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US Plans Lunar Motel 355

OffTheLip writes "The US is planning to build a permanent lunar base which will support future visits to Mars. The living conditions on the moon presents a variety of challenges from medical to construction. Contingency planning would be critical but some feel the challenges presented on the moon will be less than Mars. The moon is closer to Earth, the atmosphere is less harsh and, unlike Mars, water does not exist. Is this the start of the next space race?"
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US Plans Lunar Motel

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  • Water (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 26, 2006 @02:34PM (#14998658)
    The jury is still out on wether or not their is water-ice trapped in craters at the polar regions of the moon.
  • Re:Atmosphere? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tx ( 96709 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @02:36PM (#14998664) Journal
    Well, to be fair, the moon does have an atmosphere [], just about, though not much of one, to be sure.
  • by aktzin ( 882293 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @02:41PM (#14998693)
    Wow, an astonishing piece of news - there's atmosphere on the Moon!

    You're right, it's not astonishing. Thanks to the Apollo missions and more recent studies it was determined that our moon and many others in the solar system actually have very faint atmospheres. Though the Moon's gravity is very low it's just enough to hold a thin concentration of gas molecules very close to the surface: lunar_atm.html&edu=high []

    I do see your point, common sense would make it seem that it's just a vacuum. What with all the impact craters and the sky being always black over there.

  • Re:Space Race (Score:2, Informative)

    by scarlac ( 768893 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @02:46PM (#14998713) Homepage
    Actually, competition is often better than working together. That of course depends on who we are targeting. Competition is a natural thing in animals and humans that pushes us to perform the best, to win the "battle" (survival of the fittest).
    However - most scientific research is done in collaboration between countries, but the most valuable information is often kept secret, so not to let others jump in and steal credit. I would however agree with you that competition can trigger a waste of money, but it does give us alternative ways of thinking, which is thereticly a good thing. (We all know that the best products doesn't always win, bla bla bl..)
    Remember that two of something are not always mutually exclusive.

    And I too was surprised to find that there was an athmosphere on the moon. I knew there was a chance Mars could get it, but I had no idea that the moon already had one. And at the same time I was also surprised to read that water might not exist ;-)
  • by leftie ( 667677 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @02:48PM (#14998722)
    "...However, Russell Kerschmann never forgot. He is a pathologist at NASA Ames studying the effects of mineral dust on human health. Both the Moon and Mars are extremely dusty worlds, and inhaling their dust could be bad for astronauts, says Kerschmann.

    "The real problem is the lungs," he ex-plains. "In some ways, lunar dust resembles the silica dust on Earth that causes silicosis, a serious disease." Formerly known as "stone-grinder's disease," silicosis first came to idespread public attention during the Great Depression when hundreds of miners drilling the Hawk's Nest Tunnel through Gauley Mountain in West Virginia died within five years of breathing the fine quartz dust kicked into the air by dry drilling--even though they had been ex-posed for only a few months. "It was one of the biggest occupational health disasters in U.S. history," Kerschmann says...."

    "...Quartz, the main cause of silicosis, is not chemically poisonous. "You could eat it and not get sick," he continues. "But when quartz is freshly ground into dust particles smaller than 10 m (for comparison, a human hair is 50+ m wide) and breathed into the lungs, they can embed themselves deeply into the tiny alveolar sacs and ducts where oxygen and carbon dioxide gases are exchanged." There, the lungs cannot clear out the dust via mucus or coughing. Moreover, the immune system's white blood cells commit suicide when they try to engulf the sharp-edged particles to carry them away in the blood-stream. In the acute form of silicosis, the lungs can fill with proteins from the blood. He adds that it is as if the victim slowly suffocates from a pneumonia-like condition.

    Lunar dust, which like quartz is a compound of silicon, is (to our current knowledge) also not poisonous. But like the quartz dust in the Hawk's Nest Tunnel, it is extremely fine and abrasive, almost like powdered glass. Astronauts on several Apollo missions found that it clung to everything and was almost impossible to remove. Once it was tracked inside the lunar module, some of the dust easily became airborne, irritating lungs and eyes...." 23.html []
  • by ceejayoz ( 567949 ) <> on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:04PM (#14998816) Homepage Journal
    Well, if you build a Mars base on permafrost and it melts under your buildings, you're in a spot of trouble. I'm assuming that's the kind of thing they're worrying about.
  • by gerf ( 532474 ) <> on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:07PM (#14998831) Journal

    The moon has problems with being used as a base, this is true. But, you have to look at all the pros and cons.

    The moon is close. Astronauts, vehicles, resupplies, or emergency equipment can reach the moon in a much shorter time span than Mars. Heck, even communications reach the moon in a couple seconds. Also, gravity is lower on the Moon, so launches from the Moon won't take all that much effort.

    Mars possibly has more water resources to utilize. The thin atmosphere doesn't help much overall, other than blocking a few micrometeorites from causing damage. There is also dust on Mars, but probably not as harsh as that on the Moon, as it's been exposed to wind erosion for a long time now, and is assumed to be rounded in shape. Mars days also are a benefit, as opposed to the Moon, which rotates only as it orbits the Earth.

    My opinion, though it matters not? I say we need to dig on the Moon. Expensive though it may be, going underground protects you from radiation meteors, and solar flare material.

  • Honor Kim Stanley Robinson [] and don't call it dust, call it the fines.

    -CGP []
  • Re:Atmosphere? (Score:4, Informative)

    by x_codingmonkey_x ( 839141 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:34PM (#14998957)
    Actually the Moon does have an atmosphere. The atmospheric pressure is 3 × 10^-13 kPa so essentially a very small one. It consists of Helium 25%, Neon 25%, Hydrogen 23%, and Argon 20%. More info on the Moon here []
  • by cmowire ( 254489 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @03:50PM (#14999015) Homepage
    Take a welding class sometime. There is much much much more to welding than the standard oxy-acetelyne torch.

    Oxygen is not required. There are certain high-strength welding processes that even require a vacuum to work.

    They already need to deal with the problem of oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen getting into the welds, which is why stick welders have a thick coating of flux on the rods and MIG and TIG welders cover the weldment with a variety of inert or mostly-inert gasses.

    There are other problems, of course. :)
  • by hazem ( 472289 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @04:55PM (#14999248) Journal
    Ahh, here's the article I was thinking of:

    Lunar 'Lawnmower' Devised for Moon Colonists: 6/188245 []
  • Re:Space Race (Score:3, Informative)

    by barawn ( 25691 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @08:54PM (#14999982) Homepage
    at which point the Russians wound up sticking America with the bill for most of the Russian contribution

    Do keep in mind that the US was supposed to ferry crew back and forth - when the Shuttle was grounded after Columbia, we started using the Soyuz capsules. Russia then started to say "uh, hey, we need to get paid for this sort of stuff..." and Congress starting hedging about whether they could give Russia money at all due to political issues.

    We're not exactly blameless in this.
  • by iamlucky13 ( 795185 ) on Sunday March 26, 2006 @09:55PM (#15000158)
    To add to your response, not only is oxygen not required, it is downright bad for welding. If oxygen dissolves in the molten material, it causes voids and really bad corrosion (particularly for iron alloys). When using an oxy-acetylene torch, ideally oxygen doesn't touch the weld. Your flame should be as close to stoichiometric as possible, so that only CO2 and H20 vapor contact it.

    While 0 G welding would present some difficulties (stuff flying out, and more importantly, all the dust that is typically generated), it can also have some advantages, too (orientation doesn't affect your puddle). The only disadvantage I can think of off the top of my head for welding in a vacuum is slower cooling, but perhaps not even that, depending on the apparent surfaces to radiate too.

    I guess a lot of people probably think of welding as something along the lines of "heat stuff up, push it together, hope it sticks." It's much more scientific than that.
  • by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @01:32AM (#15000797) Homepage Journal
    When I used to weld for a living (MIG), the gas used was 90%+ nitrogen and a few % argon, and was basically for cooling iirc. The inertness of the cooling gas is so you can control the weld temperature more exactly (oxygen would increase the heat of the weld, while hydrogen would just burn). It's surprisingly easy to blow holes in steel when it's only a couple of millimetres thick.

    All the tips for MIG welders are made of copper, and so is the spool wire, so if you run them without a cooling gas they melt together and you get no work done. All the welders I used, used currents approaching 160A.

    As far as I know, nitrogen was the main constituent of the gas because it is plentiful and therefore cheap.

  • by vidarh ( 309115 ) <> on Monday March 27, 2006 @04:25AM (#15001241) Homepage Journal
    Haven't the soviets put men up in space for over one year with little to no ill effects

    In one word: no.

    There were certainly ill effects from their experiments, such as fairly significant loss of bone mass and muscle mass. Whether those ill effects were serious enough to be a problem, that's another issue.

  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:17AM (#15002052)
    "But let's first figure out what our goals are"

    The goal, in this case, is human life on mars. The moon is just a stepping stone, a warm up. During the process, we will discover, gain experience, and invent. We will learn more than what is only relevant on the moon. Sometimes you gotta take the plunge. To get life up there, we need to send life up there.

  • by x2A ( 858210 ) on Monday March 27, 2006 @09:32AM (#15002135)
    How about world hunger,

    There's more than enough people on this planet to have some working towards getting into space, and some working towards helping the starving. NASA aren't stopping you from helping the starving. Also, you do realise that they aren't going to be launching money into space, right? The money required to do this will stay on earth, ready to be spent on the next thing. There's no waste here on the money front.

    idiotic wars

    We are talking about america here, I don't know if they have the grounds to lead the world on that front.

    and advancement and encouragement of the sciences

    What the hell do you think this is???

    there is way too much to overcome

    So we should submit to the problem rather than try overcome it? I'm glad there are people in the world who aren't as defeatist as that.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin