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NASA Considers Plans for Permanent Moon Base 353

Posted by Zonk
from the ground-control-to-major-tom dept.
el crowbar sent us a link to an MSNBC article detailing NASA's plans for a moon base. The permanently staffed structure could begin construction sometime in 2010, with six-month duty rotations the norm by 2025. Interestingly, the space agency is looking far afield for technical expertise. Consultants on the project include individuals from Caterpillar, Norcat, Boeing, and other manufacturing concerns. Right now the only detail for placement and purpose is 'on the rim of a crater near one of the poles', but the article outlines a few other ideas that enterprising individuals have in mind for a moon base. Besides helium-3 mining and lunar hotels, do you have any good ideas for a moon base startup?
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NASA Considers Plans for Permanent Moon Base

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  • Make it mobile (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @05:58AM (#17871480) Homepage Journal

    From TFA:

    The general idea is to set up shop on the rim of a crater near one of the moon's poles. Such areas would be in sunlight, with a line-of-sight link to Earth all year round.

    I think we should start by getting a few moon facts straight before we progress to a permenant settlement:

    1. The moon does not rotate with respect to its orbital period around the Earth.
    2. The only places where the Earth rises and sets to even a small degree are close to the equator, and we seem to have decided not to build it there.

    So if it was going to lose line of sight occasionally it would be on every lunar orbit, not every year. The lunar axis of rotation is so close to the orbital plane around the Earth that a polar station will never see the Earth move significantly in its sky.

    If anybody is interested my preference would be for a heavy, pressurised rover. Capable of autonomous driving and control from the ground. Each new crew lands close to the path of the rover and drives it for a week or so. They then meet up with another lander and use its ascent stage to return to Earth. Some ascent stages are landed under remote control so that the first crew can use one to return.

    The problem with a fixed base is that the local area will get boring pretty quickly, so a pressurised rover will be needed in any event. If the rover only drives at 10km/h the whole habitat may just as well be on the rover. It can drive fast enough to always be in sunlight, so you don't have to worry about energy storage at night.

    Ascent stages are flown down under automatic control, or left beh
  • by paganizer (566360) <thegrove1@NoSpAm.hotmail.com> on Saturday February 03, 2007 @06:16AM (#17871540) Homepage Journal
    It's a pain manufacturing a vacuum; the moon has a lot of it laying around, making it a great place to make things that require one.
    How about.... a solar forge, melting down local ore, bubbling a gas through it (lower gravity means more spherical bubbles, better strength) to make foam alloy structural elements, then putting it on your solar powered catapult to shoot into orbit for either a) recovery for earth use via semi-controlled re-entry or b) orbital construction.
    Low gravity ceramic compounds would be interesting also.

    um... a joke has to be thrown in...
    great place for a remake of Sapce:1999?
  • Make it underground (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yamamushi (903955) <yamamushi@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday February 03, 2007 @06:18AM (#17871548) Homepage
    Probably not very feasible, but why not have a base built underground, where the temperature could be stabilized year-round?
  • by PhreakinPenguin (454482) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @06:21AM (#17871562) Homepage Journal
    Normally something like building a base on the moon would seem like a cool idea. But in today's world of politics and jockeying for money, this will never see the light of day. Projects over 4 years are guaranteed to get the boot at some point down the road for either political reasons or just flat out budget issues.
  • Priorities? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Form-o-Stuff (706090) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @06:26AM (#17871584)
    I was just watching The House Oversight Committee being told by a NASA scientist that global warming had to be addressed. So what does our government do? Throw a ton of money at blasting a four ton tourist trap into space. Have we learned our lesson? I think not. Perhaps once we lose Manhattan the 9-11 fever will redirect its frustration. Perhaps.
  • corporate welfare (Score:1, Interesting)

    by oohshiny (998054) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @06:28AM (#17871592)
    Consultants on the project include individuals from Caterpillar, Norcat, Boeing, and other manufacturing concerns.

    In different words, the US government is taking away most of the money flowing to scientifically valuable projects and instead handing it out to big corporations with no experience. This is kind of like the administration's picks for "experts" and service companies in Iraq.

    Wars and space exploration, together with outsourcing and privatization, are a great pretext for corporate welfare and pork.

    I'd prefer to see the space program killed altogether and NASA disbanded instead of having taxpayer money wasted on moon colonies and manned trips to Mars.
  • by killjoe (766577) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @07:09AM (#17871774)
    Go to budgetgraph.com. There you will learn that the NASA budget is 16 billion. The iraq war is costing us 10 BILLION EVERY MONTH. The iran war is going to cost even more.

  • Possibly ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vic-traill (1038742) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @07:14AM (#17871800)
    Besides helium-3 mining and lunar hotels, do you have any good ideas for a moon base startup?

    This is possibly the most small-minded query ever seen on a /. submission summary:

    [assume best Jeff Spicoli persona] Like, Mr. Hand, do you have any good ideas for a moon base startup? [giggles nervously]

    Opinions on the submission summary aside, the big question for me is: To what extent will Americans (I'm not) expect this venture to be self-funding? A research component (pursuit of pure knowledge stuff) in NASA's budget will, I expect, only get you part-way.

    If helium-3 is present to the extent indicated by the lunar soil samples brought back by Apollo 11 and subsequent missions, then the economics of a lunar mining operations might even work - if we can find something to do with a big swack of helium-3, other than filling kid's birthday balloons. Maybe there's someone out there who is an authority on this: to what extent does using helium-3 as fuel for fusion reduce the by-product/radioactive waste produced by nuclear reactors? Is helium-3 at reasonable cost a Big Win for the nuclear industry?

    The time is certainly ripe for getting serious about getting out of the fossil-fuel business (not from an economic perspective, where Exxon's $40 Billion USD profit last year looks Pretty Good, but from a How Long Can This Go On? perspective).

    I'm reading this the day after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued their report, which says things don't look good, to say the least:

    http://www.usatoday.com/weather/climate/2007-02-02 -climatechange_x.htm?POE=NEWISVA [usatoday.com]

    So the economic appeal may be there.

    Six month rotations are mentioned. I'm not an out-doors guy, but I'll tell you that the prospect of spending 175+ straight days in-doors isn't too appealing to me. Maybe this is why Huxley envisaged Happy Drugs; this would be the ultimate test of our ability to medicate ourselves to contentment in the face of adversity in our environment. I'm wondering what the rotation cycles are for remote assignments on Earth, e.g. Antarctic and Arctic exploration stations? While functionally the Antarctic Winter and the Lunar environment have the same effect - no going outside except in serious gear, or you die - I think that there is a psychological oppression that goes along with being on the moon. Comments?

    I think that six month rotations would take quite a while to build up to.
  • Power of course (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LeepII (946831) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @09:19AM (#17872498)
    Obviously the export of the moon would be solar power converted to microwave and beamed to recievers orbiting earth. Wasn't it Heinlen who suggested that tunnels be dug and farms created heated by the raw solar energy from above? If h2o is anywhere near the the polar caps then ice mining?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 03, 2007 @09:21AM (#17872508)
    The solution is to make any intellectual property created for this endeavor public domain when the effort fails. That way there will be plenty of encouragement to participate only if the companies think they will succeed. If they succeed then they profit off their IP monopolies. And if they fail then the public will have received something for their tax dollars and the companies may still have an edge over their competition -- just not a long-lived one.

    Finally, IP would have a use other than screwing non-lawyers.
  • by Knutsi (959723) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @09:48AM (#17872712)
    That some very good points nicklott, but maybe it's possible turn it around and say that the very reason we should aim to a self-sustaining colony rather than a base is just the fact that the moon will probably not be able to send us back any valuable produce. It's not like we'll be growing tobacco there for a profit.

    So if you value permanemnt human space settlement in it's own right, the aim should be for it to exist for it's own sake. Best way to do this is to make it "home" for people. For this, you need it to be as self-sustaining as possible. Once the colony got big enough, it may be able to host greater scientifict research, and also work as a launch platform for deeper space exploration.

    I have no idea if this is more cost-efficient than putting the money into development of exotic launch technologies here on Earth tho'. It may be, but it may also be that those projects has a lower return on the investment than learning how to "seed" new colonies out there that can aid further exploration of space (and secure humanity).
  • Some ideas (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 03, 2007 @10:26AM (#17872948)
    Ok none of this is new but...

    vacuum industry - there are lots of cool potential manufacturing technologies (and lots of current ones) that require a good vacuum.

    Low-G research - kind of like the vacuum industry

    Microgravity research - Create a Zero-G environment directly on the moon by taking advantage of the vaccum and low G environment; basically build a linear accelerator mass driver on the equator at the highest elevation. Use it to accelerate a lab to moon oribtal speed at that altitude, let the lab whip around the equator skimming the mountain tops (and passing through the now dormant accelerator every "orbit" - you've basically created a geosynchronous (lunarsynchronous?) labratory. When it's time to deorbit, just capture the velocity back when the lab goes through the accelerator and you'll get back a good portion of the acceleration energy.

    Build it right and the scientists can enter and exit the lab in their shirtsleeves, too. About a million times better than doing research on the vomit comit and probably a couple orders of magnitude better than trying to do it on the ISS (if only from a perspective of the amount of equipment / space to store that equipment available on the moon vs. the ISS - especially if vacuum industry on the moon is available by then)

    And finally, my favorite... liquid metal mirror observatory. Thanks to the low G, absence of geologic processes, and vacuum, you could build a great reflector. And because the primary mass component is liquid, it bulks very little (carry it up in a tank)

    I'm not sure if Mercury will sublimate in vacuum, but it's worth a try right?
  • Offsite storage! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Green Dragon (22005) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @10:29AM (#17872968)
    From the original article (from NASA [nasa.gov], not msnbc.com) "The moon could also provide some creative commercial opportunities: lunar power from solar cells, protected data archives, mining of lunar metals, and research under conditions of low gravity and high vacuum, to name a few."

    So, if your data is REALLY vital, you can store your backups in the ULTIMATE offsite data center!

  • Retirement... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Saturday February 03, 2007 @10:45AM (#17873076) Homepage

    If they can't solve the age-related muscle- and bone-deterioration problems by the time I get frail, I want to be able to retire on the Moon. Yes, I know, getting there once will be difficult, but I hope, I'll be able to make it.

    And then — many more years of free movement in a comfortable nursing home. With beautiful views, miles of walkways, high-speed Internet (even if some latency remains talking to Earthlings), and monthly visits from family...

  • the moon plan (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dbuzzi (1059402) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @11:34AM (#17873428)
    How could slashdot miss the big plot in this one.... it's the cheese there going after. Boeing will fly it back to Earth, while Caterpillar scrapes off the new land for some real mooncheese.
  • Re:Make it mobile (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Eravnrekaree (467752) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @12:17PM (#17873700)
    With all of the problems we have here on earth, I wonder if spending the billions needed to do this is the best use of money, especially when we have children starving in Africa and a serious energy and environmental problem that needs to be solved. I would much rather see the money go into physics and alternative energy research to develop clean new sources of energy that are: 1) High yield 2) Cheap and affordable 3) Clean, do not cause pollution or harm the environment 3) Renewable, comes from a source that it is not depleatable 4) Preferably non earth resources based, or that the energy yeild is so great that a massive amount of energy can be extracted from a very small amount of matter, for instance, the amount needed to power New York City for a few years should be extractable from a glass of water for instance. This would solve an immense number of problems we have on earth at this time, including the global warming situation, and the problem we have with the current fuels which are toxic and polluting, quickly being depleated and which will not renewable. We are taking, when it comes to these a much too short term view of the situation, using fuels that will be depleated in hundreds of dozens of years. We need to find energy sources which are basically infinite and undepleatable to assure the survival of this civilisation for millions of years, and furthermore, at the same time protecting and preserving the planets natural environments. One technology that could fulfill this need is free energy. If you ask me, the attitude of many scientists to this possibility is a bit arrogant and religious. Many believe that the current laws of physics are totally complete and accurate, yet to me, it looks like we really only have a tip of the iceberg in seeing and understanding the universe. No one really knows what magnetism is, they know how it acts and what it does. Neither are there any particularly elegant models which inteconnect the various forces of the universes or explain their origin. Furthermore, denials that there may be exceptions to such things as Conservation of Energy is based on an attempt at negative proof. Trying to prove that something is not possible is much more difficult than saying something is possible. This is due to the fact that there may be some circumstances where something may be possible and others where it may not be. We make the arrogant assumption that CoE applies universally in all cases, that there may not be cases where, under certain conditions it can be circumvented, without truly any knowledge that this is true or testing each one of the infinite number of possible conditions. Scientists, essentially, believe they know everything, and that their theories are perfect and complete, and how dare anyone suggest that perhaps we should look under unturned stones and that there may be undiscovered mysteries and effects in the universe that we have no identified. It is very easy to see how, if there was an effect that would allow an infinite energy supply to be produced, which only occured under a one in million arrangement of magnets, that this could have been completely overlooked till now, especially with our culture where what is taught in textbooks is never questioned and people assume it is all correct and applies under every context. Such arrogance can be quite dangerous, since it can cause us to overlook possible effects in the universe, which might free us from much of our energy crisis and limit the progress of our civilisation, and unnecessarily limit our expectations of what is possible. Physical theories, if adhered to dogmatically, can in essence control and limit peoples expectations of what is possible in reality, if the theories are incomplete, it can cause a range of effects and applications which could be of great importance to the protection of this planet and the prosperity and longevity of civilisation to be overlooked. The feeling I have from looking at our present understanding of the universe, is that while current theories have brought us closer to understanding, ther
  • Re:Make it mobile (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Paulrothrock (685079) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @01:25PM (#17874246) Homepage Journal

    The real reason the base would be placed at the poles is two fold. First, it's the only place where, at a mountain peak, solar power is available all the time. Second, it's the only place that has been shown to have water (in the form of ice) near the surface.

    But you're right: It's got absolutely nothing to do with "line of sight" communication with Earth. The near side of the moon always faces the earth.

  • Re:Definitly.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sgt_doom (655561) on Saturday February 03, 2007 @01:31PM (#17874308)
    Will this be called "Moon Base SHADO"???

    A French government official, commenting on the release of classified government data regarding UFO sightings over that country's airspace, said: "We are keeping an open mind about the existence of extraterrestrials."

    The Extraterrestrials reponse: "We have a closed mind about the existence of intelligent life on planet Earth!"

  • Re:Sports! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous@yahooBLUE.com minus berry> on Saturday February 03, 2007 @05:21PM (#17876252) Homepage Journal
    Naturally, a basketball court for all us white folk...

    Yes, the 1/6 gee would definitely increase your vertical leap and increase the odds of being able to dunk. But you should specify that the court be indoors, heated, and pressurized. Trying to do a lay-up in those big bulky spacesuits might be harder than you think.

    I think other indoor, 1/6 gee sports that would be pretty cool:

    Diving. Besides jumping higher, you fall slower, giving you more time to execute some gnarly moves on your way down.

    Trampoline. Just make sure the room has high ceilings.

    Boxing. Your punch has 150 pounds of force behind it. Your opponent weighs 30 pounds in the moon's gravity. Hilarity ensues.

    - Greg

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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