also the cost was colossally improbable; barring propulsion breakthroughs (which was apparently not an assumption in the book) costs will be many multiples of fuel costs relatively to air travel I believe.

        Old sci-fi (e.g. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) speculated that flying with one’s own muscle power by flapping strap-on wings would be a big tourist draw. Of course, the story assumed a vast natural cavern pressurized and kept at a pleasant temperature.

        Off topic slightly and as a fan of Russian tech (as well as US/SpaceX tech to be sure), I found Weir’s omission of anything Russian (and the same in The Martian) indicative of something. We have Kenya, Saudi Arabia and other countries prominently featured in Artemis but no mention of Russia.

        Perhaps I am being overly sensitive or missed references (read The Martian and seen the movie but have only read the above review regarding Artemis). It is apparently the case that certain books are written with movie potential in mind thus settings and characters are skewed toward audience demographics and Russia would definitely not be a factor in that equation.

        • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 15, 2018, 15:03

          Russia is not mentioned in Artemis at all. In the Martian all that is mentioned is that Soyuz are death traps, which was true at the time of ASTP but not today. I do not think that it is so much a purposeful omission of the USSR/Russian Federation out of spite, its just that they only reason your typical American will mention Russia today is the whole Donald Trump affair. Unlike the Cold War, Russia has completely dropped out of American every day life, as opposed to China where everything is made in. Then again if you start making a conversation with kind of NewSpace fanboys you will run into too often, Russia is also not on their mind either. I am old enough to remember Mir getting launched and crews to Mir being the only manned activity in space while the shuttle was grounded after Challenger. Alas for those even 5 years younger than me, the Russian space program is but an afterthought

    • Charley April 15, 2018, 17:06

      “A lunar visit would be interesting for a few days at most, but after that the hardships, the safety-enforced, time-consuming routines, the stark surroundings, the lack of color–in short, all of the things that we take for granted here on Earth–would become increasingly conspicuous by their absence. Many people would get “cabin fever,” as that man in Thule had (it’s a phenomenon we Alaskans are familiar with–it has led to heavy drinking and even murder, for the slightest of motives). After a while, living there would become a psychological endurance contest, and sooner or later, most would want to go home to Earth …”
      if you think that way about the moon , what about mars ?

      • J. Jason Wentworth April 16, 2018, 5:46

        That’s a good question. Assuming I could afford it, I wouldn’t mind visiting the *Moon* for a week or two, if the trips there and back were reasonably quick and comfortable (comparable in speed and comfort to a jetliner trip). With a surprisingly small increment of velocity over the minimum-energy Hohmann transfer (“Hohmann Transfer”–like “Suspicious Concrete Slab”–would make an intriguing rock band name, by the way… :-) ), transit times of nine to ten hours are possible; Robert Forward described a hypersonic jet/Earth-orbiting “rotovator” tether/Lunar-orbiting, surface “walking” rotovator for such rapid Earth/Moon tourist jaunts, and:

        A somewhat longer trip (three to five days, the latter being the lowest-energy Hohmann transfer possible) would be okay, ^if^ the vehicle (perhaps a “swing station” in a meta-stable Aldrin Lunar Cycler orbit, which smaller “feederliner” spacecraft would transfer passengers from/to at either end of the trip) was large, comfortable, and had rotational artificial gravity (one-quarter to one-third g should be sufficient), viewing windows (or de-spun camera/”window TV screens,” if the rotating stars caused dizziness), a “zero g” recreational room at the hub, and other hotel comforts & conveniences. Also:

        If a Mars trip could be made as quickly (Robert Forward believed that FedEx Earth-Mars *overnight trip* antimatter rockets–with a peak velocity at turnaround of 1% of c, the speed of light!–were possible), spending a couple of weeks on Mars would interest me. But if the passage each way took weeks or months (assuming the radiation problem was solved by sufficient physical and/or electromagnetic shielding), I don’t care how big such a vehicle was, even if it provided 1 g artificial gravity; I couldn’t stand being cooped up in what was essentially a building for that long. As well:

        All of these things–even Forward’s 0.01 c overnight Mars antimatter rockets–are, in principle, possible. But I would be amazed if they (or other proposed solutions, such as the lunatron Moon-to-Earth electromagnetic launcher) ever became economically self-supporting, or cheap enough to support lunar tourism, although I would love to be wrong about this.

  • Tom Mazanec April 14, 2018, 9:47

    It is very well known in Europe that Americans only get two weeks of paid vacation per month

    per year

    • J. Jason Wentworth April 14, 2018, 13:50

      This may sound strange, but I have long been puzzled over why so many people feel the *need* to take vacations. I have never taken one, nor felt any particular desire to do so. I’ve engaged in experiences that interested me–horseback wagon train excursions in the Blue Ridge Mountains, flying in a sailplane–but none of them took longer than a weekend, and that was quite enough for me, and:

      I’ve always been happy in myself, wherever I am, although I prefer living in some places more than others. Maybe the desire for vacations stems, in part, from urban living? I’m a native of Miami, but I preferred our second home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Georgia (where I spent my teenage years) and Alaska, where I moved after my mother died 20+ years ago. Living in those places I loved/love, I never felt any desire or need to “get away” from them.

      • Patient Observer April 14, 2018, 21:05

        I understand and agree with what you say. The desire for long vacations, unless there is a specific personal objective, seems more of an escape from an undesirable situation than anything else.

      • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 14, 2018, 22:13

        Why we want vacation? I think this video clip describes it perfectly:

        If you REALLY REALLY love your job, you’ll never need vacation. Alas, this is not the case for everyone

        • J. Jason Wentworth April 16, 2018, 7:22

          Well, Ioannis (and this is on-topic, Paul, as I’ll get to), while that video was entertaining, it was also very sad (I’m glad that for the people in the video, it was just a staged production), because many people have those frustrations and urges. I personally know people who chase after such pleasures, and seek things that, in many cases, they are led to believe that they want, or *should* want (money, fancy possessions, purely physical sex, etc.). None of those I know are happy, but their pursuit never ends. King Solomon was right when–even surrounded by his fabulous wealth and exotic wives–he said that “All is vanity” and “There is nothing new under the Sun.” There’s nothing bad or wrong about having money and nice things (poverty is no fun, as my Depression-era parents, aunts, and uncles made abundantly clear to us kids), but making them the most important things in life–often just to “keep up with the Joneses”–misses the point; they are a means to an end (achieving comfort, happiness, and fulfillment), not ends in themselves. Also:

          Growing up, on television I often saw camera views of people like those in the video, all streaming into and out of office buildings at the same times each day. Seeing human beings engaging in that beehive-like activity repelled me viscerally, and I silently resolved–at about the age of seven–that I would *never* live that way, and I never have. Some of the “pursuers” I know have called me unambitious because I deliberately chose jobs which–even though they paid less–were interesting to me, weren’t regimented, and/or weren’t performed during normal business hours, which enabled me to live a quiet, peaceful, contemplative life, with much time to myself.

          Not all of the jobs were fun (I am now retired/disabled), but even those enabled me to–like Einstein’s job at the Swiss Patent Office, which gave him much time to ruminate (he once said that he would have liked to be a lighthouse keeper for the same reason–I can relate! :-) )–have a lot of quiet time at work; I have never lived or worked on a harried schedule. As regards space tourism:

          If it became affordable to enough people (more than a few multi-millionaires) to make it self-supporting (the suborbital variety might, in time), I could see myself saving up to do it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience (not an effort to get away from anything, like the woman “office drone” in the video). Orbital tourism (of a self-sustaining sort–the ISS tourism flights involved all-government-funded equipment and the Russian space agency) seems unlikely, but besides the breathtaking view and the fun of “zero g” (a rotating station with artificial gravity, and a zero g rec room [perhaps including a cylindrical swimming pool] at its hub, would be “the best of both worlds”), I’m sure that joining the “Three Dolphin Club” (the space equivalent of the “Mile High Club”) would be an attraction for couples… :-) Whichever form(s) of space tourism might prove economically viable (and I hope I’m wrong, and that they will flower), I hope they are advertised as opportunities to see and touch wonders that Hipparchus, Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler dreamed of, rather than yet more ways to “get away from it all.”

          • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 16, 2018, 12:09

            That video clip was indeed too depressive, here is another one, slightly older, that I also danced in a dancefloor. The office employee is not freaking out, just missing her vacation time with her friend abroad:


            The usual metaphor for vacation is “recharge your batteries”, just as kids need summer vacation so that they can go to school the other 9 months a year, adults need their month of vacation so that they can be productive the other 11 months. CEOs also go on vacation, if the Financial Times supplement “How to spend it” ever falls into your hands, you will see it proposing to their readers the sort of vacation where for £10-15,000 they can feel special during their two weeks: A trip to Munich where they only review the 5* hotels. A trip to Rome where they stay as the guest of some Italian blue blood in their palazzo for a 4 figure price per night. I think these will be the sort of people who will at first travel to the moon before the trip is democratized. When Zorba’s friend in the movie visited Greece, it was something truly exotic. Today, it is quite ordinary.

            Vacations is the biggest transfer of resources from North to South Europe, far more than the Common Agricultural Policy or the Cohesion and Convergence packages. It is what keeps the European Union united: In the end trade is very impersonal, that a good goes across the border means nothing to those that build it. If they go across the border, then they understand the cultural similarities and differences. For that matter tourism is known to facilitate trade, when the tourist areas export their goods such as wine and olive oil, their first clients tend to be those that already tasted it when vacationing there. Back in 2005 Greek minister of Tourism Avramopoulos (currently the EU commissioner for immigration) visited China and told them, we are willing to accept free trade with China, so long you send sufficient tourists to Greece. When the Chinese asked how many, Avramopouolos answered 4 million and the Chinese replied sure, we can do that. Living in the American countryside, in Blacksburg VA, I was surprised how with the exception of us international students, it really did not have foreign tourists visiting it. Foreigner meant either immigrant worker, refugee (Southwest VA is a resettlement zone) or international student, not some tourist looking to find “the Real America”. Then again entering the US is a real hassle, we Europeans find the treatment we get at the US border upon entering outrageous. Wait in line, have our passport scanned and our fingerprints taken? We can live with that. But why do we need to give a full scale interview and get asked after a 10 hour trip who was our father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin former room mate? (Spaceballs reference)

            Living 8 years in the US I have realized that there is a real cultural difference between the two sides of the Atlantic. Andy Weir makes the mistake in thinking that the rest of the world goes on vacation the American Way. It does not, and since Artemis is open to tourists of all nationalities, you are more likely to see people vacationing the European rather than the American way there, since they will outnumber them, unless of course the US undergoes European style social democrat transformation in the future. I am not seeing anyone clamoring it. The 5th week of vacation was added in Europe in the 1990s, around the same time France and Italy adopted the 35 hour week. Americans did not even ask for something similar at the time.

            • JaneB April 20, 2018, 14:07

              I love vacations because I get to not go to work – I often don’t go anywhere, I just spend more time in the house I’m paying a mortgage on (so I should enjoy it and look after it, not just sleep in it!), I do longer projects around the house, crafts, read books that aren’t about work, watch shows, maybe visit local places and take walks at the time of day when I want to walk and the weather is nice (so lunchtime in winter and very early morning or dusk in summer) rather than when my work allows me to. All the things I do in the spare hour or two a day that is not taken up by all the complexity of work, with its surrounding plethora of commuting and preparing food and cleaning up and meeting grooming standards and laundry and all those things. I just like doing the things I want to do for whole days at a time. Exploring talents and using skills and trying stuff out which just doesn’t fit with my work persona or skillset.

              Vacation just means time not working for money, it doesn’t have to mean travel or extra excitement, it can mean just being in your own rhythm. I don’t know how US friends manage to know what their own rhythm even IS, with so little time to spend with it, but I’m a Brit so they probably don’t understand why I care about the weather so much…

              • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 24, 2018, 17:20

                I went on a mini vacation in Portland Oregon the last few days. I was eating dinner with Greeks and one of them commented that it was impossible to work for 12 straight months, vacation is necessary. It boils in the end down to mentality, when you are sued to not going to school three months a year and not going to college two months a year, you are adopted to spending part of the year not working, preferably away from home. In the end farming is a seasonal occupation, and if the transfer from farm to office went fast so did the expectation of seasonality

            • J. Jason Wentworth April 23, 2018, 2:53

              I keep trying to imagine those people–especially the young women–in that video doing the same things on the Moon (and having as much fun), and I can’t see it happening that way in real life. :-) (I remember a U.S. tourism campaign of the early 1970s [“Get Away to the USA!”] that was aimed at Americans, because so many were vacationing in Canada, Mexico, and Europe.)

              Another class of tourist that a lunar facility would, almost by definition, not see would be claustrophobic people. Many such people do travel, even on jetliners, thanks to anti-anxiety medications, but a lunar lava tube- or surface dome-based tourist habitat (as well as the spaceships for traveling there and back) would require long-term use of such medications, which isn’t good or enjoyable. (I encountered such people at the Miami planetarium; even that 19-meter dome was too small for them to not have panic attacks.)

              Strangely, here in Fairbanks, Alaska, we have–unlike Blacksburg, Virginia–large numbers of foreign tourists (mostly Japanese in the winter, to see the Aurora Borealis and go dog-sledding, and mostly Europeans in the summer, to see our town [which puzzles me, because there’s little to see here–our buildings and mountains and forests aren’t remarkable–maybe this is an inexpensive location to visit?]).

              Considering what happened in New York City and Pennsylvania in 2011 (and some years later, at the Boston Marathon), I’m glad to know that entrants are asked questions (Israel does the same, for similar reasons). When my father and I visited Australia in the early 1970s, he was also asked a lot of questions (I was just six at the time), and he was glad to see that they were so thorough (ironically, it’s easier to move here as an illegal alien than to visit as a tourist). Also:

              There is a long-standing British cultural trait (which has remained in the U.S.) called the Protestant work ethic, in which waking time spent not working, or not educating oneself, is considered idleness. It isn’t as strong as it once was, but it still leads to occurrences like this:

              Many if not most office workers work through their lunch hour, even eating at their desks. (I once read an account by a British immigrant, whose co-workers were stunned to see him actually leave the office building to have lunch at a nearby café.) I can relate, having always done that myself. :-) Because of this expectation of having high productivity, many Americans choose, wherever possible, to have jobs that they like, knowing that they will be expected to devote much time to them (some even fear taking too much time off, because Brett Bellmore’s employer’s motto [“If we could do without you that long, we could do without you!”] is quite commonly-held here). But:

              The university academic sabbatical can be–and, I’d wager, often is–used as a type of long-term, “working vacation,” where academicians, while they are engaged in study, are doing so at places that they have wanted to visit. *That* sort of “vacation” would interest me (in Greece, for example, visiting and studying the ancient sites at leisure, rather than as part of a brief “whirlwind packaged tour”), and I would enjoy engaging in rather similar selenological activities on the Moon (visiting the Straight Wall, Mount Pico, Alphonsus, etc.).

              • Michael April 23, 2018, 14:08

                “but a lunar lava tube- or surface dome-based tourist habitat (as well as the spaceships for traveling there and back) would require long-term use of such medications, which isn’t good or enjoyable. (I encountered such people at the Miami planetarium; even that 19-meter dome was too small for them to not have panic attacks.)”

                Moon lavatubes can be theoretically up to a mile across and they can go for hundreds of kilometres.


              • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 24, 2018, 17:50

                The video clip in that song describes a Mediterranean type vacation for British, Groove Armada are British after all. When I was an IAESTE student in Syria I was in a forest there with an Egyptian and he was super excited about a being in a forest, Egypt doesn’t have forests. As a Greek, it was not really exciting for me, we have many of those. Do not be surprise about Japanese being excited by Alaska, they live in a densely populated country, for them the emptiness is exciting. Same feeling with Germans at Frangokastello in Crete, for us Greeks the quasi desert conditions are not exciting, for them they are exotic. I do not expect claustrophobic people to get to the Moon.

                American security for us Europeans feels super annoying and unnecessary: terrorist attacks in Europe and Boston and Philadelphia that you mentioned (I actually had to look it up, I missed it in the news) was caused by homegrown terrorists, not visiting tourists. The jihadis of Europe are mostly second generation immigrants, people born in the country, raised in the educational system who went to school, had criminal records for petty crime and few academic qualifications that chose the path of jihad because in the end with their CVs they had few real avenues for a gainful life anyway. If you look back in the 1970s we did have real terrorism in Europe having similar characteristics, the difference being that it was not in the name of Islam but in the name of Socialism. RAF, Action Directe, Brigatta Rossi, ETA, November 17, true, they did not target the masses as much as the elite but were a very real terrorist threat. Much as these terrorists organizations were often led by disaffected rich kids who did not like that their super busy parents neglect them while running their company, their core was working class youth seeking a better future in Socialism. Their fall is associated not just by police actions but also with the rise to power of Social Democrat governments (Mitterand, Papandreou, Gonzalez) that showed that their romantic dreams of revolution were unrealistic. Also they overplayed their hand, the German Autumn led to Kohl, not The Revolution. Since Artemis is not a democracy and is not a police state it is very likely to experience terrorism: Jazz smuggles, but what about other disaffected youth? How will they get a good life in the regime, and why should they not try to overturn it through revolution, whether socialist or islamic or whatever is in fashion at the time of the novel?

                The Protestant work ethic is well known in Europe, yet somehow countries with equally strong Protestant work ethic such as The Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, give 5 weeks of paid vacation to their workers plus something like 10 holidays during the year. Also they have a robust welfare state that includes social tourism, meaning there is a government agency that helps the underprivileged experience time off away from their home. I have been in a resort in Greece that receives social tourists from France: all of them are working class people that have a job, social tourism is what you get for working. The management has a contract with the agency of France, the tourists pay part of the package, the French agency also pays part of the package (it is funded through a tax in labor) and the underprivileged get to spend a week in a beach resort in Greece. European Protestant countries have similar agencies to make sure that the working people (not the unemployed) who do not earn much also get to experience vacation

      • Brett Bellmore April 15, 2018, 14:37

        I used to live in a rural area, and occasionally took vacations of up to a week, but seldom longer. (My employer’s motto: “If we could do without you that long, we could do without you!”)

        Usually the destination was Worldcon, or some technical conference. The only longer vacation I took was to the Philippines, where I met my wife. It would have been silly to spend only a few days at a destination that took more than 24 hours each way just to reach.

        On a similar principle, if the trip to the Moon takes 7 days each way, people are not going to spend a short time there. Not unless the trip itself is sufficiently pleasant to constitute a vacation in itself, in the way cruise ships are supposed to.

        By the way, what are they DOING on a 7 day trip to the Moon? A low energy transfer is only 3 days. Ground to LEO is under an hour. The only way I see this working is if the LEO station is itself a vacation destination.

        • J. Jason Wentworth April 16, 2018, 9:09

          Your boss was dangerously wise! :-) I agree; the minimum-energy Hohmann transfer from low Earth orbit to the Moon takes only 5 days (having a LEO departure velocity of about 22,000 mph), so taking any longer–unless some fancy “loop-around from another direction” low-energy transfer is involved–implies a continuously-driven, low-thrust vehicle. Also:

          A comfortable “swing station” (similar to the Sky Hotel [if I remember its name correctly] in Arthur C. Clarke’s “Holiday” magazine story, “Vacation in Vacuum”) with centrifugal artificial gravity for normal dining, bathing, and Earth-watching, and a “zero g” swimming pool and games in its de-spun hub, would offer a pleasant ‘cruise ship-plus’ experience for multi-day lunar transfers and returns, and:

          Another type of space tourism excursion, which I would undertake if it were affordable (and it might become so, in time–SpaceX already flies space hardware that could do this), is a *suborbital interplanetary flight*, which would occur as follows:

          As Arthur C. Clarke pointed out in his 1957 & 1958 book, “The Making of a Moon: The Story of the Earth Satellite Program,” space probes (vehicles that rise higher than 1 Earth radius [about 4,000 miles] due to being projected upward at more than circular orbital velocity) could–if launched at velocities close to escape velocity–attain altitudes of millions of miles before falling back to Earth (such probes could return aerogel-collected comet dust and meteor shower samples, conduct flybys of passing near-Earth comets and asteroids, etc.). For space tourists, several experiences would be available on such flights:

          In addition to weightlessness, a suborbital interplanetary flight could involve a close lunar flyby during ascent or descent (or possibly both, depending on the trajectory shape and the flight duration), seeing the Earth dwindle to a small disc or crescent (or gibbous phase) as it turns on its axis, and seeing the Earth, Moon, Sun, and the other planets (those not too near–or behind–the Sun in the sky) all around. Depending on when such flights were made, the Earth, Moon, and Sun could be clustered together in the sky (such a grouping would also make somewhat more distant flights possible than at other times, because they would all be gravitationally “tugging” on the spacecraft from roughly the same direction in the sky. The landing site on Earth could also–by timing the re-entry suitably–be arranged to be near the launch site, making the logistics much easier and localized. (Even the discarded trunk of a Dragon spacecraft need not be targeted to fall far offshore, due to the essentially vertical re-entry path [and the roomy–two-level interior–“crew Dragon” capsule’s heat shield is rated for Mars return velocity re-entries, so it could fly such suborbital interplanetary missions “as-is”].)

          • Patient Observer April 16, 2018, 21:08

            Shooting the moon vacations.

            • J. Jason Wentworth April 23, 2018, 3:06

              “And hoping to miss, but not by too much,” in the case of suborbital interplanetary tourist flights. :-) Also:

              Depending on their interest, such flights–with a lunar flyby during the departure or return leg (or maybe even both) could be scheduled to occur when the half of the Moon that was illuminated would be either the near side (at Full Moon), the far side (at New Moon), half of each side (at First Quarter or Last Quarter), or some other combined percentage (at various degrees of the waxing or waning Gibbous phases).

      • Alex Tolley April 16, 2018, 2:03

        For those of us who seek travel and to enjoy the places and people we see, a longer vacation is necessary. 3 and 5 day mini-breaks don’t cut it. It takes time to acclimate and experience a place. Otherwise, one is trapped in the “If it’s Tuesday, we must be in Belgium” mentality.

        I would be quite happy to spend a month exploring the Moon, as long as the trip and lunar accommodations were comfortable. There are plenty of places to visit on the Moon, and indoor activities too. If there is enough dust on the hills, I could imagine dust skiing, and if dust accumulates in valleys, then a version of water skiing might be possible. The Moon is not as boring as a local rock quarry.

        Frankly, the tourist administrator in Artemis should be fired for offering so little to do outside the domes. Real entrepreneurs would find ways to offer tourists a lot more excitement than seem available in the book.

        While Mars would be better, it would take some serious time commitment to go on an extended vacation there. Being stuck in a space cruise liner for months would drive me stir crazy.

        • J. Jason Wentworth April 23, 2018, 3:17

          Seconded on that (going stir crazy aboard a space cruise liner on a long trip to Mars [and then back]!), but:

          *IF* large enough ships–which were like small towns, with centrifugal artificial gravity, plenty to do, and room to be alone at times–were available, I might do it, but I doubt very much if such huge vessels would be economically viable. Something like Dr. John S. Lewis’ proposed re-built asteroids, in Aldrin Cycler-type Earth-Mars orbits, would be about right, because they would be big and roomy enough to be a “home away from home” (they might even make good time-share condominium-type properties).

    • Paul Gilster April 14, 2018, 15:05

      Now fixed.

  • Alex Tolley April 14, 2018, 9:55

    I really enjoyed this post. I think you are doing more than nit-picking Weir’s worldbuilding, but rather showing how shallow it really is, or how hard it is to do right.

    Some observations on my 1970s/80s Greece as a tourist. Greece was far less a developed tourist destination for us foreigners back then. I can hardly recognize your descriptions. I have stayed a week in one location you mentioned – Agios Nikolaos – and it was a “quiet” destination back then. The local hospital was a shambles and the ER physician told me that the main traumas they dealt with were the young Greek lads crashing their scooters without helmets. A serious head trauma required a drive back to Iraklion, a flight (if available) to Athens for treatment. Makes Artemis almost civilized by comparison!

    I would characterize Artemis as more like a landbound cruise ship. The captain in control, with very limited security and policing, a ship’s doctor with very limited training and facilities. This state of affairs was demonstrated by a recent report of passenger violence on a cruise ship that required police to be brought on board to control.

    I suspect Andy Weir has very limited, if any, experience of vacations outside the US. Artemis as a tourist resort reminds me of resort-hotels.
    Some tourists are very happy to stay within the confines of a hotel and not seek wider trips. They may go to a beach hotel but only use the pool, never swim in the sea. Similarly, they may go on a cruise, but never even take a day excursion at a port of call. Many people are just incurious. While I would visit ancient monuments, and Greece is littered with them, others would not have the slightest interest. As Mark Twain indicated in his book about a trip to Europe – The Innocents Abroad – Greece cared little for its past in the 19th century. It was restoring historic sites by the time I was there and was asking the British Museum for some of its artifacts back. I’m sure that restoration has improved immensely since then. I hope this continues despite Greece’s current financial woes. (Almost ironic that is is imposed by Germany, a nation that was despised by Greeks with memories of WWII when I was there). Regarding policing, I recall that tourists were warned not to steal even the smallest item as this would result in a jail sentence. This made leaving luggage and backpacks unattended quite safe in those days.

    I suspect Weir has a libertarian streak regarding the polity of Artemis. It feels rather Heinleinian to me. One can imagine the shoving of a miscreant out of the airlock without a suit on Artemis. Some actions later in the novel are positively lawless and very Libertarian IMO. Of course, that could fit in with the need to create the same sort of universe as “The Expanse” as you indicate.

    Regarding food. I agree with the silliness of the Chlorella based food. Why not add other similar organisms – yeast, bacteria. Also larger organisms like mushrooms. Vertical farms would fit the bill for Artemis, and an entrepreneur would do well selling farm fresh produce to restaurants and well as locals, even if only as an expensive treat. Shipping food from Earth makes little sense unless transport costs are very low.

    Education would probably be mostly online, managed by Earth institutions. Practical experience would be limited. If food is so difficult, I’m guessing even physical supplies like paper and paint pigments would be out of the question. Lab work for science education – forget about it. Everything would be electronic.

    As a tourist destination, what we see is very limited. It would not appeal to me. I would expect trips to see sights on the Moon beyond Apollo 11. Even Clarke was more imaginative in “A Fall of Moondust” regarding lunar tourism.

    I’m not sure your criticism of the fincial side is justified however. Artemis could declare itself a tax haven, with shell companies and banks handling the wealth management, without much outward sign. The reality is that the investments would still be on Earth, rather than on the Moon, just as Luxembourg or Bermuda manage assets today. One might expect more domes being created, perhaps at other locations, but perhaps Jazz is not aware of them, as she lives in a bubble. Like many people, she may be incurious and unterested in anything outside of her home.

    Despite the problems with the worldbuilding of Artemis, it is a lot more fleshed out than Musk’s pretty graphics of a Mars colony. I suspect its proponents see it as a Libertarian haven, free of Earthly laws and restrictions. I suspect it would make living in Russia seem more attractive.

    • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 14, 2018, 22:33

      I was in Aghios Nikolaos from December 2008 to May 2009. Aghios Nikolaos in the middle of winter had 10 cafeterias/bars/clubs open (they were multipurpose facilities) playing different types of music. It also had two more classical night clubs. On a typical day only 3 of the cafeterias/bars had a crowd, though on Friday and Saturday night when the shepherds came down from the mountains, five places had a crowd. The other five, not so much. On Tsiknopempti though, the feast of eating meat in the middle of the Carnival, every place was full, even the run of the mill restaurants. Now, while there were quite a large number of hotels in Aghios Nikolaos, if you drove towards Elounda – Plaka, there were several mega-resorts along the way. In the winter there were few tourists, one of my colleagues was staying in a hotel and he would tell me, “see that cruise ship out there? Its tourists are staying ashore in my hotel. It is full of American teenagers, I am feeling old.” On Lazarus Saturday though tourists really first appeared en masse. On Good Friday I was in the Epitaphios procession and saw the wonderful custom of everybody running to their house to spray with perfume the procession and then returning to march again. It was mostly Greeks. 24 hours later, during Resurrection service, we all marched to the lake for the burning of the raft with Judas. I was surprised by people that were partaking in the ceremony even though they did not have colors typical of Greeks, they turned out to be Scottish tourists. I had only one more month left, but whenever I went to the beach there were tourists, mostly retirees. I did go to the hospital and gave blood three times for the vacation (if you give blood you get three days vacation if you work in the public sector), but thankfully I did not have any health incident. The hospital is large and modern, built with European Union money. It is nice to hear stories from people that have visited Greece in the past, when my dad went to Chania 20 years after his first time, he could not recognize half the places, especially around Platanias.

      I totally agree, Weir needs to go on vacation, and preferably not on an all inclusive resort, it is nothing but a tourist trap. Alas, I have not read the work you mentioned so that I can comment

  • James Stilwell April 14, 2018, 17:12

    Is there a cruise liner that hasn’t had to head back to port with a ship full of very sick people? Biosphere never got going with the fully enclosed habitat. It worked once because of the cheaters ignored the rules and lied about their behavior slipping outside every once in a while…Everyone sick to death with stomach cramps on the moon spells—doom? Biosphere first must work before leaving the realm of science fiction…

    • J. Jason Wentworth April 16, 2018, 7:49

      O’Neill cylinder-type and McKendree cylinder-type space colonies, as well as multi-generation starships, must have that problem solved first. It depends on the answers to two questions: [1] What is the minimum size for viable, self-supporting (with in-let sunlight, or [for a starship] artificial lighting) ecologies? [2] What microbe/insect/plant/animal combinations will work (multiple combinations might work, if the biosphere is large enough). A guess: McKendree cylinders (which, being made of carbon nanotubes rather than steel, could be truly gigantic compared even to the largest O’Neill cylinders) would be easier to design self-supporting ecologies for.

      • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 16, 2018, 12:19

        A tourist destination is by definition a semi-enclosed ecosystem. It is not self supporting, people come in and out all the time. Said people also want the comforts and luxuries of home. They want steaks and pineapples, even in areas that are not conductive to growing either of them. This is what I call the Paulaner effect. Paulaner is a German wheat beer, I don’t drink it (I am not a beer person) but one of my classmates did. Apparently in Athens it is hard to find, but when we were in Crete it was available in every cafeteria/bar because of all the German tourists. It does not matter how big is the artificial ecology, if a place get tourists then stuff from outside it will come in order to sever their needs

        • Alex Tolley April 16, 2018, 19:32

          Like trying to get retsina in California.

  • Michael April 14, 2018, 17:43

    I suppose a hologram of life on earth could be used on the surface of the domes to give more depth and ambience. As for energy needed for plants it can be reduced by a significant amount by using specific wavelength LED’s. And although I have not read the story I would be surprised that there were no lava tubes mentioned.

    • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 14, 2018, 22:33

      Lava tubes are not mentioned, it is a full scale surface colony on the 5 domes

      • J. Jason Wentworth April 16, 2018, 7:35

        That’s odd, because even my old 1950s books (more technical ones, as well as the Golden Library of Knowledge children’s book, “The Moon: Our Neighboring World”) mention a suspected lava tube that was seen even back then. (All of those books are packed up right now, but the site may have been in Sinus Roris, the Bay of Dew [Wernher von Braun recommended that the first lunar outpost be established in that bay].)

  • Michael Fidler April 16, 2018, 1:08

    Lava tubes could be a good place to look for ice. The problem is no atmosphere so cannot fly drone in to look around. Could land probe next to opening of tube and have it throw a tether with cameras and lights to hang inside above the bottom of tube to see terran inside. Anyone have a better idea? Good place for a city!

    • Michael April 16, 2018, 15:20

      Lava tubes are a natural wonder and would provide a huge base, some are hundreds of km’s long.


      The only method I can think of is a rover linked via an optic fibre, they can go for km’s. Both power and communications can be transmitted down the fibre.

      • Michael Fidler April 16, 2018, 20:41

        Gregory Benford link below to Wikipedia article on Lunar lava tubes has a reference #3 to just such a project!

        Astrobotic Technology: Planetary Pits and Caves for Science and Exploration”, Annual Meeting of the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, abstract 3065 (PDF),

        • Michael April 18, 2018, 7:37

          Here is a slide show of a lava tube concept,


          If we wanted to live in these tunnels re-enforcing the walls and ceiling would be a priority and this could be achieved by spraying liquid aluminium on the surfaces to a suitable thickness.

    • Brett Bellmore April 17, 2018, 6:40

      The gravity on the Moon is low enough that a rocket drone could have a decent hang time, maybe as long as a half hour. You’d need really small throttleable engines, but the software wouldn’t be much different from a quadracopter. I think it would be feasible. But a tethered rover would probably be more feasible at first.

      A lunar lava tube would probably have a quite treacherous floor at least near the skylight. It would be challenging to get to the smooth floor.

  • DougSpace April 16, 2018, 2:13

    I suspect that the funding for the development of a base –> settlement will go like this:
    1) Government funding via a public-private partnership,
    2) Selling transportation to countries for suborbital exploration using a refueled lander,
    3) Retirees wanting their place in history paying for transportation, accommodation, and activities with their savings.

    • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 16, 2018, 12:28

      If ISS tourism is a model, then we can be sure that there is demand for tourism from the very start. The problem is that the logistics pipeline of the ISS is not capable of supporting them in the post Shuttle era, especially since the US is rather hostile to space tourism. The important part is establishing regular transportation to the lunar destination. If say $100 million is all that is needed to get to the Moon, I am certain that there will be many takers. Nanoracks is putting a second cubesat cannon because of the demand, be sure that if enough paying people want to go to the moon more accommodation will appear. I am not sure if retirees are the sort of people that will go to the moon for their savings, as much as working people. Go to a tourist destination sometime in July and August, retirees are a minority. It is either single people or families with children

      • Michael April 17, 2018, 8:02

        If we can burn time instead of propellant we could use low energy transfers to enable a tourist route. I would like to see a earth-moon hotel moving in a figure of eight between them. If we could use earth or moon based lasers to improve the thrust of ion enginees to enable a good transfer delta v we could use the waste-to-propellant method as proposed by Alex and Brian.

        Some nice information on transfer orbits,


        • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 17, 2018, 14:17

          I cannot claim to have any idea about the economics of lunar transfer, either for the tourists or for the companies. I can tell you though that they boats from Piraeus to Crete leave 7-8 pm and arrive early in the morning so as to capture the dinner market. In the summer, when there is a bigger crowd, there is also a daily trip that leaves early in the morning and arrives in the afternoon and thus captures lunch. The shipping companies make as much from selling food in the restaurants as from the passenger tickets. Would a 7 day trip really be economical to the tourist if he had to also buy 21 meals before getting to the moon? Hotel makes more sense, though the ISS astronauts have a tendency to look at the earth in their spare time, as opposed to deep space. Also tourists, at least those visiting the places I have visited, will not sequester themselves in their hotel for the 7 days of their vacation, they are known to get out and see the scenery. Granted, I have never stayed in an all inclusive tourist trap intended to keep you and milk you for the duration of your stay.

          As mentioned in the article, nothing is mentioned about the ships of the line making the trip. If you saw The Martian though, the Hermes is a massive partially rotating ship with spin gravity. Granted, in the book it has spin gravity but it is described as small

          • Alex Tolley April 17, 2018, 21:00

            Think of 7-day cruise ship voyages/vacations. That is how a tourist Moon/deep spaceliner will operate.

            • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 19, 2018, 11:44

              I have taken a cruise to the Bahamas from Port Lauderdale. The most interesting part turned out to be that the captain was Greek. Beyond that it was just going to breakfast, lunch and dinner, they had a theatrical show, a pool to swim in part of the day and, not much else. If your idea of vacation was doing nothing, I am sure you would have liked it. We stayed in Nassau for half a day, and while nature is very beautiful in the Bahamas, Nassau has a lot of poverty and poorly built structures. All the beaches turned out to be inside hotels and required a fee to visit. It was nice getting out of the ship, but honestly Nassau makes people realize what Third World poverty means. Then again the only tropical destination that I have visited and I did not see poverty is Hawaii. The other cruise I have taken has been on a day trip to the Sporades islands to see Mediterranean seals.

          • Michael April 18, 2018, 7:42

            Although it would be less than ideal there is still plenty to see and do, perhaps a large telescope, perhaps a very large ball habitat where games are played.

  • ljk April 16, 2018, 9:31

    The more I read about unaltered (baseline as they called in Orion’s Arm) humans in deep space (or in remote bases on Earth) for long periods of time, the more I question if humanity can ever explore and colonize the galaxy (or even the Sol system) in person. So many issues to overcome.

    Human explorers and colonizers will have to be so altered in so many ways in order to survive and thrive on another world or in space itself that the resulting “astronaut” required for such missions cannot be the type of human that exists now. This new generation may not have an issue with such radical changes, but the baselines who stay on Earth should be aware of this. I think too many space fans have little real idea what it takes to actually live in space for more than a few orbits.

    As the veteran of now two cruises in my life so far, I can also see where future deep space explorers (both interplanetary and interstellar) may prefer to stay aboard their ships and only visit an alien world for resupply and/or curiosity. Maybe this is yet another reason why ETI have not attempted to colonize Earth or our Sol system. A giant multigenerational WorldShip designed like their home world in relative miniature may be far more preferable than have to adjust and adapt to an alien moon or planet and any of their natives.

    • Alex Tolley April 16, 2018, 12:19

      I tend to agree, but I am not as negative as you are on baseline humans.

      The main dangers of space travel are lack of gravity and radiation. We know we can fix the former with carousels. radiation can be fixed with magnetic fields and mass. As cancers are one of the clearer problems of radiation damage, the new anti-cancer therapies will mitigate that, as well as somatic genetic enhancement to improve DNA repair and removal of cancerous cells.

      Therefore I can see it will be quite possible for humans to travel to planetary bodies and manufacture suitable Earth-like living environments. Having said that, space cities/colonies as envisaged by O’Neill seem to be the best solution. Automated manufacturing with asteroidal material should make these relatively easy to make. Even if they turn out to be less like Edens and more like dense urban housing and malls, this seems to me to be the best way to move forward. Then short-term visits to planets either physically or via machine proxies will provide the desired “planetary experience”.

      If these are the logical approach, then we should be able to detect ETI if they are out there. Whether such an approach will allow interstellar travel via generation ships, I am not so sanguine. I’m not hopeful that we will see mature meat bodies travel to the stars with the technologies we foresee as being available with today’s physics.

      • ljk April 17, 2018, 9:45

        I am thinking more of the psychological aspects of long duration space missions that will be the roadblock. Traditional macho attitudes of endurance have a tendency to fall apart in spectacularly dramatic and fatal fashion once such bravado can no longer maintain the person using this attitude for survival.

        You don’t need an entire crew to fall apart for a mission to fail, as with most things in life, just a few bad apples in key areas of the operation can ruin the whole enterprise.

        Over half a century after Yuri Gagarin made a single orbit of Earth in 1961, the space agencies with manned flights still act as if their space explorers are military men confined to small spacecraft for a few days to weeks. Other than those few who went to the Moon going on fifty years ago, all astronauts and cosmonauts knew and know they are but a rather quick jaunt back to Earth should the need arise.

        Let us see what happens when baseline humans are truly out there in the Final Frontier with no easy and quick way to be saved, with the added ever-present knowledge that just a few missteps mean instant death. Wintering over in Antarctica is going to seem like a tropical paradise vacation in comparison.

        • Alex Tolley April 17, 2018, 10:30

          Haven’t baseline humans been doing that for 1000s of years? Were humans during the Age of Exploration non-baseline?

          • ljk April 17, 2018, 14:27

            I think humans in deep space or on a distant alien world are going to have some significantly different reactions to being out there than on this planet no matter how remote one might be on Earth. Even those “macho” astronauts admit to an Overview Effect.

            Humans evolved to be on Earth. Our cultural psychology is wrapped around living on this planet. For most on a gut level, the stars might as well be as our ancestors viewed them, as lights shining through a dome from Heaven.

            I know we can go round and round whether baseline humans can survive and thrive in space regardless, but I think they will need significant changes to their minds and bodies if we want to truly succeed in the Final Frontier. Unless we send everyone out on giant WorldShips where they can barely tell they are no longer on Earth, then what may be the point in one respect?

          • ljk April 17, 2018, 14:30

            And yeah, I think there are some big differences between our ancestors and modern society humans.

            For one thing, I think most humans even 150 years ago could have survived if society went south in terms of self sufficiency. Modern humans have become quite “cushioned” by our technology and its conveniences. The ones that would be able to survive our civilization’s collapse I am not certain I would want to see carrying on our species.

            • J. Jason Wentworth April 23, 2018, 1:42

              While there are exceptions to just about everything, I know quite a few people–including whole families, mostly mountain folk–who could survive the collapse of our civilization, if need be, and I would have no qualms (relating to their character, or anything else) about them carrying humanity onward, because they are the sort of people who built this country. They know how to grow, hunt, and preserve their own food (and I don’t mean only via commercial canning jars, but making pemmican, salted meat, and dried vegetables). People of their ilk were also the first to break the sound barrier and (in the U.S., although I think Gagarin’s family is of similar self-reliant origins) travel in space.

            • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 24, 2018, 17:55

              Civilization has gone down quite a number of times, see for example Fall of Rome or Fall of the Soviet Union. People regressed, but eventually something else emerged and advanced. Do not be as dismissive for modern people, some will come out on top anyway no matter how depended on technology people are

      • J. Jason Wentworth April 17, 2018, 21:48

        Such O’Neill colony/ships (they could move in Aldrin Cycler orbits, between the Earth and the destination worlds) can now be 3D printed, because the Chinese have developed large 3D printers which can print a 4-bedroom house for about $4,000. The McKendree cylinder-type colonies are designed to be made of carbon composite material, which–besides being stronger than steel–lends itself to this production method, and the carbon is better than metal from a radiation standpoint.

    • J. Jason Wentworth April 16, 2018, 12:45

      I don’t dispute that, but I suspect that most people wouldn’t consider in-person interstellar travel important enough to want to change themselves (if they could), or to create a human subspecies that’s optimized for such living. Doing something akin to repeating the homo sapiens-Neanderthal situation wouldn’t, I think, be conducive to an improved social situation here on Earth; we would, in a sense, be creating aliens, who might want–and be able to–out-compete us. Even if they didn’t want to, if they had traits that made them better so that they were more desired as employees, that would be a high price for us to pay so that we could send “humans” to the stars. I am glad that I will be safely dead before such schemes are tried.

      • ljk April 17, 2018, 9:29

        But people want to change themselves all the time: Look younger, build up muscle, lose weight, get facelifts, etc. Even tatooing is a primitive yet highly visible form of body modification that seems to be on the upswing these days.

        I suspect if humans are offered a chance to really change themselves on multiple levels that many would jump at the chance. It will become a megamoney making industry and I am not even talking about modifying or creating humans that can survive in multiple space environments.

        • Charley April 17, 2018, 15:11

          “But people want to change themselves all the time: Look younger, build up muscle, lose weight, get facelifts, etc. Even tatooing is a primitive yet highly visible form of body modification that seems to be on the upswing these days.”

          that’s a far cry from messing with your DNA …

          • ljk April 18, 2018, 9:01

            I am willing to bet there are plenty of people who would want to have their DNA modified in order to improve on whatever roll of the dice nature gave them.

            There is a reason that superhero fiction is so popular these days and not just for the entertainment factor.

            We are just starting to see what can be done with humanity. So it is only natural that our current species is both suspicious and frightened of the possibilities, just as so many fear both ETI and AI even though both are probably just what we need to get out of our biological evolutionary rut.

            • Charley April 18, 2018, 17:53

              “I am willing to bet there are plenty of people who would want to have their DNA modified in order to improve on whatever roll of the dice nature gave them.
              There is a reason that superhero fiction is so popular these days and not just for the entertainment factor. ”

              superhero or super human, is the road to pride and sorrow

              • J. Jason Wentworth April 19, 2018, 9:19

                Yes, Charley, I am in full accord with you, although I’m sadly certain that a lot of people would go in for that if it became available. But just because humanity *can* do something doesn’t mean that they ^should^. In this connection:

                Some years ago, there was fear–which, fortunately, turned out to not be justified–that the then-latest generation of colliding-beam particle accelerators could possibly rip a hole in the fabric of space-time, creating a bubble of annihilation that would spread outward at the speed of light, annihilating the Earth and perhaps expanding until the entire universe ceased to exist. (Likewise, before the Trinity Test, the Manhattan Project personnel weren’t 100% certain that the atomic bomb’s runaway fission reaction *wouldn’t* trigger fission of the oxygen atoms in our atmosphere [Robert Oppenheimer joked, “If that happens, the war will be over”], but they proceeded anyway.) Also:

                If it one day became possible to build a particle accelerator or other such device that certainly–or even “just” probably–^could^ rip the fabric of space-time with such an effect (this could be the case someday), we would be crazy to allow such a device to be built, and even crazier to allow it to be used, just because it had become possible, and:

                I am reminded of a brief exchange between two characters in one of Bruce Coville’s “The Unicorn Chronicles” series of novels. Cara Diana Hunter, a tomboyish young lady from our modern world, was amused to watch Finder–a large but quiet unicorn who was so named because of his skills as a tracker in Luster, his people’s adopted world–scrutinizing her using her hands with a thoughtful look. When he spoke, he expressed his admiration of humans’ manual dexterity and the things that their hands made possible, and commented that he sometimes wondered if he might have preferred having hands instead of hooves. “On the other hoof,” he added after a moment’s reflection, “your peoples’ hands often get you into all sorts of trouble.” I agree; human beings’ cleverness with their hands seems to, in the main, exceed their wisdom.

              • ljk April 20, 2018, 13:44

                Yes, we could return to the trees and spend our days foraging for food and hoping not to get eaten by roaming predators. All 7.6 billion of us.

                • J. Jason Wentworth April 23, 2018, 3:35

                  Digital computers are–and have to be–binary, but we don’t have to be. Refraining from developing things whose destructive potential is great doesn’t mean, or even suggest, that we should abandon all technology. Rather, like detouring around dangerous locations on a journey, it’s a matter of moving in a desired direction, while avoiding creating things (which we’ve thrived perfectly well without) whose risks if misused make their positive attributes less attractive.

            • J. Jason Wentworth April 19, 2018, 8:16

              I agree, although not happily; I’m sure that some people would like to become the equivalent of superheroes, if the technology (which could also do much good by curing genetic diseases) became available, and:

              Being the equivalent of a superhero would be taking a step toward demi-godhood or godhood, which would require equally superhuman morals and ethics in order to handle such an elevated status properly. Such people could–even inadvertently, even if they had the best intentions–cause untold mayhem, harm, and death (the famous line in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility,” while it has become trite, is absolutely true). Also:

              This isn’t even considering those who would–if they could–happily become the equivalent of super-villains, and ruthlessly use their new abilities with no regard for the consequences (or even deliberately generate dire consequences). Fortunately, this particular Pandora’s box will not be gifted to Man in the time I have left. In addition:

              I anticipate the eventual development of such technologies, assuming they are workable (the “apotheosis-type” ones might not be) with more sadness than fear. There is probably no technology that doesn’t have a down side, and the greater a technology’s ability to remedy problems is, the greater is its potential to wreak havoc. Technologies that could change human beings themselves would have even greater potential to do irreparable harm:

              Human weaknesses, as well as human strengths, make people what they are, which in turn has made human societies, cultures, philosophies, and arts what they are. If all of the human weaknesses and vulnerabilities could be done away with, and all of the human strengths could be amplified in like measure, would the resulting beings (I don’t mean their physical appearance, although that too might be alterable), their societies, and their cultures still be recognizably human? As well:

              Would they still have empathy or imagination or curiosity (including that which spurs desire for interstellar exploration), or feel awe, or enjoy poetry (to give but a few examples)? Or would they become more like their machines, more independent of their environment, less vulnerable to and dependent on the rhythms vicissitudes of nature, but less appreciative of its–and life’s–beauties and simple pleasures that we now enjoy? Also:

              If Man, through improving himself, becomes less human, it would appear that he will have lost more than he will have gained. Worst of all, such improvement–if such it be–would force natural humans who want to stay that way to either undergo the change themselves, or become impoverished underclass people. It sounds like a recipe for despair, frustration, anger, hatred, and violence on a scale we can scarcely imagine, which makes me even more thankful and relieved that I won’t be around to possibly see or experience it. If that lies ahead, a soul-stirring anthem for those who will fight against having to alter themselves (and I hope they win the struggle) already exists: “I’ve Gotta Be Me.”

              • ljk April 20, 2018, 13:49

                And this is why I have my doubts that the intelligent beings from Earth who ultimately do go on into the Cosmos will not be humans:


              • Charley April 21, 2018, 13:43

                You make extremely good points, and there’s no doubt about what you’re saying is true. But I would like to say this, that any modifications you make to anybody to become adaptable to spaceflight will probably in the long run result in a human being, not actually a human being anymore as we understand it. To whit, people who have undergone spaceflight showed definitive loss of bone mass, redistribution of fluids within their body structure, the shape of the eyeballs changes, and probably other effects in which we have not yet been able to discern.

                I remember reading recently in discover magazine that they had determined that lot of microorganisms went from being simply nuisance organisms to actually becoming dangerously pathogenic. You couple that with humans in flight whether to planets or distant stars and you are already beginning to see that this biological system (s) are unimaginably complex and will probably require very, very careful study.

                It seems unavoidable that people can not remain human for long-duration spaceflight; they will probably have to be especially adapted and bread for such missions, and in the process of doing so they will no longer be what we broadly would term to be a human being (biologically speaking). Now it is possible that they may be a so-called ‘superior’ human in terms of their physiological responses, but I’m not sure that they would in any fashion be a quintessential ideal of what a human being would be. To be a better version of what a human is, is understandable, we would probably all of us like to be as healthy as possible and as smart as possible, etc. etc.
                but that being said, when you make a transition into some kind of super human being, then the regular rules begin to break down and that is where my fears are will create difficulties in the future.

                Don’t forget the episode of the original Star Trek series, which I believe was called ‘Space Seed’ in which a series of genetically modified people were rescued by the enterprise, but it turned out that they were supremely arrogant as well and tried to take over the ship. Therein lies the lesson.

                • J. Jason Wentworth April 23, 2018, 4:50

                  Charley, your posting above also suggests something fundamental, which is also connected with interstellar exploration:

                  Scientists (including Freeman Dyson), science fiction writers (including Larry Niven), technologists, sociologists, philosophers, and theologians (C.S. Lewis was particularly interested in this) have written about how one reason for the apparent lack of interstellar civilizations (at least on radio) may be that after a certain point, they can’t–or don’t want to–keep up with the societal complexity that technology seems to cause. This brings up something that is seldom mentioned, at least explicitly:

                  I have observed (and I’m far from the only one who has) that we are at or near a point where technology no longer serves us, but we serve it (it continues to do things for us, of course, but at an ever-greater cost in our time, attention, and energy). Kim Komando’s computer-related radio show is just one small example of this; she and her callers are forever running on a treadmill just to keep up with the latest digital gadgets, programs, apps, and internet-connected appliances–which within five years (if not less) will all be dusty and obsolete yard-sale items, and:

                  Thousands of years ago, human beings developed agriculture and largely ceased to be nomadic (even shepherds and goatherds stopped roaming so far, no longer having to) because it made life easier and more pleasant, and created surplus supplies and leisure time. This trend has continued–with more advanced technology than back then–before and during my lifetime, but it has begun to reverse, now that people have to keep updating their skills–skills which, like the technology, will be obsolete soon–at an ever-increasing rate. I’m not advocating stagnation by any means, but we’re going in a direction which leads away from happiness and toward harried, mere existence rather than living. If one’s efforts don’t–after providing the necessities of life–make one happy, then all of the ever-more-frenzied activity is pointless (the Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites live simply and happily). In addition:

                  I know many people–besides myself–who have deliberately simplified their lives because even the greater income that such activity brought did not make them happier or satisfied, because they seldom had a moment that they could simply enjoy in quiet, and this relates to starflight in this way:

                  While I would love to see what exoplanets and other stars look like up close, and know what their characteristics are (just as I do for bodies in our Solar System), I would be satisfied to see robotic probe missions gather these things; there don’t have to be dramatic “flag and footprints moments.” Moreover, it isn’t important enough to me that I would want a race of star travelers to be bred for the purpose. If one day, natural human beings build multi-generation starships (or develop hibernation, or even relativistic or super-luminal star travel), that’ll be great, but exploring the stars isn’t remotely important enough a goal for people to tinker with their very essences over.

                  • Charley April 24, 2018, 23:21

                    “I’m not advocating stagnation by any means, but we’re going in a direction which leads away from happiness and toward harried, mere existence rather than living. If one’s efforts don’t–after providing the necessities of life–make one happy, then all of the ever-more-frenzied activity is pointless (the Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites live simply and happily). In addition:

                    I know many people–besides myself–who have deliberately simplified their lives because even the greater income that such activity brought did not make them happier or satisfied, because they seldom had a moment that they could simply enjoy in quiet, and this relates to starflight in this way:”

                    it’s enormously obvious to me that you and your are in no any way shape or form familiar with what it is to be an old person, otherwise you would not make any of the observations that you are making. While I agree with you that technology makes us slaves to the very machines that we used to give us more freedom, you are failing to note that there is one machine that can in fact actually liberate us: robots or robotics.

                    If these machines become sophisticated and agile and easy to use as the general hope will be that they will become like that, you will see a tremendous amount of time freed up for you to pursue what ever interests that you have. As an old man. I would love to have a machine perform a lot of the services that I need to have done in my behalf. Shopping, cooking, cleaning, repair work, driving me to doctors visits, and I can imagine that there would be a tremendous number of other functions and services such a machine could provide for me that I can even think of. Note I say that an individual can take advantage of such a service mechanism, BUT it is not an absolute requirement that you take advantage of such a machine, if you would in fact derive greater pleasure from doing the task yourself. It’s totally your decision. So technology CAN be a tremendous benefit in the long run to people, provided that it is a properly applied, and utilized in a productive and thoughtful manner. I noticed that you didn’t address that issue of robotics. You agree or disagree?

  • Gregory Benford April 16, 2018, 15:24
    • J. Jason Wentworth April 23, 2018, 5:00

      That’s interesting–even if that 100 m deep pit crater doesn’t lead into a lava tube, it should be possible to drill horizontally into its walls to provide protection. The long collapse pit chain (with un-collapsed sections) looks like a good “fixer-upper” base site, whose roof and wall sections could be reinforced with lunarcrete, once production of it was established on the Moon.

  • ljk April 20, 2018, 13:47

    NASA’s new mandate, which is about returning to the Moon first as a joint science-commercial effort (which is the only way we are truly going to have a permanent presence in the Sol system) and then on to Mars and elsewhere once we have real experience living and working in space:


    • J. Jason Wentworth April 23, 2018, 5:13

      I hope that “To replace the decreased support from NASA, the agency proposes to open up station visits to more international astronauts and expend [expand] partnerships to new nations.
      Read more at http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/missions/human-spaceflight/nasas-exploration-goals-come-focus-updated-road-map/#hqy0HorMHPT9rKKZ.99” includes China (and India, too). They have good hardware, increasingly-large rockets, and an important intangible–enthusiasm for manned space flight and exploring the Moon, and:

      I’ve heard many people at NASA say, “We’ve already been to the Moon–been there, done that,” but the younger personnel say, “No, *you* [the older generation] went there, but we haven’t.” Even the most interesting Apollo sites (the Marius Hills, Tycho, etc.) remain un-visited, as does the selenographically different far side. We’ve hardly explored the Moon at all.

      • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 24, 2018, 18:04

        Moon, Mars, I am happy either way so long we do not just keep on doing the same things we did as when I was a kid and was reading in the newspaper on how the most recent Soviet crew just arrived at Mir. DSG, now renamed LOP-G seems to be happening, even if we have a change of government. By now it is moving ahead by the inexorable Power Of Bureaucracy, the same thing that made sure the ISS was built despite W being elected and Columbia. I might just write in the future an article about the way ahead, from LEO to the stars

  • Michel Van April 25, 2018, 4:35

    The critic about “Artemis” is flawed
    Author Ioannis Kokkinidis assume seasonal tourism on Moon
    and compare to tourism on Greece islands.

    That do not work

    The problem with Greece islands is,
    none one goes in Winter on vacation there. the moon has no Winter

    Next to that is that Vacation are not more seasonal
    in Europe and China people take several vacation over the year.
    Here the traditional summer Seasonal vacation exist no longer.
    People goes in winter on Vacation in hot tropical places
    again the moon has no Winter

    The Lunar Domes can offer that Climate the Tourst want

    The Lunar city will have constant flow of Tourists year in, year out

    • Ioannis Kokkinidis April 25, 2018, 19:31

      Greece is 70% mountains. Greece is home to the coldest place in the Balkans, Kato Nevrokopi which had a record temperature of -28 C, that is -18 F for the metrically challenged back in 1967. The people of Kato Nevrokopi are known for their toughness, famously breaking the ice on their creek so that they can jump in the water to get the cross during the blessing of the water at Epiphany (January 6). Here is a pic from 2016:

      We have 21 ski resorts in Greece, if you want a map there is one here:
      Arachova is known as Mykonos of winter, because in addition to the ski resort and being next to the oracle of Delphi, it also has an awesome night life. Kaimaktsalan on top of being a premier ski resort is also known as a place to play cards. Of course, you might not want to go on a ski resort, you might want to enjoy a walk in the snow. We have quite a large number of mountain destinations, like Vytina, Mt Pelium, Nymphaio where you do not need to do ski but just enjoy winter. Tourists though do not visit in the winter only to ski, cities have city break tourists year round and summer destinations have Snowbirds, people from cold climates for whom it is cheaper to overwinter in a warmer climate than to heat their house. If you ever go to Myrtle Beach SC for Spring Break, the signs there will welcome you saying : “Welcome Snowbirds” or “Snowbird Central” or “Everything Snowbirds need”. Places like Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Crete have quite a large number of North European Snowbirds overwintering there, attracted by the cheaper prices and the hospital infrastructure we have.
      According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority and the Bank of Greece, in January 2017 we had 520 thousand tourists, February 444 thousand, March 628,000, November 741,000, December 2017 563,000 and January 2018 603,000. This is compared to 5,8 million for August 2017, winter months are 1/9th to 1/10th of August but not insignificant.

      People take their vacation in the summer not because of the climate but because school is out. This is why the other popular seasons for vacation is Christmas break and Spring Break. Chinese tourism is also seasonal, Chinese tourists are known to visit in February, May and October which corresponds to national holidays in the PRC. Cities are known to be less seasonal because they get business travelers year round. Still Paris has seasonality (see http://fr.zone-secure.net/42102/324705/#page=10) and even Las Vegas has some seasonality, just not as pronounced as say Miami.

      So long there are national holidays and vacations, tourism will be seasonal.

  • ljk June 12, 2018, 9:57

    How blockchain technology can track humanity’s lunar heritage sites

    One challenge for future human lunar exploration is keeping track of past exploration sites in order to preserve their heritage. Roy Balleste and Michelle L.D. Hanlon describe how the blockchain can be used to help create a database of those sites to aid in efforts to protect them.


    To quote:

    Author Andrew Chaikin put it best when he noted in 2008, “We need to think very, very carefully about how we are going to revisit those sites and not destroy the record of the first human explorations of another world… But having said that? Not every footprint on every Apollo site need be preserved.”

    I don’t know about that last statement. Of course first we need to get back to the Moon in a serious way to worry about this first.

  • ljk September 18, 2018, 9:27

    The Next (Manned) Expedition To The Moon Will Be Filled With Artists…


    To quote:

    As for the Moon trip itself, again details are still incomplete. but Musk wants people to have fun and suggested that it would be fun to go “really close” to the Moon and then zoom out so even the Moon is small then zip back in again. Musk also said “I used to watch this corny show “Moonbase Alpha” (Space 1999). Its 2018 and there’s no base on the damn moon. I think there should be one that the average person could save up for and visit.”

    The BFR is not just a Moon ship though. As has been previously revealed BFR is being designed to be an interplanetary transport that can put 100 tons or so on the surface of anywhere it is sent – such as Mars, the Moon, or the moons of Jupiter. “This is the sort of thing that makes you want to be a human being – and wake up in the morning. BFR is intended to make people excited about the future.” Musk said.

    As the event ended Someone ask Musk if he will go into space. He said, tearing up just a bit, “this has restored my faith in humanity. He’s donating seats. It has been suggested that I will join.” Yusaku Maezawa then said “yea yea”. Musk replied “OK, maybe I will”.

  • ljk September 18, 2018, 9:33

    Japanese billionaire named as 1st passenger to fly around Moon in SpaceX BFR

    by Derek Richardson

    September 18, 2018


    To quote:

    Maezawa is the 18th richest person in Japan, according to Forbes, with a net worth of 2.9 billion. He founded Zozotown, which is Japan’s largest fashion mall. The Japanese billionaire is also an art collector and the founder of Tokyo-based Contemporary Art Foundation, which opened in 2012.

    He said he wants to take artists to the Moon in order to inspire humanity. During his presentation, he asked what famous artists would have created had they had the opportunity to view the Moon up close.

    “If Pablo Picasso had been able to see the moon up-close, what kind of paintings would he have drawn? If John Lennon could have seen the curvature of the Earth, what kind of songs would he have written?” Maezawa asks on the #dearMoon website. “If they had gone to space, how would the world have looked today?”

    [John Lennon was a huge fan of the 1968 SF film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I read that he went to see it at the theater all the time. On the other hand, Pablo Picasso was asked what he thought when Apollo 11 put the first humans on the Moon in 1969. His response was What do I care? It doesn’t mean anything to me.]

  • ljk September 18, 2018, 10:33

    Meet the Billionaire Dreamer Taking Musk’s Rocket to the Moon

    Lisa Du and Yuji Nakamura

    September 18. 2018

    (Bloomberg) — In a country known for conformity, Yusaku Maezawa has always sought to stand out.

    He skipped college, moved to California to play in a rock band and started his own e-commerce company. After making it big, the 42-year-old started dropping hundreds of millions of dollars on artwork. Now the billionaire founder of Start Today Co. is set to become the first paying passenger to the moon on a SpaceX rocket scheduled to blast off in 2023. It’s the latest headline-grabbing project by Maezawa, whose Twitter handle is @yousuck2020.

    “I love art, so I want to see what artists will collaborate on together and see it directly with my eyes,” Maezawa said.

    Maezawa has long stood out in the Japanese corporate world. In a place where company executives maintain low-key lifestyles and keep out of the spotlight, the billionaire is active on social media, sharing snippets from lavish meals or vacations, and regularly makes headlines in the Japanese entertainment world for dating young, popular actresses.

    The first would-be civilian passenger to the moon was already signaling his interest in outer space before the announcement. Maezawa first mentioned in a Twitter post in 2015 that his “eyes were opened,” after touring NASA and talking to astronauts. A year later, he told Japan’s Newspicks online magazine he wanted to try his hand in space. In April, he tweeted that space is one of his main “hobbies,” along with art and wine.

    “Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” Maezawa said. “Just staring at the moon filled my imagination. It’s always there and has continued to inspire humanity. That’s why I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close.”

    Full article here:


    I *really* hope NASA is taking notes on how to publicize space exploration and utilization. They also need to emulate IBM in terms of how they changed and adapted to a world where small and powerful computers are now made by many types of companies and sold relatively cheaply. Had IBM stuck with big old mainframes they would have gone the way of so many other pioneering computer giants.

  • ljk September 25, 2018, 12:49

    SpaceX’s BFR gets closer to Mars, by way of the Moon

    SpaceX used the announcement of the first customer for its Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) to reveal some changes to the vehicle’s design. Jeff Foust reports on the update and the unique plans that customer has for that mission.

    Monday, September 24, 2018


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