The myriad plans whose goal is to send people, humans, into space for long term missions, or to one-way settlements have all said that there is much new technology to be built before we can survive to settle the solar system. This is patently false – or at least incomplete. Much of the “technology” exists in useable form. What we need are “applications” of these technologies that will serve us in our needs.
Let’s look at the various components that we will need:
Getting our personnel, equipment, and living supplies off this rock and into space is just the first step. It requires a huge investment in energy, technology, and fuel – not to mention the cost of the supplies, and people for the journey. As of mid-summer 2015, the US, Russia, and China are the only organizations to have successfully launched humans into space. Each has a selection of launchers and man-rated spacecraft. I suspect that by the middle of 2016, three others will have completed their test flights and begin offering manned launches.
The US is the only organization to have sent humans beyond orbit. While the Apollo craft have long since been retired, and there is no current US man-rated spacecraft but the SLS and Orion are in development, and the russians have their Soyuz and the chinese have their Shenzou. That being said, as I said above, the Dragon, CST, and Orbital Vehicle are in the wings preparing for service soon.
When these three come online, that will offer 5 separate man-rated spacecraft to lift people into orbit. As a note, each one of them is designed to be capable for travel beyond earth orbit.
Travelling to the Moon
While getting to orbit, and supporting crews on orbit is available, there is currently no unit clearly defined as a service module that could push the crew (and their supplies) to lunar orbit. Weelllllllll, that may not necessarily be true. There are several modules currently used to boost satellites into higher orbits once in space. While this is true, the knowledge to modify, or build a new “service module” is known. In fact, both SpaceX and Boeing have suggested in artist’s renderings that such a service module is at least at some stage of evaluation and or consideration. Additionally, the Soyuz was originally designed to be capable of travel to the Moon. And I believe that the Chinese would not have missed the opportunity to consider travel to the Moon in their designs of the Shenzou. Of course, there is the SLS and Orion, to be added.
Landing on the Moon
- Ok, the Soyuz, (and probably) Shenzou, and Dragon are the only current craft with design components to allow landing on the surface of the Moon. Soyuz is problematic as a decades old design, and as Shenzou is based to some degree on the Soyuz, likely suffers from similar design issues, not to mention that neither Soyuz, nor Shenzou were designed for re-use. This leaves Dragon. Oh, and just for reference, neither Orion, nor CST-100 have any capability for landing on the Moon, much less anywhere else.
- So by process of elimination, we choose Dragon for our personnel craft. But even this has issues. There are several modifications that will need to be made. First, removal of the heat shield; and second modification of the base and trunk to support an airlock. The craft will then likely need to be reviewed for testing and man-rating.
- Cargo and Supplies
- This will be a true new development. But as I said in an earlier post, it will be designed from business needs first, i.e. reusability, modularity, robustness, and interoperability.
- This craft must bear similarity to the cargo transports used in the various industries that carry large volumes of materiel around the world. From the steel transport containers hauled by ships at sea and trucks on land, to the aluminum boxes that lock into the beds of aircraft, and roll off onto trucks for distribution at the airports, our container will take attributes from each of these.
- Our cargo craft must
- be reusable – multiple take-off and landing,
- refuelable both in orbit, and on the surface, with a fuel capacity just enough to land, and return to orbit.
- cannisters must use a quick release mechanism that allows space-suited settlers to unload each container with ease,
- cannisters must be of a capacity that nears 500 lbs on earth or 85 lbs on the moon.
Setting Up Housekeeping On The Moon
As our plan is to NOT take a habitat module with us, we must have a plan for living on the moon. This will involve mining techniques to construct a cave, seal that cave, and move into the shirtsleve environment. The method to seal the entrance to the cave is critical, but current technology offers a (somewhat) simple solution. Bigelow Aerospace has constructed inflatable habitats of several sizes over the past few years. I am sure that they would be able to construct an airlock, not unlike the BEAM module to be delivered to the ISS. At 13 feet long, and 10 feet in diameter is close to our needs. The airlock for our cave opening will be 15 feet in diameter and 10 feet long. This unit will be simpler, as it will not need it’s own life support, or power generation. With the inflatable airlock in place, the shirtsleve environment is established, and the farm can then be set up.
Once inside the sealed habitat-cave, our settlers can work as if they were on and earth farm. The supplies are within easy reach, the animals and crops can be nurtured as we would on any farm, albeit with the differences associated with aquaculture, composting, and food and water recycling that will need their daily attention. We will NOT need specially designed tools inside the habitat. In point of fact, off the shelf tools are preferable, as the team will more likely be typical working men and women with some experience using the average corded or cordless power tools of today.
Aquaculture is a fish pond connected to a plant farm.
- Fish live in the water, are nurtured as a food source, and the water circulates to the plants.
- Plants filter and clean the water for the fish.
- A small amount of water is drawn off after the plants and run through additional filters to provide drinking water for the humans and animals.
Composting is the process of encouraging natural decay processes to recycle wastes. Handled reasonably, composting can process most, if not all of the wastes generated by the team and their animals.
- Black Soldier Flies (BSF) enjoy a very warm, moist environment and feed on wastes that contain some fluids.
- Red Wiggler Worms (RWW) enjoy a cooler, drier environment, but favor the leftovers of the BSF’s
- The result is compost of an almost peat moss consistency that makes a powerful fertilizer for those plants that require a soil-like growing medium such as potatoes, onions, carrots.
Any settlement must find and develop building supplies from the local environment. Our plan is to take components that will feed materiel to satisfy this need.
- Bamboo will provide a strong material to be used for construction of walls, floors and other structural components. The downside is that it takes nearly three years to cure before it is ready for use.
- Mushrooms can be cultivated as a protein source, and because they use carbon dioxide more than oxygen can serve as a CO2 moderator.
- Mycellium is the root structure of mushrooms, and recent work has shown that when grown into forms, can serve as packing material, or even bricks for the construction of walls. Some have even grown the mycellium IN THE WALL, to further strengthen the end product.