The Space “Field of Dreams”

Over at Air & Space, some musings on the space program (real and faux) as inspiration.  Comment here, if so inclined.

This entry was posted in Lunar exploration, planetary exploration, space policy, Space transportation. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to The Space “Field of Dreams”

  1. James says:

    “Or as that perceptive philosopher Eliza Doolittle put it to her ‘betters’ (academics, policy makers and politicians please take note):

    Please don’t ‘expline,’ show me, show me!

    Don’t wait until wrinkles and lines

    Pop out all over my brow, show me now!

    Or even more succinctly (as she put it to her pick at the races): Move your bloomin’ arse!”

    Wow! Great writing! And I obviously love your quotes! Thank you!

    In case anyone missed these two items:

    “But as the new administration reportedly shows greater interest in sending humans to the moon, Aldrin said lunar missions could play a role in Mars settlement by testing systems intended for use on Mars. ‘The moon enables us to go to Mars,’ he said. ‘It’s almost mandatory, in my way of thinking, because the base that we want on Mars we will design and place it on the moon.’”

    And, “That could be done with international partners, Aldrin said, tying into interest by other nations in lunar exploration.”

    And, “‘At the moment we’re seeing a renewed interest in the moon,’ said Time magazine editor at large Jeffrey Kluger, who appeared on stage with Aldrin and in the later Facebook Live interview. ‘The moon has suddenly become the ‘it’ world as it was in the 1960s.’”

    From: ‘Aldrin: Pence offered few details of space policy in White House meeting’
    By Jeff Foust March 15, 2017
    At: http://spacenews.com/aldrin-pence-offered-few-details-of-space-policy-in-white-house-meeting/#sthash.2QRCEe5l.dpuf

    And:

    “The Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy today announced that leading experts from China and South Korea join the international Advisory Board, which guides the Luxembourg Government
    in shaping and developing its SpaceResources.lu initiative which aims to promote commercial use of resources gathered from celestial bodies such as asteroids or from the Moon.”

    From: ‘Experts from China and South Korea join the Luxembourg Government’s SpaceResources.lu initiative as high-level advisors’
    Luxembourg March 8, 2017
    At: http://www.spaceresources.public.lu/en/press-corner/press/2017_03_03-SpaceResources_lu_Press-Release_FINAL.pdf

    Humans and their robots are going to the Moon to find and tap its many resources.

    Why is that simple and smart concept of using Lunar resources to benefit humans so hard for NASA’s leadership to understand when so many other folks around the world clearly ‘get it’?

    • William Mellberg says:

      James asked:

      “Why is that simple and smart concept of using Lunar resources to benefit humans so hard for NASA’s leadership to understand when so many other folks around the world clearly ‘get it’?”

      Answer: Because the Obama Administration viewed lunar exploration and resource development (i.e., the Constellation Program) as George W. Bush’s project and wanted nothing to do with it for that reason. In short, politics killed our return to the Moon. Now that Obama is out of office, the words ‘Moon’ and ‘lunar’ and ‘cislunar’ are no longer banned at NASA. Hopefully, they will become part of the space agency’s ‘to do’ list once again.

      • Joe says:

        In case anybody has not gotten the word.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/nasa-budget-would-cut-earth-science-and-education/2017/03/15/c08e1e2c-0997-11e7-93dc-00f9bdd74ed1_story.html?utm_term=.301d12426c76

        NASA Budget Would Cut Earth Science and Education

        (1) Still NASA fared better than many other agencies (“Overall, Trump would shrink funding for NASA slightly, to $19.1 billion from about $19.3 billion, according to a blueprint of the president’s budget requests for 2018.”

        (2) Additionally- “The largest portion of funds would go to the agency’s human exploration division, with $3.7 billion for the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System (SLS) jumbo rocket, spacecraft that NASA says will one day get humans to Mars. The outlined budget also instructs NASA to “investigate approaches for reducing the costs of exploration missions to enable a more expansive exploration program.””

        This has caused some other “news” outlets to say that means Trump is continuing the Obama ordered mission to Mars “program”. That ignores the fact that SLS/Orion are better suited to support a Lunar Program and as this article points out:
        – “But it doesn’t reveal where he thinks the agency should be headed — to Mars, the moon or elsewhere.”
        – “It is not clear what such an expanded program might entail. Unlike last year’s presidential budget, Trump’s outline makes no mention of the journey to Mars, NASA’s target throughout the Obama administration. Trump has recently hinted that he is interested in returning astronauts to the moon, perhaps as soon as the first SLS test flight in 2018.”

        Apparently more details about the scope/goals of the new program are to be forthcoming in May, so time will tell.

        • James says:

          Maybe there is going to be a Pizza Party on the Moon!

          “Everyone has set sights on the moon.

          And, “Now Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin wants in on the moon party, too.”

          From: ‘Blue Origin Teases Cargo Spaceship for a Moon Base’ By Jay Bennett
          Popular Mechanics March 8, 2017
          At: https://www.yahoo.com/news/blue-origin-teases-cargo-spaceship-182917805.html

          “Either way, Blue Origin believes it can have a ‘Blue Moon’ lander (based on New Shepard’s vertical-landing technology) ready and able to begin moon landings as early as July 2020.”

          And, “Incidentally, Bezos argues that such a lunar settlement is a necessary precursor to the manned Mars mission that NASA is planning to conduct circa 2034: ‘I think that if you go to the Moon first and make the Moon your home, then you can get to Mars more easily.’”

          From: ‘Blue Origin Boss Jeff Bezos Lays Out His Plan for Space’
          Space tourism, orbital manufacturing, and, one day, a colony on the Moon.’
          By Rich Smith March 6, 2017 at: The Motley Fool

          “China is developing an advanced new spaceship capable of both flying in low-Earth orbit and landing on the moon, according to state media, in another bold step for a space program that equaled the U.S. in number of rocket launches last year.

          The newspaper Science and Technology Daily cited spaceship engineer Zhang Bainian as saying the new craft would be recoverable and have room for multiple astronauts. While no other details were given in the Tuesday report, Zhang raised as a comparison the Orion spacecraft being developed by NASA and the European Space Agency.”

          From: ‘Report: China developing advanced lunar mission spaceship’
          By The Associated Press BEIJING — Mar 9, 2017
          At: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/report-china-developing-advanced-lunar-mission-spaceship-46012078

          • Joe says:

            It is still to early to judge the practicality of the Blue Origin “Blue Moon” lunar lander, but it is an interesting concept.

            In the 1990’s the Delta Clipper SSTO Team (a number of whom now work for Blue Origin) were prepared to build the next test vehicle, a suborbital VTVL called the DC-Y. It was to define full performance to determine if a VTVL SSTO could be built. Unfortunately, the whole thing was diverted into the X-33 program and the DC-Y was never built,

            It was controversial as to whether or not an Earth to Orbit SSTO was practical, but during the design phase it was determined that the DC-Y would have the performance to provide capability for a Lunar SSTO. The practicality of a Lunar SSTO (if the DC-Y worked) was not at all controversial.

            Blue Origin’s New Shepard is the functional equivalent of the DC-Y, so the Blue Moon concept should be taken seriously and carefully followed.

        • billgamesh says:

          In my view the SLS was always a reincarnation of the Saturn V, always a Moon rocket.

          The Moon is the only place we can go besides around in circles a couple hundred miles up. As you and the regulars well know I believe radiation is square one and the Moon is the only way to solve that problem.

          • James says:

            “As you and the regulars well know I believe radiation is square one and the Moon is the only way to solve that problem.”

            Yep, I agree with your radiation comment.

            We may disagree on some details, but effective shielding from Galactic Cosmic Radiation is a critical issue and the Moon offers diverse material and options for useful shielding, including using the Moon itself as a partial shield.

            The proper selection of a low Lunar orbit for a space station and other spacecraft can offer minimal or zero annual station keeping delta-v, significant partial protection from Galactic Cosmic Radiation by the nearby large ‘Lunar shield’, and reduced delta-v to land in the polar regions of the Moon.

            Note:

            “‘What counts is an orbit’s inclination,’ that is, the tilt of its plane to the Moon’s equatorial plane. ‘There are actually a number of ‘frozen orbits’ where a spacecraft can stay in a low lunar orbit indefinitely. They occur at four inclinations: 27º, 50º, 76º, and 86º’—the last one being nearly over the lunar poles.”

            From: ‘Bizarre Lunar Orbits’ By Trudy E. Bell Nov. 6, 2006
            At: https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2006/06nov_loworbit/

        • James says:

          “Deng wrote that the vertical landing system needed carrying extra fuel for landing, which meant rockets could only carry smaller payloads into space.

          The Falcon rocket also uses nine small rocket engines to generate thrust, which reduces the launch vehicle’s overall reliability and efficiency. ‘The mainstream trend of modern rocket development is to increase the thrust and reduce the number of rocket engine. That is also why China, as well as Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin did not use the technology,’ Deng said.”

          From: ‘A new SpaceX? China developing system to recover, reuse space rockets’
          By Stephen Chen 3/17/2017
          At: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/17/a-new-spacex-china-developing-system-to-recover-reuse-space-rockets.html

          • Joe says:

            Interesting article, thanks for the link.

            You do note that other parts of the article have other Chinese researchers favoring the VTVL approach over parachutes, so the debate is not yet settled in China.

            Also note SpaceX began with planning on a parachute recovery system and abandoned the approach in favor of VTVL.

            That may account for the fact that their engine system does not appear to have been designed from the beginning to support VTVL. The engines lack the gimballing/throttling capability to perform a hover and land maneuver. Consequently they fire 3 of the 1st Stage 9 engines just before landing in what a SpaceX employee was heard referring to as a “controlled crash”.

            It is testimony to how good some of the SpaceX line engineers are that they have been able to do it at all.

            Note that the Blue Origin New Shepard has only 1 engine (the Hydrogen/Oxygen fueled BE-3). Since it was designed from the beginning for VTVL the BE-3 does have the gimballing/throttling capability to perform a hover and land maneuver.

            Also note that for the proposed Blue Moon Lunar SSTO Cargo Vehicle a parachute system would obviously not work.

          • James says:

            “The Chinese launch vehicle academy researchers have said on their website that the parachute-airbag system will be assisted by multiple censors and a sophisticated flight control system to guide the descent. The final goal was to hit a small recovery zone as precisely as the vertical landing technology can achieve.”

            From: ‘A new SpaceX? China developing system to recover, reuse space rockets’
            By Stephen Chen 3/17/2017

            At: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/17/a-new-spacex-china-developing-system-to-recover-reuse-space-rockets.html

            If one can “hit a small recovery zone as precisely as the vertical landing technology can achieve”, then it would seem that the airbag system could be based on the ground and be deep enough to ‘gently’ reduce the g loading, or impact forces, of even a high velocity landing at free-falling terminal air speed.

            Significantly minimizing equipment and fuel mass for landing a first stage or second stage seems possible with a large ground based airbag or ‘catcher/de-acceleration’ systems.

            Perhaps such a surface based airbag or other ‘catcher/de-acceleration’ system could also eventually be used on the Moon for emergency landings during a Lander’s terminal approach if problems occur with the main rocket engines during the final seconds of vertical flight.

          • Joe says:

            “Perhaps such a surface based airbag or other ‘catcher/de-acceleration’ system could also eventually be used on the Moon for emergency landings during a Lander’s terminal approach if problems occur with the main rocket engines during the final seconds of vertical flight.”

            That would still require landers using powered VTVL capability not parachutes.

            It would be (if proven practical) a novel adaptation of the airbag technology for a different purpose in a different system.

            If the kind of facilities we are discussing ever become sufficiently developed all kinds of lunar launch/landing site technologies may be deployed to make the operation of the spacecraft accessing the site safer/more reliable. Lets all hope that happy day arrives as soon as possible.

      • James says:

        Yep.

        Note:

        “The Obama administration made two critical errors. It had not consulted with Congress or anyone else when it developed its plans to kill Constellation. The White House also blatantly pulled a bureaucratic dodge that was apparent even to a first-term member of the House from the sticks. To kill a popular program, one studies it to death. Nowhere in the Obama plan was there a commitment to send astronauts anywhere. Clearly, the White House had no intention of doing space exploration. President Obama had expressed an antipathy to American exceptionalism, and nothing speaks to that quality than American astronauts exploring other worlds.”

        From: ‘How Barack Obama ruined NASA space exploration’
        By Mark R. Whittington 03/08/17
        At: https://origin-nyi.thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/technology/322918-how-barack-obama-ruined-nasa-space-exploration

        • Grand Lunar says:

          Despite making the usual assumptions on Constellation (I believe Dr Spudis made some blog posts about it that correct what the media has written about it), the article does make excellent points that ought to be considered.

          To think people were warning about what was presented in that article when Obama had implemented his “plans”.

          You know what is said about hindsight….

  2. William Mellberg says:

    Kudos on another outstanding commentary, Dr. Spudis! You’ve included two things that NASA (during the past eight years) and ‘NewSpace’ advocates have been missing: common sense and a sense of reality. The Journey to Mars is still a Mission to Nowhere.

    On a lighter note, I also appreciated this observation about the early years of the Space Age (1950s and 1960s):

    “… design and architecture, advertising and culture took on a decidedly optimistic, futuristic ‘space’ outlook.”

    How true! I will never forget the ‘Rocket V-8’ under the hood of my father’s Oldsmobile. Or flying across the country aboard American Airlines ‘Astrojets’ and TWA ‘Starstream’ jetliners. Some Boeing 707s even had ‘stars’ lighting the ceilings of their cabins at night. And, of course, I had my Marx “Moon Base” playset as a youngster that I played with while watching “Men Into Space” on our family’s black & white television. Cartoons featured space themes (Duck Dodgers and Marvin the Martian). Even The Three Stooges had space themes in their later shorts and feature films (e.g., “Space Ship Sappy” and “Have Rocket, Will Travel”). There were sitcoms like “I Dream of Jeannie” (featuring fictional NASA astronauts) and “My Favorite Martian” (no relation to Elon Musk). And, of course, there was the original “Star Trek” series and the remarkable film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I still enjoy watching an earlier space motion picture, George Pal’s 1950 classic, “Destination Moon.” Of course, we also followed the launch to splashdown news coverage of the real live Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, as well as the competition from the USSR. What an exciting and inspiring time it was!

    Sadly, I do not see that focus on space exploration in today’s culture. Which, no doubt, is one of the reasons the Obama Administration was able to cancel the Constellation Program without much public outcry. While the Moon was ceded to China and others, NASA promoted its fictional Journey to Mars, as well the equally unrealistic Asteroid Retrieval Mission, which never drew much interest or support from the public.

    As Dr. Spudis notes, a ‘faux’ space program does not “inspire.”

    • Grand Lunar says:

      “You’ve included two things that NASA (during the past eight years) and ‘NewSpace’ advocates have been missing: common sense and a sense of reality.”

      By far, the best assessment of the situation. Spot on!

      The mass social media misses these points too, which probably explains their love affair with SpaceX.

    • James says:

      “Sadly, I do not see that focus on space exploration in today’s culture. Which, no doubt, is one of the reasons the Obama Administration was able to cancel the Constellation Program without much public outcry.”

      Inclusion of everyone is critical to tapping Lunar resources. NASA hasn’t demonstrated sufficient national and international Cultural Inclusiveness.

      “”NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps is set to become the first African-American crewmember on the International Space Station when she flies to space next year, the space agency announced Wednesday.”

      And, “”And this was at the time that Sally Ride [the first American woman to fly in space] and a group of women were selected to become astronauts — the first time in history. So, he made that comment and I said, ‘Wow, that would be so cool.'”

      And, “While other African-American astronauts have flown to the Space Station for brief stays during the outpost’s construction, Epps will be the first African-American crewmember to live and work on the station for an extended period of time.”

      From: ‘NASA’s first African-American Space Station crewmember is your new role model’
      By Miriam Kramer January 6, 2017
      At: https://www.yahoo.com/news/nasas-first-african-am

      If we space cadets truly want the world-wide social and politically enabling context of sustainable Lunar and space resource tapping and industrial infrastructure development, we need to routinely and consistently invite all of the Home Planet’s role models to live and work on the International Space Station and the Moon.

      Cultural inclusiveness will get us back to the Moon to stay and help us to use Lunar resources to improve the lives of everyone on Earth.

  3. James says:

    “At lunch, Aldrin pressed Musk about the next steps: ‘Well, now, when your dragon lands on Mars with people, is there going to be anything down there for you to live in or do?’ Musk responded that SpaceX would send an unmanned rocket to Mars first, but ‘it seemed as though he hadn’t given that a whole lot of thought,’ says Aldrin. ‘He’s a transportation person. He’s not a housing person. He’s not a builder of towers.'”

    From: ‘Buzz Aldrin says this is the problem with Elon Musk’s plans for Mars’
    By Catherine Clifford 3/15/2017
    At: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/15/buzz-aldrin-says-this-is-the-problem-with-elon-musks-mars-plan.html

    Tap Lunar resources to make money in using Cislunar Space and reduce the risks and costs of human spaceflights across our Solar System.

    Or beg and beg and beg for a trillion or two or three trillion dollars to build an isolated and not very useful Mars Colony that is accessible through high risk, costly, and long trips in nasty Galactic Cosmic Radiation filled Deep Space.

    What a simple choice.

    • John E Bowen says:

      Absolutely!

      Ah, Buzz is great. In my very humble opinion, he has said a lot of things, some seemingly contradictory, but always contributing a lot to the national conversation. His remarks on Elon Musk are right on target. They’re not mean, just factual, and Musk himself admits he’s focused on the vehicles, the transportation segment. Others will need to contribute ideas and capital toward the other issues.

      “Tap Lunar resources to make money in using Cislunar Space and reduce the risks and costs of human spaceflights across our Solar System.”

      That is indeed the correct approach. Selling lunar water ice for fuel is nothing, right now, but has a potential that is huge. It’s the potential to not only move around a few spacecraft in cislunar space, but eventually, with water and other lunar materials, to fund additional exploration and settlement beyond.

      People think of lunar activities as taking funds directly away from some other cause or project. Currently that’s true, but cislunar development is still the correct action because the return on that investment is so large. Instead of squabbling over small pieces of a small pie, let’s look forward to a much bigger pie.

  4. James says:

    Note for those who want to beg for Mars Colony trillions:

    “Here is an important point. The debt Congress has run up on our behalf is $62,000 per citizen. But the rest ($56,000 per citizen in debt), we’ve taken on ourselves.

    But wait, there’s more. Corporate and nonfinancial businesses have also run up debt—roughly another $20 trillion. Total debt in the US is around $65 trillion today, or roughly a 340% debt-to-GDP ratio.”

    From: ‘America’s debt problem is going the way of Italy’ By John Mauldin March 12, 2017
    At: http://www.businessinsider.com/us-following-italys-lead-2017-3

  5. John E Bowen says:

    Although I felt slightly cynical, when asked I’ve always responded along the lines of:

    “NASA has a certain budget, call it public relations or whatever, with the purpose of fooling high school and college age talent into thinking NASA is doing cool things.

    This has to stop. The way to attract talent is to actually DO cool things!”

    Thanks for a great article.

  6. billgamesh says:

    “Such a vision creates an explosion of new businesses, attracts risk-taking speculators as well as long-term investors—entrepreneurs of all shape and manner, and the labor force that will follow and support it.”

    I have to go with a different take on this Dr. Spudis. While I am in no way a Zubrin disciple (I am rabidly anti-Mars) I do have to say his use of the burning of the Chinese superships as a parallel to our present situation is one of the most inspiring and enlightening passages I have ever read concerning space.

    As for an “affordable” spacefaring infrastructure I have to disagree and say what I have said for years: there is no cheap. I am also rabidly anti-NewSpace for the simple reason I believe only a state sponsored program of Super Heavy Lift Vehicle launches and a lunar return can effect any progress. Nothing else is going to work. This is, of course, the antithesis of NewSpace ideology and so I am not allowed to comment on any of the popular space forums hijacked by the Musk cult.

    If these “entrepreneurs” want to build lunar landers for a state sponsored lunar return project then yes, that may validate some form of “commercial space” but for now…….
    NewSpace is the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration.

    • James says:

      Lots of different kinds of Landers would be useful, including a Russian Lander.

      Note:

      “The four-legged machine will be able to take at least two cosmonauts from a lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon. It is being developed for Russia’s own strategic goals in human space flight and, more importantly, for possible international cooperation, if the politics make it possible.”

      And, “The nearly 20-ton spacecraft superficially resembles the famous Eagle lunar module, which delivered Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon, but the new Russian design is currently tailored for a smaller, cheaper Angara-5V rocket rather than a giant Moon rocket, like NASA’s Saturn V from the Apollo era.”

      From: Revealed: ‘Russia’s Crewed Lunar Lander For the first time since the end of the Moon Race, Russian engineers have quietly begun working on a lunar lander capable of carrying cosmonauts to the Moon.’ By Anatoly Zak Feb 3, 2016
      At: http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/moon-mars/news/a19269/revealed-russias-manned-lunar-lander/

      I would like to see our ongoing cooperation with Russia continue at the International Space Station for a hundred years, or more, and be expanded ASAP to include Lunar resource exploration and tapping and the industrialization of the Moon and the rest of Cislunar Space.

      Why?

      There is significant and increasing diplomatic value to International Orion and SLS flights docked with Russian Landers and going to the Moon.

      “The combination of this lack of Russian situational awareness, dangerously short warning times, high-readiness alert postures, and the increasing US strike capacity has created a deeply destabilizing and dangerous strategic nuclear situation.”

      And, “When viewed in the alarming context of deteriorating political relations between Russia and the West, and the threats and counter-threats that are now becoming the norm for both sides in this evolving standoff, it may well be that the danger of an accident leading to nuclear war is as high now as it was in periods of peak crisis during the Cold War.”

      From: ‘How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze’
      By M. Kristensen, Matthew McKinzie, and Theodore A. Postol March 1, 2017
      At: http://thebulletin.org/how-us-nuclear-force-modernization-undermining-strategic-stability-burst-height-compensating-super10578

      The Russians need more and better satellites to improve their “situational awareness”, lengthen their “dangerously short warning times”, and reduce their need for “high-readiness alert postures”.

      Russia also needs trust-building and productive relations in Cislunar Space with America and everyone else, and we Americans need good relations on the Home Planet and the Moon with Russians.

  7. The real space age will not begin until humanity– finally– establishes a permanent human presence on the surface of the Moon.

    The social and economic significance of a lunar outpost will someday be viewed by future historians, hundreds and even thousands of years from now, as one of the most important occurrences in the history of human civilization.

    The Moon is going to be the strategic and economic titan of the solar system, and the sooner Americans go there to stay, the sooner they will begin reap the benefits!

    Marcel

    • jebowenag79 says:

      Exactly right. We could, with enough money, put a flags-and-footprints small base on Mars. However, it would not be sustainable, would not be a real colony and would be closed down as soon as the big money stopped.

      Instead, the Moon is the right place for the next extension of civilization, sooner, and more affordably.

      To your comment, I would just add that it will be a combination of people and automation (robots) that accomplishes the permanent presence. Also, I’ve run across an interesting idea: basically, get your robots started, with some limited on-site human help to start, then just tele-operation from Earth, in decreasing amounts as the automation becomes more complete with each “generation.”

      Phil Metzger et al put forth this idea. As government funded work, the pre-publication PDF is free and very much worth reading:

      Affordable, Rapid Bootstrapping of Space Industry and Solar System Civilization

      http://www.philipmetzger.com/blog/affordable-rapid-bootstrapping-space-industry-solar-system-civilization/

      From my reading of the paper, many combinations of people, automation and money might succeed in starting a civilization on the Moon, but a bootstrap approach will succeed the quickest, with the least cost for both tele-operations and launch costs. The paper omits details about which robots to pick for the first generation, exactly how ice mining should work and so on; those are important details. Instead it just models the process and presents the conclusion: we have the chance to be at the beneficial end of an “S” curve of exponential expansion starting with the Moon and proceeding outward.

      • I agree that tele-operation from Earth is going to be a huge part of the Lunar economy. But I suspect that most tele-operated robots will probably be operated by educated individuals from third world countries. Business luvvvvvs cheap educated labor:-)

        Once we’re back on the Moon, I think people are going to be surprised just how cheap and easy its going to be to mine the water from the regolith at the lunar poles or even the oxygen (89% of the mass content of water, 86% of the mass content of rocket propellant) from lunar regolith in general.

        How much carbon and nitrogen resources we’re going to have easy access to at the lunar poles is also going to be economically important.

        Marcel

        • jebowenag79 says:

          Excellent points. In order:

          “most tele-operated robots will probably be operated by educated individuals from third world countries . . .”

          Hmm, hadn’t thought of that, but probably also true. Today tele-operations consoles are specific to the task, probably expensive. That may change, but even if they stay expensive, they are still cheaper than labor.

          “. . . surprised just how cheap and easy it’s going to be to mine the water . . .”

          Definitely. This is one of those things where half the people think it’s very difficult and the other half think it’s impossible; until it’s accomplish, when every exclaims “I knew it all along!” There’s a large measure of engineering involved, and I have a lot of respect for it, just as for any other kind of mining operation, but it’s a far cry from impossible.

          And last, Where’s My CHON??
          This is the money question. With reasonable amounts of Carbon-Hydrogen-Oxygen-Nitrogen, plus energy and time, one can build a civilization. We can already tell most of the bodies suitable for landing (or docking) in the solar system are rocky, so that question is solved. We, humans, also need, just for example, selenium in our diet, but only in trace amounts, so it’s not a problem. So it comes down to reasonably abundant C-H-O-N.

          For the Moon, it looks like the water ice is there, so that’s O and H. There may also be ammonia ice, for N. I’ve also seen the possibility of methane ice mentioned in articles, so that’s C. This all needs confirmation of course – prospecting.

          This is why the next important step is prospecting probes, particularly like those put forward by Dr. Spudis. More probes, not less, more special function instead of just one all-encompassing rover, consider impactors, penetrators, etc. as the scientific optimum for a given budget.

  8. billgamesh says:

    The Moon can be a factory but the basic problem with establishing a population there or on any natural body is Earth gravity: 1G. In my view whenever there is a discussion about expanding the human presence into the solar system with permanent bases and colonies the first thing to look for, besides shielding or sanctuary providing near sea level radiation, is 1G.
    If that detail is ignored then the entire discussion should be dumped in the trash can.

    On icy bodies the way to do this is with circular “sleeper trains” but this makes large independent populations problematic and while it would probably work for scientific bases it probably would not work for a city of thousands. The Mars and even the Moon are rocky and likely have too much gravity to make such trains practical. Long duration habitation requires artificial gravity and while tethers can provide this for spaceships a very large construct is necessary for an independent self-sustaining community.

    The Moon is a factory and not a city. The places where first hundreds and then thousands and then larger numbers of people can be sustained (80 billion was one figure calculated as possible if I recall) are hollow spinning artificial moons: Bernal Spheres.
    This was the conclusion of Gerard K. O’Neill in the late 70’s and it is still valid.
    And it throws the B.S. flag on the entire NewSpace business plan.

    • James says:

      “Mars and even the Moon are rocky and likely have too much gravity to make such trains practical.”

      I suspect a banked railroad track or eventually a Maglev system would be quite doable on the Moon, Ceres, Mars, and anywhere else we need to use “circular ‘sleeper trains'”.

      Actual human circular sleeper train experience and experiments will be needed to determine our human gravitational needs and our tolerance for RPM on the Moon.

      The Moon might offer enough gravity that astronauts using exercise suits with built-in weights might remain quite healthy for early one-year-long Lunar missions. Time and actual experience will tell if such simple technology combined with regular heavy exercise could be used to enable multi-year or even multi-decadal Lunar living.

      A combination of weighted exercise suits and circular sleeper trains might work out quite well on the Moon.

      Note concerning “besides shielding or sanctuary providing near sea level radiation”:

      “”Therefore, to achieve the ideal shield, multi layered shield consisting of layers with high and low densities is suitable. Depending on the radiation environment, the optimal thickness of each light and heavy layer, their material and arrangement can be declared. Arrangement of the layers also influences doses received by an electronic device which is sensitive to radiation. High density shield materials (such as Tungsten and Tantalum) and low density materials (such as polyethylene) can be considered as an ideal shield [1, 4]. Also, some materials like Boron (B¹º), liquid hydrogen, lead, enriched plastics with oxygen are named as shield.”

      From: ‘Shielding protection of electronic circuits against radiation effects of space high energy particles’

      By Omid Zeynali, Daryoush Masti, and Saeed Gandomkar
      At: file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/think/%E6%A1%8C%E9%9D%A2/Radiation%20Risk/shielding-protection-of-electronic-circuits-against-radiation-effects-of-spacehigh-energy-particles.pdf

      • billgamesh says:

        “I suspect a banked railroad track or eventually a Maglev system would be quite doable on the Moon, Ceres, Mars, and anywhere else we need to use “circular ‘sleeper trains’”.”

        That is not what I wrote. I commented that is NOT “doable” anywhere we need to use them. I disagree with you.

        “-could be used to enable multi-year or even multi-decadal Lunar living.”

        1G is what I wrote. Working a certain percentage of the day in a low gravity environment might not cause any debilitation if compensated for but what you are talking about is completely different and I completely disagree. No natural bodies are suitable for long term human habitation.

        Hydrogen is the best radiation shield and anything rich in hydrogen and low in heavy elements works better than heavy elements or any mix of heavy elements and other schemes. It is a matter of simple physics. As I have commented on dozens of times, water is the most utilitarian shielding for a spaceship.

  9. Michael Wright says:

    It seems to me all of a sudden there is lots of talk about the Moon or is it just my perception as a follower of Spudis blogs? Though none of us know the actual plans and goals of SpaceX or Blue Origins (like all private companies never disclose what they are really working on), it can or cannot be good business to do abrupt changes. Unless designing stuff for Mars will dual-purpose for the Moon.

    Now if the Moon is the goal, then that means someone will have to cough up some real money now and start building something now so it will fly real soon, and not 20 years from now.

    However, NASA budget is fixed. Additional money will have to be yanked from other programs which will create opposition. Those laid off and lose money from their programs are not going to be supporters for lunar programs. They probably will be writing critical articles in magazines and forums.

    • Paul Spudis says:

      However, NASA budget is fixed. Additional money will have to be yanked from other programs which will create opposition.

      Not necessarily. When we worked up our lunar resources outpost architecture in 2011, we assumed that only the existing budget envelope would be available (~ $7 B per year, or less — out of a total NASA budget of ~$ 18 B). And we crafted our plan using small, incremental pieces that work together as a system of systems. Such an approach can be bought by the yard — we know the end point, so we work toward it regardless of the amount of money available in any given year.

      Also note that we are further along the road of strategic knowledge now than we were in 2004, when President Bush outlines the Vision or Space Exploration. We know that water exists at the poles and we know also where the quasi-permanent unit areas are. So we can start flying the prospecting robotic missions immediately.

    • Joe says:

      “Though none of us know the actual plans and goals of SpaceX or Blue Origins (like all private companies never disclose what they are really working on)….”

      That may be true of SpaceX, but not Blue Origin.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/03/02/an-exclusive-look-at-jeff-bezos-plan-to-set-up-amazon-like-delivery-for-future-human-settlement-of-the-moon/?utm_term=.d713780f8094

      “The latest to offer a proposal is Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose space company Blue Origin has been circulating a seven-page white paper to NASA leadership and President Trump’s transition team about the company’s interest in developing a lunar spacecraft with a lander that would touch down near a crater at the south pole where there is water and nearly continuous sunlight for solar energy. The memo urges the space agency to back an Amazon-like shipment service for the moon that would deliver gear for experiments, cargo and habitats by mid-2020, helping to enable “future human settlement” of the moon. (Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, owns The Washington Post.)

      “It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos said in response to emailed questions from The Post. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”

      • billgamesh says:

        I am almost ready to jump on team Bezos and become a NewSpace groupie. Almost, but not quite.

        There are big holes in what he is presenting.

    • James says:

      Humans are going to the Moon to tap its many resources and other commercial opportunities.

      International cooperation with Europe, Russia, India, China, Canada, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, and many other countries can help reduce costs for various types of Lunar missions. Many businesses will be seeking to set up Lunar profit centers.

      For example:

      “Meanwhile, in preparation for the potential ISS 2021-2024 contribution deal, European technical studies this year will assess avionics, habitation modules and life support systems for a cislunar habitat and new propulsion options for the Orion service module.”

      And, “One possible alternate hydrazine engine is the Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ10-118k. It produces a 9,850-pound thrust at altitude and was used for the second stage of United Launch Alliance’s Delta 2 rocket.”

      From: ‘ESA deal hinges on what Trump does with NASA’s human spaceflight plans’
      By Rob Coppinger February 23, 2017
      At: http://spacenews.com/esa-deal-hinges-on-what-trump-does-with-nasas-human-spaceflight-plans/#sthash.WOK0bofy.dpuf

      “’The new White House needs to make a real commitment to this nation’s space future,’ he said, specifically citing lunar bases and industrial activity. ‘The reason I’m focusing on the moon is because the business case for the moon is potentially substantial compared to the business case for Mars, and the financial requirements are of no comparison.'”

      From: ‘Bigelow calls on Trump to sharply increase NASA spending’
      By Jeff Foust November 17, 2016
      At: http://spacenews.com/bigelow-calls-on-trump-to-sharply-increase-nasa-spending/#sthash.GRzvm8BL.dpuf

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