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Analysis of Telerobotic Landing of the Habitat Module

The reference mission has the crew riding to the moon with the habitat because it's design to accomplish the mission with the least cost and most drama. The crew need not be launched to Earth orbit with the habitat -- we plan to assemble the stack in Earth orbit anyway -- but we do plan to have the crew on board at translunar injection.

Advantages of having the crew on the first landing:
  1. Pilot on board to select final landing site.

  2. Fantastically less cost to configure the base for long-term operations vs. doing this with teleoperation.

  3. Habitat operational checkout in Earth orbit before committing to moon flight.

  4. Drama, and hence entertainment value, for the first flight.

Advantages of not having the crew on the first landing:
  1. Risk that the habitat will not be habitable, resulting in an early return.

  2. Lower mass to the stack that delivers the habitat to the surface because we don't have to launch the LTV and return fuel on that flight.

Disadvantages of not having crew in habitat on first landing:
  1. No human pilot increases probability of mission failure by an large factor, perhaps as much as 10.

  2. Every switch, gauge, dial, latch, valve, sensor increases in cost by a factor of 50 or more becuase it has to be teleoperable with multiple redundancy, software has to be written to control it, redundant sensors added to detect failures, software to trace causes of faults as well as faults themselves, automated error- correcting software.

    Weight of each component goes up by about a factor of 6 because all those manual controls will have to automated with motors and solenoids, with additional wiring, plumbing, heat rejection, power, mounting hardware, and sensors and software for all those added components. (Added software means added weight because of the additional computers needed to run it, storage units to store it, and communication components to transmit data to and from Earth.)

  3. No checkout of habitat until crew arrives.

    We can assure that the internal atmosphere is OK, and that the power, comm, and thermal control systems appear to be working. That's it. Until the crew gets there, we won't even be able to check the airlock doors.

  4. Loss of drama, and hence loss of entertainment value to pay for the flight.

  5. Early failure of habitat means no manned flight at all, and hence no value gained from the effort except a dead habitat on the moon.

Because of the increased cost and chance of mission failure, we will continue to plan to land the crew with the habitat on the first flight.

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