The Moon and the Future of NASA
This summary is based on discussion and viewgraphs from Paul Spudis,
of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, in the summer of 2001.
The plan was apparently under more detailed development by
a group at Johnson Space Center at this time.
The first part of the presentation, reprised at the end, is on
the motivation: a return to the Moon as a revitalization of NASA,
giving it a mission for the public to be excited about, without
huge new expenses. This in the context of Shuttle/ISS missions
losing their luster, and the small political constituency for
purely robotic space missions. The Moon's advantages are
being by far the closest space destination with significant
resources to exploit, its great scientific potential, and the
advantage of having a place to learn to live and work in space.
And it would provide great new infrastructure for the US, and enhance
our national security...
The essential pieces of the plan are:
- development of a transport
system that can be used for access to the Moon, to GEO, and
to lunar and solar Lagrange points.
- utilizing existing expendable and Shuttle launch infrastructure
- Siting at the lunar south pole
- First mission landing 4 people for a 45 day mission on the surface
- Doing it within 5 years!
Why the south pole? There's the likely presence of water ice,
the mountain peaks with little or no night, the near-constant
temperature in sunlit areas, the astronomically interesting
continuous access to the southern celestial hemisphere, and the
geophysically interesting presence of the largest known impact basin
(2600 km) in the solar system.
What would the crew do? The first mission would establish a
"man-tended" lunar facility with initial astronomical and
geological equipment; each mission subsequently would build up
the infrastructure. The ultimate aim is a permanent human presence,
with exploitation of local resources.
How could this be done for little or no additional cost? The
architecture is as follows:
- New orbiter and lander missions to complete characterization of
options for the polar base site
- Use of existing and ISS-related hardware for landers, flight
systems, habitats, and robotics
- Use of the Shuttle for crew launches, Delta-IV heavy for launch
of major cargo components
- Staging at the lunar L1 Lagrange point. 1 Shuttle launch
and 2 Delta's for assembly of the initial cargo components
- Crew and lunar module launch to ISS (1 Shuttle, 1 Delta-IV)
- crew transfer with LM to L1, to meet other mission components.
- Lunar landing, mission (4 crew/45 days)
- The crew would return via L1, return from there in an X-33 type
vehicle, aerobraking to return to the ISS orbit, and return from there.
- Subsequent missions would add habitats, laboratory space
and equipment, robotic teleoperators, and construction support
- Each subsequent mission would have a cargo and crew component.
- Each human mission would build up the outpost site capabilities.
Doing this would motivate, excite, and energize us all!
summary prepared by Arthur Smith, November 23, 2001
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