Sunday, June 7, 2009

Paul Spudis: Resourceful on the Moon, Part 2

Continuing on from last month, Dr. Paul Spudis has posted Part 2 of his discussion on what everyone now understands to be a vitally important topic. If the Moon is the proving ground for stretching survival in Outer Space then it's past time to get down to where the rubber meets the regolith. The Moon might even be the key to overcoming known and unknown challenges without which travel to even modestly more remote venues like Mars might prove impossible.

Neither is it an original observation that survival on the Moon may first have required survival in Antarctica, and survival on the Moon is needed before survival in true deep space, including Mars. It isn't the first time, either, that I feel compelled to remind readers of the harsh facts of life in Space, beyond low Earth orbit and beyond Earth's Moon. Present technology makes a trip to Mars fall beyond NASA's own safety limits, specifically an astronaut's personal lifetime probability of radiation exposure induced death, or "REID."

The Human Race dropped out of college in 1972, and we are gradually owning up to that reality. Fortunately for us, the Moon is extraordinarily patient.

The only economical way around this fact may rest with the Moon itself, where the extraction of resources, low-gravity, solar power and lack of an appreciable atmosphere might make possible otherwise impossible contraptions for radiation shielding if lifted from Earth.

From The Once and Future Moon:
Changing our approach to spaceflight

"Last time, I outlined some of the basic principles of lunar resource utilization. The Moon is our nearest source of material resources in space and learning how to extract what we need from the Moon is a key skill in our expansion into the Solar System."

"All this is very well and good, but how do we go about using the resources of the Moon and of space in general? Many people tend to think of huge industrial factories, similar to oil refineries, built on the Moon, with large mining communities similar to those depicted in the movie Outland. In fact, the beauty of space resource utilization is that it’s possible to start very small and build up capability with time. The “factory” needed to produce a metric tonne of oxygen on the Moon is the size of a typical office desk."

Read the Post HERE.