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Comment Some thoughts on lunar living (Score 4, Interesting) 524

The only real reason for lunar operations is industry. Judging what is on the Moon from a few measly soil samples and surface imaging is a joke. We really don't know much of anything about what might be there. We do know that a lot of stuff has impacted on it though. Prospecting will be an early high priority task.

Once people start staying there more than a few days there is going to be a significant degradation in the local vacuum and the moon will start to acquire a tenuous atmosphere. Humans are a contaminant wherever we go. The extraction of lunar O2 will be first and foremost and that is mining plain and simple. Tons of lunar material will have to be processed on a monthly basis leading into the thousands of tons per year. We will create tailiings from this process and they will have to be dealt with. If water is found the same thing will happen there.

You can forget about lunar surface habitats. Unless you are fond of mutation. Living will be a lot like being on a submarine for a long time. The establishment of habitation space that does not require the delivery of hardware from earth will be a prime task. You can expect lots of digging, detonations and surface fracture and pulverization activities. These are all dirty, ugly things best done by people without PhD's. Scientists will be seen as a nuisance for quite a while.

Preparation of a large landing pad area will be also be a high priority as will the manufacture of local roads to suppress dust . The manufacture of many large cisterns for water and waste storage will be a big task too. Water paranoia will be the guiding principle on the moon. It will not be wasted. A complete system for the synthesis, liquifaction and storage of LO2 and LH2 also has to be installed using the decent stages of lunar landers for starts. The synthesis of real soils for lunar agnriculture will also be critical. In short, all the boring stuff that few people even thing about are the top priorities on the moon- not searching for He3.

If we want to do this it will take hundreds of people on the surface at any time and they will have to be there for at least 1 year stints to make it economically digestible. The transport is what eats you alive here. You must compel a moon-centric thought process as soon as is practical. If everyone is looking to earth to bring every damn thing the colony will fail. You must be able to repair and replace everything. Most aerospace technology is not amenable to this at present. There will be an evolution of hardware that works on the moon. High performance stuff that is finicky or prone to failure will be ditched. It is this engine of innovation that will be one of the most valuable things we "discover" on the moon.

As for the far side of the moon being radio quiet- not for long. The L2 point is a valuable location and it needs a telecom relay satellite to talk to it. One of the first things we will put up will be a telecom network in orbit and/or at L1/L2. Exploration of the far side will be a far higher priority than a radio telescope. That means comm, machines with electronics and hence noise. Not that they won't declare some small area to be "radio quiet" .

If we discover industrial scale sources of water on the moon its value as a base will be incredible. It is a bio-safe location for people to work. By that I mean they can live and work without the fear of being irradiated to death. What an astronaut will put up with for a few days is utterly different to what a welder should have to put up with over a two year tour of duty. We need the best welders, mechanics,seamstresses, cooks, farmers, doctors, dentists etc etc to make this work. If it is perceived that working on the moon is a death sentence it will be hard to find good help. Working in high orbit like L2 and L2, while necessary, will be minimized. Those are just the equivalent of runways anyway- not much industry that cannot be automated there.

If we go to the moon with some sort of tourist mentality it will be a total waste of money. The ESAS architecture is a tourist system that is completely inextensible to industrial operations. WIthout a wholsale rethinking it will undermine lunar exploration and hamstring any long duration stays. There are far more practical designs that have been proposed but rejected on basically a "not invented here" basis.

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