I agree with Elon Musk when he talked about how inspiring it was standing next to the the first Starship Mk1 by SpaceX. He and the people at SpaceX continue to do amazing things everyday. As a kid and due to my first bicycle crash of note, I was I was confined to a hospital bed by traction apparatus where I watched and studied almost every minute of the Apollo 11 Lunar mission. Don’t get me wrong here, I think we should go to Mars, just not today. We should go in the future when we are ready. Today we should listen to Yoda.
This one a long time have I watched.
All his life has he looked away…to the future, to the horizon.
Never his mind on where he was, Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph.
Yoda, Empire Strikes Back
It’s not bad advice he is offering. Focus on here, now, what we are doing. We can use the Moon as if it were the swamps of Dagobah. We should train and become spacefaring Jedi before we go off on interstellar missions without Obi-Wan Kenobi. Here’s my thinking.
- Survive on the Moon, you’ll survive on Mars.
- A problem on the Moon may just be a problem, while the same problem on Mars may just be a death sentence.
- Public support could be real-time with a real-time live stream.
- Cost to develop in situ manufacturing on the moon vs. mars will be less both initially and for iterative improvements, as we learn more, or need to supplement from Earth.
- Cost to develop food greenhouses for sustenance will be less, same as above,
- Tourism will develop sooner for both flyby and landing mission to the Moon
- A robust Moon economy will fuel exploration to one day go to Mars and beyond.
To get thing off the ground we should:
- Orbiting Lunar Station – Build the gateway station and park a rescue lander(better yet, a refillable reusable lander) or two there before any human missions attempt a landing, there should also be a return to Earth rescue ship stationed there, as well as on the ISS. Human deaths will really put a damper on further missions, while a successful rescue will fuel public support for further explorations. People matter.
- Shared Humanity – Plant a flag from all nations on the Moon – pronto, next time a man lands – quit the competition, include all even if it is only a gesture, it will be a good unifying gesture. – even better would be to set up a checklist of all the nations and set about to somehow include all, no matter how big or how small. clothing, data processing, food, plants, graphic design….whatever it takes
- Circulator Ship/Station – People like SpaceX or BlueOrigin should consider a nuclear powered circulator ship/station that spent it’s life making round trips between earth orbit and lunar orbit. Ships could come up from earth and attach for a ride either to or around the moon. Ships could come up from the moon and do the same for getting back home to earth. Eventually having this ship/station would lead to real reusable shuttles stationed at earth and the moon. The nuclear powered ship/station would spend its life in space, never endangering the earth nor lunar colonists and fuel could be taken up from either the earth or moon in a safe inert state. Another few things to consider in the design of this more permanent ship/station are features that’d benefit those who might spend extended periods in space. First, I’d consider a rotating portion that would mimic even low levels of gravity both to keep astronaut’s strength up and to avoid all the know as well as unknown consequences of life in zero-gravity. Another thing that could go hand in hand with the rotating section is enveloping the ship/station in a magnetic field that would help protect astronauts from our sun’s radiation in a way similar to our earth’s magnetosphere. And to complement rescue ships outlined above, I’d design an automated astronaut retrieval system/robot of some sort that would detect if a space walking astronaut were drifting out into open space and would immediately go get them and return them. AI would be leveraged to quickly perform all the fuel/thrust/speed/direction calculations needed to catch return the astronaut to a moving target spaceship.
- Scouting Missions – Construct a self driving Tesla Lunar Rover and drop it on the moon before manned flights – begin long distance explorations of area intended to be colonized – be there to video manned landings, or to offer support for other nations. I realize it’s a big place, I am thinking that all nations may want to start out near enough to each other to offer mutual aid.
Change our Viewing Habits – Quit envisioning large panoramic windows for spacecraft and Lunar habitats. Even the best windows are no match for a real wall/hull, when it comes to protecting us from radiation. Small cameras, when coupled coupled with large display screens will give the same or better view, but with radiation protection. Keep a few small lightweight radiation secure viewing portals for emergencies, but reduce total mission exposure to radiation by taking gains where we can get them. Another bonus of this scheme is the ability to create duplicate live streaming VR chambers here on earth, where people can experience the same view as astronauts on the moon or in ships.
- Leverage Virtual Reality(VR) – Yes, send manned expeditions to the moon and beyond, but in the immediate future VR driven robots are a more safe and efficient way to get things done in the harsh environments of space, the moon, and various planets. Working in concert with the development of advanced prosthetics as well as advanced robotics will give us amazing abilities to safely explore space as well as help those in need right here on Earth. We should face the fact that driving a streamlined virtually controlled robot will give us a better environmental feel than any of the balky awkward pressurized spacesuit that are available now or even on the drawing board. Think Avatar movie, but with robots, not blue aliens.
- Return to Cave Dwelling – Think about building in caves on the interior wall of craters – massive radiation protection with minimal digging. After boring a hole, it could be plugged with an airlock end that would have an inflatable living habitat to the rear. Also, the moon has no atmosphere so there is no real temperate zone, but in the South Polar area the sun shines all the time so there must be a spot where the heat sink of the lunar ground and the constant solar heating strikes a balance. And lots of solar to power everything imaginable.
Mars isn’t going anywhere, it will still be there when we are ready.