ASI W9700468r1.0

Moon Miners' Manifesto

#88 September 1995

Section the Artemis Data Book

"In the (new) Beginning, . . ." (Starting over on the Moon)

APOLLOS 11 - 17: I. Bursting Apollo's "Envelope"

Peter Kokh

Apollo was without precedent. For scouts of Earth to break free from their womb planet and set foot on what had always been an unreachable celestial sphere was a clean break with all that had gone before. It electrified civilization for a moment. Yet for all that these nine manned missions to the Moon accomplished, six of them landing, so many really basic things were left undone that roundly shattering that precedent will be easy. We mean no disrespect! But, yes, easy.

A new beginning

So much of both the technology and the expertise that carried the Apollo program on to its brilliant successes has been lost, dismantled, even deliberately destroyed that we can no longer just repeat these humble sorties. They cannot even be called beginnings since they have been robbed of the chance to lead to something more that follows.

Not quite. We have the knowledge, the record, and some teasing results of matter-starved experiments that suggest what we might be able to do with lunar regolith -- make oxygen, iron and steel, aluminum and titanium, cast basalt and ceramic objects, sinter blocks and concrete, glass and glass composites -- in effect fuel, air, water, tankage, vehicle and habitat parts, furniture and furnishings. We could even do out-of-fashion soil-based farming. Bring back with us but talented people, tools, and seeds, and we might just make a go of it.

With the total absence of political will, any return will have to be humble, laying down a few foundation stones at a time. Our first beachhead can become permanent only in time. But even if the first crew returns home for some while before the next is sent, it will have been easy to shatter all Apollo's achievements with the first mission.

  1. We leave a habitat structure on the Moon, perhaps returning to an awaiting orbiting ferry (serving a function like Apollo's command modules) ascending on a cabinless platform (not unlike the Apollo rover) protected just by space suits.

  2. Our habitat has room enough to walk around, and to sleep horizontally in cots or on air mattresses, and is big enough to boast both private and common room areas.

  3. We "dig in" our shelter, placing it under a soil-shielded canopy or heaping soil directly upon it to make longer stays possible without high accumulative radiation exposure. Now we have a camp, a cabin, a cottage on the Moon, a permanent structure to come back to, and from which to expand in due course, as we learn to do so step by step, using primarily building materials made on location.

  4. We leave an electronic beacon so that follow-on missions can make instrumented landings at the same spot.

    Then What?

  5. We stay not only all "day" but past sunset, outlast the long-two week night, and start a new lunar "day" before going home. This will be quite a feat, not unlike the first "overwintering" on Antarctica. Even with a nuke source for energy, we'll have less power than during the dayspan when we can tap sunlight as well. We'll have to switch from energy-intensive tasks during dayspan to manpower-intensive energy-light tasks during nightspan, establishing a lunar rhythm that may forever after give life on the Moon much of its characteristic flavor. In the process, we'll have to have in place an advanced, possibly bio-assisted, life-support system regenerating our air and water supplies. We'll also have had to demonstrate, probably in an unmanned dry run, thermal stability of the station through the nightspan. Shielding will help here too, minimizing exposure to the heat sink of space.

  6. If we stay six weeks or more, we can plant some salad stuffs and bring them to harvest -- the first feat for lunar farming and agriculture to come.

  7. We might try some brief sorties outside the station during nightspan. That means headlights, that means lubricants that can take the cold -- or magnetic bearings. That means heated spacesuits or an infrared radiating cage or a minimal cabin.

  8. We bring along pilot oxygen production equipment (?), demonstration iron fine and gas scavenging equipment (?), a solar furnace to experiment with cast basalt, ceramics firings, iron sintering, and glass production. We have brought along some basic tools for fabricating sample test objects.

  9. There is a parallel Earthside "Moon station" in which problems on the Moon can be addressed in close simulation, and in which terrestrial brainstormers can proactively outline suggested new experimental exploits for the lunar crew.

Exploring Metaphors

Settlement is a long way down the road. But since we are determined to make that journey, we have to begin humbly with some lowly first steps. What lies between our previous "science picnic" visits and "settlement"? Here are some more relevant "meanings" my dictionary offers for some of the words we've been bandying about. Running through them might help clarify our thoughts about what comes first.

(1) a bottom support on which a thing stands or rests; (6) the point of attachment; (7) a starting point or point of departure; (9) a supply installation that supports operations.
a place where a group of persons is lodged in temporary shelters.
a fortified, protected place (here, living quarters and operations center, in a physically hostile environment, shielded against radiation, vacuum, and thermal extremes).
(3) a special contained environment for living in over an extended period in a life-hostile setting.
an inexpensive, spartanly equipped lodging offering minimal shelter for short-stay travelers.
a station established at a distance from the main body; a post or settlement in a foreign environment.
(6) a place equipped for some particular kind of work, service, research, or activity, usually semipermanent.

While all of these terms are applicable as far as they go, none of them is especially instructive. And most of them are static, not suggestive of leading anywhere, thus requiring separate justification of any further steps, and thus likely to become self-limiting.

We suggest that we space advocates, who really want to see human outsettlement, wean ourselves of such terms as Moonbase, Lunar Outpost, etc. and look for more pregnant terms that suggest a sequence of phases that lead to something much more. If we find better terms, we must popularize them and thus alter the culture in which space futures are discussed. Words are not neutral. We must pay attention to their downside or self-limiting connotations. We are in a battle for the soul of humanity. We have to stop using the weapons the enemy gives us and forge our own.

Let us suggest some other terms whose applicability might seem a little forced at first thought, but which we think you'll agree are rather appropriate:

the area that is the first objective of a party landing on an alien shore, which, once secured and established, can serve as a base of expansion of the occupation.
an artificial environment that enables fragile beginnings to become hardy enough to thrive outside.
a common boundary (between two worlds -- e.g., the life-coddling Earth and the barren and sterile Moon); (4) something that enables separate and sometimes incompatible elements to communicate.

"Interface Beachhead" & "Settlement Incubator"

If our gambit strategy is to establish a habitat station which serves as an effective interface with the Moon and its realities, then we suggest that the menu of Apollo-besting items given above lists steps in the right direction. We need to learn how to exist on the Moon, on its terms, through its cycles, boosting our resources with those it offers. A successful first Interface Beachead will allow us to carry on a whole range of human activities in a way that comes to terms with lunar vacuum, lunar sixthweight, lunar day/night cycles, lunar temperature swings, and the absence of organic materials in the lunar soil. More challenging, we must interface with the Moon and learn to do so flexibly, through the handicap of a micro-biospheric barrier as "bubble" creatures.

We have to begin mastering how to thrive on stuffs and materials we can process from the lunar endowment. That means our interface station / camp / outpost / base / beachhead must have expanding dedicated space for processing and fabrication experiments, demonstrations, and production operations. That means we have to put together talent, materials, and opportunities for at least part-time artists and craftsman to learn how to express themselves in the lunar idiom. Call it survival, call it living off the land, call it acculturation, call it dealienization, call it adaptation, call it adoption, call it "settling in."

We can't have wholesale rotation of crews. Even if everyone still goes home after a while, those with hard-won on-site experience have to teach the newcomers before they can turn things over. Our presence needs to be more than serial. There has to be an effective "cultural memory" giving enduring "soul" to our individual comings and goings. Given that, the outpost / base / camp / station / interface beachhead will take on a "permanent" life of its own, even though the day that "reupping" indefinitely (i.e., staying for the duration of one's natural life) may be a good ways down the trail.

"Permanent" can apply to the physical structure. That is easy -- and "cheap" in a fully pejorative sense. At the other extreme of application, it can also apply individually to people who come to live out their remaining natural lives with no real thought of ever returning to the "old" planet -- "forsakers."

In between is the "permanence" of a growing acculturation between human and Gaian on the one hand, and lunar on the other. While we never want to lose sight of the longer-term goal, we need to reject rusting on the laurels of achieving permanence in the first naked sense. All that would achieve is the establishment of an eventual ruin or ghost camp.

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