The Lunar EarthSeed destination represents just the first step on the road to settlement of the solar system. In point of fact, establishing a settlement on the moon is the most dangerous first step. In the same vein that Gemini was our first manned step into space. We must take that step and learn from the experience, to take the next step after. The problem we have had so far, is that government is too risk-shy to push the boundaries enough to make real progress beyond science goals.
Only business has the freedom to experience … and fail occasionally, in order to make continuing progress towards settlement. Additionally, returning to the moon, under goverment’s direction is a “been there, done that” deal, and just not flashy enough to garner public support. But as we will be Settling on our Mission 0, sending real people to live, then more after — well, that just could be flashy enough.
Specific goals for the EarthSeed Paradigm, across all settlements are:
- Establish a beachhead farm, that can, within its first six months, begin a) producing its own food, b) recycling its water, and c) recycling its air.
- Prove mining techniques for futher habitat construction, and other mining needs to be fine tuned as time goes forward.
- Provide a foundation of infrastructure for economic growth of the Earth-Moon system.
- Establish a repeatable, successful methodology for habitat construction that can be applied to the Moon, Mars, and perhaps asteroids in the future.
- Prepare for the arrival of the next team.
As regards the Lunar Habitats, there are additional parameters:
- Develop skills/techniques for transiting materials to and from the settlement
- Develop an orbital station to receive imports and send exports
- Develop skills/techniques for converting incoming spare parts into a viable Mars Transit Craft
- Develop procedures for repeating the construction and departure of Mars settlement craft.
While the four EarthSeed teams going to the moon have the purpose of establishing the beachead, the Riker’s Island, or gateway to space, it will be the first settlement we anchor, and in so doing, provide a blueprint for moving to Mars, and beyond. Not only will we be working out the issues associated with habitat construction, water ice mining, and most importantly, how the habitat is to be grown and maintained, we will be developing a transportation infrastructure – first carrying teams TO the moon, then gradually, beginning to return cargo FROM the moon. But equally important, will be the preparation for the next phase of space settlement: assembly of a ship to transit to Mars.
The personnel ship and two cargo landers represent a major departure from the typical space agency astronaut mission scenario. This new scenario is based on a study of history, and the necessary choices to give the settlers a fighting chance of success. Most of this reasoning has been discussed in prior chapters, but allow me to put them in perspective here.
Each lunar mission departing from earth is accomplished in two launches, first the cargo landers followed by the personell craft. All three of these components will become a single ship once they reach earth orbit. But you may suggest this is reminicent of the Apollo program. You are correct only in the appearance, as you must realize that there are three landing craft in this configuration, rather than the command module, and single landing craft of the Apollo program.
One of these craft will carry our seven personnel, our lunar settlers, our homesteaders. They must land and literally carve out their home in the wilderness that is the moon. I have already described in previous chapters the issues with attempting to live on the surface of the moon. As such our homesteaders will be digging a cave into the crater wall at their destination. While we reduce some of the risk of explosives use by integrating tele-operating robots, there is still a substantial risk to the team. There is a strict timetable of six days to dig the cave, seal it, pressurize and move in. The habitat cave is designed to not be huge, yet much larger than any other type of habitat any space agency has considered for a first launch. Each succeeding team will, in turn, construct their own habitat cave. The second team will, however have the assistance of the first team to presumably reduce some of the risk and time investment.
Site Selection – and the Habitat
Our initial selected site is the small shelf-crater that lies on the northern edge of Amundsen Crater. Amundsen Crater is located off the southern pole, and at seven miles deep, is one of the more medium-sized craters of the area. The shelf was chosen because it was not quite as deep as Amundsen itself, and the proximity of two deep, permanently dark smaller craters along the wall between our projected cave location and the drop into Amundsen proper. The shelf provides sufficient level ground for multiple craft to safely land and depart, and yet is close enough to the lunar surface that a cable-elevator could be constructed fairly easily to allow access to that surface. Additionally, this location was chosen because the “northern’ wall rests in near permanent shadow. Such shadow allows for the opportunity to research the geology of the shadowed areas, as well as provide a continuous temperature range that reduces the deliterious effects of being out in the open and subject to the larger temperature extremes. Finally, the idea of digging a cave supports another key necessity: the bulk of the rock above the cave will provide substantial protection from the various types of deadly radiation arriving from deep space..
Our homesteaders will use robot drilling rigs to drill and blast the cave into this shadowed wall. They will then apply an inflatable airlock into the mouth of the cave, effecting an entry/exit point. Materials and biologicals will be carried into the habitat through this airlock, providing a shirtsleeve environment unlike any on earth. The next chapter goes into detail about our site selection.
Once the habitat is constructed and they have moved in, they must set up the infrastructure for the biological elements they have carried from Earth. There will be fish, chickens, insects, in addition to the seeds, cuttings, and small plants that will jumpstart their biome. This habitat will be much different from the space agency offerings and more like the homestead efforts of early american pioneers. There will be little hi-tech gear. Some is absolutely required, but much of what the agencies suggest is geared around keeping our astronauts safe so they can return to earth. We bear no such illusions.
Our homesteaders have engaged themselves in the process of a one-way voyage to seed a new planet with our species – and with us, we carry some of our most valuable companion species, that will support our existence while there. As the fish, chickens, insects, and plants begin to develop and grow, the team will become less dependent on their emergency air, water, and food supplies they brought with them, and within the first few months, begin to replenish those emergency supplies with new components from the pond, gardens, and chickens.
In Situ Resource Utilization
There are resources on the Moon that will serve all these components; from volatiles to manufacture rocket fuel, to the very real potential of water ice. From that water ice, not only precious water, but its components oxygen and hydrogen for fuel. Other valuable elements are abundant in the regolith we will find near our settlement. As these elements are harvested from the moon, our teams will be integrating them into the supply infrastructure. Once the settlement has procured sufficient for their own needs, then they will begin stockpiling quantities for trade with the ISS, perhaps Tiangong, and the soon to develop lunar orbit station that will be assembling the mars settlement ship. These trade arrangements will provide a source of revenue for continued support of the homestead teams, the trade between the ISS and the homesteads is a critical element in the forward progress of space settement. For without trade there can be no expansion for settlement – OR NASA.
In addition to the products and materials suggested so far by pundits and space advocates, such as Helium 3 and Platinum metals, there are other products that might qualify for export to the ISS and/or Earth. But their own list is paltry compared to the laundry list of products and services that the Homestead Settlement might offer to the ISS – or any other orbiting facility:
|Photos/videos||Air, Water, & Food Deliveries||Recycle Used Equipment|
|Silk Worm, and or silk||Fuel Production Services||Recycle Capsules & mat’ls|
|soufle’s||Laundry Services||Waste Process & Recycling|
Once the farm elements are completely setup and operating, the settlers can take a much needed rest. At this point in the process, they will be the deciding authority on future progress, for they will be the only people who know how to do it. The challenges they will have overcome by then, will make them experts in living and working on the Moon. And this experience will be invaluable as they begin planning the next phase of the mission: Establishing the Lunar Orbit Station, and working to begin ice mining, and regolith processing.
The two smaller dark craters to the east of the settlement will be their first targets in assessing the reality of ice-mining on the moon. The drilling robots will be re-configured, and pressed into service.
Implementation of Lunar Orbit Station
During this time, other team members will be making preparations to construct a viable transportation schedule to the Lunar Station components. The first component will be the Dragon craft they all arrived in. It will be lifted to a stable orbit and begin receiviing supplies from the habitat below. As the second crew arrives, their Dragon will carry them to the surface, and when the third team arrives and lands, the second Dragon will join the first in orbit. One of the landers will be reconfigured as a lunar transit cargo hauler, and dispatched to lunar orbit for preparation to return to earth orbit.
One scenario to facilitate the transit of discarded ships from the ISS is that the cargo craft arrive with sufficient fuel for the return trip to the moon, pushing the Soyuz, ATV, HLN, other components that would otherwise be thrown into the atmosphere. That cargo “booster” would facilitate the assembly of a larger, roomier Mars Settlement craft literally as fast as the craft can be transited to the lunar orbit.
By the time the fourth Lunar Mission 0 team arrives our settlement will comprise the following minimum inventory:
|On the surface||In Lunar Orbit|
|24 Persons in 4 cave-habitats||4 persons rotating from surface each month|
|One Dragon Craft||Three Dragon Craft|
|4 cargo landers||4 cargo landers|
|Fish and fishpond||At least 8 Soyuz craft|
|Chickens and composting insects||2 ATV cargo craft|
|Various Crops, One fledgling Bamboo forest||2 HLN cargo craft|
Possible enhancements to the orbital component:
- Four 6-port universal docking modules
- One Bigelow module
- Four Vasimir Plasma Propulsion Modules
- One 800 kw nuclear power plant
These enhancements are necessary to provide for the most efficient transit from lunar orbit to Mars orbit.
As technological components and personnel shipments will be able to increase, unburdened by air, food, water, and eventually fuel, the ISS, Tiangong, and other orbital outposts can focus on receiving people, increasing their crew complement, or just providing through-transit facilities for the settlers that will begin flowing as the lunar settlement becomes viable.
With the beginnings of trade between the Earth-orbiting stations and the lunar settlement, the assembly of the Mars Settlement Ship can move forward, providing impetus for the increase in launch frequency necessary for the nascent launch industry to begin to reduce launch costs to further facilitate the movement of settlers into the vast frontier of space.
The ultimate purpose of the Lunar Settlement is not to just put people there and quit. It is rather to put people there, send more people to live there, and then begin sending people to travel through there on the way to settle Mars. Let’s not disappoint our children!