• NASA has ended all funding for Biological “Advanced Life Support”

    According to Gary Mitchell, Director of the NSCORT (NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training) program at Purdue University, with team affiliates at Howard and Alabama A&M University, the program launched in 2002 with a 5 year, $10 million commitment from NASA, has now been shut down early because of pressures on the overall NASA budget.
    http://center.e-enterprise.purdue.edu/wps/portal/_s.155/2007

    NSCORT was not the only victim. Apparently, according to Mitchell (as told to Moon Society Director of Project Development David A. Dunlop) the BioPlex at JSC in Houston has been shut down as well. The BioPlex was a closed loop life support testbed consisting of three sections: a three story cylindrical living quarters similar to the Zubrin Mars habitats; a plant chamber where wheat is grown to provide food and exchange CO2 for O2: and an incinerator chamber used to eliminate solid waste and produce CO2

    NASA has now decided to do life support at its Lunar Outpost the same way it does at the International Space Station, chemically. But these programs were definitely not the way to lay the foundations for settlements on the Moon and elsewhere. With the horse blinders of the steel and aluminum bending engineers, NASA assumed that life support was just another utility, something that could be added as an afterthought, tucked in a closet somewhere.

    Good riddance! Nature abhors a vacuum. Now we can get on with life support research that has an open-ended future.

    Biosphere II succeeded in that we learned quite a bit from its failure:
    • concrete in curing, absorbs oxygen
    • life support must be integrated with food production, but not limited to that
    • farming must be automated lest the crew spend all its time cultivating crops so that they can eat
    • it takes a lot of biomass to support a person: translate that into the biosphere hosts people, not vice versa
    • biospherics must be thoroughly integrated with the physical pressurized complex: “Modular Biospherics.”

    In coming issues of Moon Miners’ Manifesto, we will discuss the concept of Modular Biospherics, and some of the ways it can be integrated with an Outpost Modular Architecture. If the Outpost architecture is not modular from the start, then it is not expansion-friendly. It will have no chance to develop into a larger human community, the nucleus of a first human village beyond Earth.

    So where can/must/will this modular biospherics research be done? An appreciable amount of research has already been done, and/or is underway by various “back to Mother Earth” groups pursuing “sustainable” and/or “off the grid” systems. While some of this has the aura of “hippie” about it, it is/would be serious mistake to dismiss/undervalue/ignore the work that has been done.

    But clearly, this whole area of research now becomes a mission goal of the moonbase analog programs underway or contemplated by various groups. The Calgary Space Workers in Alberta are pioneering a demonstration modular outpost architecture, with a wetlands biosphere dome to be included.

    The Moon Society moonbase analog task force continues to develop a modular plan as well, and proposes to integrate both Wolverton Toilet systems in each activity module, and Living Walls in connecting hallway modules, in addition to one or more Greenhouse modules, the first probably a vegetable farm, a possible second raising fruit. Plants in the Living Walls and Wolverton toilet systems, may be ornamental and/or include herb & spice plants. They all will contribute to oxygen production, air freshening, and visual delight, and thus morale.
    http://www.wolvertonenvironmental.com/ww.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_wall

    Living Wall
    Living Wall installation, Baltimore, MD. This 110 sq ft (10 sq m) wall filters all the air for its 7,500 sf office building.

    The Mars Society, at its Mars Desert research Station in Utah, goes no further than to treat graywater from sinks and showers for reuse as toilet flush water. We want to grab the bull by the horns and both treat black water (human wastes from toilet flushes) as well as grow a respectable portion of our salad stuffs and other vegetables, and later of fresh fruit as well as help refresh stall air in a much tighter module complex.

    You can follow along in Moon Miners’ Manifesto. Matured articles will be posted on our new Moon Wiki at www.lunarpedia.org

    Peter Kokh

  • The view from Sun-Earth L5

    Link: http://www.moonsociety.org/2003-pcsn/18-L5sunview.html

    The View from Sun-Earth L5

    NASA’s new twin STEREO solar observatories launched October 25th, 2006, if successfully deployed in separate orbits ahead and behind Earth in its orbit about the Sun, will give us our first 3D look at Sunspots and the powerful solar flares and the coronal mass ejections that can originate in these areas.

    Sunspots are born when strong magnetic fields break through the Sun’s surface. These fields are frequently unstable and can explode. The result is a powerful burst of energy that can exceed that of 10 billion hydrogen bombs exploding in unison.

    Our astronauts in low Earth orbits, aboard the shuttle or the International Space Station, are protected by Earth’s magnetic van Allen Belts. Yet on Earth, these events can cause a lot of mischief with our ever more intricate and growing electronic communications and computer systems.

    But the real danger will be to people caught on the Sunlit side of the Moon, or in space, in transit, beyond the van Allen Belts’ protective shield. It is vital, if we are going to have a any kind of permanent presence on the Moon and elsewhere in space, that we both better understand these events - that is the goal of the STEREO mission - and that we can predict them with greater accuracy and with more lead time, to allow everyone potentially at risk to reach shelter safely.

    Per the NASA release, “STEREO's nearly identical twin, golf cart-sized spacecraft will make observations to help researchers construct the first-ever three-dimensional views of the Sun. The images will show the star's stormy environment and its effects on the inner solar system, vital data for understanding how the Sun creates space weather.

    “After about two months, STEREO's orbits will be synchronized to encounter the Moon. The "A" observatory will use the Moon's gravity to redirect it to an orbit "ahead" of Earth. The "B" observatory will encounter the Moon again for a second swingby about one month later to redirect its position "behind" Earth. STEREO is the first NASA mission to use separate lunar swingbys to place two observatories into vastly different orbits around the Sun.”

    The initial separation will be less than one degree, as seen from the vantage point of the Sun, but will increase steadily as the craft continue on their two opposing trajectories. The goal is to get a 3 dimensional view of these events. But long term, what we need is something else, advance warning.

    The Sun rotates on its axis in “about a month.” As it is not a solid body, it’s rotation is faster at the equator than at the poles, by about a day or so. As a result, through the months, the Sun’s internal magnetic fields get increasingly twisted, until they snap, disappear, and reform with opposite polarity. This is the source of the well known 22-year solar cycle. It is also what creates the periodic high solar storm activity seasons.

    We can only see the side of the Sun facing us at the time. If we could see around the advancing limb, we would know of potentially explosive Sun spots before the Sun’s rotation brings them into view. If we had a solar observatory parked in the Sun-Earth L5 position, trailing Earth in its orbit about the Sun by 60 degrees, we could get as much as a week’s early warning.

    This L5 point or Lagrange 5 point is one of the dynamically stable points where Earth’s and the Sun’s gravitational influence cancel out. There, 93 million miles or 150 million km trailing Earth in its orbit, a dedicated solar observatory could keep watch through its lifetime, probably on the order of one 22 year solar cycle. So it would be something we would expect to replace regularly, maybe once a decade to increase the likelihood that we have one that is fully operational during all active Sun periods.

    Such an observatory could do double duty, serving as a data and communications relay for spacecraft or stations further out in the Solar System (on Mars or Europa, for example) temporarily behind the Sun from Earth’s point of view.

    Advance warning as important as it is, will be only part of an all-approaches effort to minimize the problem of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. On the Moon, there needs to be a network of shelters placed so that given the ample lead time afforded by an L5 solar observatory, safety can be reached by all those operating on, or in transit across, the exposed lunar surface.

    The problem occurs every eleven years. We do not need “blackout periods” for spacefaring. That would have an enormous dampening effect on solar system exploration, and on efforts to open Mars in particular. While trips to the Moon from Earth take only a few days, and would be covered by the kind of lead time we are talking about, presently, there could be one or two launch windows to Mars every decade that would have to be skipped because of high solar flare risk, unless we can develop low-mass (low fuel penalty) radiation protection systems for spacecraft in transit. But that’s another article.

    Ideally, a ring of radiation-hardened solar observatories could circle the Moon closer in, possibly even within the orbit of Mercury, giving us maximum coverage of solar weather systems. In the meantime, we urge design and development of a Sun-Earth L5 observatory, to be launched in time for the onset of human crew missions to the Moon.

    The first humans to return to the vicinity of the Moon could come well before that time, as early as two years from now, if someone plunks down the $100 million the Russians are asking for a loop-the-Moon flyby tourist experience. That would have to be scheduled for a quiet Sun period.

    For more on the problem, check out this online report:
    www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/stereo/news/stereo_astronauts.html

    Peter Kokh

  • Lunar Analog Outpost News 10/29/06

    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.
    http://www.calgaryspaceworkers.com/thehabitat.html
    http://www.calgaryspaceworkers.com/octobernewsletter.html

    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:]
    http://www.moonsociety.org/moonbasesim/luna_rd_goals.html

    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

    Airstream

    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.
    http://www.calgaryspaceworkers.com/moononearth.html

    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.

    Meanwhile, keep posted on Lunar Analog Developments everywhere on our special new portal.
    http://www.moonbaseanalogs.net

    Peter Kokh

  • The Moon as a Puzzle

    Link: http://www.moonsociety.org/images/changing/rubicpuzzle.gif

    The Moon Seems to be a barren, useless “rubble pile” with which it is difficult to imagine that we could do anything useful.

    But let’s take a second looK!

    Behind Door #1

    Behind door #1 The “location” and “outline” of the first “door” to the hidden potential of the Moon was hinted at in the Apollo moondust and moon rock samplings and their analysis. An abundance of oxygen, silicon, and calcium, plus an abundance of the three major “engineering metals”: iron, aluminum, magnesium, titanium. We’ve but to look through the door’s peephole.

    The key to open this door lies in homework we can do on Earth. We need to know how to isolate or “produce” these elements out of the mineral complexes in which they are combined, more inconveniently than we’d like. Except for iron, a considerable amount of which is available unoxidized, in pure metal fines, in the “pre-mined” upper regolith, a “blanket of dust” pre-pulverized by eons of micrometeorite bombardment. We need only a magnet to harvest this resource. But otherwise, largely because the Moon did not undergo tectonic processing of its crust in the presence of water (hydrotectonic processing), it has no ore veins of concentrated metals in simple mineral combinations.

    The Moon’s mineral wealth is not to be gotten so easily. But it is there.

    We need to do processing experiments, using simulant soils superior to those we have toyed with to date. They must resemble moondust not just in the percentages of the elements represented, but in the chemical mineral combinations to be found on the Moon, as well. We have no, or little, experience extracting elements from such minerals.

    Yes, we have done some work on figuring out how to extract oxygen. But to paraphrase a well known proverb, “settlers do not live by oxygen alone.”

    Nor is it enough to do “lab” experiments. Techniques suitable on so small a scale are often unsuitable for scaling up to “production-batches”. “Chemical Engineers” need to be involved -- the guys who can design factory-scale chemical processing.

    Nor are the raw engineering metals enough. We need to develop ways to extract and isolate many elements present in lesser abundances as alloy ingredients, color pigments, as ingredients for glass, glass composites, ceramics, cement and manufacturing stuffs and building products in general. The dance card of the chemical engineers is quite full.

    How can we do this homework without federal funds? We brainstorm profitable terrestrial applications of the techniques and processes we are developing for the lunar frontier. That way we make money now and at the same time put “on the shelf” the technologies we need once we get there, paid for out of the profits of terrestrial applications, not taxes. This is the “spin-up” route.

    Many still look to the rocket scientists to deliver the Promised Land. But as much as we need them to figure out how to realize “cheap access to space”, it is the chemical engineers who will be able to tell us how to access space resources. (And without the agricultural and biosphere engineers and the human factors engineers, there won’t be any “we” out there to do any thing with these resources.

    If you in search of a career that will put you at the forefront of opening the space frontier, one of the options just listed may be for you. Space is a place. Transportation just gets us there. After we arrive, we need to have opened these “doors” if we aren’t just going to sit there “stranded”.

    Behind Door #2

    Behind Door #2: The location of this “door” lay in two clues: the Moon’s axis is nearly perpendicular to the plane of the Earth-Moon system’s orbit around the Sun. So the Moon has no seasons. As the Moon is not a perfectly smooth sphere, there must be places near both poles, in craters at least (crevasses are not a lunar feature), in which “the Sun never shines.” These “permashade areas” are stable “cold traps”, very frigid places where volatile elements (relatively high boiling points, with the vapor or gas easily dispersed by the incessant solar wind) might have accumulated over millions and billions of years.

    NASA planned a Moon Observer, equipped to answer the question of whether or not any cometary volatiles, dispersed in nighttime impacts with the Moon, might have reached the polar cold traps before the Sun arose over the horizon to disperse them. But this probe was a “phantom mission”. The craft was to be the “backup Mars Observer”. Congress, as superficial as most everyone else, convinced that there was nothing useful to learn from further Moon missions, and in an effort to rein in Mars Observer program costs, canceled the backup craft. Almost end of story!

    Scientists and space activists knew the “ice question” was important, deserving an answer. To our collective credit, Lunar Prospector was born and designed outside NASA. LP was available as a Discovery Mission project when the opportunity finally arose. The rest is history. Lunar Prospector’s instruments found several times as much hydrogen at the poles in permashade polar cold traps as exists elsewhere (per unit area). Unlike the hydrogen to be found globally, embedded in surface soils by Solar Wind buffeting over billions of years, the polar hydrogen signal data are best explained as coming from water ice, rather than excess concentrations of Solar Wind protons. The Moon, it seems, “behind Door #2”, has major reserves of water ice at both poles.

    As an elegant afterthought, as the “Little probe that Could” wound down its extended mission at low altitude, it was aimed “blind” towards a crash landing into a polar crater expected to contain layers of water ice. The hope was that the impact would throw clouds of dust and telltale water vapor, high up enough above the rim of the Moon to be detected by Earth-based instruments as well as by Hubble.

    It didn’t happen. But to look at the media headlines, “Lunar Prospector fails to find water”, some of these headlines echoed in pro-space publications (for shame!), you would think that all the data LP had gathered in the past eighteen months was somehow now suspect!

    Balderdash. Even if the selected crater does have a bottom-filling ice layer, several things could have prevented a splashout:

    1) the craft, impacting at low angle, did not penetrate all the way through a surface layer of dust expected to cover the ice layer.

    2) the craft may have haplessly impacted the side of a large boulder or rock outcrop that was ice-free (seems reasonable enough!)

    3) the water vapor may have reacted with the soil as it accumulated, producing cement cakes rather than ice.

    We need to have a ground truth probe to find out. But perhaps the Powers That Be are happy not to have a “positive finding” lest they be derailed from their preoccupation with Mars. (We need to explore and settle both worlds!)

    Those who want to access what lies “Behind Door # 2” need to put together a segue discovery mission, this time to land at one of the poles and do a ground truth search and a quantitative and qualitative assay of whatever reserves it finds. Lunar Polar Lander, like the “lunar polar probe” later renamed Lunar Prospector, will almost certainly be up to us. The most we can expect is that NASA will pay the costs as a Discovery Mission opportunity if we can keep those costs down to a bare minimum, and if the craft is as capably instrumented as it needs to be to get the job done.

    Water is essential for life support, agriculture and the biosphere in general as well as closed-loop industrial uses. It is NOT essential for rocket fuel. Liquid hydrogen IS invaluable for getting us out of the deep throat of Earth’s gravity well. We can do well enough with less potent substitutes once we are in orbit and beyond. To burn up an unreplaceable resource to get our rockets off - all in a one-time non-recyclable impatient exercise makes no sense. If this polar hydrogen resource is in the form of cement hydrates instead of free water ice, it will be harder to access. That may prove a blessing as it will work to discourage the pillagers more than the settlements.

    Behind Door #3

    Behind Door #3: Lunar Prospector mapped the lunar globe by tracking a number of elements. One of these was the radioactive element thorium. There are apparently appreciable reserves of this element in various areas of the Moon. Thorium is transmuted into fissionable Uranium 233 in a fast breeder reactor. Thus the Moon apparently has the wherewithal for a major nuclear fuels industry.

    Thorium and Uranium 233 are nuclear fission fuels. They produce energy by the splitting of heavy atoms. The atomic bomb and all current nuclear plants operate on the fission principle. But the hydrogen bomb and nuclear plants built to operate on the same principle, produce energy by combining lightweight atoms (hydrogen, deuterium, tritium, helium-3). Now it turns out that the same solar wind which has put a considerable amount of hydrogen protons into the lunar topsoil or regolith, has also endowed that layer with a wealth of Helium-3, the ideal fuel for fusion reactors, if we can overcome the engineering hurdles in making such plants a reality. Helium-3 could be the long term cure for Earth’s stubborn energy and environmental problems.

    As to the fissionable Th232 => U233 resource, this too may be an invaluable export. Fringe environmentalists could conceivably succeed in banning the transport of all nuclear fuels through Earth’s atmospheric. While chemical rockets can support Mars exploratory expeditions of trained and dedicated crews, that real settlement, migration to Mars is most unlikely unless we have fleets of nuclear ships able to make the trip in much less time and over extended launch windows. Two plus two = .. . You guessed it! In that not improbable scenario, Lunar Thorium could fuel the opening of the Mars Frontier.

    Behind Door #4

    Behind Door #4: It would seem that the entire surface of the Moon is exposed to the wind and waves of cosmic weather. Micrometeorites rain down incessantly everywhere. The intense raw solar ultraviolet washes everything. There is no shelter anywhere from the fury of Solar Flares and cosmic rays. The Moon’s surface is an unending, unbroken desolation that is as deadly as it is magnificent.

    The first hint that this was not the whole story came with the Apollo 15 landing mission alongside Hadley Rille, a winding “sinuous” valley. Upon examination, the valley did not seem to be “carved out” by either water or lava. Instead it is the relic of a subsurface lavatube, what is left of it after the roof collapsed on top of its floor, creating the trench above. From orbit, we’ve looked at similar “sinuous rilles” elsewhere on the Moon. They are a feature to be found only in the congealed lava flow “seas” called maria, usually near the “coasts” where the highlands begin or end. And lava sheets, formed by runny lava (like the kind that forms shield volcanoes) are just the sort of environment in which lavatubes form. Indeed, lavatubes are the principal means by which these sheets advance over the terrain they end up burying.

    It would seem that to protect ourselves, we must build outposts on this storm-washed surface, then pile up a healthy layer of moondust on top, to serve as a solid protective blanket in the same way as Earth’s atmosphere provides a gaseous blanket to offer us the same protections.

    Have all lunar lavatubes collapsed? Do they only exist as relics? as natural ruins? Apparently not. Some such rille valleys are discontinuous. They consist of a number of sections separated by “interruptions” of apparently normal looking flat surface continuous with the surrounding host terrain. These natural bridges can only be interpreted as surfaces hiding intact lavatube sections. And where we have partially intact lavatubes it is reasonable to expect we will find some that are both wholly intact and not flood-filled by subsequent flows. Other evidence comes from rows of “collapse pits”, rimless craters that are a sure sign of caverns below.

    The maria may be ridden with these tubes, and not just in the surface layer. As the mare [MAH ray] sheets built up layer by layer, tubes would have formed in each, some to be later flooded, some not. And wherever the surface-ceiling cover exceeded 40 meters or so, cave ins and overall collapses will have been unlikely except in case of a direct hit by a sizable asteroid tidbit.

    These lavatubes, of immensely larger scale than those we find on Earth, thanks to appreciably lower lunar gravity, and, immensely more ancient (billions rather than thousands of years old), provide hidden but real anchorage, safe harbors not only from the cosmic elements and solar weather, but also from the extremes of surface dayspan heat and nightspan cold -- and from the mischievous moondust that is otherwise everywhere.

    We need to map these subsurface features, something that has yet to be attempted. Tom Billings of the Oregon L5 Society has brainstormed a two-part sleeve/core “radar flashbulb” probe design. Aimed at promising sites, the probe would be aimed to impact the surface, forcing the outer sleeve to telescope over the inner core and thus generate an electromagnetic signal at just the right frequency to illuminate any “voids” within say 8 kilometers of the impact area. The signals reflecting off the hidden voids will be readable by either a wide-array of radar telescopes on Earth, or a dedicated space radar array in near-Moon space.

    Designing the probe and proving the concept is one thing. Picking the right targets is another. The plan is to use special computer software to pour over the voluminous Clementine high sun angle photographic data, looking for telltale shadows of “skylight” and “terminal” entrances to tubes. This search will take both time (possibly 18 months of run time) and money.

    A successful mission or series of missions, possibly flown as Discovery opportunities, will forever change how people look at the Moon. It will be suddenly more than a monotonous rock pile. It will become, in the public awareness, a real world with real safe harbors and protected hidden valleys.

    There are other hidden doorways to the Moon of “unsuspected world-potential”, and it has been MMM’s guiding mission to uncover the possibilities one by one. Next time you hear someone say “The Moon? Been there, done that!” you will know that you at least are able now to see behind the rock pile face to the “real Moon inside” -- a rock that can become a world, if we only open all the right doors.

    Time is ticking

    Meanwhile, the Moon Society is endeavoring to encourage those national space agencies planning future lunar orbiter, lander, impactor missions to include the instruments needed to close this knowledge gap in our tentative map of the Moon’s Economic Geography. This map includes the concentrations of several key elements, but at low resolution: iron, thorium, potassium/phosphorus (KREEP), and now, thanks to SMART-1, calcium. We need better concentration maps at higher resolution of all major elements present in economically recoverable percentages in the lunar regolith.

    We need higher horizontal and vertical resolution topographic data, form which to plan logical transportation corridors.

    We need penetrating radar to map the subsurface voids like lavatubes and gas pockets.

    Encouraging these prospecting and exploration priorities is an ongoing long-term effort.

    Peter Kokh

  • The Moon Society has a new Portal www.TheMoonPeople.org

    Link: http://www.TheMoonPeople.org

    2006.10.16 - As you may have heard, members of the Moon Society have launched our new open-source Moon Wiki, under the name Lunarpedia.

    The Lunarpedia site is necessarily on another server. It requires different software and site management software from the main Moon Society website. So it was only fitting that Lunarpedia team member, Mike Delaney secured www.lunarpedia.org for it's domain name.

    This address will call up whatever real location to which the lunarpedia may migrate. The Lunarpedia is still just a starter shell, but it will begin to grow soon.

    So that's two Moon Society websites.

    There was also a need for a separate domain name for a new portal to all moonbase analog projects, no matter who sponsors or sponsored them, or whether they are current or discontinued or proposed projects.

    So we bought www.MoonbaseAnalogs.net (need not be capitalized)

    And we will soon need a third new domain for a "master project" yet to be announced.

    Obviously, we need one Portal site as a gateway to all of the above:

    The Moon Society main site:
    http://www.moonsociety.org

    Moon Miners' Manifesto:
    http://www.moonminersmanifesto.com

    The new Lunarpedia site:
    http://www.lunarpedia.org

    The new Moonbase Analogs portal:
    http://www.moonbaseanalogs.net

    The new unannounced project site.

    So to gather all these destinations into one convenient portal,
    we purchased www.TheMoonPeople.org

    Its online now!

    The name, we think, is fitting. We (the members and leaders of the Moon Society) are "The Moon People" and we want you to visit all of our sites.

    There are also links on this new portal page to our principal partner, affiliate, and collaborator organizations.

    We intend to use the brand "The Moon People" to promote the society and its growing list of projects.

    Peter Kokh,
    President, The Moon Society

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