Commerce Secretary: Let’s Turn the Moon Into a ‘Gas Station for Outer Space’

Gas station on the moon. Photo-Illustration: Konstantin Sergeyev/Daily Intelligencer. Photos: NASA; Ty Wright/Bloomberg

The Trump administration wants to turn the moon into a “gas station for the outer space,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC on Thursday.

The development would aid with the exploration of deep space, he said. “Rockets would not need as much thrust leaving Earth if they only had to get to the moon,” Ross said. “Then at the moon, you have very low gravity so you don’t need so much thrust to go from the moon to Mars, for example, or another asteroid.”

The idea has its supporters in the scientific community. In 2015, an MIT study found that refueling near the moon would allow for humans to get to Mars much more efficiently than launching from Earth with all of the resources onboard. “The idea of taking a detour into the lunar system … it’s very unintuitive,” MIT astronautics professor Olivier de Weck said at the time. “But from an optimal network and big-picture view, this could be very affordable in the long term, because you don’t have to ship everything from Earth.”

The Trump administration has not shied away from ambitious proposals related to space. Vice-President Mike Pence announced plans last summer to put “American boots on the face of Mars.” But rather than rely on NASA, the White House wants private industry to do the heavy lifting.

On Wednesday, at a meeting of the National Space Council, Pence promoted the work of ambitious start-ups and argued that onerous regulations are holding them back. So the administration’s plan is to cut back on regulations and hire someone to oversee “all commercial space regulatory functions.” The job description may not be all that exciting, but the title is by far the coolest in all of government: space czar.

Wilbur Ross: Moon Should Be a ‘Gas Station for Outer Space’