A Foothold, Not Just Footprints

New post up at Air and Space, where I look at the rationale and reasons for lunar return.  Are we on track to do the right thing?

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7 Responses to A Foothold, Not Just Footprints

  1. J Fincannon says:

    “(note that there are limited polar locales where the conditions of permanent sunlight and local volatiles are available)”

    Seems like a tough problem. The best illuminated spots may be away from the nice volatiles as a matter of principal. Are there paths at <15 degree slopes?

    What percentage of land would you say within 5 degrees of the poles would you say meet your quasi-permanent illumination criteria?

    • Paul Spudis says:

      I wouldn’t guess. I require data and hard evidence.

      We don’t know the answers to these questions and with the piecemeal approach of NASA’s return to the Moon, we’re not likely to.

      • Joe says:

        “In order to achieve this lunar return directive and have a good chance of success (this third time around “charm”), a separate, independent authority—one designed to focus solely on the requirements of a sustained lunar presence—is required.”

        Would suggest that for this authority to be successful, it would have to be established independent of the NASA organization. While I have the greatest respect for many former (and some current) NASA employees (worked as a contractor for NASA from the 1980’s till the end of Constellation Systems) operating within the current NASA system would make achieving this objective difficult at best.

        Perhaps the authority could reside within the Space Council, with some technical personnel recruited from NASA.

        • Gary Church says:

          As I have recounted here before, I was present when the Department of Homeland Security was created and sucked in Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard and a host of other organizations. It happened very quickly. I would say if the Chelyabinsk meteor of 2013 had been a little bigger and hit the U.S. then we might very well have a “United States Space Force” in existence right now with half a dozen rovers on the Moon scouting resources. And bases only a few years away.

          • Joe says:

            Understood, hopefully nothing that drastic will have to happen to get such an “Independent Authority” established within the Space Council.

            Again I do not mean to be picking on NASA. It has been jerked around unmercifully since the end of the Apollo Project, so it is more than a little unfair to blame it for acting like an abused child. Still that is the way it has come to be and the situation has to be dealt with.

  2. Richard B says:

    I am all for returning to the Moon, but with some provisos:

    (1) the spacecraft have to be affordable enough on a fixed budget to be able to fly several times a year; I suspect that means they need to be largely reusable; and, they need to be able to get us all the way to the moon. There seem to be too many cis-lunar vehicles and no landers in the works.

    (2) the cis-lunar sphere and lunar missions need to lead to development; growth in capability over time. I think that means that we are not going primarily for exploration’s sake. We might do some exploration while we are there but that is not why we are going. Growth in capability means expanding the number of personnel and the development activities that are pursued like building lunar infrastructure using in situ resources; that means R&D needs to be pursued today to establish the capabilities that will be required on the moon in the future. We need to be developing hardware to make use of the in situ resources. Is NASA doing that?

    (3) before we start we need a well established, widely agreed upon plan; that means a plan that takes us from program start and the near term, a tactical plan that identifies the resources required and the capabilities that are to be established and a strategic horizon plan that established where the program is going to take us, whether to a research base or future settlement, perhaps 35 or 50 years into the future.

    Once we have these things then I think we can be successful. Without them, we will be going in circles, which is what we’ve been doing for 50 years.

  3. Gary Church says:

    “Although resource processing is largely focused on the harvesting of water ice, the use of other material resources such as building aggregate, along with metal reduction, are also important.”

    I submit the only chance of success is to go where the money is. The only relevant revenue producing activity right now is Geosynchronous Telecommunications. I have expressed my views on making human technicians a key resource by using GEO shielded platforms to replace the present junkyard up there. Human-crewed platforms shielded with thousands of tons of lunar water.

    The DOD is the second gold mine but only if the nuclear arsenal is moved into deep space. GEO platforms would be the precursor and make it obvious such a fleet of spaceships is quite practical.

    After the GEO platforms and space navy comes the third avenue of expansion into the solar system: Space Solar Power as envisioned by Gerard K. O’Neill.

    As a nation we will not dump tens of billions of dollars a year on Moon bases that do little or nothing economically. But if we are filling wet workshops up so they can transit the cislunar sea back into GEO to provide an order of magnitude improvement in telecommunications service then tens of billions become a wise investment. Likewise a space navy would remove nuclear weapon systems from Earth (an impossible dream come true for many) and place them months away in deep space vastly reducing the risk of a launch-on-warning accidental exchange- and also protecting Earth from impact threats.

    And finally, as Bridenstine recently stated, climate change is real- and the only remedy is ending fossil fuel use on planet Earth. Nuclear energy outside the magnetosphere not being a problem and the easiest way to lift massive payloads off the lunar surface this means building the space solar power stations on the Moon is the practical way to power the planet with a minimal carbon footprint.

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