NASA's mission: Can we live on the moon?

mercurial

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The agency is set to launch spacecraft that will update topographical maps of the surface and will probe deep into a crater to search for water.

Nearly four decades after astronaut Neil Armstrong planted his boot on the surface of the moon, the U.S. is about to take the first small step toward colonizing Earth's tag-along satellite.

On Wednesday, NASA is scheduled to launch a robotic mission aimed at finding the best site for Earth's first off-world colony, the centuries-old dream of science fiction writers and utopians.

This time, we're not just going for a walkabout or to hit golf balls and cruise around in a $10-million moon buggy, as the Apollo astronauts did. Ultimately, we hope to pack up the kids and the dog and move in.

"We're going to provide NASA with what is needed to get human beings back to the moon and to stay there for an extended duration," said Craig Tooley, project manager for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, one part of the two-pronged mission.

The orbiter itself is expected to produce the most detailed topographic maps of the moon ever made, as well as first-ever glimpses inside perpetually shadowed craters at the north and south poles. Inside those craters, scientists hope to find caches of frozen water that have been hidden away for billions of years.

The mission won't stop there. Using a second spacecraft -- the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite -- NASA is planning to punch a hole in one to see what comes out.

Both of the spacecraft will be launched together with a two-stage rocket, and nearly four months from now, the agency will use the spent second stage of the rocket as a battering ram to create a crater 66 feet wide by 13 feet deep and send a 6-mile-high plume wafting into space that should provide a show for hobbyists on Earth with decent-sized telescopes.

"This should be spectacular," said Tony Colaprete, the satellite's project scientist. "It should be a very visible impact from Earth."

The biggest uncertainty hanging over the $579-million mission as it prepares for launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida is the question of whether the lunar outpost will ever be built.

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Palimino

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Edited from previous posts.


I listened to Richard Branson’s plans for his commercial space venture. He talked of a timescale of **6 weeks**. Not like NASA and molasses in sub-zero temperatures. Verifying the launch procedures will take place shortly. Once verified, Richard Branson intends taking his family up. NASA has historically had a stranglehold on space stuff in the West. Thank goodness that is changing. Maybe now progress will be measured in months rather than decades.

There is an expression – a camel is a horse designed by a committee. NASA specialised in designing camels. Committee’s were ruled by political expediency, personal enmities, nepotism, etc. They outranked the visionaries (who had their stuff rejected by camel designing committees). NASA risks losing the talent not locked-in with pensions, seniority, etc. A totally new launch system (different from the NASA camel) requires Branson’s 6 week time scale for proof-of-concept. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Although this is a NASA trashing exercise, they did do some good. Up until the Moon landing, NASA had vision. After that they lost the plot completely. Passionate space travel visionaries did join the 9 to 5 NASA clock-watchers (they had to - it was the only space travel game in town). Now that the dead hand of NASA is removed, space exploration can progress. There is a new game in town (Branson).

The case for Socialist NASA (and America claims to be ‘free-market’?)

The taxpayer funds NASA. There is no hurry to do anything (it’s not required to be profitable). Time is spent on empire building, recruiting a bloated bureaucracy and politicking. I would say that any actual space work, is 90% ensuring astronaut’s comfort and 10% space. When money runs-out, begging bowls are rattled at the government. In the time since the Moon landing, NASA may have done 5 years of space work (probably less).

The case for Capitalist Branson

Safety and profit are paramount (its space tourism). Brand names (Virgin) and reputations (Branson) are at stake. The basic philosophy of launch is different. NASA goes for expensive, polluting and complicated Saturn V rockets. Branson goes for high-flying, cheaper, less polluting and simpler launches into space.

It’s not unreasonable to suppose that another entrepreneur (minus the NASA stranglehold) may begin mining on the Moon and launching Branson’s hotel material into space from the Moon’s gravity well with magnetic launchers (you can’t do this on Earth). This will be much cheaper than even Branson’s cheap high-flying launches.

Branson will have to take a partner (mining) for the Moon expedition (I am not privy to his plans, I am assuming). If I was Branson I would do the following (in outline I may be correct, details will differ):

Go for the Moon first. Excavate large underground caverns – for mining and hotel building material. Airtight seal the walls of the caverns. Extract the air from the mined material and provide the caverns with an atmosphere. Use submarine air scrubbing technology to constantly clean the air. There is an abundance of sunlight on the Moon and its constant, uninterrupted by weather etc. ‘Pipe’ it underground for light and heat. Use it to generate power. The depth of the caverns will protect them from nasty cosmic rays and stuff. Turn it all into a (Moon) hotel for the time being.

A space hotel will undoubtedly be built at the 3 ‘Le Grange’ points. These are points in space (between Earth and Moon) where the gravitational pull of the major attractors (Sun, Earth, Moon, Solar System) are nullified. ‘Tidal’ effects on structures and attitudinal jet adjustment requirements are minimised. I have my doubts about a space hotel. Cosmic ray and bone density (lack of gravity) problems will arise. Rather a long-term Moon hotel (where space exists for centrifugal ‘gravity’ simulators – bone density) and short-term (a week?) expeditions to the space hotel for the punters to experience weightlessness.

Building material for the hotels (and stuff that needs to be launched) will use a Moon-based ‘Rail Gun’ to shoot stuff into Moon orbit. A ‘Rail Gun’ will be a kilometre long rail with the termination tilted towards the sky. Along its length will a series of magnetic ‘repulsors’. The payload has a few metal bands around it. Each ‘repulsor’ accelerates the payload to ever-greater speed until it shoots off into the sky with a velocity large enough to escape the Moon’s gravity well. The power demands of the ‘Rail Gun’ will be huge (derived from uninterrupted sunlight - solar power). I envision a charging period between launch shots to recharge groups of capacitors before the next launch. About 10 minutes (or less).

Nope! NASA’s a has-been. Don’t hold you breath for any fireworks.
 

Palimino

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The whole commercialisation of space is an extremely expensive business. Branson can’t do it on his own. However, potential investors are watching him carefully. If Branson can pull-off his innovative launch procedure, they will rush to invest. Cheap launches (without the error-prone NASA Saturn V rockets) is fundamental to opening the ‘final frontier’. Although it is a high-risk investment, the rewards are mind-bogglingly huge. And incidentally, it will put him [Branson] in control of a space entrepreneur bottleneck (very lucrative). Another issue for Branson, is the space hotel. The kinks in catering to tourists in an extremely hostile environment can be ironed-out by catering to the Moon miners from the other major investors – Moon miners are guinea pigs for Branson.

Moon miners.
These can be considered as high-tech oil rig roughnecks. Pretty average blue collar types (not rocket scientists or drooling idiots) but capable of stringent safety and air discipline procedures. Because their absence from Earth will be prolonged, Branson’s Moon hotel must be 5 star (if not better). He can do it on the Moon.

Casualties
Of course there will be casualties (it’s a frontier, for Crise sake). The question is to take (voluntary) risks for a meaningful end, or become an (involuntary) casualty in an insane war taking hill 451 (bla, bla) to satisfy some maniacal general who wants to keep his map neat. A 20% casualty rate is quite acceptable for this Earth shakingly important objective. Live casualty care will be 1st class because you are valuable (cynical view - in terms of the investment in you [not like cannon fodder]) and there is a need to refine (and define) space medicine.

Business case.
Cost saving [mining] can be accomplished as there are no environmental laws to comply with. The only issue would be aesthetic (the Moon face visible). This can be done by keeping the strip-mining operations on the dark side of the moon. Otherwise it would be......a moonscape. A big issue with mining, is the prodigious use of water. Water will be extremely scarce on the Moon. If waterless mining technologies can be developed and exported to a water-conscious Earth, the funds gained will pay for all their space adventures (and then some).

Rail Gun.
The same cost-saving measures can be applied here. Corners can be cut and safety measures intended for idiots can be avoided (there are no idiots on the Moon) or property protection (no property) etc. Branson will try and muscle-in here but other investors will not countenance him controlling both ends of the launch process. He will try though but he probably realises that it is hopeless. He would do exactly the same if he was on the other side.

Water
If waterless mining technologies don’t bear fruit quickly enough, water will be precious and will be too costly to lift, in the required quantities, from the gravity well of Earth. The key would be to shepherd huge chunks of meteorite ice to the Moon’s surface. A small chunk might be the size of Texas – too big to shepherd and explosives need to be used to break-off a manageable hunk. The ice is made-up of H2O – rocket fuel (hydrogen and oxygen). A gadget which decomposes ice into its constituent parts via electrolysis is required to manufacture fuel. Water from the ice supplies the reaction mass. “But” (you ask) “doesn’t electrolysis require huge amounts of power?” Thin-film solar panels (which can cover acres if necessary and are more easily transportable). You have constant 24 hour sunlight unimpeded by cloud cover. As much power as you want.

About a week? out from the Moon, high-tech roughnecks will match velocities with the ice chunk, kill any excessive velocity and make final fine-tuning trajectory (aiming) adjustments. Maybe shepherd it into a parking orbit around the Moon for later use. It will remain as ice if it stays on the dark side or in shadow.

A potential investor in the mining effort **should** be SA. At one time SA was considered a world leader in mining (sadly, no more). SA is resting on its mining laurels and is little more than an advertising opportunity for SAB – Carling Black Label beer. As long as we can all get drunk together (drinking Carling, of course) nothing else matters.

SA mining could make a significant contribution. SA’s particular skill was thinking-up mining innovations and mining in a vacuum calls for a multitude of new widgets and gadgets – lightness, non-labour intensive, etc. These people are all citizens of other countries now, so I guess their new countries will benefit. SA will just become a mining has-been inhabiting an African basket-case backwater.

Space...the final frontier.
 

Zana

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What happned to Mars ?
Or they still deciding which rock is the best?
Lotsa Love
 

Palimino

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What happned to Mars ?
Or they still deciding which rock is the best?
Lotsa Love

I think they’re being too ambitious. Rather refine space living closer to home (the Moon) and tackle Mars when you know much more about space stuff (IM not so humble O).
 

Palimino

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I could be accused of being glib and simplistic. These posts should only be regarded as broad brush-strokes presenting avenues to explore. I am aware that there are myriads of issues which must be addressed. One of the biggies is the spacesuit issue. It strikes me that the spacesuit design legacy from NASA (Mr Puffy – the marshmallow man) is inappropriate for mining (or any type of work). Any space work will be largely automated but current spacesuit design renders the wearer virtually helpless. A new spacesuit design is called for – this does not imply the wearer singing lustily while wielding a pick and drinking Carling Black Label. Neither does a new spacesuit design resemble the skin-tight, silver lame suits so beloved of sci-fi writers of the ‘50’s.

A possible new design would be a suit suitable for a few hours (2?) of external work before the wearer returns to it’s associated static ‘cocoon’ (all suits have them) for recharging, replenishment, etc. This would lend itself to shift work if the ‘cocoon’ needs time to revitalise the suit. This cocoon may be fairly complex and would serve a similar purpose to the Earth tent allowing extended surveys (mining, mapping, etc.) and ‘camping’ trips to be undertaken (on a hunk of ice, for eg.). Spartan but usable.
 

Zana

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I think they’re being too ambitious. Rather refine space living closer to home (the Moon) and tackle Mars when you know much more about space stuff (IM not so humble O).

Thank you
:)
The reason why i stated the remark was living on the Moon is much harder than on Mars due to the fact it has no distinct atmosphere, unless they live under the ground like moles , since large crystal or domes is useless if the moon is continuously bombarded by space bits, even a stone from space or a rock meteor could shatter the glass, etc unless they custruct it with nano-materialsn where the whole dome exists as a molecule instead of a compund, and have a continuous force feild generated, the moon is continuously bombarded by small bits and pieces. So there has to be a mini-environment created to sustain istaelf without having to ship oxygen from earth all the time, Where Mars has an atmosphere of Carbon Dioxide, which is Carbon and Oxygen, , the gound is more protected by the atmosphere as well ther is at least some atmospheric pressure, and also a machine can be used to take in the C02 on mars, and filter it to O2.. and old CO2 exhaled as well gets recycled, and there is no need to ship breathing gass. However Moon has water in the ice caps, but its very limited, maras to has a bit of water to but more, but also limited. Then again most of Mars water exists in Iron Oxide (rust) in the soil, which there is also chemical processes to get the water and oxygen out of the rock.
Lotsa love and huggles
 

Zana

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I could be accused of being glib and simplistic. These posts should only be regarded as broad brush-strokes presenting avenues to explore. I am aware that there are myriads of issues which must be addressed. One of the biggies is the spacesuit issue. It strikes me that the spacesuit design legacy from NASA (Mr Puffy – the marshmallow man) is inappropriate for mining (or any type of work). Any space work will be largely automated but current spacesuit design renders the wearer virtually helpless. A new spacesuit design is called for – this does not imply the wearer singing lustily while wielding a pick and drinking Carling Black Label. Neither does a new spacesuit design resemble the skin-tight, silver lame suits so beloved of sci-fi writers of the ‘50’s.

A possible new design would be a suit suitable for a few hours (2?) of external work before the wearer returns to it’s associated static ‘cocoon’ (all suits have them) for recharging, replenishment, etc. This would lend itself to shift work if the ‘cocoon’ needs time to revitalise the suit. This cocoon may be fairly complex and would serve a similar purpose to the Earth tent allowing extended surveys (mining, mapping, etc.) and ‘camping’ trips to be undertaken (on a hunk of ice, for eg.). Spartan but usable.

Well Thaught of, the exsiting space suits of this time are clumbsy, a redesign needs to be made to allow more flexibility and comfortability sach as skin tight suits which could be designed with nanotech materials, on the other hand it would be better than the the people themselves to mine, but only supervise and work robots which actualy do the mining work themselves and be programmed and can work non stop , where people go out now and then to check them, check the state of the mine and so on.
Lotsa Love and huggles
 

Palimino

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Thank you
:)
The reason why i stated the remark was living on the Moon is much harder than on Mars due to the fact it has no distinct atmosphere, unless they live under the ground like moles , since large crystal or domes is useless if the moon is continuously bombarded by space bits, even a stone from space or a rock meteor could shatter the glass, etc unless they custruct it with nano-materialsn where the whole dome exists as a molecule instead of a compund, and have a continuous force feild generated, the moon is continuously bombarded by small bits and pieces. So there has to be a mini-environment created to sustain istaelf without having to ship oxygen from earth all the time, Where Mars has an atmosphere of Carbon Dioxide, which is Carbon and Oxygen, , the gound is more protected by the atmosphere as well ther is at least some atmospheric pressure, and also a machine can be used to take in the C02 on mars, and filter it to O2.. and old CO2 exhaled as well gets recycled, and there is no need to ship breathing gass. However Moon has water in the ice caps, but its very limited, maras to has a bit of water to but more, but also limited. Then again most of Mars water exists in Iron Oxide (rust) in the soil, which there is also chemical processes to get the water and oxygen out of the rock.
Lotsa love and huggles

It’s not harder, it’s easier living underground. There are no water, drainage or insect issues on the Moon. It accomplishes 2 objectives – mining and then inhabit the holes. It protects from dangerous cosmic radiation and the constant rain of micrometeorites you are concerned with. You postulate technology that is fantasy at the moment (mature nanotechnology, force fields, etc.). I am working from technology which exists or shortly will. The mass of the surrounding earth can withstand massive pressurisation and it already exists (no materials required). Air can be extracted from mined rock or by decomposing water (H2O) via electrolysis from the polar icecaps or captured ice meteors. Underground claustrophobia is addressed by big LCD screen ‘picture windows’ transmitting real-time views of the surface. It’s a high tech. environment. Experiments are being conducted in Arizona (the biosphere project) concerning the minimum ecologies needed to sustain life. This (at least) would have to be sorted before a manned mission to Mars has a hope of succeeding.

You postulate non-existent technologies (skin-tight suits built with nanotech) for your space suit post as well. They would work fine but we don’t have them.
 

Sackboy

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Well Thaught of, the exsiting space suits of this time are clumbsy, a redesign needs to be made to allow more flexibility and comfortability sach as skin tight suits which could be designed with nanotech materials, on the other hand it would be better than the the people themselves to mine, but only supervise and work robots which actualy do the mining work themselves and be programmed and can work non stop , where people go out now and then to check them, check the state of the mine and so on.
Lotsa Love and huggles
Ah, those skintight suits have caught your eye.:D

You're right of course, we have a long way to go before any moon or mars base can be successful. We just don't have the technology and the risk is too high. The Russians had the right approach when they sent a robot to the moon because they didn't need to risk sending humans.
 

Palimino

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You're right of course, we have a long way to go before any moon or mars base can be successful. We just don't have the technology and the risk is too high. The Russians had the right approach when they sent a robot to the moon because they didn't need to risk sending humans.

Not necessarily (you have been listening to NASA propaganda). If I had to 2nd guess Branson (broad brushstrokes only) I would imagine his plans are as follows:

Moon shot on a budget – 1

Getting there & back
Branson’s innovative launch procedure will get his vehicle into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Velocity will be extremely low. He uses the ‘slingshot’ procedure to build-up speed for the Moon journey.

This is like a slingshot whirling around before being released. He [the astronaut] would orbit (whirl around) the Earth until he had built-up the velocity needed for travel to the Moon. Then he would disengage at the right moment (equations are Branson’s baby) and go whizzing off in the Moons direction. Braking manoeuvres and travel back to Earth would follow the same principles (orbiting the Moon). Because of the weak gravity, more orbits around the Moon may be necessary to build velocity.

The ‘slingshot’ manoeuvre can be a double-edged sword. The Moon is not that far away. Too much velocity (unless for a long trip – Mars?) implies more fuel needs to be carried for miscellaneous manoeuvres and the spaceship needs to be robust enough to withstand the stresses of more severe braking. NASA’s travel time to the Moon was 3 days. I reckon Branson should work on a travel time of 5 days. Beef-up life support systems for the extra time and save on the fuel payload and spaceship robustness.

A working analogy may be that of Earth shipping. NASA uses power (fuel - craft heavy) while Branson uses sail (wind [free] - craft light).

While orbiting the Moon (slowing down) the crew will be frantically observing the dark side looking for suitable landing spots.

To be continued...

Moon shot on a budget – 2 will address the tech. required.
 

Sackboy

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Not necessarily (you have been listening to NASA propaganda). If I had to 2nd guess Branson (broad brushstrokes only) I would imagine his plans are as follows:

Moon shot on a budget – 1

Getting there & back
Branson’s innovative launch procedure will get his vehicle into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Velocity will be extremely low. He uses the ‘slingshot’ procedure to build-up speed for the Moon journey.



A working analogy may be that of Earth shipping. NASA uses power (fuel - craft heavy) while Branson uses sail (wind [free] - craft light).

While orbiting the Moon (slowing down) the crew will be frantically observing the dark side looking for suitable landing spots.

To be continued...

Moon shot on a budget – 2 will address the tech. required.
A Virgin media stunt with some flimsy craft going into sub-orbit (not true space) cannot be compared with going to the moon.
 

Zana

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Ah, those skintight suits have caught your eye.:D

You're right of course, we have a long way to go before any moon or mars base can be successful. We just don't have the technology and the risk is too high. The Russians had the right approach when they sent a robot to the moon because they didn't need to risk sending humans.

Lol yup you right, give me one any day ((giggles)) :D

Yes very much so, but the robotics and mechanics of the robot needs to be improved as well, since the robots I have seen on TV in labs are clumbsy as well, they would have to move gracefully as if the moon was its natural habitat, to do its tasks of mining.
:D
 

Palimino

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Moon shot on a budget – 2 will address the tech. required.

Moon shot on a budget – 2

Tech. required.
The NASA way – hundreds of people behind PC’s, huge illuminated maps. Self-important types with head-sets scurrying around and getting underfoot. “...3, 2, 1 ignition – we have lift-off”. Hugs all round. The huge multi-million Saturn V thunders into the sky in a swirl of flame and dust. Spectator’s exchange high fives and hugs. “Isn’t it great to be Amurican – leader of the world”?

The Moon shot on a budget way – Maximum 10 talented types running standard PC’s with commercially available SCADA software (half the PC’s are duplicates – redundancy). Good radio (voice) comms.

SCADA software is monitoring and control software. Train shunting yards or a Coke bottling plant etc.

No spectators (the launch take place at altitude), only essential telemetry. Rely on colleagues to tell control that someone’s dead (he’s demised, shuffled off this mortal coil, an ex-parrot – Monty Python) rather than monitoring heartbeat. A launch and if you achieve space and see the Earth’s globe against that background, a raised heartbeat is nothing to get hysterical about. The initial pioneering types will be hardy physical specimens – they won’t succumb to wussy heart attacks and stuff. Runways and whatnot.

If Branson pulls it off, investors will be fighting to throw money at him. He will be fending-off groupies and be suitably self-deprecating and British. “Pshaw! It was nothing. Just good ole British pluck, donchaknow”.

To be continued...

Moon shot on a budget – 3

The initial Moon landing.
 

Palimino

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why do we wan't to?

Mars is a better bet.

and notice the rubble that the Chinese left on the moon when they send out their satellite to crash in the grounds... :(

A manned Mars mission is extremely premature. Any colony would have to be self-sustaining. It makes sense to practise on the Moon and get all ducks-in-a-row (baby steps 1st). A big issue are the ‘Biosphere’ projects. Biosphere 2 is in Arizona. Biosphere 3 is in Siberia. Wikipedia has details and a google search produces millions of hits.

From Wikipedia
Biosphere 2 is a 3.15-acre (12,700 m2)[1] structure originally built to be a man-made, materially-closed ecological system in Oracle, Arizona (USA) by Space Biosphere Ventures, a joint venture whose principal officers were John P. Allen, inventor and Executive Director, and Margret Augustine, CEO. Constructed between 1987 and 1991, it was used to explore the complex web of interactions within life systems in a structure that included five areas based on natural biomes and an agricultural area and human living/working space to study the interactions between humans, farming and technology with the rest of nature.[2] It also explored the possible use of closed biospheres in space colonization, and allowed the study and manipulation of a biosphere without harming Earth's. The name comes from Earth’s biosphere, Biosphere 1, Earth's life system and the only biosphere currently known. Funding for the project came primarily from the joint venture’s financial partner, Ed Bass' Decisions Investment, and cost $200 million from 1985 to 2007, including land, support research greenhouses, test module and staff facilities.

NASA can be criticised for wasting time, but they must have huge archives of material from idealistic, passionate space visionaries before the life was crushed out of them by camel-designing NASA committees. If it was rejected by a NASA camel designing committees it is worth a 2nd look. If it was accepted, that would be the kiss of death for any idea. These archives could be a valuable trading resource.

And the Americans left far more rubble on the Moon than the Chinese. This is particularly weak and lame. If you want to demonise the Chinese, there are better sins.
 
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