Posted Friday, June 12, 2009, at 6:01 PM
Moon , an awesomely creepy sci-fi film that opens in New York and Los Angeles today (and nationwide in coming weeks ), begins with an advertisement for a futuristic energy company that has solved the world's problems by mining helium-3 from lunar regolith and firing it back to Earth. "Who'd of thought? All the energy we ever needed, right above our heads ..."
Lonely miner Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has been stationed at an industrial outpost on the dark side of the moon with no one for company but a sycophantic robot named GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). As his three-year contract winds down (along with his sanity), Bell begins to think that Lunar Industries has its own dark side-in the form of a ruthless business model that commodifies its workers in the most literal way.
It's tempting to lump the movie in with Wall-E , Dawn of the Dead , and other classic sci-fi critiques of consumer culture. But there's another, more obvious warning here, that couldn't be more timely: Stay off the moon!
Next Wednesday, NASA will launch its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter —the first step in the agency's costly and ridiculous plan to set up a permanent moon base . (The orbiter's mission: "to create the comprehensive atlas of the Moon's features and resources necessary to design and build a lunar outpost .") The recon mission will cost several hundred million dollars ; to set up the base may run the tab into the hundreds of billions. Yet it's not at all clear what the potential payoff would be.
The government's rundown of potential "
lunar exploration objectives
" does include a
-like scenario: We might eventually "create a new energy market based on the moon." But even the most optimistic experts say that the use of helium-3 as a fuel source is a
long, long way off
In any case, the mental breakdown of Moon 's main character does make a strong case for another of NASA's lunar objectives, coded "mHH8" on the master list (PDF): "Provide leisure activities to support the psychological health of those living on and visiting the moon."