Moon Desert Research Station


Frequently Asked Questions about the Mission

[reprinted from: Moon Miners' Manifesto, 191,10-11 (December, 2005)]

What useful things can a Moon Society crew do at a Mars Society Station in a landscape that screams "Mars!" ?

It is true that the MDRS site is not suitable for simulating lunar geology methods. The terrain here is sedimentary and water-carved. The coloration is a detail we can ignore, however, just as even Mars Society crews must ignore the blue sky. But there are many things a lunar outpost and one on Mars will have in common. We will be concentrating on these for our first mission: Lunar Life Support Systems Study; Site Management; Ergonomics of outpost design; Human Factors & Perks needed to maintain crew morale and productivity over the long run; Modeling a Space Frontier Diet, etc. We hope to produce some studies that will help both the Mars Society, and ourselves someday at our own research station.

Why rent? How much is the rent and what does it cover? Will the rental cost be a problem?

The smaller Moon Society cannot yet afford to deploy our own research station. The $7,000 rent includes food, transportation both ways between Salt Lake City and the Hab, Mission Support, and fuel and power. The Lunar Reclamation Society has sent a check to cover the first 20% of this amount, and written Challenge Letters to other organizations to donate at some level. The Moon Society has sent letters to a number of enterprises and corporations.

Will this be a one-shot deal?

We anticipate that this will be a very successful and productive exercise. If events bear that out, we will put in our request to the Mars Society for a sequel slot in the next (2007) field season.

How long will the mission take?

Two weeks and a day, allowing the next crew to arrive before the previous one departs, ensuring continuity, especially in the area of Hab and equipment maintenance, as well as helping new arrivals get familiar with everything.

How many crew members will there be and how much does it cost them to participate? Do you have to be a current Moon Society member?

Nine. There is sleeping space for six crewmembers (in private cabins) and a loft space. During crew changeover, newcomers sleep in the ward room floor or in the "attic" storage space. We will have a full crew of nine. Crew members must pay their transportation to/from their homes and Salt Lake City. The rest is provided.

What will our crew members eat?

Some Mars Society crews have tried to simulate a frontier diet. Others have not. Until this year, there was no refrigerator or freezer in the Hab living quarters, meaning that they bought dry goods and canned goods, anything with a shelf life of two weeks. We will not use canned goods as they contain water and hydrated foods which would be very expensive to import from Earth. Basically, we will hopefully enjoy crock-pot vegetarian creations from dry and dehydrated ingredients, herbs & spices. But that's not all.

Anticipating greenhouse production of fresh fruits, vegetables, and salad stuffs, some of these will be brought with us from Salt Lake City, with more purchased in nearby Hanksville for the second week.

Nor will we forget the meat-eaters in the crew. Between-meal beef, turkey, and other jerky snacks.

We will be getting thumbs up, thumbs down input from crew members and hope to produce the start of a lunar frontier cook book.

What are crew quarters like?

The "staterooms" are hardly stately. The closet sized cubbyholes have a card table chair, small shelf/desk, 3 foot wide sleeping platform, and storage for luggage and clothing. There is a light and an ethernet port. Pairs of staterooms are cleverly designed to borrow sleeping space from one another. Sardine can living at its best!

What is the weather usually like at MDRS?

See current conditions at Weatherbase.

What do the "simulation rules" consist of?

Crew members arrive in their street clothes. But when they want to go outside, they must follow procedures and don an EVA Space Suit, with the help of a buddy, and go through a brief airlock cycling routine. When they entered, they were in a Marslike area on Earth. When they come out all suited up, they are on the "Moon". The suits reinforce the illusion. For us, we'll have to disregard the Mars coloration and pretend we are on the Moon.

How accurately are the MDRS EVA Space Suits designed?

The MDRS EVA suits are not designed to be pressurized. Rather they are designed to simulate the weight and awkwardness of a real suit and all its equipment. The backpacks do contain a life-support system of sorts: radio and a ventilation system that pumps fresh air into the helmet. This is essential, as it can otherwise get very warm inside the suit. It also keeps the air inside the suit fresh.

The gloves are standard heavy duty work gloves. Over time, they have sprouted some accessories: a mirror on the top side to enable the wearer to see what's behind; various tools taped to the top of fingers.

We will be trying to come up with further non-permanent add-ons to increase productivity and safety. A new type of suit, a form fitting "MoonSkim" MCP suit is under development, and one of our crew members will have one. The whole idea is to come up with suit designs that are much less cumbersome than present NASA designs, much less tiring to work in, and not requiring extensive pre-breathing.

What are the short term goals of the project?

We hope for some good publicity, both nationally and abroad. There will be videotaping by Moon Society member Chip Proser for a future documentary as well as advance videotaping by BBC for its own documentary (page 9 col 2), and we hope to do major publicity in the home town areas of our crew members: West to East: Long Beach/Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Montreal, Miami, Bonn. We hope that this effort makes the Society better known to the public and the media, and leads to increased membership growth, and to energizing our talented members. Last but not least is strengthening our new collaboration ties with the Mars Society.

What are the long term goals of the project?

This effort should be seen as a first step towards the realization of the Project Leto Masterplan: an effort to build a full-scale simulation of an initial lunar exploration base. It will be marketed for outreach purposes, analog research, and as a tourist destination. This simulation and, hopefully, those to follow will give us the experience and insights to better locate, design, equip, maintain, & operate our own Lunar Analog Research Station down the road.

What is the tie-in with the Artemis Project™?

While we are endeavoring to gain experience and know-how that will help us with Project Leto, they will clearly also help us in deploying a commercial moonbase. We will be learning how to approach moonbase design ergonomically, finding off-the shelf modules that are suitable to the functions and facilities of an outpost, rather than finding one off-the-shelf module and trying to stuff all the functions inside. In other words, these exercises will help us switch from a function-limited-by-form approach to a form-follows-function design. This will have major consequences for how we grow the moonbase from one initial habitat module to a fully functional beachhead on the Moon that will support startup manufacturing based on local resources.

We will be working on site management policies and practices, space suit design, operations procedures, options to ramp up greenhouse food production in the life support system. We'll also be working to develop a culture for pioneers in which there are sufficient perks to maintain crew morale and productivity at the highest level.

All of these initiatives lie in areas where the present Reference Mission is inadequately developed.

Are other Moon Society affiliate organizations participating?

The Lunar Reclamation Society (NSS-Milwaukee) has its research arm, playfully dubbed the Copernicus Construction Company, busy altering off-the-shelf items to create an in-Hab lunar ambiance: table settings that look like they could be produced on the early frontier from lunar materials, music instruments and board games that could be produced on the early frontier, a collection of Moon Sci-Fi DVDs & tapes, the start of a lunar folk song collection.

The American Lunar Society may help us plan a program of Moon observing with the MDRS telescope. Other groups have been approached for project or other support.

Is there a tie in with Moon Society chapters?

None of our crew members come from Moon Society chapters, but two come from partnering NSS chapters: LRS (NSS-Milwaukee) and Minnesota Space Frontier Society, both of which represent the Society in their communities. Two more come from the same city, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. They have only to find one more to become our first Canadian chapter. We are on the lookout for ways to involve our two most active US chapters: Moon Society St. Louis and the (South San Francisco) Bay Area Moon Society. The Oregon L5 Society has also been a big supporter of the mission.

Meanwhile. this event is a dynamite subject around which Moon Society chapters and outposts can arrange public outreach presentations: information tables, talks, letters to the editor, free lance articles, etc. Please do email for help in putting together an Artemis Moonbase Sim I exhibit/presentation


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