Alternate Lunar Development Plans
Section 5.6.
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Circumferential utility development

The following is a summary of the lunar development plan from the book The Moon: Resources, Future Development and Colonization by David Schrunk, Burton Sharpe, Bonnie Cooper and Madhu Thangavelu.

The basic plan is an interesting approach to long-range development of a lunar utility infrastructure, with a primary issue being the Moon's slow rotation and the consequent need for power and services during the long lunar night, at least away from the polar regions. The solution proposed is development of circumferential utilities, starting with railroad and electric lines and solar arrays circling the south pole (at perhaps 85 degrees south latitude), where the circumferential distance is 1/10 or less what it is at the equator.

The development of such a massive infrastructure of course can not be done with all materials imported from Earth - the earliest steps involve establishing, at the initial south polar base, a basic capability for "living off the land", or in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). Solar cells and concentrators, electrical cabling, piping, and the railway and general construction materials are all to be manufactured locally from the silicon, aluminum, iron, titanium, and other elements making up the lunar surface.

The exact initial base location should be chosen based on as much survey and prospecting information as is available; there are still uncertainties at the +-1 km level in elevation of features in the lunar polar regions. Based on current knowledge, the authors suggest a primary base on a mountain near the crater Newton at 0 degrees longitude, 86 degrees S latitude, for which there should be sunlight for solar-power generation 345 days a year. The initial base would be an unmanned engineering lab with the goal of testing proposed materials processing techniques under actual lunar conditions. Facilities for expanded manufacturing using the most promising processes would then be shipped to the Newton base; accompanying rovers would perform geological research and precision surveying. The result of this phase will be a permanent robotic base with the first elements of the lunar infrastructure begun, including electric power, mining, manufacturing, communications, and transportation facilities.

Once at least reliable power and the first materials manufacturing processes have been shown to be work, humans will return; the first human base proposed here is a "MALEO" (modular assembly in low earth orbit) structure, housing a crew of six while they build permanent habitats the "ISRU" way; of course the robots may have made a start on this, but the authors acknowledge that humans are likely to be necessary to get all that is needed here accomplished in a reasonable period of time. To quote the text, "Robots work best under highly predictable conditions, while humans are able to adapt to an unpredictable or constantly changing environment." The authors describe the logical expansion of the lunar infrastructure in the polar region and then over the rest of the surface of the Moon, with increasing numbers of human inhabitants along the way. The main section of the book then concludes with all the wonderful things we'll be able to do with an inhabited Moon as Earth's sister planet. These include revolutionary astronomical observatories, energy generation and transmission back to Earth, production of solar power satellites for further increasing energy supplies, construction and launch of exploratory missions to the other planets, establishing a pattern for the exploration and settlement of Mars, and ultimately the development of autonomous and self-sufficient scientific and industrial base "seeds" to send to the stars.

Part of the plan also is establishment of a "Lunar Economic Development Authority", much like Port Authorities on Earth, with the ability to raise funds for infrastructure development, and to give internationally recognized legal authority to the development.

The plan is more a broad general overview of lunar development than a detailed description of the initial phases, and in particular there is only minimal description of needed launch capabilities or the specifics of equipment, habitats, and other components; these will be determined by the best technology available at the time. But it does provide some interesting possible answers to questions about how our "sister planet" will be developed beyond an initial base.

Summary prepared by Arthur Smith, November 23, 2001

Alternate Lunar Development Plans

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