Section 1.2.
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Missions to the Asteroids

While an asteroid mission is outside the scope of the Artemis Project's goal of establishing of a self-supporting lunar base, it does fit within the long-term vision. Among the themes we've developed to explain what the Artemis Project is all about is: "The moon is the front door to the universe."

Can asteroid missions be made financially viable? The Artemis Project might be the key to balancing that equation. Consider:

Lunar Transfer Vehicle for Asteroid Rendezvous Spacecraft

With some modification for a months-long flight, the Lunar Transfer Vehicle would be well-suited to an asteroid rendezvous. The modifications would involve reliable life support for a long-duration mission, addition of an airlock for EVA sorties on the asteroid's surface, and radiation protection for the crew.

Spacecraft Launch from the Moon

If we can launch oxygen tanks on an electromagnetic launcher from the moon, we can send them to asteroids. Other planets, too.

Lunar Resources to Support the Mission

Oxgyen for rocket fuel is an obvious start. If we get a metals industry going on the moon, we can build the heavy structure needed for an asteroid recovery mission. Besides fuel tanks, asteroid recovery will require a long trusswork with heavy magnets to support an electromagnetic accelerator. (That assumes we want to move the asteroid by using its material as reaction mass for an electrically powered rocket.) The lunar community can get into full-scale production of solar cells (lots of silicon up there) and mirrors, which will be used to power these electric rockets.

Consumer of Asteroidal Materials

Carbonaceous chondritic and water-ice asteroids add a lot of missing ingredients to the recipe for life of the moon. If we find that metals can be mined more cost-effectively from asteroids than from lunar sources, lunar mining companies would be an eager customer.

Bringing asteroidal material to Earth's surface could be tricky, if not impossible. We would have to use the material in space or figure out a way to control the flight of an asteroid through Earth's atmosphere without making a mess. Crash-landing an asteroid on the moon, in contrast, would have a trivial environmental impact.

A gravity field and local resources make the surface of the moon a much more attractive site for heavy industry than free space. So, if we have customers for these heavy industries, the moon will be a major manufacturing power in the next century; and hence a customer for these materials.

Proving Ground for Spacecraft and Crew

If you want to test out an asteroid-bound manned spacecraft, the place to do it is on the moon, with nice, safe habitats nearby if something goes wrong. Shuttling crews between the surface of the moon and a lunar-orbiting deep-space craft is far easier than getting to LEO from Earth's surface.

In conquering the moon, we will develop most of the systems needed for missions to asteroids and beyond.


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