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Hawaii Island on track to be first MoonBase prototype test site

Updated: 
October 11, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — A local entrepreneur is leading the charge in making Hawaii Island the site for an international MoonBase prototype a reality.

Video game entrepreneur Henk Rogers, famous for his work on “Tetris,” was the host and sponsor of the inaugural International MoonBase Summit. The event, which took place at the Mauna Lani Resort last week, was meant to unite space agencies, space companies and humankind to build sustainable settlements on the moon, Mars and beyond.

While top leaders were not present from all of the aerospace organizations, Rogers said, participants at the summit have the MoonBase prototype on track to be built on a site on the Big Island.

“If we start building it, the alliance will come,” Rogers said.

Rogers said they are well on their way to having a site in Hawaii to build the MoonBase prototype.

“It looks like land won’t be an issue,” he said. “We can focus money on building the structure.”

The estimated cost to build Hawaii’s prototype is $10 million. Rogers thinks they could start construction in about a year.

Three key decisions resulting from the summit were where the MoonBase would be located on the moon; the terrestrial analog for the International MoonBase will be located on Hawaii Island to take advantage of the island’s features that mimic the lunar surface; and the Mahina Lani Simulator is envisioned to be funded by an innovative, self-sustaining model.

The MoonBase prototype will test functions. It would have dorms and labs that would mimic what would be in space.

John Hamilton, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, said there would also be satellite areas where they could test robots traveling over volcanic terrain.

“This would be for testing things for a year or two before actually going to the moon,” Hamilton said.

Hawaii would be the place space organizations and companies throughout the world would come to test equipment before sending it to the moon.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the aerospace industry where Hawaii won’t be in the conversation,” Rogers said.

Those at the summit also determined they would build the MoonBase near the South Pole on the moon because of the similarities in terrain.

“The aerospace community is behind the Hawaii spot,” Rogers said. “Now we need the Hawaii community behind us.”

This is not prime real estate the prototype would be built on. Rogers said the site would be desolate with jagged volcanic rock, meant to represent the conditions of the moon.

“We’re not desecrating anything,” Rogers said.

Hamilton said this would not be like a TMT protest.

“Whatever is done will be done in the open and with respect and through the proper channels,” Hamilton said.

A handful of students who attended the summit are also involved in bringing the MoonBase prototype project to life.

“The young people just want to get started now,” Rogers said. “They have a dream now. That’s what’s been missing in the aerospace industry — a dream.”

Hamilton said this is a fantastic opportunity for youth on the island.

“There are big plans to keep young people involved and integrating them in the process,” Hamilton said.

Right now, this is a private endeavor. Hamilton said this is the right time and the right place.

“It’s unequivocal that Hawaii is the best place to test because the analog is most similar to the moon,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton added he believes in Rogers’s vision and goal and will be there to support him.

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