Alternate Lunar Development Plans
Section 5.6.
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Return to the Moon

The following is a summary of the lunar return plan presented in Ad Astra, November/December 2001 p. 33, by Matthew Brewer. The plan seems to have its origin in the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) although it is not clear from the article whether the plan presented is the ILEWG's or Brewer's, or some combination.

The basic idea is to look at existing international mission plans, and to try to make the lunar return an international venture, rather than relying on NASA or any single country alone. The starting point is the European SMART-1 and Japanese LUNAR-A probes due for launch in 2002, to direct part of those missions to photographic identification of a future landing site, primarily in the area of the South Pole basin where water ice is believed to have been found by the Clementine and Lunar Prospector missions of the 1990's.

The second step would be a pair of small autonomous robotic mining rovers or "drones" (proposed to be built by Canada) along with a processing plant, extracting oxygen, aluminum, and water and storing for the arrival of the first crew. Power for the processing plant is supplied by solar panels (built in Italy or England?) deployed in at least temporary locations by the rovers, to be later redeployed to permanent locations by the human crew. Power storage in the form of batteries or fuel cells (Canada) would also be available to sustain through interruptions in solar availability.

Third step is delivery of an inflatable habitat (US), and food and other consumables for the first crew. The base is now ready for the first human crew...

The next step then is assembling a Lander and orbiting platform (US, Russia, Japan, ...) in Earth's orbit; the crew then ships up, and a "space tug" takes them out to the Moon. A relay module (Japan) stays in orbit while the Lander heads down to the site on the surface. The crew sets up the inflatable habitats, preferably placing them under the surface as far as possible (studies of the best environment for our manmade materials might be conducted by the French space agency with past experience in this area). They then set up the new solar array, run power cables, etc.

One month after the first crew, a second crew arrives with more supplies. This includes an astronomy package (participation from Brazil?) soft-landed just over the edge on the Farside. Both crews together work on developing the base, including building an electromagnetic launch catapult (Germany?) for launch of materials and humans back to lunar orbit with no need for chemical fuels.

The human presence on the Moon can now become permanent.

Summary prepared by Arthur Smith, November 23, 2001.

Alternate Lunar Development Plans

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