Logistics is the process of planning and executing a plan. The logistics of space settlement include the obvious: rockets, food, air, water, fuel, space suits, and oh, yeah, people. But logistics also includes planning on where your destination will be when you arrive!
Logistics is all about making the hard choices, that will ultimately assure not only arrival and survival, but growth and expansion. Sadly, I have not seen in a single presentation anywhere, a method for settlement growth, much less expansion. EarthSeed changes this. We start out assuming multiple destinations …. that the methods, ships, tools, and supplies must work for ALL of these destinations – not change for each target.
Going to the moon is less than a week away, but it moves quite a distance in that week. Mars is more than six months journey out; text your girlfriend at the wrong moment and you miss Mars completely. And don’t even get started on Jupiter and Saturn.
It’s easy enough to plan a week’s journey. We all take vacations that take us to fun destinations, and we take our families, pets, and a certain amount of supplies. Then there is the route we will take to our destination. Whether we are driving cross-country, or to the airport to ride a flight, we must choose a route that gets us, our companions, and our supplies safely there. Of course, once we get there, there are the plans on what to do, what to see, what and when to eat … Oh yeah, and where the nearest restrooms are.
Out there in space, there are serious consequences of squatting behind a rock for a little relief. But just having a latrine handy is a small challenge compared to the time, energy, and costs of getting people, their tools, and supplies to the six destinations we’ve identified. There are visions of space settlement that bandy numbers in the thousands or millions of people living in space in 50 years. Nope, nada, not even remotely possible, much less likely.
Logistics Worksheet – A friend of mine gave me a spreadsheet a couple of years ago that I used to learn about the fuel requirements and Delta-V to just get into Earth orbit. This last year, he showed me how that same spreadsheet could show me the scheduling, as well as fuel requirements of reaching and settling these multiple destinations. This sheet will be our starting point in our discussion of the logistics of Human Space Settlement.
One of the most stark realizations was my naive assumption that it would be more economical to go to Mars, then go to Jupiter from Mars. Nope. Transits from Mars to Jupiter are 6 to 10 years apart once you get the alignment right. But interestingly, departures from Earth orbit, can occur annually, with only a three year transit! And then there’s Saturn! Oi! I remember stories that told of jumping from planet to planet in systems as if it was a day trip to Cabo. Ahhhhh, aenh-aenh.
Realities of Celestial Mechanics – Setting the goals for sending settlers to the Moon, then Mars, and ultimately beyond requires a recognition of the timetables for traveling between these celestial objects. This tentative launch manifest demonstrates how challenging sending numbers of people outbound can be. Mars One suggests initial launches, with supplies being sent every few years …. nada. Nearly every other plan bears elements similar to this: small initial mission, followed by continuous supply from Earth. The realities of funding, availability of ships, and the alignments of the celestial objects present challenges we have not faced since the westward migration, or the American Colonial period.
Cargo Transport – Another part of logistics is something we have recently seen in the work SpaceX and Boeing have been working on with their spacecraft. The Dragon and CST spacecraft are both designed as crew, AND cargo craft depending on the configuration of the ship. This represents a paradigm shift from the old ways, and the beginning of moving towards a more business mind-set in space. But our cargo ship goes even further.
Use and Re-use – Only a handful of craft sent into orbit are re-usable. The rest are either burned up in the atmosphere on reentry, or many still float in gradually decaying orbits after many years, some for decades. As we look at the requirements for transit from Earth to Mars and beyond, we cannot afford the billions of dollars of cost, and resulting increase of junk in orbit the current methodology employs. We propose a different model that could redirect much of the hardware currently in use, or planned, to our outward bound spacecraft. The costs of individual Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, and Saturn bound craft are astronomical – even more so when considering the cumulative effect for these multiple destinations.
Outward Bound Craft – Realistically, the only nearby place these craft can be assembled and launched is at Earth-moon libration point 2, called EML-2. Libration points, also known as Lagrangian points, are places in space where the combined gravitational pull of two large masses roughly balance each other out, allowing spacecraft to essentially “park” there. In particular, EML-2 also provides a launch point requiring little fuel for departure, that can take advantage of Earth’s gravity well for acceleration to points in the outer system.
People – Lastly, but most important, is getting people to our destinations. When looking again at the logistics, getting to orbit, or the moon are now relatively straightforward. Getting people out to Mars, as we are learning from Mars One and Mars Inspiration, is much more problematic. First there is the challenge of providing air, water, food, and waste handling during the voyage – all challenges seafarers in the pilgrims day faced. In fact, we take our lessons from those of the pilgrims and American westward pioneers.