Our return to the moon will not be like the old Apollo-style deployments of the old Constellation project. This new approach requires a real moon landing – our first stop in another world. The sooner we understand what's needed to get started, the better.
The national policy of the Trump government (through its Space Council) calls for the return of people to the lunar surface in order to use their resources. As NASA was commissioned with this short-term space goal – the return of the moon – the significance of the goal will go a long way towards completing a vital mission that has twice wavered.
The lunar return is often interpreted as various ways, from the mere orbit of the moon at some distance ("look, but do not touch") to surface operations that produce a permanent human and robotic presence. These are very different views that prove that the devil is in the detail. It is clear what "moon presence" we have depends entirely on how the people chosen to direct this important, national-political goal of human return interpret that concept.
Let us step back for a moment and examine some possible disadvantages and advantages of different types of lunar return. Simply touching the lunar surface and possibly performing some experiments or returning samples does not begin to address or tap into the potential value of permanent lunar return. Over the past two decades (yes, decades), we have learned that the Moon contains both material and energetic resources, including water resources that allow long-term stay and use. By building such a presence (as led by the Trump administration and actively pursuing other nations), we have an unparalleled opportunity to realize the full potential of the Moon ̵
A critical aspect of lunar presence is having enough reliable electrical energy to support surface activities, including human facilities and homes, expandable surface infrastructure and space resource architecture. Performance is critical in space (necessary for even the simplest application); For this reason, is widely available to enable the development of new and innovative systems.
Because the axis of rotation of the Moon is nearly perpendicular to the plane of its orbit around the Sun, its poles are unique areas that have almost uninterrupted sunlight. Instead of ascending and setting, as is the case on earth, the sun appears continuously and revolves around the polar horizon of the moon. This simple but important difference, caused by the orientation of the Moon, addresses a critical need: Previous studies have shown that the placement of lunar soles in the vicinity of equatorial areas is severe due to the limitation of available sunlight and the associated temperature fluctuations, when a moon day has 14 days of sunlight. -100 ° to 150 ° C) followed by 14 days of darkness (-250 ° C). A kind of reliable source of energy is needed to stay on the equator during the 14-day moonlit night.
In comparison, the conditions at the poles are practically benign, at -50 ° C! With data from LRO (the diligent lunar robot) we have identified areas of near-permanent sunlight in the polar regions of the Moon – the most important areas where permanent presence on the Moon is possible.
Since the poles of the moon have peculiarities and deposits, what advantage should we derive from their relationship? With permanent presence enabled by near-constant solar energy, we can begin to map, study and harvest the ice deposits and other volatile elements present at the poles. Water is a rare commodity in the near-earth space; We now know that significant amounts of frozen water have accumulated in the permanent dark craters on the poles. Water can be widely used in space – apart from its obvious use in supporting human life, water can also serve as an energy store. It can be decomposed with the help of solar energy into its constituents hydrogen and oxygen and then recombined into water, as a by-product reliable electrical energy is generated.
The attentive reader will have noticed that the previous discussion leads to an important conclusion – that our return to the lunar surface should be permanent, and the mission is to learn how to use what the moon has to offer to create new spacecraft capabilities. While this is not a completely new approach to missionary goals, is the first time we realize that such a goal is not only feasible, but has the potential to be revolutionary.
Our investigation of newly discovered facts about the lunar poles leads to several conclusions. First, we go to the moon to experiment and learn to extract useful products from lunar materials – referred to as ISRU (in-situ resource use). Since our initial experimental efforts are likely to be fraught with difficulties and unsuccessful approaches, we need sufficient equipment and skills to understand and adapt to their size. (This does not mean massive factories.)
The introduction of this mode simplifies our choice. First we set up an outpost, a permanent facility whose location does not change (note that there are limited polar locations where the conditions for permanent sunlight and local volatiles are available). While it makes sense to perform missions to specific locations of scientific or interest interest, it makes sense to conduct your mission from a centralized outpost. By identifying and validating the use of locations near the quasi-permanent sunlight of the poles to generate electrical energy and gain access to the water, the actors of the new space industry are convinced that resources for the normal surface operation are constantly available , An outpost can be used in a variety of modes, but the fact that it is permanent makes it an "anchor" on the lunar surface, attracting more players.
Although resource preparation is largely focused on harvesting water ice The use of other material resources such as aggregate construction and metal reduction is also important. Once set up, the outpost plant can become not only a processing plant but also a testing laboratory where various resource processing streams can be tested and evaluated.
However, the problem still remains that this approach contributes to the acquisition of strategic knowledge. This planning, which is necessary for the creation of a permanent presence, does not seem to be targeted at the moment, so that any coordination can be more random than planned. Although early moon robotic payloads are likely to be small, an integrated architecture must include both robotic and human flights. Not only must robotic missions be forerunners, but they must continue to be a constant mission for missions that support and support human crews on the moon. Initial robotic missions are likely to consist of simple measurements and characterizations, but later robotic flights will set up the infrastructure (housing, electrical energy systems, mining equipment and processing equipment). Such missions are needed indefinitely and continuously, so an integrated plan to ensure continuity – an architecture that focuses on integrating all these parts (not just a wish list) – must now begin and seriously begin
this moon Return Policy and a Good Chance of Success (this third time around "charm") is a separate, independent authority – one that is focused exclusively on the requirements of a sustained presence of the Moon. This program office needs a manager who has both robotic and human missions. It should not operate like the typical mission directorate who selects and flies individual payloads and whose operations are largely independent and independent. Instead, every moon mission and piece of equipment should become part of a larger mosaic of resource delivery, infrastructure, and operational capabilities. It is imperative we understand which pieces belong together (be they commercial, national or international assets), placed in a correct order; This requires the development of a sophisticated architecture that still allows for adjustments, with sufficient flexibility to improve its viability and ensure long-term success.
It is crucial from the beginning that the purpose of the return of the moon be fully understood and accepted. Our goals include creating a sustainable human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of learning how to use what the Moon has to offer to create new spacecraft capabilities. While building icebergs serves many of these purposes, the moon is rich enough in material and research opportunities that new processes can be undertaken on an experimental basis. Habitation can be achieved by covering habitat modules at the poles with the abundant regolith-forming locations of the moon, where people are protected from hard radiation while still being able to monitor and control remote-controlled machines. Solar energy can melt the surface regolith into roads and provide material for solar cells. Potential opportunities for expansion and the inclusion of investment in trade, science and transport are limitless.
So we go permanently to the moon. We begin by occupying a single place on the moon, not only to consolidate our resources for maximum leverage, but also to harness the environmental factors necessary for rapid production. Surface operations will expand as we begin to understand how to maximize leverage and pass that knowledge on to those with new ideas – to entrepreneurs who want to join and invest in a growing space economy.