Expanding the Lunar Base
Section 2.1.
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Equipment to Access Lava Tubes at the Lunar Surface

Tom Billings

The research team at Oregon L-5 Society (Lunar Base Research Team, LBRT) has looked into lava tube lunar bases somewhat. The method I would propose for opening a lava tube with minimal lifted mass, expense, risk and time would be a "mucker."

Go to the end of the lava tube that abuts a sinuous rille, (almost all should, at some point), then put three posts in the regolith at appropriate points, with pulleys attached to the posts. Run cables through the pulleys and attach a scraper bucket of appropriate size and shape to the cables. Use an electric motor to pull the cables, and thus the bucket, back and forth across the front of the regolith plug at the TOP of the lava tube's entrance. The lava tube entrance will, I believe, be plugged by a combination of large breakdown boulders, at the bottom, and regolith at the top.

It is the relatively looser regolith material that thus forms your point of attack, not hard basalt, much less large broken blocks of it. The resulting cut in the regolith slope at the top of the entrance plug should give an access space of ten meters, more or less, into the top of a large lava tube that might easily be 500 meters in diameter. The base can thus be suspended from the lava tube roof, instead of being 500 meters from the surface, which is more than the height of the Empire State Building.

The advantages of this method are low initial mass lifted and strategic positioning of the base inside the lava tube, near the surface. The disadvantage could be that too much of the entrance plug might be large blocks of basalt. I would consider this unlikely, since the entrance plug would have been subjected to the same regolith generating processes over the last 3.5 billion years that the rest of the surface has been.

Additional References in the Artemis Data Book

Expanding the Lunar Base

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