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NASA, ISS partners quietly completing design of possible Moon-orbiting space station
(03-11-2017, 08:42 PM)iancampbell Wrote: For what it's worth:

I think that the current interest in a Mars mission is a serious distraction from what really needs to be done, which is create a sustainable human presence in space. My vision, such as it is, starts with a working Moonbase; "working" here being defined as industrial, perhaps at the South Pole, which gives access to water which is useful for all manner of purposes and also Lunar rock, which can be worked into many things. And then a "construction shack" with maybe a couple of hundred people on board, building an SPS in geostationary orbit from lunar materials - and maybe at this time also a larger habitat. IMHO the SPS is crucial, because it's a way of getting a resource return from all the treasure spent - in this case, energy. (Helps with global warming, too!)

A "working" Moonbase can consist of some number of teleoperated robot "workers," a photovoltaic array to generate electricity for the robots, a prefabricated smelter/refinery, a mass driver for launching payloads into lunar orbit, and a garage/charging station for the robots. All of these would also be required for a human-occupied Moonbase, but an automated facility would not need pressurized modules, air, food, or water, and would not be constrained to locations in close proximity to water ice. The relatively short signal delay (~1.28 seconds each way) allows for near-realtime teleoperation, reducing the requirements for onboard AI. More teleoperated robots, in lunar orbit, can retrieve payloads launched from the surface and transfer them to a construction site (a SPS project in a Clarke orbit, perhaps, or any of a number of other locations), where an onsite factory (also teleoperated) receives the payloads and uses them to fabricate components for the project du jour. Like the lunar operations, the minimal signal delay reduces the need for onboard AI. All of these operations can, with appropriate levels of funding, be up and running (and starting to pay dividends on their investment) well before the middle of this century, if the decision to commit to such a project is made in the near future. No particular advances in technology over what is currently available are required, and (unlike most off-world endeavors) would be a source of long-term employment on Earth for the human tele-operators on the surface. Another advantage of using automata is the reduced costs of construction, both in lift costs (less mass need be lifted from the Earth's surface) and in maintenance costs (no need to ferry humans and their mass-intensive life support needs to and from the off-world facilities); insurance costs should also be significantly reduced. The same end result is achieved, whether or not humans are physically located on Luna and the construction site(s), but automated operations allow for a much less expensive (both in terms of money and, potentially, risks to human lives and safety).

Quote:Snagging a couple of near-Earth asteroids for materials might well be helpful, too; part of the reason is that the technology for that is  part of the defence against a Dinosaur Killer. On that subject, I think one thing we need fairly soon is a surveillance probe at Sun/Earth L3. Why? Because one of the nastier scenarios is a Sun-skimming rock that sneaks in past the Sun giving us very little time to prepare.

Again, using automata presents the more optimal means of achieving these goals, though the increased signal delays involved will require advances in onboard AI to cover the gaps in time. However, established procedures developed primarily by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for controlling deep-space probes point the way for space-based AI research to proceed. As far as an L3 surveillance system is concerned, the least optimal way (IMO) to establish and operate it is to employ humans on-site. Better to build and launch a series of automated satellites from Earth, insert them into appropriate halo orbits at L3, and monitor their observations on Earth.

Quote:Once there is one habitat in space, there will be more - if only because space solar power requires a human presence to build large units. (For now, anyway.) And space habitats could be designed to be rather pleasant to live in.

Solar power may have required a human presence five decades ago, when SPS was first proposed, but advances in both hardware and software since then have largely mooted that requirement (much like communications and weather satellites envisioned after World War Two required manned orbital platforms, but the technology advances by the mid-1960s made manned reconnaissance and switchboard operators unnecessary). So construction of habitats in space to house human crews is probably unnecessary even now.

Quote:Leave Mars until a Mars landing becomes a minor project, because there is already human stuff all over at least the inner solar system and maybe the Belt.

A program of increasingly capable automated probe vehicles, both surface and orbital, can investigate Mars thoroughly before humans set foot on the planet. Perhaps, at some point, human-habitable shelters can be constructed on (or under) the surface of Mars by some of these automated probes for use by human tourists. Before humans actually visit Mars, an Aldrin Cycler route should be established, to facilitate efficient transport of personnel and supplies between Mars and Earth.

Quote:I would have thought that this lesson had been learned from Apollo. It was a magnificent achievement, but it was also done in completely the wrong way - a horrifically expensive and essentially purposeless Cold War boots-and-flags gambit. ISS (or something even better, such as a toroidal station with centrifugal gravity) should have been built decades before we even tried for the Moon.

In my opinion, the Apollo Program took a serious wrong turn in early 1962 when Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) was selected over Earth Orbit Rendezvous (EOR) as the mission mode. Had EOR been chosen, it would have encouraged the deployment of orbital platforms (probably crewed) and other in-space infrastructure that would have been useful after the Apollo Program had run its course. But, of course, the human spaceflight effort has never been focused on doing things in a manner that favored long-range goals over short-term results. LOR was chosen because, it was argued, it could put boots on the Moon faster (though not necessarily better) than the alternatives.

Quote:Just one more thing: A human space presence also gives us the ability to consider the only way (for now) to get going on slinging large masses around the Solar System with decent Isp and thrust. I refer, of course, to Orion.

It would, at first glance, seem that Orion would favor a lack of humans in space, if only to forestall the inevitable outcry over unnecessarily risking human lives by exploding large numbers of nuclear warheads in space for propulsion. Space hotels don't usually take to kindly to being near a nuclear detonation, as it tends to increase the number of room vacancies.

"I'd much rather see you on my side, than scattered into... atoms." Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe

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RE: NASA, ISS partners quietly completing design of possible Moon-orbiting space station - by radtech497 - 03-12-2017, 05:12 AM

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