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Bigelow Aerospace Investigating Feasibility of Moon Base for NASA 140

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the tea-time-on-the-moon dept.
littlesparkvt writes in with a bit from Space Industry News about Bigelow Aerospace's plans for the moon: "NASA and Bigelow Aerospace are in the initial planning phases for a moon base. 'As part of our broader commercial space strategy, NASA signed a Space Act Agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to foster ideas about how the private sector can contribute to future human missions,' Said David Weaver NASA Associate Administrator for the Office of Communications." Bigelow will be performing the study for free too. Robert Bigelow chatted with a radio host a few weeks ago about Bigelow's long-term space plans. They include refueling depots and a commercial moon base, since NASA isn't planning to go there.
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Bigelow Aerospace Investigating Feasibility of Moon Base for NASA

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  • by maroberts (15852) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @05:33AM (#43523113) Homepage Journal
    Space:1999 [wikipedia.org] a few decades late?
  • Does NASA need alternate funding avenues?
    Space Base Bigelow's Gigolos -- A Sugar Cougar's One Stop Shop for Moon Poon Pleasure. Ask about our Zero-G Whoopee for Free!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    How is this different from, oh I don't know, the last five decades? We use computers now to generate the "real estate brochure" artwork? And didn't Bigelow lay off half its work force a few years ago? Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the commercial value of a vacuum.
  • by RivenAleem (1590553) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:35AM (#43523287)

    Is the gravity on the moon sufficient to prevent the bone de-calcification and muscle atrophy in humans there for a prolonged period of time? I know that people who go up to the ISS for a few months are irreparably damaged, though the idea of making a spinning station would counter most (if not all) of that. At 1/6 earth gravity, would humans suffer the same fate as they do in micro? Can they build a spinning habitat on the moon?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Is the atmosphere on the moon sufficient to prevent the de-oxygenation and breathing atrophy of humans there for a few seconds? How about the lack of a magnetoshpere? What is this obsession with sci-fi golly-gee Tom Swift fantasies about space? It's a hostile radiation-blasted vacuum with nothing in it. You have to bring the world's most advanced technology just to breathe. And what is so important on the Moon? It's the same periodic table of elements as on Earth. Plus here you have every specialist and eve
      • It's a hostile radiation-blasted vacuum with nothing in it

        Apart from a few million billion gigantic balls of fire often surrounded by massive rocks.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What's on the moon is sunshine, real estate, and a relatively small escape velocity. Put a machine there to convert sun heat and moon dirt into silicon crystal boules. Then add a machine to make solar cells. Then add a machine to place them across the land. People will probably have to visit to get it all working. Having a place for them to stay would be nice. After a while you have enough power to do anything you want. Eg, make materials needed to build a rail launcher. Then you could, eg, send rocket fue

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          What's on the moon is sunshine, real estate

          Holy crap, moon spam!

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        This space stuff is just an extension of America's history of expansion and the "wild west", translated into the modern era with WWII technology and German engineers.

        I think your invitation to the Space Nutter Society Annual Xmas Ball just got cancelled.

    • Re:Gravity? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cenan (1892902) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @06:57AM (#43523355)

      According to NASA [nasa.gov] it has yet to be determined what causes the bone degradation. The damage is also not "irreparable", though bone mass is not fully recovered. From the link:

      The exact mechanism that causes the loss of calcium in microgravity is unknown. Many scientists believe that microgravity somehow causes bone to break down at a much faster rate than it is built up. However, the exact trigger for this rate change has not been found. Researchers are currently pursuing multiple lines of research, including hormone level, diet, and exercise, in order to determine exactly what causes -- and may control or prevent -- osteoporosis during space flight.

      On Earth we see the same thing happen from time to time (my mother used to have it). Bones suddenly become weak to the point of breaking at the faintest impact. Doctor's orders were to drink lots of milk and other high-calcium foodstuffs, and it apparently went away to a degree that she was declared "cured". If (the lack of) gravity was the sole cause, we would not see this on Earth.

      • by Skythe (921438)
        Here is the "official" Mars One answer to bone issues (site seems to be down now so copy and paste from Google Cache):
        Prolonged weightlessness causes osteoporosis, which can be reduced by exercise and medicine. Research onboard the International Space Station has led to even better and more effective training programs being drawn up, and new machines being made specifically for astronauts. Conjointly, there have been major leaps forward in medications capable of partially preventing declining calcium leve
        • by Cenan (1892902)

          Yeah, I wouldn't put too much faith into that organisation, seems to be much more of a hoax than an actual genuine attempt at a mission. a link that's not down [etcjournal.com]

          The Mars One project has received quite a bit of press lately. This project plans to establish a human colony on Mars in 2023 with four people. The project is the brainchild of Bas Lansdorp, a Dutch businessman. You must give him credit for creativeness. Much of the financing will come from a 24-hour television reality show that will follow every step of the project, including watching the new “Martians” as they adapt to the harsh Mars environment.

          They conclude that because the colonists will be on Mars, they will have more density [wikipedia.org]. This is outright wrong, density is defined as p=m/V, on Mars neither your volume nor your mass [wikipedia.org] is going to change, your weight (W=m*g) will but that is not the term "m" in the equation.
          I can understand why they wouldn't care, since they don't plan on bringing their

      • by morgauxo (974071)

        How does the fact that it happens on Earth prove that microgravity isn't the only reason it happens to astronauts in space? Sure, maybe microgravity accelerates the natural process which also happens on Earth. I hope so because that would imply that research on preventing one might prevent both! But.. why couldn't it also be a totally unique mechanism that just has the same effect.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Urban Garlic (447282)

      Robert Zubrin, the "case for Mars" guy who seems to have thought a lot about months-long space journeys, believes that low-gravity bone loss can be mitigated by exercise. His data point is Shannon Lucid, who spent 179 days on the Mir space station, rigorously followed the prescribed exercise regime, and came back in significantly better physical condition than other members of her crew, who weren't as disciplined with their exercise regimes.

      Even if he's wrong, this is a problem to be solved, rather than a r

      • Even if he's wrong, this is a problem to be solved, rather than a reason not to try.

        100% agree, and as another poster commented, the reason for de-calcification and atrophy is not 100% understood, so the spinning habitat may not be the solution.

        Shielding against the radiation, recycling of water (closed loop) and growing of suitable flora (mushrooms) for food etc have already got numerous ideas for how to overcome them, the gravity differential, though, seems to me to be the big hurdle to keeping a person healthy on the moon, if it's the gravity that's the cause of the bone problem.

        She may

        • growing of suitable flora (mushrooms) for food

          Honest question: How well does that turn out? We eat the fruiting body of most edible fungi (the mushroom). Do mushrooms sprout towards the light? Or do they rely on gravity to know which way is 'up'? Or is it simply that the cells nearest to the surface react with the increased oxygen and grow in 'that direction'?

          How do you keep the spores controlled? On a short term timescale, I could see working in a mostly sealed area, but those spores are very (not v

          • http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/technology/2008/11/mushrooms-in-sp/ [go.com]
            (accidental mushrooms)

            http://www.shroomery.org/forums/showflat.php/Number/2139421 [shroomery.org]
            (deliberately grown mushrooms)

            Sorry for my poor google-fu, but the information is somewhat scant on the topic. The original PDF appears to be gone (someone with better skills than me might find it) but they did grow Mushrooms on the SpaceLab D2, and they grew fine.

          • by Thud457 (234763)
            Smuggle up a little Psilocybe cubensis and we can have Matango in space! But only if Guillermo del Toro directs, that would ROCK .
          • by morgauxo (974071)

            >> How do you keep the spores controlled?

            First, you chose species that have spores which humans are most unlikely to be allergic to. And.. you test this on your astronauts before launch.

            Second, air filters. The spores aren't allowed to just build up concentration in the enclosed area unchecked. Like everything else that is small and suspended in the air they would eventually end up in the air filters.

            I'm guessing that the same species of mushroom which are good to eat are the ones with safe spores f

            • I wasn't necessarily concerned about people breathing them, obviously air can be kept to a certain particulate count. What I was curious about was how it could eventually build up on equipment over time. I've designed avionics, and one of the things you have to account for is fungal growth. While these spores wouldn't be the kind which like to colonize rubber gaskets, I could certainly see it becoming a problem of buildup over the years. I'm not saying it can't be solved, but mushrooms just seemed a bi

        • by morgauxo (974071)

          Even if it is gravity that causes the bone loss (seems likely) I don't think we can have any idea what 1/6th gravity will do over long term until we actually try it. One might think that 1/6th gravity would mean 5/6ths of the boneloss that occurs in 0g but that assumes the relationship is linear. For all we know there could be no extra bone loss at all until gravity gets quite close to 0 or maybe anything less than Earth gravity is just unlivable over the long term for humans.

          With a dataset of only 2 valu

  • Who owns the land on the moon where the base will be built?
  • How exactly are we to continue to grow as a species if we confine ourselves to this life of luxurious ease, squandering the finite resources of our home planet? We are on the cusp of the technology necessary for off-planet adventure, settlements, and discovery. Generations of men/women before us have sacrificed personal comforts to better our understanding of science, the World, the Solar System, etc. We are approaching understanding of the origin of the Universe and, indeed, life itself. Get up and do
  • If you do go to the moon, please stay away from the original moon landing sites. You may take pictures and live video of them (to shut up the nutters), but please don't trample those footprints. I may want to gaze on them myself some day.
    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      please don't trample those footprints. I may want to gaze on them myself some day.

      I doubt you need to worry about either possibility.

    • but please don't trample those footprints. I may want to gaze on them myself some day.

      Thermal cycling in the top two inches of regolith means that the footprints are likely already softened to mere depressions, and by the time you get there, they won't be recognisable. Sorry. But the hardware should be good for a few thousand years, decals will be bleached white or irradiated black, but it'll take a long time for micro-meteorites to erode the big pieces down to something unrecognisable to even an amateur visitor. Of course, we'll need to return the ascent modules first or the tourists will b

  • the moon isn't a good place to grow tea. Maybe they're hoping to get some cheese to put on the crackers that people will eat with tea.
  • by tehcyder (746570) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @11:31AM (#43525395) Journal
    And I don't want a bunch of whacko libertarian might-is-right corporate yahoos in control of it.
  • by BlueCoder (223005) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 @12:57PM (#43526549)

    I can't care about the nay sayers. The problem with NASA is funding and politics. Space projects take decades and commitment. And for at least a few decades you can think of private space companies as nonprofits.

    It's better to just have NASA raise funds, devise national policy and sign contracts; an extension to what they were doing anyway. They just won't be micromanaging anymore. It also allows other governments or even individuals or corporations to contract with the same people and get it on the act.

    Having private companies allows more insulation from political influence. It allows them to better focus on achieving something rather than making politicians happy. The same people that would have worked at JPL will instead be working for private equivalents. It's the same people, just a different letterhead.

  • Feasibility: Not good.

    The real problem is A) Harshness of the Moon environment and B) Earth's gravity well and the difficulty to get things out of it.

    If we are really serious about starting a moon colony, the very first technology we need to look at is autonomous (by way of robots, or other similar devices) that would be able to remotely manufacture, construct, and build things using local resources. Sending "stuff" from Earth to the Moon will simply be too cost prohibitive, and human construction and resou

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