A Newsletter chronicling the development of Art Media appropriate for a Lunar Settlement. Published by the Lunar Reclamation Society, Inc., P.O. Box 2102, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53201-2102. Editor: Peter Kokh, 1630 N. 32nd Street, Milwaukee WI 53208-2040, (414) 342-0705, email@example.com - Only two issues were published, both in 1994.
We could never have gotten to this point without the special help of two people. Dr. Glen P. Wilson, Executive Director Emeritus of the National Space Society, donated $50 to Moon Miners' Manifesto and the work this newsletter has been endeavoring to promote. The LRS board voted to invest this money in getting this project into a less-talk-more-action phase.
Tom Volkman, chemist and lab manager at Laabs, Inc. in Milwaukee, willingly spent some real time on three occasions, locating color and availability information on a number of candidate materials, and in placing orders.
Our special thanks to you both!
Art in a Lunar Settlement - Some Relevant Assumptions
by Peter Kokh
It seems reasonable to assume that once economic activity justifies an honest-to-goodness settlement on the Moon, those choosing to make this barren raw world their adopted homeland will be able to freely import familiar art and craft materials from Earth with which to express themselves and humanize their habitat space. Settlers will be engaged in the production of exports (helium-3 for future fusion plants, construction materials with which to build bigger, less costly facilities in space: research stations, factories, tourist resorts, solar power satellites, etc.; agricultural products for use in such facilities; and more). These exports and others will be their sole coin with which to pay for imports: items necessary for the construction and support of the settlement that they cannot, or at least not yet, make for themselves.
The Moon is rich with elements from which to make building materials. Lunar oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, titanium, magnesium, and calcium comprise most of the crust. Other elements are to be found in less abundance. But the above will suffice to make useful metal alloys, glass, fiberglass, glass composites, ceramics, and even lunar concrete - as well as free oxygen for air, fuel, and water production. An early read of the data from this Spring's Clementine lunar polar orbiter suggests that there are water ice-reserves in permanently shadowed polar craters (permashade). Until all the data has been analyzed, we cannot be confident of this "eureka". And even if confirmation is forthcoming, it may require further analysis, perhaps ground-truth missions, to determine if this resource exists in economically recoverable quantities. If fortune smiles, the prospects for a self-sufficient lunar settlement will rise considerably.
The lunar regolith top soils themselves are extremely dry: some hydrogen in the form of protons from the Solar Wind adsorbed to particle fines, and lesser accompanying endowments of carbon and nitrogen. There is no "organic" material at all.
The priority use of such water ice, carbon oxide ices, and hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen reserves as can be tapped economically will be for fuel, industry, and biospheric needs. The latter include atmosphere and farm and garden crops for food and fiber production.
If the cost of needed hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen is sufficiently high, "withdrawals" from the biosphere for art/craft and other uses may well constitute unjustifiable luxury. This situation will be exacerbated if and to the extent that, despite finds of strategic reserves, there remains a local deficiency in these elements that must be made up by expensive imports from Earth.
The hopes of many space development advocates these days ride on the Delta Clipper single stage to orbit (SSTO) program and the favorable test results in the past year of its one third scale prototype, the DC-X. Costs per pound to orbit even now preclude all but the most profitable of economic activities, traffic in weightless information (telecommunications, weather, remote sensing, etc.). A meaningful return to the Moon well depend on reducing costs of freight transportation to orbit by a factor of a hundred or so - the holy grail of SSTO research.
But the SSTO may not reduce transportation costs beyond low Earth orbit. Companion developments and strategies will be needed. Clearly, if a lunar settlement earning its keep from economic activity is ever to become a reality, it must be as self=reliant as possible on what it can produce from its own barren soils, seeking as far as possible to confine imports to capital endowment: people, seeds, and tools.
A government with deep pockets and various Friends of Moonbase type organizations may pay the freight bill to bring up token amounts of art and crafts supplies. But in the long haul, settlers must learn to express themselves artistically with materials derived from the raw materials around them.
Meanwhile, the public by and large cannot visualize any sort of settlement that is not entirely supported by shipments from Earth. The idea of pioneers making themselves truly at home and putting a human face on all that empty gray magnificent desolation seems sheer fantasy.
Chore One facing those who would be ancestors of the lunar frontier folk is to invent and pre-develop lunar-appropriate building materials from which habitat space and furnishings can be fashioned. Chore Two is to invent and pre-develop art media based entirely on the inorganic resources of on-site dust stuffs. These art media will be the enzymes that help digestively transform this alien environment into a human One. Thus their importance cannot be underestimated.
To the extent lunar-appropriate media can be developed in anticipation of our return, and practice works illustrating the potential of such arts given widespread public exposure, the concept of lunar settlement will begin to take on concrete shape and form in the public imagination. This in turn will lead to greater, wider support.
The work of the precursor lunar artist then ranks in importance with that of the chemical engineer and the architect. It is a privileged calling.
Yet the era of principal reliance on lunar-appropriate art media and forms may be relatively short-lived. Sooner or later the settlements may become more affluent. And sources of organic art materials other than Earth, e.g. Mars, may appear, from which fuel-pegged freight charges are substantially lower. However, lunar-appropriate art forms will have earned their place in lunar history and may continue to be practiced indefinitely. They will have humanized the Moon.
A Short History of "Waterglazing"
by Peter Kokh
Perhaps a decade ago, researching possible inorganic substitution pathways open to lunar settlers unable to produce locally the types of consumer goods we are so used to made of wood, paper, plastic, synthetic fabrics, etc., I came across a singular piece of information in an encyclopedia article on adhesives: "sodium silicate, commonly known as waterglass, is the only known inorganic adhesive".
In the lunar settlement scenario strategy building in my head, waterglass soon became a major workhorse. One of the tasks I assigned it was a pigment carrier for lunar "paints" using available colored metal oxides. In the eight years I have been editing Moon Miners' Manifesto, I referred to this conjectural possibility several times in various articles.
Several months ago I decided to put theory to the test. It took less than fifteen minutes to locate a source for sodium silicate. There was a local manufacturer (Wedor Chemical Company, Inc., 601 E. Nash Street, Milwaukee WI 53212, (414)332-1246) retailing through the major professional pharmacy/laboratory in town, Laabs, Inc. (911 N. 27th Str., Milwaukee WI 53208 (414) 342- 0145). The product, labeled simply Sodium Silicate sells for $9.95 a gallon, and is characterized as pure Na2O-3.75SiO2, no water added.
The first item on my experiment schedule was to test waterglass used by itself. I applied it with a brush to glass, aluminum, a glazed and an unglazed pot, and then a brick. It practically varnished the brick with a hard high gloss finish. Next I mixed in a quarter teaspoon of Minnesota Lunar Simulant and it effectively coated the patch of brick to which I applied it with a grainy but glossy black. After a couple of weeks the gloss began to disappear as the sodium silicate crystallized. Yet it continued to hold the black powder to the brick, quite tightly. I should have expected the gloss loss, but didn't. Nonetheless, there results seemed to warrant purchasing some oxides and carrying the project to the next level.
Tom Volkman, the chemist at Laabs, took an interest in my project and spent some time finding suitable powders: he found me iron (ferric) oxide for rust, titanium dioxide for white, manganese dioxide for black, sulfur for yellow. A second pass through the books yielded a green, chromium oxide. All of these worked well, by themselves or in mixed shades.
But three powders flunked the test badly, instantly coagulating upon contact with the waterglass, even producing noticeable warmth. These where chromium trioxide (magenta), nickel sulfate (turquoise), and potassium chromate (bright yellow). This leads to the suspicion that other peroxides and salts will likewise prove unsuitable. And that begins to severely constrain the possible palette. To date I have no real red, nor a blue, the latter missed most of all. Other chemicals I might try are even more expensive than those already on my shelf.
Spurred on by an opportunity to display some concrete artwork, I conjured up a composition that would use all of the shades I had to work with, executing the piece Moon Garden #1 on the morning of September 30th, 1994 just in time for it to be displayed in the art show at First Contact, a new science/ science fiction convention in Milwaukee.
Palette Development: an expensive undertaking
by Peter Kokh
So you'd like to help! Acquiring the needed chemical ingredients requires a bit of start up cash &emdash; or credit. These ingredients come in fairly large minimum quantities. The good news is they should last you quite a while. Here's what I spent.
$9.95 - 1 gallon (plastic bottle) sodium silicate
$4.26 - 1lb Sulfur - yellow
$21.00 - 1kg (2.2lb) Ferric Iron Oxide - rust
$30.12 125g (0.28lb) Chromium Oxide - green
$15.12 - 500g (1.1lb) Titanium Dioxide - white *
$17.58 - 500g (1.1lb) Manganese Dioxide - black
$98.03 plus tax total investment well spent* (alternative whites are Calcium Oxide, Aluminum Oxide, Magnesium Oxide
**(an alternative black is ferrous iron oxide)
Chemicals that did NOT work well with sodium silicate
$15.00 1lb Chromium Trioxide - purple
$27.50 125g) Potassium Chromate - bright yellow
$13.54 1lb Nickel Sulfate - blue-green
$56.04 plus tax total investment down the drain
• The Lunar Element Pool
The gross composition of lunar highland and mare soils and of the crust in general includes these elements present in parts per hundred concentrations: O, Si, Fe, Ca, Al, Mg, Ti.
Non volatile elements present in parts per thousand or per ten thousand, probably economically producible, are the following: Cr, K, S, Sr, Ba, Zr, V, Na, Ni, Y, Sc, Mn.
Cobalt, a potential source of blues, is present in parts per 100,000.
Other potentially useful elements are present in much smaller trace concentrations. Some of them may be found to be enriched in particular locations. Right now we cannot count on that so I suggest research be confined to combinations of the above that are not reactive in sodium silicate.
• A Plea for Help
It is a fairly expensive proposition to buy lots of candidate chemicals in minimum amounts much greater than needed for original testing. It would be most ideal if a person working at a chemical manufacturing company who can access candidate chemicals in small amounts could check their reactivity with sodium silicate and double-check their color. If you know such a person, attempt to enlist his or her assistance. The rest of us, and lunar settlers to come, will be eternally grateful. For on the basis of this information, we could mature the lunar palette at a greatly reduced individual and group cost and concentrate on art techniques and the production of great works of art.
• Where Moonbow comes in
The purpose of this newsletter is to share information, about sources of materials, art techniques, and art markets too. It will come out a frequency and at a page size as input from participating readers warrants. It is a tool as important as any chemical. Use it!
Calling all would-be fellow neophytes in the infant art of Lunar Style Waterglazing
This newsletter (oh how many newsletters have seen Vol. I, Issue 1 and then died!) is my way of saying, let's work together to pioneer this new medium.
There is much to do.
• Expand the palette of colors and shades that might be derived from byproducts of lunar regolith processing.
• Find lunar appropriate ways (lunar appropriate additives?) to improve the workability of the "paint".
• Explore lunar appropriate applicators (brushes and pads, etc.).
• Use our talents to push this new medium of expression.
• Publicize our work in shows and magazines in order to bring alive for the public the idea of a humanized settled Moon.
Not by paint alone ...
Eventually, we could branch out, recruiting members to LAAMP interested in pioneering Lunar Style Ceramics and lunar-appropriate vitreous glazes. We can do the same for Art Glass, Sculpture, and other arts. The more tools we provide lunar settlers with which to express themselves creatively and artistically, the more we will do to hasten and secure humanization of this Earth-bonded but alien world.
It has happened before
Have we not done likewise, each time humans have homesteaded a new eco-niche? Time after time we have learned to use new dyestuffs, new woods, new rock types, new clays. In the past we have acculturated successfully to each new territory we have occupied, from arctic shores, to desert oases, to prairie grasses, to tropical rain forests, and on and on.
What LAAMP can be and do
First, we can share this newsletter to spread ideas and report on our experiments: failures, successes, and qualified learning experiences. We can share information about new coloring agents, new application methods, new medium-appropriate techniques. In short, we can give one another technical and moral support.
Second, we can promote Lunar Style Waterglazing (and eventually, other lunar-appropriate art forms) as a separate unique new art category in general Art Shows as well as in events of our own sponsorship. We can work to secure specifically designated prize monies and funds for particular medium development projects. As the art form matures, we can publish "how to books" and teach introductory courses.
This newsletter with art color photocopies is being sent to several well known artists in the space and astronomy fields. It is our hope to enlist some of them as Board members or Advisors for LAAMP and Moonbow.
Return to Lunar Painting Experiment
Go to Moonbow # 2 - A list of Subject-Related Articles in Moon Miners' Manifesto is given at the bottom of this page.