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Moon NASA Space Science

Russia Talks Moon Base With NASA, ESA 197

Posted by Soulskill
from the sheer-luna-cy dept.
milbournosphere writes "Russia and NASA are reportedly in talks to create a base on the Moon. They're looking to create either a facility on the Moon itself or a permanent space station in orbit around the moon. 'We don't want man to just step on the Moon,' agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said in an interview with Vesti FM radio station. 'Today, we know enough about it. We know that there is water in its polar areas,' he added. 'We are now discussing how to begin [the Moon's] exploration with NASA and the European Space Agency.'"
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Russia Talks Moon Base With NASA, ESA

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  • by inhuman_4 (1294516) on Monday January 23, 2012 @07:43PM (#38798845)

    Sounds like a good idea. Hopefully they can actually do something with this instead of endlessly talking about it, and sinking money into studys.

    • by hedwards (940851) on Monday January 23, 2012 @07:48PM (#38798895)

      We can do it, it's mostly a question of whether or not we want it badly enough to do it. Compared with some of the other things we've done lately it should be well within our capabilities. People have been to the moon.

      The challenge though is going to be primarily expense, getting the materials to the moon is a relatively well understood problem and most of them can, presumably, be unmanned missions. The real challenge is going to making the base habitable and protected from whatever might fall from the sky.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        Let the moon help with that. it is rock, and tunnel machines can work robotically. Then it is a matter of sealing it off and letting the rock itself be your shielding.

        two machines, and create a V shaped complex. It doesn't have to be very long at least as far as tunnels go. and once built the inner layers would be easy enough to seal off.

        • by rednip (186217)
          The Moon is too unstable for human underground habitation and strip mining is still the best way to mine if you can get away with it. (Dark side of the moon; more mining friendly?) For shielding, why not use lead plates, bet yet gold?
          • by hedwards (940851)

            You do realize that the dark side of the moon doesn't always cover the same ground, right?

          • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Monday January 23, 2012 @09:12PM (#38799805)

            The Moon is too unstable for human underground habitation and strip mining is still the best way to mine if you can get away with it.

            The moon is virtually dead geologically [utk.edu]and has been for 3 billion years. "the energy associated with the Earth's seismic activity is about 10^14 times larger than that of the Moon"

            (Dark side of the moon; more mining friendly?)

            You do realize that it's not really dark, right? It is only "dark" in relation to the Earth, not the sun.

            For shielding, why not use lead plates, bet yet gold

            So you want to lift large amounts of very dense materials (or rare) from the earth to the moon rather than use the materials that are already there and adequate? I guessing you recently received your MBA.

            • (Dark side of the moon; more mining friendly?)

              You do realize that it's not really dark, right? It is only "dark" in relation to the Earth, not the sun.

              There is no Dark Side of the Moon, really.... Matter of fact, it's all dark.

              --- Pink Floyd.

              Actually, the poles are pretty low on the solar radiation, and I think they think that's where the water is too.

          • by gmhowell (26755)

            The Moon is too unstable for human underground habitation and strip mining is still the best way to mine if you can get away with it. (Dark side of the moon; more mining friendly?) For shielding, why not use lead plates, bet yet gold?

            "There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it's all dark" [youtube.com]

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          I'd say the more difficult part of it would be keeping the surface dust/soil out of the bore. Lunar soil [wikipedia.org] is quite fine, and sharp. It apparently gets in everything, and abrades the hell out of it.

          A lot of water (or other fluid) will probably have to be used to wash the stuff off during construction and on entering the base.

        • There's a 150m cave in the moon which was discovered a few months back. Just seal up the entrance to that - no need to build a tunnel.

        • Let the moon help with that. it is rock, and tunnel machines can work robotically. Then it is a matter of sealing it off and letting the rock itself be your shielding.

          two machines, and create a V shaped complex. It doesn't have to be very long at least as far as tunnels go. and once built the inner layers would be easy enough to seal off.

          You do know about Lunar dust, right? More abrasive than virtually anything on Earth, it floats up a meter and more off the ground by electrostatic charge, that same charge can cause it to cling to any exposed surface like it is electro-plated on (because, basically, it is...) makes machines with moving parts... challenging... to design for durability. That, and the vacuum, and the temperature extremes, and the radiation (you did want digital computer controls, didn't you?), and the fact that nobody has ta

      • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:33PM (#38799449)

        I'm just waiting for China to announce a permanent moonbase.

        Then we'll suddenly be really fucking interested in going back real fucking fast.

        Until then, Russia can gum-flap all they want, there's no political ($$$) motivation to go back. Sure, it'll pay off, but not before the next election cycle, so who gives a rat's ass? I mean, yeah, everybody but the people holding the purse strings.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Probably the best thing would be some sort of titanium umbrella (sent in pieces) to sit over the base (or at least the core components) to protect it.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Heading this off early:

        Even if we haven't been on the moon (rolls eyes) we can certainly pull it off now. To say our technology, medical science, and materials science has improved since then is an understatement.

      • Re: Proper Plan (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DanielRavenNest (107550) on Monday January 23, 2012 @09:05PM (#38799735)

        tl;dr: Robots first, mine the asteroids for building materials.

        The proper plan is to start mining Near Earth Asteroids for supplies. Why NEO's? They take less velocity to reach than the Moon's surface for some of them, and all of the velocity can be done with highly efficient electric thrusters. The Moon is physically closer, but distance is not what costs in space, it's velocity and fuel. Haul back surface dust and rocks from your chosen asteroid with a solar powered tug, and have the extraction equipment in Earth orbit. Why here? it's close enough to be remote controlled by humans on the ground. Depending which asteroid and it's composition you can get: metals, glass, oxygen, fuel for more mining trips, carbon, silicon for solar panels, even water in some of them. Also sheer bulk rock gives you radiation shielding.

        Once you learn to extract useful stuff, and build up a supply, you use that to build a habitat, including a greenhouse using the glass for windows and carbon to feed the plants. *Then* you start sending people. Until then you send the minimum crew you can get away with, possibly zero. With people up there and their life support taken care of long term, you can start building space elevators in Earth orbit and Lunar orbit out of the carbon you extract. Not the sci-fi one at Earth that goes all the way to the ground, that takes materials we can't make yet. You can reach 30% of the way to the ground in velocity terms at Earth, and all the way on the Moon, cause it's smaller. 30% in velocity means 50% in energy for a vehicle starting from the ground. You can now build single stage to orbit vehicles easily. At the moon you don't need vehicles at all as far as propulsion, just a pressure cabin. Now you can send people all the way from Earth to the Moon at reasonable cost. You can also send habitat parts made in orbit down to the Moon, and start building up your infrastructure there.

        We already know a lot about mining and manufacturing on Earth. The main thing we have to learn is how to do it remotely, and possibly in zero gee (you can always spin things if you need gravity).

        • It's a lovely vision. I don't wish to crap all over it, but we're still struggling with how to deal with bone loss and atrophy. And that's with the most athletic candidates that take on such orbital missions. How can we ever have an average-Joe take on employment in such a space mining industry? The caliber of men and women necessary to do these missions would be exceedingly costly. I'm afraid until such problems are solved, cheap 3rd world labor strip mining in afghanistan would be cheaper and less risky i

          • Re-read the sequence in my previous article. Mining and ore processing are done by robots. Then you build a habitat once you have stockpiled materials. Your minimal robot assisted construction crew can survive for at least 6 months in zero-g, that's how long the Space Station tours of duty are. The habitat itself is rotating to make artificial gravity, so that problem is solved.

            What has terrestrial mining in Afghanistan got to do with this discussion? This is mining in space TO USE IN SPACE. The reaso

          • Fuck People. Start the space mining, and simultaneously work on AI for the robots. By the time either pipe dream comes to fruition we'll all be extinct anyhow. At least some small spark of life can carry on where we failed to collaborate a way off this rock. With any luck the drive to create and explore the cosmos will live on in our more sturdy & logical cybernetic creations.
        • Great plan below here, but from a politician with elections coming up in less than 2/4/6 years, a) tl/dr, b) what kind of payback horizon are you talking about? Will my voters see anything worthwhile in their lifetime? In their children's lifetime?, c) take anything the far out science guys say, and multiply the schedule x3, the budget x12, and the tangible taxable benefits x0.2, does it still sound good? Good enough to get me re-elected? "We're going to Mars!" was a dud for W., why should I think I'll

    • by Hentes (2461350) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:45PM (#38799579)

      This is not about studies but a diplomatic arrangement. Noone could build a Moonbase without the consent of the other major powers.

  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@@@gmail...com> on Monday January 23, 2012 @07:44PM (#38798851)

    Twenty years later than it should have been on the table.

    We should have had a base up there for years - an ideal place to serve as a jumping off point for science elsewhere in the solar system, even if the Moon itself is "barren".

    • by jamstar7 (694492) on Monday January 23, 2012 @07:54PM (#38798953)
      If we'd gone with the original plan for space exploration, we'dve had a (small) colony on the moon, an orbital transfer/construction station in HEO, and a manned landing or 3 on Mars by 1985. Problem was, there just wasn't any way to put a man on the moon by 1970 if we'd done it that way. Upside is, we'dve had a reuseable lunar lander, just refuel, preflight, and go. We went with Apollo instead because it was the quick and dirty solution.
      • by c0lo (1497653)

        If we'd gone with the original plan for space exploration, we'dve had a (small) colony on the moon, an orbital transfer/construction station in HEO, and a manned landing or 3 on Mars by 1985.

        Don't forget flying cars [wikipedia.org].

  • Weren't we supposed to have a well established moonbase 13 years ago?
  • by icebike (68054) * on Monday January 23, 2012 @07:50PM (#38798921)

    With a moon base you have access to that water they mention, and perhaps enough sunlight to actually grow food (although the water seems to be in the wrong place for this). You have shelter by digging into the moon itself, and enough free raw materials to extract an atmosphere, make building materials, etc. You don't have to bring everything from earth. You have gravity as well, which makes for more comfortable living and building. None of that is available in moon orbit.

    Although an orbiting moon base makes for a quicker return to earth vicinity, the value of "quick" makes it a fairly meaningless advantage. There is no point in putting a base in moon orbit unless you intend to frequently visit the moon surface. At which time you encounter the assent problem, the same problem you have with a moon base.

    The major problem of a moon base, or simply visiting the moon, is the problem of fuel expenditures for lift off. For all the Buck Rogers si-fi we've written, we still can't carry enough fuel to get out of sight. Any system we have for getting off of the surface amounts to a zero-backup, Hail Mary. There is no plan B.

    We (barely) got out of the moon program without the horror of stranding people there. Until a more realistic system for getting off the moon is built, putting a base there is just a disaster waiting to happen with our current technology.

    Maybe it would be easier to build the often talked about space elevator on the moon.

    • Apparently, materials like kevlar and spectra would make for a workable space elevator on the moon. Instead of the counterweight being in orbit around the moon, it hangs up and over the "lip" of L1, and dangles Earthwards.
      • A rotating cable 600 km long, and having 1 Earth gravity at the tip, would let you place objects at rest on the Moon, and also fling them to more than escape. If it's in polar orbit, it also has the advantage of being able to drop and pick up from anywhere on the Lunar surface. Being much shorter than the Moon-L1 elevator by a factor of around 100, it is much less exposed to meteor impact, which can cut cable strands. Also, the climb time is greatly reduced. Instead of having to climb 60,000 km or so to

        • by Nethead (1563)

          You just freaking blew my mind. Thank you.

          If you're near the Everett plant, I'd love to buy you a beer and chat sometime. My email is above and the whois for the domain is current.

    • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:30PM (#38799417)

      Although an orbiting moon base makes for a quicker return to earth vicinity

      No, actually it doesn't. transfer orbit for LLO to Earth takes just about as long as a transfer orbit from Luna surface to Earth.

      The major problem of a moon base, or simply visiting the moon, is the problem of fuel expenditures for lift off. For all the Buck Rogers si-fi we've written, we still can't carry enough fuel to get out of sight. Any system we have for getting off of the surface amounts to a zero-backup, Hail Mary. There is no plan B.

      Umm, no.

      One possibility is to use that lunar water to manufacture LH2/LOX + O2 for use by the base (LH2/LOX mixtures typically don't include enough LOX to burn all the LH2). So, LH2/LOX fuel, Isp 450 more or less, depending on engine design. Assume 420 to allow for generous margin of error.

      DeltaV required from Lunar surface to enter an orbit that'll drop you into the upper atmosphere is ~2.4 km/s.

      Allow for 80% extra fuel, which should be sufficient for an abort anytime up till you actually enter lunar orbit - 4.4 km/s.

      A 420 Isp for 4.4 km/s deltaV requires a mass ratio of less than 3.0. Two kg of fuel for every kg of spacecraft/cargo. Which is pretty easy to achieve, actually.

      Alternately, you use Al/LOX. O2 is easier to come by on Luna than H2, since you can find oxygen in the compounds making up the rocks. Ditto Aluminum. Isp is crap, but fuel density is much greater, so you need much smaller fuel tanks. Higher mass ratio, of course.

      Which would be the best course is a matter for professionals, of course. But either option is doable, and either vehicle could be developed before we could get a base on the moon to deliver it to.

      Of course, if you're really looking for exotic solutions, there's always an escape speed mass driver on the moon. Gives the loonies something to bombard Earth with later, also...right, Mike?

      • by icebike (68054) *

        So after challenging my statement that "The major problem of a moon base, or simply visiting the moon, is the problem of fuel expenditures for lift off. " you launch into a great deal of nonsense about manufacturing fuels on the moon and mass accelerators and have the math all worked out (or so you say)?

        Nice to just hand wave 5 years of construction, transport, and assembly into existence.

        But hey, you said its easy. so.....

        Best perhaps is to take your own advice and leave it to professionals.

        • Nice to just hand wave 5 years of construction, transport, and assembly into existence.

          Correction(IMHO): Nice to just hand wave 50 years of construction, transport, and assembly into existence.

          Look how long it took to buid the ISS. We would have needed (and would continue to need) a SaturnV or Shuttle capacity mission every other week for decades to have a semi-sustainable 'base' on the Moon.

          It'll happen eventually. But all these fools with "Why aren't we there yet?!?" are simply delusional.
          • We need the lunar version of a self-replicating machine shop that can reproduce >95% of its parts from materials that are proxucible on the moon. It will likely be a while before things like microchips or things requiring exotic materials wil be easier to make there, but other things may be produced from raw materials or grown (feasibility depends on what feedstocks can be found vs what needs to be shipped in). We need to look for the advantages that would allow new basic approaches to create processed

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      Supply drops would probably be easier. In a free orbit, you either have to 'dock' or maneuver into a slightly-different orbit. With the moon, the right math and a bit of preprogrammed thrusting should do the job. Dropping a container full of foodstuffs is a lot less delicate then landing a pressurized pod with millimeter thin skin full of fragile meatbags, after all (Apollo lander).

    • As icebike mentions, space elevator, specifically one rotating at a tip velocity equal to orbit velocity. Then you are dropped off on the Lunar surface at zero net velocity. Half a rotation later, the elevator can fling you off at more than lunar escape, so you can pretty much go wherever you want. What do you build it out of? Near Earth asteroids can supply the raw materials for fiberglass and carbon fiber (depending which asteroid you mine). The asteroids don't have a pesky gravity well, so you can h

  • by NReitzel (77941) on Monday January 23, 2012 @07:56PM (#38798985) Homepage

    I would think that the fastest (timeline) to having a large presence in orbit around the moon would be to boost ISS to lunar orbit, or possibly (stability?) a figure-8 orbit around earth and moon. That gives us a large, stable presence, in a relatively short time frame. ISS is nice, but it's not really doing anything super useful in LEO.

    One of the reasons that the US doesn't have the supercollider and CERN does is that they reused all their old equipment. We had similar equipage, the Tevatron, but no, SSC had to be all brand new, and ended up being so great it was never built.

    We have a large, manned habitat, already in orbit. Use it.

    • interesting idea, but NASA is having a hard enough time sending up crew and supplies to ISS in LEO.... if they had to send them to LUNAR orbit, well good luck with that.
      • interesting idea, but NASA is having a hard enough time sending up crew and supplies to ISS in LEO.... if they had to send them to LUNAR orbit, well good luck with that.

        The ancient Soyuez designs will be superseded by SpaceX designs RSN.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Since it seems like you do not Google, let me Bing it for you: here [bing.com]. It's just not feasible [colorado.edu]. And actually it had been discussed here as well. [slashdot.org]

    • 100% agree !!! Or failing that how about sit it in a LAGRANGE POINT, requiring next to NO FUEL. Where it could be a half way point to the moon and anywhere else. Negating having to reach escape velocity. Then start constructing probes up there, then small ships.
      Any and all complaints about feasibility would still be an issue with whatever ship / base they come up with...
      • by X0563511 (793323)

        So, how are you going to keep station? Every launch and landing is going to nudge the station away from the L2 point. You are going to have to correct at some point.

        • Ion thrusters. Using solar panels and a trivial amount of xenon (I imagine redesigning for a more common gas might be desirable though) you could maintain station easily.

          • by X0563511 (793323)

            Are they small enough that you could place them like RCS thrusters? I was under the impression these things were sized on the scale of main engines. If you can get them that small and they still work well enough, that's a good idea!

    • by Teun (17872)
      A nice suggestion but I doubt the ISS would, in it's present configuration, withstand the needed acceleration to leave Earth Orbit.
      • by Jeremi (14640)

        A nice suggestion but I doubt the ISS would, in it's present configuration, withstand the needed acceleration to leave Earth Orbit.

        I wonder what the minimum acceleration needed is to lift the ISS out of Earth Orbit?

        My (naive) mind is telling me that any acceleration at all would be sufficient, if it was applied consistently in the right direction, over a long enough period... but I'm probably wrong about that :^)

        • Minimum acceleration is arbitrarily small. You can certainly bring more modules to orbit, put lots of solar array on it, and use that to power an ion or VASIMR type electric thruster. In fact, a VASIMR thruster is planned to be tested on the Station, because it's giant solar arrays cause enough drag to lower it's orbit, needing fuel to push it back up every so often. Electric thrusters use 10x less fuel. So you can place a copy of the Station where you wanted to. The problem is radiation shielding. If

  • ..."The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"
    TANSTAAFL!!!!
  • I like this idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by k6mfw (1182893) on Monday January 23, 2012 @08:17PM (#38799217)

    Of course neither country has a strong infrastructure to build such an endeavour (they act like they do but it all looks pretty dismal). However, far better than discussions on building up missile bases aimed at each other (i.e. ABM site in Poland, Russia countering that with additional missiles).

    Another to consider is Russians are essential for USA space program (and other way around). NASA was created because the Russians launched first satellite. Apollo program was created because the Russians launched first man in space. Shuttle was created because Russians still flying spaceships. ISS was created because we partnered with Russians (Space Station Freedom never got off the ground because no Russians involved). VSE, Obamaspace, SLS, and derivatives going nowhere because it has nothing to do with the Russians. Well there is the USAF space command, maybe they're still countering the Russians.

    So if you are going to do a big space program... don't forget the Russians. Of course some will say don't forget Russian spies but so what else is new. If you are a country you gotta deal with spies, like server owners have to deal with spyware.

    • Yes, if there is to be a significant base on the Moon, all the current spacefaring and contributor nations need to partner up. Russia/NASA/ESA/Japan. Maybe even China. But you can stop fellating the Russians anytime now.
    • by petes_PoV (912422)

      It would be interesting to see what the Russians and the Chinese could manage. If they were able to put their differences to one side and learn to trust (or at least work with) each other. The Russians have the heavy lift, the Chinese have the money. Both can put up manned missions.

      If such an axis did emerge, I wonder with that would provide a sufficient boot up the arse to get the americans back into the game?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A disk, a back flap, and a scorpion.

  • If Russia's intent here is sincere and carries no ulterior motive, then they should be congratulated for doing what even the United States has failed to do. Cooperative, not competitive, exploration and colonization is the wise approach.

  • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday January 24, 2012 @02:49AM (#38801933) Journal

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Madness [wikipedia.org]

    I am so ready for this, i have played, er, trained many many hours.

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