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Of an Archive on the Moon

Lunar Mission One is an interesting private attempt to put a payload on the lunar surface, a crowdsourced project aimed at doing good science and deepening public participation in spaceflight. Remembering the Apollo days, I’m always interested in seeing what can be done to renew interest in space, and having the chance to make a contribution toward such a self-starting space mission is undeniably attractive. As witness Lunar Mission One’s pitch on Kickstarter, which has aimed for an ambitious £600,000 and has already raised £520,341.

That figure is as of this morning, with five days to go in the attempt, and it’s clear enough that £600,000 won’t buy a lunar mission of considerable complexity, as this one is. But it’s enough to take an effort that has been seven years in the building to the next level, which means establishment of working management teams and the beginning of procurement planning and risk assessment. That turns what has been a part-time volunteer project into a full-time effort.

Writing about a lunar mission is a bit out of the norm for Centauri Dreams, where I decided from the beginning to adopt a focus on the outer planets and beyond, meaning deep space technologies that could lead to an eventual interstellar effort and all that entails. But what caught my eye about Lunar Mission One is that there is a ‘deep time’ aspect to the whole thing, one that looks past short-term results to think about the future of the species and how we can connect to it. The connection grows out of Lunar Mission One’s ambitious science agenda.

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Going Deep at the Pole

To explain that, let me discuss the larger plan: The Lunar Mission One probe will land at the lunar south pole. Aboard it will be a 2-meter drill connected by cable to the spacecraft, with which controllers will remotely drill a 5-centimeter borehole. The plan here is to retrieve cylindrical rock cores for analysis by instrumentation aboard the craft, and the drilling time is envisioned as lengthy — three to four months — until a target depth of 20 meters has been achieved, although the planners speculate that the drill might reach depths up to 100 meters.

This sets up some interesting science, for even the nominal 20 meter goal takes us into unexplored terrain — I believe the deepest we’ve reached from any spacecraft on the Moon is no more than a couple of meters. Enormously useful geological measurements could result and may help us better understand elements of the early Solar System’s history, including the late heavy bombardment period. Moreover, Lunar Mission One should be able to study the surrounding surface at the pole, analyzing any local materials that might aid a future human base.

But it’s what happens when the drilling is done that particularly interests me. When I spoke of ‘deep time,’ I was referring to the plan to use the borehole — after the science goals have been achieved — to lower a publicly assembled archive of life on Earth, the history of our species and a database stuffed with information about our biosphere, deep below the lunar surface. The substantial protection provided by tens of meters of lunar regolith should make this an unusually long-lasting capsule, one the planners believe can remain intact for perhaps a billion years.

Lunar Mission One also has a private archive, what it describes as millions of individual ‘memory boxes’ to which contributors to the project will be able to upload data. Longer-term funding for the mission, it is hoped, will grow out of what will become a ten-year opportunity to sell these memory boxes, which could contain photos, video, audio or any other digital information. The plan is to store tens of terabytes of such material within the private archive, with larger contributions to the project allowing the donor to buy larger amounts of storage.

To boost donations, individual memory boxes might do the trick, but my interest is in the development of the public archive, which forces decisions about how we view ourselves, what our priorities are, and what we choose to be preserved for an unknowable future generation to find. The assembly of that kind of content is a fascinating process, one that Centauri Dreams regular Heath Rezabek has devoted himself to developing through his Vessels project, which you can read about in posts like Deep Time: The Nature of Existential Risk.

The term ‘deep time’ invokes Gregory Benford’s 1999 book of that name (Deep Time: How Humanity Communicates Across Millennia), which in turn harkens back to a 1992 paper in which Benford discussed a program of freezing and preserving species in threatened ecospheres as a response to the loss of biodiversity in our era. What can we do, Benford asked, to create such a ‘Library of Life,’ and how should we assemble the samples? All this is discussed in the later book within the context of how humans communicate with each other across historical eras, questions raised by the great monuments of history, and by engineering projects like storage sites for radioactive materials that must long outlive their makers.

Lunar Mission One is exploring this terrain with its announced purpose of creating an archive that, if I read its Kickstarter page correctly, will be assembled using its core crowdsourcing methods. In my judgement, assembling a representation of our species is a highly productive exercise. Think of the Voyager Golden Record, or the ongoing private attempt to craft an archive that will be uploaded to New Horizons after its outer system mission is complete, if NASA signs off on the plan. We question our basic priorities when we look long-term, gaining perspective on the values that count, and perhaps learning where our strongest efforts need to be re-focused.

Long-haul archives, in other words, are not only about the future, but about our ability to make course corrections as we back off to view ourselves in the context of history and of nature.

So good luck to Lunar Mission One. We need projects that look at these matters. We need not only single ‘time capsule’ archives but a host of archival sites that are designed, like the Long Now Foundation’s 10,000 Year Clock, to last into a deep future against which our own lifetimes are acted out on the smallest of scales. If selling personal memory boxes is what it takes to get a serious public archive buried deep within the Moon, then let’s hope this one of many possible archives can be completed as planned, a gesture to the future from its myriad creators.

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  • Heath Rezabek December 12, 2014, 14:47

    I’m intensely interested in this effort, for similar reasons. I’ve been communicating with the team a bit, and plan to do some Centauri Dreams entries in the future on different aspects of the project as I learn more.

    Definitely one I am proud to support, looking forward to seeing the ways it expands from these beginnings.

  • Heath Rezabek December 12, 2014, 15:14

    An interesting side note is that some months back, when I included a poll on the ideal sites for a Vessel Archive in an article on the topic, (https://centauri-dreams.org/?p=29669) the moon ranked very well indeed . . .

    http://www.allourideas.org/vessel-positioning-2013

  • Ron S December 12, 2014, 16:05

    Strikes me as cheaper and more reliable to drop the well-shielded repository into high orbit, then descend to the crater left by the [I forget which spacecraft] impact crater at the south(?) pole. No drilling required, just pick up the ice-laden rocks and so forth blasted from the depths. Since this could be the best place to colonize first, because of the known ice reserves, it makes sense to explore there in depth (sorry for the double-entendre). You can still drill if you like, though that’s a high risk activity to be done last after the other science is complete. And since you’re starting deeper you can drill deeper yet.

  • william December 12, 2014, 16:12

    I confess that I am somewhat opposed to what Paul is saying here; I sincerely believe that more attention should be focused on the Moon, then there has been. My primary reason for saying this is that we have a celestial body close enough that a large number of techniques can be investigated without having to spend much money and effort enact them.

    Everyone is always hepped on Mars, but that is a long-distance very costly type of target and here we have a wonderful stand-in that we could be spending our time practicing on for much longer term and greater distance targets. So I say that we should be pushing here on Centauri dreams equally as well on the moon as much more distant (and at least for the present time, impractical) targets that are now out there.

  • ljk December 12, 2014, 17:13

    MoonMail: Company launches program to land mementos on the moon

    Dec. 11, 2014 — A commercial “lunar logistics” company working to send robotic landers to the moon is inviting the public to ‘mail’ their keepsakes and personal mementos on one-way trips to the lunar surface.

    Astrobotic Technology on Thursday (Dec. 11) announced the launch of its new “MoonMail” program, which offers to send heirloom rings, family photos, locks of hair and other small personal items on the company’s first private moon mission set to launch in the next few years.

    With prices based on the item’s size, MoonMail rates start at $460 for a half-inch wide by 0.125-inch tall (1.27 by 0.3 centimeter) capsule and increase to $25,800 for a one by two-inch (2.54 by 5.08 cm) payload.

    “You can think of the pricing for it to be very similar to ‘it fits, it ships’ at the post office,” John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO, told collectSPACE.com in a call with reporters. “It is essentially a flat-rate box.”

    Each box, or capsule, fits into Astrobotic’s “Moon Pod,” a 12-inch-wide (30.5cm) torpedo-shape pressurized canister permanently mounted on the company’s four-legged Griffin lander. Hundreds to several thousand capsules can fit in each Moon Pod, depending on the various size containers chosen by MoonMail customers.

    Full article here:

    http://www.collectspace.com/news/news-121114a-astrobotic-moonmail-mementos.html

    To quote:

    “How many people can say they have sent something to the moon? Or that part of them or part of their story is on the surface of the moon?” Thornton stated. “We think that people will want to be a part of this and thousands around the world will be excited by it.”

  • Eric Hughes December 12, 2014, 21:09

    The Kickstarter page uses the phrase “Your individual digital ‘memory box’ preserved for a billion years.” in one of the advertising images. They’re talking about terabytes of memory. And it’s going to fit down a 5 cm borehole.

    What are they making this magical memory out of, anyway? The only thing I’ve heard of even in this range was some recent work with etched tungsten with a silicon nitride cover. See http://arxiv.org/pdf/1310.2961v1.pdf. The testing in that paper examines only a single kind of failure mode, that of thermal fluctuation. It’s nowhere near adequate testing to claim millions of years, much less billions.

  • Thomas Thorne December 12, 2014, 22:37

    How is the memory module to be protected from atomic diffusion? That makes our current computer chips have a fairly short shelf life. Protection from cosmic radiation won’t stop it. Is it just the extreme cold? Surely they’ve done calculations for that.

  • Antonio December 13, 2014, 8:26

    @william: Cost doesn’t depend so much on distance as on delta-V, and Mars’ delta-V is less than the Moon’s (thanks to aerobraking and parachuting).

    http://www.marssociety.org/home/about/faq#TOC-Q:-Wouldn-t-launches-from-or-refueling-stops-at-a-Moon-base-be-easier-than-going-straight-from-Earth-to-Mars-

  • Ashley Baldwin December 13, 2014, 12:04

    I think as high quality technology and launchers get cheaper we will see more of these excellent little private missions from a few hundred thousand to a few hundred million like Sentinel. The cost cap encourages innovation and yet still good science is done . The same applies with governmental schemes too. TESS comes in at an initial measly $200 hundred million yet has the potential to be one of the great astrophysics missions of all time. I agree with choosing the moon in terms of its convenient proximity too, not just in terms of cost but time too.

  • Alex Tolley December 13, 2014, 13:11

    @Antonio – the Mars Society assumes aerobraking is used, that may not always be possible. But William’s point still stands. The costs are reduced simply because the moon is only a few days away, less materiel is required to support the base in case of a problem. Secondly, it is possible to rapidly manufacture adapted designs for use on the moon, whilst Mars is always 6-9 months away and may be 2 years or more if favorable conjunctions are needed.

    While Mars is a more attractive place to visit, the moon does offer a more useful place to practice some techniques that can be used on Mars. It might even be worth building a small Mars simulator on the moon to test out some more uniquely Martian conditions – e.g. mining sub surface, frozen water and dealing with dust storms.

    And all that before we think of the moon as a possible electromagnetic launcher to reduce transit times for Mars cargo and even passengers.

  • David Iron December 13, 2014, 15:02

    Interesting comments everyone. If I may quickly pick up on just three points:-
    1. The landing spot near the south pole has not yet been decided. It’s involves a complex trade-off between several factors. We have around three years while the main contract for the mission is being decided, and we reckon it’s going to take most of that time to agree the location. For engineering reasons, eg access to solar power and Earth comms for control by telerobotics, it is expected to be on a crater rim or other high point.
    2. The hardware of the information archive is also not determined. It’s preservation is principally due to its location: very cold (maybe -150C), protected by tens of meters of rock from things that come from space (solar particles, micrometeorites, rare asteroid hits etc), dry with no fluids, inert, stable and in as good a vacuum as it’s possible to get. Our initial calculations are that even the DNA will survive a billion years. Nevertheless, we do need to research the digital base material and the nanotechnology guys and material scientists reckon it’s very doable – suggestions include nickel, steel, iridium, silicon and (my favourite) diamond.
    3. We want to drill to get below the top layer for science and archival preservation. And yes it’s the most difficult part of the mission. But by proving it on the Moon, under remote control, we extend the envelope of capability towards the more fully automated drilling needed for planetary exploration. Indeed, the drill we are expecting to develop was originally prototyped (in the US) for an astrobiology mission to Mars.
    PS The best way to help us is to pledge on Kickstarter (the US will be heavily engaged in many aspects of this mission). Four more days…..

  • william December 13, 2014, 16:35

    While this is a well worth it effort, I wonder about the price tag on it. I made only a quick read of the article, and if I remember correctly there was so far only £660,000 were collected for this endeavor. I don’t believe this will be anywhere near enough to get a sufficiently advanced rocket to place it on the Moon.

    Also, I’m of the opinion that a south polar landing is quite a bit more difficult than the what I believe was equatorial landings conducted in the Apollo missions. Essentially what it all amounts to is energetics and being able to place the probe in a polar orbit such that it can descend to the lunar surface. But I do think that that might be a solvable problem, but a costly one.

  • william December 13, 2014, 16:45

    I just gave a bit of a better read to the article and now I am at a somewhat confused situation as to what is going on with regards to this program.
    If I understand this correctly, this is an attempt to place DNA and act as a repository for that? Maybe that’s a good idea, maybe it’s not-I really couldn’t say one way or another, to be honest.

    I do think a more meaningful mission would be one in which a robotic probe landed in a suitable region and perhaps nuclear powered could better serve to obtain interest in space. I say this because of the fact that there seems to be quite vistas that I recall from the Apollo days in which the landscape was far more beautiful than the original landing site of Apollo 11. Just having a rover go around and make high-quality photographs of all the various different and interesting lunarological (is that even a word?) would I think engage the public far more than a drilling site. But that’s just me.

  • william December 13, 2014, 16:46

    “quite vistas ” – meant to say quite beautiful vistas (sorry about that)

  • LocalFluff December 13, 2014, 19:07

    If one wants to drill deep into Lunar history, one wants to drill on the bottom of a crater, not on the top of a crater rim. And the capsule will not really be placed underground. It will be placed inside a mountain, like a tunnel is inside a mountain.

  • LocalFluff December 13, 2014, 19:11

    @william
    Polar orbits are not so hard to reach. Take a look at this:
    http://hopsblog-hop.blogspot.se/2013/08/lunar-ice-vs-neo-ice.html

  • Antonio December 13, 2014, 20:19

    @Alex: Aerobraking is allways possible. We are not talking about a big manned ship (for which new shields must be developed), but a small unmanned ship. In that case, aerocapture, aerobraking and (not considered by Mars Society) parachuting are easy. The costs for an ummanned mission associated with travel lenght are mostly the costs of the mission control center during the longer trip. An ummaned ship doesn’t need so much care during the most part of the cruise. Also, we are talking about a 33% delta-V increase for the lunar mission. That means a lot of fuel increase (rocket equation is exponential).

    Why do you think less material is required to support the base on the Moon? Actually, the opposite is true:

    – Rocket fuel can be easily produced on Mars (methane/oxygen) but not on the Moon.

    – You don’t have 2 weeks of darkness on Mars (that implies smaller batteries).

    – You have less cold temperatures on Mars (that implies less fuel or smaller batteries). On the Moon you probably will need a RTG/RHU, on Mars it’s optional.

    About the rapid manufacture: space missions for the main space agencies usually take around 10 years of development from approval to launch, so a launch window every 2 years is not a big deal. Maybe private science missions can be developed faster, but probably not much faster.

    I don’t think the Moon is a good training ground for Mars. They are too much differente places. What training for Mars do you think can be done on the Moon?

    Constructing the Mars simulator you describe is probably much more expensive than an actual Mars mission. Indeed, it would be much more useful if constructed on Earth than on the Moon. Also, you need much more training for building such a simulator on the Moon than for sending a mission to Mars (a lot of missions have reached Mars, but nobody has built an structure so big and complex like your simulator in a body outside Earth).

    You can’t reduce transit times using a detour to a gravity well with a higher delta-V than your destination using the same fuel. Please do the sum. You need more fuel only to reach the Moon base than to reach your destination on Mars. Delta-V from the Moon to Mars can’t be negative!

  • Antonio December 13, 2014, 20:32

    @David: How will you do the drill in such a low gravity environment? (Philae comes to mind). Will you try a technology testing mission before the real mission? Do you know how much regolith/ice do you need to drill before reaching solid rock?

  • Ole Burde December 14, 2014, 7:09

    This would be a good time to remind everyboddy that The US actually had a moon-focused spaceprogram under the former administration . Whether or not it was a wise one in its original version , is another story , but there are no reason to believe it couldn’t have been upgraded with new knowledge concerning the water trapped in shaded craters . If this program had been downscaled wisely indtead of wiped out for psycological reasons , there would probably be lots of things happening on the moon now , including the first attemts to produce effective quantities of water .

  • Heath Rezabek December 14, 2014, 11:47

    I imagine there will be plenty of fundraising needed after the initial kickstarter, which means time to engage the public more fully. As I understand it, the drilling / core sampling mission is an existing one, and the archive deposit is riding atop of that.

    In addition to the hair DNA, a public archive project will pull together an instance of the world’s knowledge. This is of inherent worth, and hopefully will result in something replicated around the world that can grow from that moment in time onwards. It’s also hugely ambitious, so I look forward to learning more about how it might be done, above and beyond the mirroring of existing resources.

  • Alex Tolley December 14, 2014, 15:10

    @Antonio. Because of the length of travel time to and from Mars, complicated by launch windows, the materials/spares/food needed, plus the fuel to transport them, increases the mass requirements. Any rescue can be achieved within days from the Moon, not so on Mars. Don’t we have a new movie about this :)

    I agree that is all material can just be shipped by cargo container, it could be aerobraked. I was thinking of a large, manned vehicle that might not even be able to aerobrake to achieve Mars orbit.

    I concede that a Mars simulator is probably best done on Earth. However how would you simulate Mars g – something that could be done on the Moon? But overall it probably doesn’t make sense.

    I’m not so interested in fuel requirements as transit times in this case. One can certainly reduce transit times by going faster, at a cost in energy. Once you have a Moon base, material that can be manufactured on the Moon no longer needs the Earth-Moon d-vee. Electromagnetic launchers also don’t need fuel. Another saving.

    However a Mars ship could use more advanced propulsion, e.g. ion engines to achieve the same transit times as a chemical rocket. We do not have that advantage for the Moon, so that makes the Mars case superior in terms of fuel mass.

    So the Moon does offer some advantages – a source of material, e.g. water, and a stable platform to electromagnetically launch cargo. A mature lunar industrial base would aid solar system exploration by reducing the costs of escaping Earth’s gravity well.

  • Michael December 14, 2014, 16:06

    @Antonio December 13, 2014 at 20:32

    ‘How will you do the drill in such a low gravity environment? (Philae comes to mind). Will you try a technology testing mission before the real mission? Do you know how much regolith/ice do you need to drill before reaching solid rock?’

    Although you are correct to say the drill will need gravity ‘mass’ behind it, it will only need it for a short time until a collar can be formed to allow the mechanism to grab the sides of the hole. As for the regolith it could be anywhere from a dust covering to meters thick.

  • Michael December 14, 2014, 16:24

    @Antonio December 13, 2014 at 20:19

    ‘Also, we are talking about a 33% delta-V increase for the lunar mission. That means a lot of fuel increase (rocket equation is exponential).’

    We don’t have to get out off the Earth which has a significant delta v.

    ‘Why do you think less material is required to support the base on the Moon? Actually, the opposite is true:

    – Rocket fuel can be easily produced on Mars (methane/oxygen) but not on the Moon.’

    Hydrogen and oxygen from the ice at the poles, the nice thing about a polar launch is that a lot of the exhaust will refreeze in the shadowed polar locations for reuse.

    ‘- You don’t have 2 weeks of darkness on Mars (that implies smaller batteries).’

    There are locations at the poles where we only need to wait 4-5 days for sunlight or hours if we raise the solar panels up a bit.

    ‘- You have less cold temperatures on Mars (that implies less fuel or smaller batteries). On the Moon you probably will need a RTG/RHU, on Mars it’s optional.’

    It may be warmer on average on Mars but that atmosphere will still cool things pretty quick, on the moon you can use the regolith as effective insulation.

    ‘I don’t think the Moon is a good training ground for Mars. They are too much differente places. What training for Mars do you think can be done on the Moon?’

    The moon will give us a very useful base, we can do incredible astronomy from the moon at all wavelengths and a powerful communication hub to mention just a few.

    My worry with a Mars mission is that we go there once and forget about it, we need a permanent presence in space. The moon is where we can find the resources to build the infrastructure to go about the solar system and eventually to the stars.

  • Antonio December 14, 2014, 20:15

    @Alex

    “Because of the length of travel time to and from Mars, complicated by launch windows, the materials/spares/food needed, plus the fuel to transport them, increases the mass requirements.”

    I don’t see any logical connection between the premises and your conclusion.

    “Any rescue can be achieved within days from the Moon, not so on Mars.”

    That has nothing to do with the amount of material needed.

    “I was thinking of a large, manned vehicle that might not even be able to aerobrake to achieve Mars orbit.”

    The mission of the article is unmanned. Also, manned missions, to the Moon or Mars, are currently largely beyond the scope of privately funded missions (even more so for crowdfunded missions).

    “However how would you simulate Mars g – something that could be done on the Moon?”

    What?? Please divide Earth gravity by Mars gravity and divide Mars gravity by Moon gravity and tell me the two numbers you obtain.

    “I’m not so interested in fuel requirements as transit times in this case.”

    Transit times allways can be shortened using more fuel BUT you get less shortening stopping on the Moon than going directly to Mars, fuel-wise. Again, please do the math. It’s a simple sum.

    “Once you have a Moon base, material that can be manufactured on the Moon no longer needs the Earth-Moon d-vee. Electromagnetic launchers also don’t need fuel. Another saving.”

    Again, you CAN’T get negative delta-V, whathever you do on the Moon.

    “However a Mars ship could use more advanced propulsion, e.g. ion engines to achieve the same transit times as a chemical rocket.”

    Probably not with current technology. Ion propulsion has more Isp than chemical propulsion, but much less thrust (well, actually thrust/weight ratio). That means very low acceleration. Maybe for long trips (Uranus, Neptune…) it’s faster than chemical propulsion, but I doubt that would be the case for Mars.

    “So the Moon does offer some advantages – a source of material, e.g. water”

    Again, WHAT?? Water is MUCH MORE abundant on Mars than on the Moon. Water on Mars is everywhere. The first few meters of soil on Mars have between 14% and 60% of water ice, depending on latitude. Only in the polar caps and the first few meters of Mars soil you have enough water to cover the entire planet with a 35 meter deep ocean. And there is even more water deeper in the soil. Compared to that, the Moon only has water on some parts of some craters of the South Pole.

    And an unmanned ship doesn’t need water, it needs fuel. And, as I said, fuel can be easily obtained on Mars, but not on the Moon.

  • Antonio December 14, 2014, 21:45

    @Michael

    “We don’t have to get out off the Earth which has a significant delta v.”

    What do you mean by that? Will you build the lander on an asteroid or what?

    “Hydrogen and oxygen from the ice at the poles, the nice thing about a polar launch is that a lot of the exhaust will refreeze in the shadowed polar locations for reuse.”

    For that, you need:

    – A rover that goes inside the dark area of the crater. That means you need a RTG, and I doubt a private mission will get the plutonium from the scarce resources of NASA.

    – To store hydrogen and oxygen. They must be stored as liquids, to save weight of the container. Oxygen is relatively easy (90 K boiling point), but for liquid hydrogen you need 20 K or less. That adds complexity, weight and energy requirements to the processing plant. On Mars, you obtain the fuel from the atmosphere and a small supply of hydrogen (from Earth for the first missions, later from Mars water). Methane and oxygen are relatively easy to liquify on Mars. And you don’t have the problem with hydrogen (it’s stored in the methane). You can even use ethylene instead of methane, that is liquid at Mars temperatures.

    I don’t say fuel can’t be produced on the Moon, but it’s easier on Mars. Anyway, for a private mission, probably the RTG issue is a big problem.

    “There are locations at the poles where we only need to wait 4-5 days for sunlight or hours if we raise the solar panels up a bit.”

    Yes, but then you are restricting the missions to only certain small locations on the Moon. Most of the surface of the Moon will be unavailable. That is ok for your kind of mission, but not for the series of training missions William was proposing.

    “It may be warmer on average on Mars but that atmosphere will still cool things pretty quick, on the moon you can use the regolith as effective insulation.”

    You can also use Mars regolith as insulation. Again, it’s ok for your kind of mission but not for the training missions William was talking about. For example, a rover can’t be allways buried on the regolith, it must explore. On Mars you have around 50 K warmer temperatures than on the Moon, and the rover only needs to survive a 12 hours night, not a 2 weeks night. You can charge the batteries using solar panels and produce heat for 12 hours. But it’s not practical to do the same for 2 weeks. You would need very big batteries. That’s why Yutu used an RHU and Opportunity used batteries.

    “The moon will give us a very useful base, we can do incredible astronomy from the moon at all wavelengths and a powerful communication hub to mention just a few.”

    That doesn’t make it a training mission for Mars.

    “My worry with a Mars mission is that we go there once and forget about it, we need a permanent presence in space. The moon is where we can find the resources to build the infrastructure to go about the solar system and eventually to the stars.”

    Nope. Resource-wise, Mars is the place we must first colonize. The Moon is a difficult place to live and work. It has very few water compared to Mars, it also lacks carbon and nitrogen. Thus, it lacks the essential elements for life (CNHO). That means it can’t sustain a human civilization and even a scientific base must import food from Earth. It also means lacking the materials for making fuel and plastics. All of these are abundant on Mars. Also, Mars has had similar geological processes than Earth did (volcanism, rivers, lakes, etc.), so it probably has mineral veins that can be used in industry. It has many minerals accumulated for free by volcanism, rivers, etc., like on Earth. The Moon minerals are much more difficult to obtain. It’s also easier to build presurized structures on Mars (domes for vegetables and humans, since on Mars we have some atmospheric pressure).

  • Rob Flores December 15, 2014, 3:09

    In addition to providing a realistic location for a Lunar Base, exploring
    the Lunar Poles will give us a very compelling resource beyond basic resources.
    If we Do the following in lunar polar crater: excavate a vertical mine with a shaft diameter of 100m and100 m deep, partially fill this shaft with a layer of ice, set the temperature to -175 C create an atmosphere of 97% Nitrogen and the rest various simple hydrocarbons, set at pressure of 1400 mb, put cap on the mine. Once done we have created a very good laboratory for learning whether or not Titan could be colonized. It would be much less expensive than building a space station to find out.

  • Eniac December 15, 2014, 12:32

    Alex Tolley:

    So the Moon does offer some advantages – a source of material, e.g. water, and a stable platform to electromagnetically launch cargo. A mature lunar industrial base would aid solar system exploration by reducing the costs of escaping Earth’s gravity well.

    I am not so sure of this. Material can be obtained more cheaply from asteroids, and launching from there is MUCH easier than from the moon. The way I see, it the only real advantage of the moon is that you can get there fast, from Earth. Similarly, the only advantage of Mars is as a potential place for humans to make a living. For all other purposes, asteroids tend to be most favorable.

  • Lionel December 15, 2014, 13:21

    @Paul I am delighted we are talking about the Moon here, because I (like most of the respondents to this thread) see colonisation at the lunar poles – especially mining of water – as the key development that we should be fighting for right now in order to open up the solar system.

    I love the Centauri Dreams focus on interstellar technologies as it sets a huge temporal and spatial context for everything else. If we are ever ready to travel to other stars then in that interstellar century, our technology and civilisation itself will probably be completely unrecognisable from what we’ll have this century (when I believe we’ll manage to go cislunar and hopefully martian). Because of this massive difference the lunar and the interstellar quests may seem to be completely without overlap.

    But actually I think there are so many lunar-interstellar angles to be found and would like to put this to everyone here: what role does the moon have in us going interstellar and into deep space?

    (Already one good answer that I read above from @Michael:
    “The moon will give us a very useful base, we can do incredible astronomy from the moon at all wavelengths and a powerful communication hub to mention just a few.

    My worry with a Mars mission is that we go there once and forget about it, we need a permanent presence in space. The moon is where we can find the resources to build the infrastructure to go about the solar system and eventually to the stars.”)

  • Alex Tolley December 15, 2014, 13:24

    Eniac,
    From a pure energy perspective, asteroids are teh che4apest place to get materials. Water from Ceres being a prime example. But when you need to build up some industrialization, with humans, then the moon is more likely the place to do this. It is close, it has gravity without needing to spin up some large structure. But with purely robotic industrialization, then asteroids in cis-lunar space might well be the way to go.

  • Alex Tolley December 15, 2014, 13:28

    @Antonio

    The Moon (…) has very few water compared to Mars, it also lacks carbon and nitrogen.

    It almost certainly has carbon from impacted asteroids. Whatever non -volatiles asteroids have, there will likely be sources on the moon.

  • Alex Tolley December 15, 2014, 13:51

    @Antonio – On the premise that we are talking manned missions:

    1. You need to explain why long duration missions needing reserves don’t need to have more material than short ones. It isn’t as though the crew can use their credit cards to buy stuff on Mars. They are effectively going on a long (years) camping trip. A lot harder than a jaunt to the moon, where emergency rations and spare parts are just days away.

    2. Gravity simulators. You can make gravity using centrifuges, but you cannot remove it. Hence the moon works for Mars g, but not Earth.

    3. Moon fuel/launches. It removes the d-V from Earth to LEO/GEO. Electromagnetic launches remove the need for fuel entirely from the Moon->Mars orbital change. You can just throw tin cans at Mars without needing any fuel. If you do you use lunar sourced rocket fuel, you have the benefit of the lower d-V to lunar orbit than Earth to orbit. The only way to improve on this for the Earth-Mars trip is to source fuel elsewhere. If you really don’t think this makes sense, we would need to determine d-V for each stage of the flight to see where we disagree.

    4. Ion engines are fine for the inner solar system. But if you think the thrust is too low for Mars, use another type of high Isp engine, e.g. electro-thermal. An Isp= 900s will get you to Mars on a similar time frame to chemical rockets with much less propellant.

    5. Yes there is much more potential fuel on Mars, but since you are going there from the Earth/Moon, it is irrelevant. Both starting points can use ISRU at Mars.

  • Michael December 15, 2014, 16:58

    @Antonio December 14, 2014 at 20:15

    ‘What?? Please divide Earth gravity by Mars gravity and divide Mars gravity by Moon gravity and tell me the two numbers you obtain.’

    The moon has 1/6th earth g, if you spin a torus at just the right speed the two ‘forces’ form a resultant gravity that can match that of Mars.

    ‘Transit times allways can be shortened using more fuel BUT you get less shortening stopping on the Moon than going directly to Mars, fuel-wise. Again, please do the math. It’s a simple sum.’

    The moon can be used to provide the fuel which does not need hauling up from the Earth higher gravity field only from the moon which is much less.

    ‘Again, you CAN’T get negative delta-V, whathever you do on the Moon.’

    The fuel can be launched into orbit around the moon and the crew capsule could be launched from the moon or from earth to mate with it then off to Mars.

    ‘Again, WHAT?? Water is MUCH MORE abundant on Mars than on the Moon… Compared to that, the Moon only has water on some parts of some craters of the South Pole.’

    Could be a trillion tons at the poles, that is a lot of space craft fuel! I once did a calculation to see if we could use superconductor coils at the poles of the moon to draw in hydrogen from the stellar wind. If we intercepted the moons area we would collect around 250 kg of Hydrogen or a couple of tons of water per day funnelled to the poles.

    ‘“We don’t have to get out off the Earth which has a significant delta v.”

    What do you mean by that? Will you build the lander on an asteroid or what?’

    As mentioned earlier you won’t need to haul the fuel up off the earth which is by far the biggest consumer of energy of the rocket as you will only need the crew capsule.

    ‘“Hydrogen and oxygen from the ice at the poles, the nice thing about a polar launch is that a lot of the exhaust will refreeze in the shadowed polar locations for reuse.”

    For that, you need:

    – A rover that goes inside the dark area of the crater. That means you need a RTG, and I doubt a private mission will get the plutonium from the scarce resources of NASA.’

    Hydrogen fuel cells will do nicely.

    ‘To store hydrogen and oxygen. They must be stored as liquids, to save weight of the container. Oxygen is relatively easy (90 K boiling point), but for liquid hydrogen you need 20 K or less…Methane and oxygen are relatively easy to liquify on Mars. And you don’t have the problem with hydrogen (it’s stored in the methane). You can even use ethylene instead of methane, that is liquid at Mars temperatures.’

    You don’t need to have liquid hydrogen, hydrogen peroxide will do fine on the moon.

    ‘“There are locations at the poles where we only need to wait 4-5 days for sunlight or hours if we raise the solar panels up a bit.”

    Yes, but then you are restricting the missions to only certain small locations on the Moon. Most of the surface of the Moon will be unavailable. That is ok for your kind of mission, but not for the series of training missions William was proposing.’

    We must not just think of one shot missions, as mentioned earlier the shadowed craters will offer unparalleled views of space and we need an infrastructure for our expansion into space.

    ‘It has very few water compared to Mars, it also lacks carbon and nitrogen. Thus, it lacks the essential elements for life (CNHO). That means it can’t sustain a human civilization and even a scientific base must import food from Earth. It also means lacking the materials for making fuel and plastics…It’s also easier to build presurized structures on Mars (domes for vegetables and humans, since on Mars we have some atmospheric pressure).

    There is evidence of organics in the polar regions as well, plenty of nitrogen and hydrocarbons for plastics and carbonates from impacts as well as iron. We can also build very, very large structures easily on the moon with aerogel and evaporative metal techniques. And at 7mbar on Mars with all that dust it is not going to help much at all.

  • Lionel December 15, 2014, 20:15

    Eniac in the long term near earth asteroids captured into cislunar orbits are the better source of resource and base for space launches but in my opinion the lunar poles are much better targets than NEAs that approach earth just once every several few years or decades

    Here are some reasons:

    1 Ice: Permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles appear to have billions of tons of water in dirty ice, around 80% purity. The ice in clathrate NEAs is around 20% purity – all locked up inside clays

    2 Launch windows: The moon is always a few days away while launch windows for near earth asteroids are just a few days a year at best. NEAs median distances from Earth throughout their orbits are of the order of 1 AU to 2 AU.

    3 Emergency Missions and supplies: Similar to the Mars vs Moon story, a mission to NEAs not captured into cislunar orbit is a long camping trip with resupply and emergency assistance often months away

    4 Teleoperation of robots: Being >1 AU away from earth means lag of minutes for teleoperated mining robots on asteroids versus seconds for robots on the moon

    For these reasons the moon is far easier – for our current state of technology.
    Capture and mining of asteroids in cislunar space is a hugely exciting subject, but I see it as a next step up in our utilisation of solar system resource that comes after we start mining and refining at the Moon’s polar craters

  • Michael December 16, 2014, 15:54

    There is one other question that the Moons poles could possible answer and that is there life. Comet impacts could (low chance) have thrown out any frozen life within the comet into the polar regions and they now lie dormant encased in the ice.

  • Lionel December 16, 2014, 18:34

    Michael,
    Sure

    Far more certain is that the kilometers of ice sediments in those craters contain billions of years of deposits from bodies in our solar system, so are of incredible value to science. Drilling down into them will be drilling down into solar system history, just as drilling down into sediments on earth has told us about our geological past

  • Marshall Eubanks December 16, 2014, 23:18

    1.) Apollo 17 had a powered drill that penetrated to almost 3 meters depth, and the last Luna sample return (so far) got down about 1.6 meters – see http://curator.jsc.nasa.gov/lunar/lsc/Drillcore.pdf

    2.) I must admit I like “À la recherche de temps profond” (in search of deep time) as a story title. It reminds me of something…

  • Rob Henry December 17, 2014, 4:29

    Michael wrote of Lunar H2O “Could be a trillion tons at the pole” and this doesn’t make sense to me. That is as much as has been postulated as the maximum for Mercury with its permanent tilt to the sun of 0 deg. Were it true, that much free water would surely produce a massive and easily detectable radar return.

  • Alex Tolley December 17, 2014, 11:27

    @ Rob Henry – I was thinking the same thing. Wasn’t the water content once suggested as being several swimming pools in volume? Or has that now changed?

    It is an interesting thought that the moon might contain a layered record of events in the solar system. One would need to find places were this wasn’t disrupted by impacts.

  • ljk December 17, 2014, 14:22

    The UK is successfully crowd-funding themselves to the Moon

    An independent British consortium called Lunar Mission One has successfully raised more than £600,000 (AUD$1.1 million) in just one month as part of a Kickstarter campaign to get a UK space probe to the Moon.

    BEC CREW 17 DEC 2014

    A British project called Lunar Mission One aims to land a robotic probe on the Moon for lunar rock analyses, and the team can now get started thanks to a colossal crowd-funding effort that netted them more than £600,000.

    And it wasn’t just Brits who funded the endeavour – Lunar Mission One is reporting that thousands of people from more than 60 countries dipped into their pockets to help it meet its Kickstarter goal.

    The team, which includes former UN and NASA space flight experts, expects this mission will take 10 years to complete, with the end goal to drill up to 100 metres into the rocky surface of the Moon and take samples of its 4.5 billion-year-old insides – something that’s never been done before. The drilling will be done using a 2-metre drill connected to the unmanned spacecraft by a cable, which will prepare a 5-cm in diameter borehole first, before carving out cylindrical rock cores for analysis right there on the Moon.

    Full article here:

    http://www.sciencealert.com/the-uk-is-successfully-crowd-funding-themselves-to-the-moon

    To quote:

    At a time when governments, particularly in Australia, are continually reallocating funds that used to go towards research and science education, it’s great to see that big things can still get done without them. British physicist Stephen Hawkings is especially excited, saying:

    “Today they have achieved what are the first steps towards a lasting legacy for space exploration. Lunar Mission One is bringing space exploration to the people, and I have no doubt that young people and adults alike will be inspired by the ambition and passion of all those involved in the project. As a truly scientific endeavour, I wish it nothing but success over the coming years.”

  • Michael December 17, 2014, 15:52

    @Rob Henry December 17, 2014 at 4:29

    Michael wrote of Lunar H2O “Could be a trillion tons at the pole” and this doesn’t make sense to me. That is as much as has been postulated as the maximum for Mercury with its permanent tilt to the sun of 0 deg. Were it true, that much free water would surely produce a massive and easily detectable radar return.

    sorry that should have been kg not tons, but that is still a lot of water! and it was put forward as a guess, there are no precise figures which vary widely. Another reason to go there and find out.

    ‘OH/H2O inside the Moon is also huge, estimated as 40 trillion to
    quadrillions of tonnes;’

    But most likely locked up in the crust. When I worked in the mines we used to find magmatic water by the thousands of tons, we may find these reservoirs on the moon as well.

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1205/1205.5598.pdf

  • Alex Tolley December 17, 2014, 17:49

    @Michael – interesting paper. I skimmed all three in the set and archived them. I stand corrected, if he is correct, there is a lot of potential water in the moon. We just need to find accessible reserves and determine how to purify them.

  • Michael December 18, 2014, 15:44

    Just thinking we may not need to go to the lunar poles for water, we could use a powerful magnetic field to funnel ionised hydrogen into the ground near the equator or anywhere on the surface for that matter to form water and oxygen by direct impact of hydrogen with the regolith. We would need to move it every now and then to keep sunlight on the power generators.

    Just a thought

  • Lionel December 19, 2014, 6:03

    @Michael

    That’s an interesting that I haven’t heard before

    Presumably though it’s non-operational during the two week lunar night?

    I think the poles have the advantage of near round the clock solar power, if we can put panels on a big tall stick

  • Michael December 19, 2014, 11:16

    We could have a number of these coils buried at locations on the moons surface which can be switched on and off. If we had one at each pole and they linked up they could provide not only a hydrogen/helium supply at the poles but also a global magnetic protection field. Super conductors will do just fine in the cold craters or even sub-surface regions. There is also the possibility of re-magnetising of the Moon as there is still a lot of magnetisable materials around. These magnetic coils could also be used on Mars and Mercury for example.

  • william December 19, 2014, 19:36

    This particular question is directed directly to ‘Alex Tolley’ who is often one of the major contributors to the discussion here on this website. From what I have gathered from your homepage (which doesn’t seem to be accessible anymore). I understand that you are a professional astronomer-physicist, so this question is one I believe that would be right up your alley.

    A recent article appeared on the Internet concerning China’s fly around of the moon a month or two ago. Anyway, a photograph was included taken by the Chinese probe showing both the earth and the moon in a single snapshot.

    One of the things that struck me as being perhaps a little offkilter was the nature of the photograph: the image seem to be almost impossible to have been taken by the Chinese as they so-claimed. The angles did seem to be wrong at first glance, and even a commentator commenting in the comment section suggested that the picture was Photoshoped ! I didn’t think anything about what was said but I thought it might be wise to lean on an expert such as yourself. Doctor Tolley.

    The link to the article is given below, and I have also provided the individuals comment just as an aside:

    http://phys.org/news/2014-10-china-lunar-spacecraft-incredible-picture.html

    “It amazes me that Phys.org would publish such an obviously fake image.

    Why do I make that accusation?

    Check out the terminator lines on the Earth and Moon. The angles are wrong. Not only that, there is more of the lunar surface visible, width-wise, than the Earth. Using the standard lunar phases as a guide, the Earth is closer to quarter while the Moon is closer to gibbous.

    Don’t believe me? Use your own graphics package and enlarge the Earth. Put the two side by side. Check for yourself.

    It’s a fake. “

  • william December 19, 2014, 19:39

    Finally, there is an amazing article that appeared on the Internet just within the last month and it says that ALL THE PLANETS could fit between Earth and the moon. Here’s the link:

    http://www.universetoday.com/115672/you-could-fit-all-the-planets-between-the-earth-and-the-moon/

  • william December 19, 2014, 20:18

    Private Moon-Drilling Mission Raises Over $1 Million via Crowdfunding
    .

    SPACE.com
    By Kelly Dickerson 4 hours ago

    http://news.yahoo.com/private-moon-drilling-mission-raises-over-1-million-191818660.html

  • ljk December 29, 2014, 11:56

    Talk like an Egyptian

    If we want to safeguard our languages, stories and ideas against extinction, we had better study Egyptology

    by Grayson Clary

    Consider the New Kingdom Egyptian. He can be forgiven for thinking his state sits at creation’s centre, a kernel of order anchoring the known world. If he lives during the reign of Ramses II, his Egypt has already governed Northeast Africa for the better part of 2,000 years.

    Trouncing Hittites at Kadesh, Ramses will confirm Egypt as the preeminent military power in the region and, for any Egyptian then living, the entire human fraction of the cosmos. That, at least, is what official accounts will show. Bombastic descriptions of the battle will decorate monuments across the empire.

    A millennium and a bit later, not a living soul will be able to read them.

    The scientific community has recently begun to think hard about natural and technological existential risks to human beings: a wandering asteroid, an unfortunately timed gamma-ray burst, a warming planet. But we should also begin to think about the possibility of cultural apocalypse.

    The Egyptian case is instructive: an epoch of stunning continuity, followed by abrupt extinction. This is a decline and fall worth keeping in mind. We should be prepared for the possibility that humankind will one day have no memory of Milton, or for that matter Motown. Futurism could do with a dose of Egyptology.

    Full article here:

    http://aeon.co/magazine/culture/can-egyptology-teach-us-to-future-proof-our-culture/

    To quote:

    Still, for all its carven glyphs, Egypt cannot claim to have passed down its dreams, memories and hopes for the future. Some of its civilisation has been recovered, but some was lost irretrievably. This is sobering enough on its own terms. When you examine our beloved present day from an Egyptological distance, you see that we are vulnerable to a similar fate.