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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Pyramid Paradigm

Long, long ago, all of the very first nations on the face of the Earth made really big things. They made the very biggest things they could figure out how to. For a long time they raised huge stones over tombs or temples. Then they took to building a wide variety of pyramids. The one we simply know as the Great Pyramid remains the heaviest structure ever built, handily beating the Romanian Palace of the Parliament, which is the heaviest modern building and an interesting point of comparison.

The Romanian Parliament, known in Romania as Casa Poporului (the People's House) was built by the nation's soldiers, in a land at the time ruled by a brutal dictator. It took between 20,000 and 100,000 of them working under forced labor sometimes around the clock for 5 years, and the rest of Romania was deprived of basic needs in order to fund this. It is said that hundreds of workers, maybe as many as 3000, died during construction. The project stopped when the dictator and his wife were overthrown and executed in 1989. I remember the film shown on the news in Canada of the Ceausescus' dead bodies, a clip taken by the Romanian revolutionaries who wished to prove to their countrymen that they were really dead. Despite their hatred of everything the building represents, Romanians eventually decided that it only made sense to use Casa Poporului as the seat of government, the purpose for which it was built. So much was sacrificed to build it, and it is, in the end, well adapted to the task if one looks past its authoritarian feel.

Monday, September 5, 2016

All the Reasons Why

Moonwards is a bit of a different approach to promoting space. It seems time to properly summarize that. I'm on The Space Show next Sunday, Sept. 11th, and i need to organize my thoughts. It hasn't seemed useful (up to now) to contrast it with various other projects out there, so this gap keeps reappearing where people wonder why it isn't done like x or y.

99% of the imagery of space that most people see is in fiction, there is a huge quantity of material. For most people, what we are really doing in space is pretty boring by comparison. Unless they have a background in the sciences that allows them to appreciate it, it just isn't going to hold their attention. However, the growing proportion of popular fiction that takes place in space is a signal of something important. Human cultures are increasingly transferring their broadest vision of our hopes and dreams to a space setting. If you want to reach people, and get them thinking about what the road to our greatest dreams needs to be, tapping that has huge potential.

So Moonwards is building a bridge between the vast energy placed in fictional visions and something that could actually be done. It seeks a keen balance between realism and fantasy that powerfully makes key points about who we are and what we should pursue. A city on the Moon can capture the imagination. Yes, you could fly by flapping wings, needing only your own strength. Yes, you could leap from the water like a dolphin. You could carry 10 people on your shoulders, jump to the roof of a house. You could run for miles and miles without exhaustion - you could just run wherever you go without it being a big deal. You could run everyplace with a friend on your shoulders, and switch occasionally between who is carrying who. The scale of what we could build there once we built up infrastructure would also be that much grander. Ladders into space, skyscrapers miles high, pits miles deep.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Transportation that Builds Momentum

There is no way around it. The different resources of the Moon are in different places, and they don't seem to be close together. Mapping of resources is really patchy, low-resolution, and incomplete, so maybe there is a sweet spot that helps with this we have only to discover. Probably not, though, and even if there is, if you are talking about serious development, you are going to need to go get things from far away sooner or later.

Building first at the equator simplifies some things but runs into this as soon as the water supply comes up. For all that it is much easier to build big quickly at Lalande Crater, it has advantages in trajectories to and from Earth, and has much more iron, potassium, phosphorus, thorium, and rare earth elements than the poles, all of its water has to be delivered. A base at the poles could get its water from permanently shadowed craters once the machinery to do so had been developed and built. That could prove difficult and expensive though - we don't know yet.  If you set up an efficient supply route from Earth, supplying enough water doesn't get problematic until it is time to expand the colony from the initial crew of 30 to a population of hundreds. Even then, if you skipped putting in giant swimming pools it is conceivable you could simply add a few cargo runs  to your schedule loaded with nothing but water from Earth and stay within your budget. However, a place on the Moon where people are supposed to live for the rest of their lives really ought to have giant swimming pools. So, the trick is how to bring kilotons of water to the colony for those residents. And just aside from that you will want to be able to move kilotons onto and off of the Moon anyhow, so this is really just the first, most obvious case of that need.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Health Tips on the Moon - Part 3

It is time to speak of radiation on the Moon. First i am going to explain it a bit, and point out things a lot of people don't know. One, we can only make decent guesses how much radiation there is on the Moon. Two, we don't know what it will do to people. Three, a bit of shielding makes it much worse, not better.

One - We have no direct measurements of radiation levels on the Moon's surface, and modeling that environment with software is extraordinarily complex. This paper based on modelling found galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) fluctuates between 0.38 Sv/yr at solar minimum and 0.11 Sv/yr during solar maximum. (The solar wind scatters GCR particles that enter the solar system, and when it is stronger less penetrate to the inner solar system.) The Curiosity rover measured 0.66 Sv/yr in deep space on its way to Mars, 0.23 Sv/yr on the Martian surface in 2013, when solar activity was about half way between its minimum and maximum. The Moon is different than Mars because it has no atmosphere, but taking all those figures, using an average of 0.25 Sv/yr overall is probably within, say, 50% of the truth.

Two - Again using a lot of modeling and statistics, the estimate is that 0.5 Sv/yr increases an astronaut's chances of cancer by about 3% to 5%. In order to not increase those chances beyond that amount, radiation dose for a whole career is not to exceed 1 to 4 Sv, depending largely on the age and gender of the astronaut. There isn't enough data to consider other possible health risks due to radiation exposure, and even the figures used are a guesstimate. Actual effects could be much less or much more, they could vary a lot from person to person, and other factors like diet and exercise could change these probabilities greatly.