Monday, June 19, 2017

Reworked Power Plant

Six weeks ago i posted about a new draft of the solar thermal power plant designed for Cernan's Promise. Oh how it has changed since then. The process of improving that model has been an important test case of how to elicit input on a design, and work through improving it, with online collaborators. Once again, it was done mostly by consultation in our chat room on space.stackexchange. The conversation there goes on for pages and pages, supplemented by sketches and links.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


There is a strong tinge of escapism among space fans. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, escapism gets a bad wrap. It just has to be used with care. I think it’s good for people to remember that things could be way, way better than they are. A vision of something that would be wonderful but can only be achieved with great effort can actually bring people together and focus them on making that effort. The problems begin with the false promises and hand-waving. If your head is out there, but your heart isn’t rooted down here, you’re in for trouble.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Drafting Ideas

We were chatting over the last week about the thermal energy storage system we have drafted right now for the colony, which is a bit like some solar thermal power plants here on Earth. (I always sort of enjoy it when i have a legitimate reason to specify that i'm referring to something 'on Earth'.) Our [chat room]( has been rather productive in the last while, this discussion was such a case. To encourage that, i made a new cutaway sketch of the heat reservoir and connected systems in order for us to better visualize the concepts discussed and improve the design. As usual, it is a design for an advanced colony, and so it is rather audacious by current standards. Once we are there and thriving, something like it will make sense on the Moon.

Friday, April 28, 2017

On Glass Bubbles and Being Grounded

I couldn't get along without windows. I don't care how big the cave is, how realistic display screens are at projecting pleasant outdoor scenes (holographic? well, that would help, but still), or how much time i spend outside (and i don't think it would be more than 10 or 15 hours a week) - big windows on the Moon make a big, big difference. I wouldn't expect people to have any enthusiasm at all for living there unless they have lots of natural sunlight, broad vistas, and can spend as much time looking outside as they like with no concern about radiation. So, we need to be able to make lots of glass there. LOOOOOOTS of glass.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Timeline to the Space Boom

The timeline for the virtual colonies, it turns out, is not the digestible list of bullet points i thought it would be when i started on it a couple of weeks ago. It is 130,000 words, and i stopped myself before it sucked me in completely. It maps out how the whole society on the Moon works, how a very achievable set of technologies supports it, and how the colonies develop industry and agriculture over the course of 50 years - in a dense but readable format. Outlining decades of humanity's greatest ever undertaking can't be done much more briefly. That's my story and i'm sticking to it.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Ice Mines Don't Sell

Kapitalist asked if Moonwards could also work on a plan that could happen in the world we know in a comment on the previous post. That was like pressing a big red button in the middle of my forehead, so i am responding here.

If we only think about what could be realistically done under existing political realities, we fail to see the real nature of space exploration. Decisions about undertakings of this scope should be made knowing the best and worst possible outcomes within our lifetimes. This is really important, but the matter is almost completely neglected. That's because we haven't had the tools before to really examine it. Now we do, and time is of the essence.

Paul Spudis has a wonderful detailed plan for lunar exploration, in my opinion the best out there by far, very realistic and reasonable. I have to ignore it almost completely. There is a list of reasons. I will look at the main three.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Colony Expansion

Sketching things rapidly is really helpful for discussion. In the last 3 weeks i've sketched all the main installations of the colony in order to create an overview, and a framework that can be the basis for improvement. There are still a number of undocumented things, nonetheless there is so much more in the colony models i'm having trouble deciding how to explain it. At the same time, the models are such simple sketches, they don't really get across the richness of the ideas unless the viewer fills in a fair bit... Let me see if i can paint this picture for you now with what we have...

Whole Phase 1 colony looking west over the crater rim

Monday, November 7, 2016

Walking on the Moon

I have spent a lot of time in and around Lalande Crater on the various maps of the Moon. I have my favorite spots. I've developed an inordinate fondness for it as clearly one of the handsomest craters. I have burning questions about what is really there. So, when i decided it was time to make a 3d model of it using LRO imagery and topographical data, it isn't surprising this activity stretched to over a month.

I highly recommend the modelling of craters as a pleasant pass time. If you enjoy maps and scale models, you will find it rewarding. We have a whole Moon covered with craters for which such models do not exist, so you can also enjoy the fact the result is a first and might be useful to someone. Really. There are very few such things in existence, and what there is isn't very detailed. NASA (of course) has the best collection, but the size of the smallest details in their models is still on the order of 100 meters (300 feet). Also, all the listed models at the link have been stretched vertically for dramatic contrast, which makes me shudder. Cosmetic fixes like that aren't necessary if you lovingly detail a smaller feature by using photos for reference, instead of modelling areas a hundred kilometers across using only topographical data.  LRO photos have resolutions as small as 50 cm per pixel (20 inches). With them you can show off the Moon's actual rugged terrain, as it really is. But, it takes time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Transport Tipping Point

Giant rockets and giant rocket explosions have been all the buzz for the last few weeks. It has gotten me thinking how little conversation there really is about the future being pursued here. There is lots of analysis of the market and the technology, but not of where we are headed. Sure, the viability of colonizing Mars is discussed, and the reasons for pursuing space settlement in general. But there is no sense of how scale affects the whole thing, and changes the whole panorama.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Nice Even Temperatures Through the Magic of Thermal Mass

An entry came in on the website forum about the extreme temperature swings between day and night on the Moon, and the difficulty of keeping temperatures even because of this. The poster, Sam D, mentioned in another post how lava tubes help with this, and that is indeed one reason why the idea of just sealing one up and using it as a hab is popular. I haven't ever properly explained why the habs we've designed will have very stable temperatures, so, now i am. (There is a different version of this on the forum more tailored to the asker, here i'm rearranging it a bit.)

If you have enough mass within the whole gallery space, then heat regulation is easy. Just make sure that enough heat leaves over the night to balance what came in during the day. That will mostly happen through the rock of the gallery floor and lower walls. If anything, the windows won't be enough for that and very minimal radiators would need to run every now and then at night.