We have been brainstorming the future directions of the Moon Society's Moonbase Analog Program.
Thanks to our friends in Calgary, Alberta, Canada who are scouting the way for us, it is beginning to become ever clearer how we should proceed.
The Calgary Space Workers are now an affiliated organization of the Moon Society.
First, you may recall our article in a recent issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto that compared the major differences in the goals of a Mars analog program and a Lunar analog program. [MMM # 195, pp. 5-8 “What a Lunar Analog Research Station Should Attempt to Demonstrate” - put online at address below:]
The Mars Society needs to demonstrate the usefulness of human-robotic exploration on Mars, as opposed to continuing to rely on robotic exploration.
So they model their analog Hab according to the needs of a "visiting" exploration craft -- an all in one structure, the Zubrin double tuna can designwith which we are all familiar.
For us, on the other hand, the usefulness of humans on the Moon was already amply demonstrated in the Apollo program.
Further, NASA is planning a first human outpost. So we don't have to simulate that, either.
So where does that leave us? We have already made the following three points:
1) DEMONSTRATIONS: We can focus on the technologies needed to expand an outpost in open-ended fashion, relying on the use of local materials, raw, and processed
2) TELEOPERATIONS: As there will always be more things to do at the outpost than people available to do it, we can push the envelope of teleoperations with equipment at our station being operated by non-crew members from elsewhere (i.e. Earth) with crew roles limited to maintenance, repair, adjustment, etc., of the teleoperated equipment. We know we can tele-maneuver a vehicle with a 3 second time delay on an obstacle course. But it would be useful to try to demonstrate teleoperated shielding emplacement, road construction and other increasingly more complex operations. That way, the outpost can grow more quickly, saving humans on location to do what cannot be teleoperated, to make room for larger and larger crews sooner than would otherwise be possible.
3) POWER STORAGE for Nightspan Operations: NASA is conveniently attempting to avoid dealing with this challenge, though it is the key to the Moon at large, by heading for the poles where some rugged mountain areas may be sunlit month around.
But, given the following developing situation with NASA, we can and should do more. Note:
NASA ISRU COULD BE CANCELLED: Now NASA plans to do a demonstration of oxygen production, but at the same time, has decided that lunar oxygen will not be used in the lunar ascent vehicle. That means that the oxygen ISRU experiment becomes _unessential_, a safe easy target for the budget police.
NASA OUTPOST MAY BE SCALED BACK: NASA will probably have a core Habitat structure with some outbuildings. But just as the Bush government unilaterally (without consulting the international partners) truncated the original design of the ISS, cutting staffing from 7 to 3 (it takes 2+ just to maintain the station, so all the money we spend there is to support research by one half-person), it is quite likely that the lunar outpost we get, will be substantially smaller and less functional than the one we are now promised, no more than a token outpost totally reliant on continuing support from Earth.
NASA BIOLOGICAL CELSS Programs have been terminated: Already, bowing to budget pressures, NASA has discontinued all further experiments on biological life support systems. NSCORT at Purdue University has been shut down. The BioPlex in Houston has been shut down.
What does this mean for us? Two more major directions for our Moonbase Analog Program
4) BIOLOGICAL LIFE SUPPORT OPTIONS must be demonstrated by those of us outside NASA. We must go well beyond the GreenHab at MDRS, _working biological life support into the architecture_ of our analog research stations.
5) MODULAR FROM THE GITGO: If we are going to demonstrate the viability of expansion, we ought to start with a modular outpost design from the start.
Our friends in the Calgary Space Workers team are doing just that. Their modules are all transportable, either trailerable or truckable. That has the enormous advantage of being able to outfit them WHERE there are standing crews of local volunteers. Once erected on location, of course, crews will need to travel.
With the modular approach, once the interfaces connecting modules with one another or with common corridors are agreed upon, additional modules could be built and/or outfitted by local crews wherever they may be! (At sometime in the future, the Calgary Space Workers may have concrete suggestions for ways in which local teams outside Calgary can make a contribution.)
The Calgary Space Workers are starting with a 31 ft. used 1977 Airstream travel trailer
This will be the Command Center module. They are not, for now, concentrating on appearances, either inside or outside, but on putting together their utility systems
- photo voltaics and deep cycle batteries
- ISS standards for communications (setting CSW up for outreach with students, enabling them to converse with ISS)
- heating panels from simulated moondust produced by CSW
- better lighting systems
- oxygen and food production
- demonstrating simulated lunar outpost life support needs
If in time they see that they need more power, more waste treatment capacity, etc. they can build and deploy more utility modules, just as a real growing outpost would do.
Their current "what comes next" list seems to be right on the money. The list of priorities is as follows:
a) Start of a corridor connector system which will lead to all other modules and carry the utility runs
b) A workshop/tool room/fabrication module, likely another hard module, but probably a cheaper more conventional travel trailer. Putting this unit next in order, ensures that the modules to follow will have the maximum (simulated) made-on-the-Moon content.
c) A biological life support module. I don't know anything about this except that it looks like they will be employing wetlands ecosystems as the basis. That seems reasonable, as it provides food, refreshed air, and refreshed water, and possibly some fish, all in one.
d) Several sleeping area modules or module segments.
They intend to test a wide variety of options for their comparative ergonomic functionality and degree of resident satisfaction.
How? Simply be letting each of the Calgary Space Workers team members design their own sleeping quarters. After each of these plans are reviewed and fine-tuned for doability, given the talents and tools and access to materials that the team has, the team will build all of these varied units, as a team.
It should be interesting to see what they come up with. In the process, they may be testing and demonstrating manufacturing and construction techniques that could one day be done on the Moon
So this looks like a very good plan. We will give them support in reviewing what they do and making suggestions, finding contacts for them, etc.
They have found a location in the Drumheller badlands 90 miles ENE of Calgary, but have not yet secured access to the site.
It pays for us in The Moon Society to be involved, without getting in the way, as if we want to do another location in the US, we might want to use their learning experiences as a starting point.
On that score, I recently sent out a short list of 4 potential sites in the US West. Progressing northernmost to southernmost, they are:
- Bend, Oregon area lavatube sites
- Craters of the Moon National Park, Arco, Idaho
- Snow Canyon State Park, St. George, Utah
- El Mapais National Monument, Grants, New Mexico
That was before I learned what the people in Calgary were doing.
Now, if you look at their potential operating season, (i.e. the weather at Drumheller) it includes mid-Spring through the summer into mid-Fall. We do not need a station in the US with the same field season. That would seem to leave out Bend as too far north. El Mapais in New Mexico could operate mid-Fall through the winter to mid-Spring, without the freezing problems that beset midwinter operations in Hanksville. As to Snow Canyon, in the SW corner of Utah, that depends on just how snowy this area is! As we found out the last couple of days on our crew, snow is not an analog of Lunar Weather!
Now it would be ideal if between Drumheller, Alberta and somewhere in the US, we could field crews year around. Yet we would like the US station to have access to a lavatube as an additional focus for demonstrations, so which of these four locations can best provide that, may swing the vote its way. All four locations have lavatubes nearby. I had a guided tour of the linked pair at Bend, the former site of the Oregon Moonbase simulations in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
So no decisions, but given lack of internal or external funding, there is no need to make decisions. Meanwhile, we will try to identify specific sites with the needed qualities at all four of these locations, so that when we find the money, we can act swiftly.
But at least we are getting an idea of what kind of station we want and what kind of functions it should be designed to demonstrate.
And that's a significant amount of progress from where we were at on March 11th, the last day of our crew #45 rotation at MDRS, as Artemis Moonbase Sim 1.
I expect to be visiting the crew in Calgary sometime in the next six months. I hope to stay long enough to get a thorough look at what they are doing as well as of the Drumheller area.