Moon to Mars

The Rational for a Moon to Mars Program

A Moon to Mars NASA Program would deploy a more robust lunar base
than would be the case if the Moon were the only or final destination.

MMM ## 191 DEC. 2005 p 1.
In Focus: Dear Santa: “a Moonbase made for Mars
It’s not about “what” we want!  It’s about “the best strategy” to get what we want

It is sad to watch the continuing “debate trap” into which many devoted “Moon first” and “Mars first” true believers fall. For in truth, not only would either Moon or Martian settlement prove economically non-viable without each other as a trading partner, both face the very high likelihood of being stillborn, if not summarily aborted, if either one is pursued alone. Politics is the reality, and Collaboration the strategy.

Consider the track record. George W. Bush emasculated the International Space Station by summarily reducing its design manning from seven to three (it takes 2.5 crew man time just to maintain the facility.) Yet he boasts that we have a Space Station.

A Moonbase, designed and pursued as an end in itself, would most likely suffer a similar fate. Reduced manning. No capacity to pursue resource utilization (oxygen production, cast basalt, metal alloys, building materials, etc.) We’d be able to boast that we have a “permanent” outpost on the Moon. Congress would care little, so long as it did not cost any more.

But if the goal is to build a workable Mars Base and try it out on the Moon first, then guess what we’d have?
  • A life support system that went beyond umbilical cord style resupply, rescue, and repair, but had to work without relief for extended periods of time, two years or more. This most likely would involve a considerable greenhouse food-growing operation, something that could be easily dropped from a Moonbase-only program, given inevitable budget pressures.
  • A design that had to take “shieldability” into account because the long stay times on Mars demanded such protection. On the Moon, in contrast, you could do without shielding if you rotated crews frequently enough.
  • A robust machine shop and repair facility, because on Mars, one might have to fabricate a critical part if the last spare had been used.
  • Development of an adequate power system not reliant on “eternal sunshine”  which is something that would not be available on Mars. We might end up with a power system that would let us operate anywhere on the Moon, not just in the polar cul de sacs of “eternal sunshine.”
  • Inclusion of a superior medical facility that with aid of the latest computer software programs from Earth would allow treatment of almost any medial emergency. In a Moonbase-only operation, we’d have emergency transport back to Earth as a crutch to fall back on.
  • Quicker development of expansion architectures that relied as much as possible on locally produced building materials, modules, and parts. In a Moonbase-only operation, we’d continue to rely on shipment of made-on-Earth modules (hard hull, inflatable, or hybrid) and parts.
  • The living spaces would be more likely to include the perks and amenities needed to ensure sustained crew morale and productivity over yearlong plus stays. In a Moonbase-only operation, we’d make do with submarine style living standards, or less. Such perks are an essential step towards the introduction of optional re-upping, signing up for continued stay duty - one small step on the road to the first “settler.”
  • I am sure there are still more points to make!
The one thing that wannabe Lunans and wannabe Martians both don’t seem to get, is that while Mars offers an atmosphere rich in oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen, plus a hydrosphere of unknown size, a more day-like rotation cycle, and other amenities, it remains initially a much harder nut to crack, because it lacks the one thing that the Moon offers: “location, location, location.”
Ironically, however, that “location benefit” can and will serve as a crutch that will be used by bean counters and politicians to restrict full development of any “government”  (national or multinational) outpost to the bare minimum to allow boasting that “we have one.”
Many Moon Base advocates will be hard to move off previous turf-protective positions. We ask them to consider that it might be in our best interests as advocates of lunar outposts, and resource-using settlements that on this point of posture towards the Bush Exploration Initiative, it is very much in our own best interests to ally ourselves with the well-articulated position of the Mars Society and standing side by side with them, work in unison for a Moonbase Designed for Mars. [snip]    PK