(Note: the following is one of various posts that were copied here from the Moonwards.com forum for the sake of preserving the early days of the project. It was originally posted there on Oct 9th, 2015)
The thing about building a dome out of a spiraling trough of fabric filled with tamped regolith is that the width of each level has to change, as does the radius of the open span. The Tube Filler i posted before might not be unreasonable for vertical walls - i mean, of course it is a highly simplified sketch, but i think all the basic steps are there. So, instead of building a new model that would work for a dome, i could have simply substituted an architectural design with vertical walls. I have two i want to draw up anyhow. For that matter, i've considered two alternate methods for building a dome, as well. But no, i wanted to finish what i started.
Okay, i know, it looks like a crazy mish-mash. I'm not going to even try to explain it here. I'm positing that the last 3 days, which were entirely spent building it, including staying up til 2 a.m. last night, are worth it for the practice actually thinking through a construction process. Other people who actually know about these things are going to be critical to this process, but the better i can understand what they are saying, the more we can get done. Right?
So in the time that remains before the conference i'm going to try to number all the bits of all these models, write up short summaries of what they are and how they work, and also place them together in a mock-up of Phase 1 of Cernan's Promise under construction. In theory, that should go faster than all this virtual model building. I have practise, no banging my head against my basic ignorance of the program and the process.
A lot of things are floating in mid-air because i didn't want to take the time to make all the supports. Especially since a lot of things need to pivot or slide. The orange bits are where such things happen. In pondering the number of small motors and precise movements that would involve, i became convinced how important it would be to have everything be done 'manually'. That is, invest in small, agile robots that go around performing such tasks, and save a ton on motors and tricky mechanisms that only hugely multiply the number of places where a failure would cause everything to grind to a halt. This sketch shows 4 robotic arms in total, but probably it would be better to 'man' the Dome Builder with two robots capable of crawling over it to perform different tasks, or two robot 'torsos' (not equiped to change location) that can be clipped to one station or another as needed. Many tasks are only occasional, after all - reloading bolts of cloth and spools of cord, cranking various gears to telescope various pieces as the width of higher levels increases. The crane could come and move a robot when needed. Most of the time they would be busy installing the solid basalt components that reinforce the levels.