#91 December 1995
Section 126.96.36.199.091.of the Artemis Data Book
by Peter Kokh
Expectations from our long-running experiences on Mir should give us confidence for similar manning and crew rotation patterns on the moon. In its one-sixth Earth-normal gravity ("sixthweight"), any physiological deterioration should both proceed more slowly and be accumulatively less severe than in ambient zero-G. In following this pattern, we might expect some lunar base personnel to have longer tours of duty, while other visiting "mission specialists" who have come to oversee relatively short tests of pilot demonstration processing equipment, for example, may return to Earth in short order.
There are several reasons why personnel may rotate at a slower rate than the rhythm of Earth-moon support and resupply flights might seem to allow:
not bringing replacement personnel frees up allowable net payload mass for extra badly needed equipment.
not returning personnel makes room for extra "export" cargo from the moon:
lunar liquid oxygen for delivery to LEO to refuel the Earth-moon ferry
loads of regolith samples for delivery to Earth's surface where ongoing processing experiments can be done more cheaply and more thoroughly, i.e. with lower gross man-hour support costs and in better equipped laboratories.
if the lunar descent vehicle is built as we've suggested, with the crew cabin underslung and equipped with a surface locomotion chassis that can be winched to the surface and taxi to the outpost, every descent module that returns crewless means an extra surface vehicle at the disposal of the outpost.
In general, average on-the-moon labor support costs will come down as the amount of productive man-hours per ticket of passage goes up.
With all these forces operating to encourage extension of lunar surface duty times, outpost managers, both on site and on Earth, will be motivated to provide perks and incentives for voluntary extension of planned tours of duty. Moon duty will be exciting and prestigious at first, with no shortage of volunteers. But as duty time wears on, the view out the window less dominated by Earth, more by sterile, barren, unforgiving, and lonely moonscapes of colorless grays, lunar base personnel will be glad to get out of their sardine can quarters, be relieved of their cabin fever, and return "home."
From this humble beginning to an era when men and women will come intent upon staying the rest of their lives is one tremendous jump. But the long road from limited mission scouts to pioneer settlers starts right here, with the need on the several counts mentioned above to encourage voluntary, but still not indefinite, extensions of contracted duty time.
People put up with what they have to. If the next opportunity to "get out of here" is some time off, one grins and bears the restrictions, the confinement, and the sacrifices with or without a smile. But if ships are returning to Earth on a regular basis and one's "moon duty" has already "worn thin," then the desire to be aboard the next ship home will begin to interfere with one's effectiveness. Perks, extra amenities, and other incentives to make continued surface duty more bearable will be absolutely necessary.
Pay: we start with the obvious: money, the worthwhile-maker. As duty extensions are cheaper than crew replacement, some of the "savings" realized are properly shared with those agreeing to stay on, in terms of higher wage rates. Wages can be sent to one's Earthside family, or accumulate in a terrestrial bank account. But there are other forms of compensation.
The "re-upper" can be rewarded with "import credits" e.g. the right to request added momentos, pasttime materials, or favorite food delicacies to be on the next ship up. One can acquire seniority for bidding on desireable assignments. One can be admitted to the decision making councils. One can be granted more "flextime," leeway in personally scheduling worktime and freetime.
Sabbatical week "vacations" would be a very special perk, one that the "re-upper" can use to explore in greater depth any hobbies or interests - experimenting with lunar art/craft materials, dance forms that go with the grain of sixthweight, exploring and developing confined space sixthweight sports ideas; music, poetry, literature, and writing articles for hire reporting on life on the moon. It is important to realize that all such activity can be indirectly productive for the basehold as a whole if and in so far as it opens up more possibilities for other personnel to enjoy their stays.
Not all the perks should be reserved for those who agree to duty extensions. By then the psychological damage from unnecessarily spartan conditions may be irreversible. The outpost can be made both ergonomic and functionally pleasant at little or no extra weight penalty or cost simply by thoughtful design. Crew quarters can be individually decorated, and easily redecorable to suit the tastes of new occupants. There should be varied and redoable decor in the common areas. There should be cubbyholes other than one's own cramped berthspace in which to retreat. Attention should be paid to acoustics so that one has the choice of background music or silence or his/her own favorite blends.
No matter what one's specialty, there should be the opportunity for shot-in-the-arm routine-busting assignments. Those regularly in the field can be given inside duty for relief. Vice versa, those stuck in labs and workstations can be given periodic field duty.
The outpost should have a good audiovisual and literature library, in the lightest weight storage form, of course. There should also be some traditional art and craft media and the opportunity to explore working with on-site materials. Requests should be honored when feasible for "time off together" for those wanting to explore dance or sport or other "exercise" options. There should be "real" opportunities as well for continuing self-education, personal or occupational, for credit when desirable.
Relief duty in the outpost farm, even if nothing but a compact hydroponics closet operation, will be welcome to most. In addition, an abundance of well-chosen "house plants" will not only help keep the air "fresh and sweet," but provide a psychological filter against the barren and sterile surroundings outvac - especially if arranged in the foreground of any window or viewing port. Available nooks and crannies can be the opportunity for "pocket parks," even "forests" of bonsai evergreens.
Water reserves can be put to work as well. Fountains and wallside waterfalls add both soothing white noise to help drown out the non-symphonic hums of assorted equipment, and to keep the air comfortable and rain-fresh. Aquaria can add the further comfort of "wildlife," color, and visual relief. Another opportunity for "wildlife" will arise once the outpost "farm" reaches the stage where natural pollination would be helpful. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are candidates.
Scarcely anything, however, is more important for morale, day in and day out, than menu diversity and good tasting food. Bland nutritional balance is hardly enough - not out of the ivory tower. The outpost pantry should be kept well-stocked with herbs, spices, and peppers.
The desire of outpost mission planners to control and otherwise restrict the range of "permissible" social activities will be strong. On the one hand there is the legitimate desire to have things run smoothly and discourage behavior that can be disruptive. On the other hand there is the illegitimate pressure that comes from having the rest of the world looking over your shoulder with their assorted hangups. The solution to both has to be a very real degree of privacy with limited and scheduled public "telepresence" along with a degree of discretion given to on-site authority.
While the variety of social interactions will become measurably more satisfying as basehold population increases from shy of a dozen towards a hundred or more, nothing should be done to control or restrict spontaneous sexual liaisons, romances, and relationships so long as they do not begin to interfere with work or with the morale of the rest of the personnel. That said, it remains a pretty good truism that fraternization "at work" is a bad game plan, full of pitfalls and well documented by horror stories. Nevertheless it happens.
Pregnancies will be strongly discouraged at first (cf. the ABC movie "Plymouth"), and perhaps be reason for early termination of tour. Yet sooner or later this is a plunge that must be taken. We cannot know for sure that the moon is a potential long term new home for man until the second generation of native-born turns out healthy and fertile.
A more serious potential problem is the development of a medical condition that would make survival of a trip back to Earth problematic. It may never happen.
What to do with someone who has done something unforgiveably antisocial or outright criminal is an eventuality more likely to occur. "Out the airlock without a spacesuit" is not an option. Confinement to quarters (makeshift brig) means a loss of productivity. The alternative may be to assign the person to undesirable but necessary duties, inside or outvac. Menu and free time restrictions might be effective penalties. No amount of prior screening can prevent trouble altogether.
Sooner or later someone will die on the moon either by accident, by sudden illness, or by foul play. Shipment of the remains to Earth should not be authomatic. The person in question will have signed a living will which states his or her preferences. Interment on the moon should be an option. Nor need this mean "burial." If the outpost has a furnace that can serve as a crematorium, one can specify his/her ashes to spread inside in the outpost "flower garden" or "pocket park" or outvac in some chosen or favorite spot. If not, another option is simple surface interment, under UV-proof glass, otherwise exposed to the vacuum, and the stars. More than any flag, a burial site makes a place, however desolate, forever human.
So much for beginnings. Our humble lunar outpost will have to number more than a hundred before there is enough diversity of talent, occupation, opportunity, and social interaction to make indefinite stays tolerable even for the hearty few.
The mini offspring biosphere with which the frontier community reencradles itself will have had to become much more massive, self-regulating, and forgiving before all but the most determined will be willing to give up ever returning to the lush green hills of Earth. We will have had to have progressed from outpost-with-houseplants to biosphere-with-farm-and-farm-village, and a tad of compatible or insulated industry on the side.
Economically, we will have to be manufacturing on location a visibly large portion of our needs, particularly expansion shelter and furnishings. Thriving indigenous arts and crafts will begin to endear pioneers to their new would-be home and start to add to the list of things they would have to "give up" were they to return to Earth. When this list becomes personally more cogent than the list of still missed things they gave up to come to the moon, the balance will be tipped.
We will have had to make the commitment to the less direct productivity of child rearing and retirement. And perhaps these two needs can take care of each other. Parents can work while retiree "grandparent" volunteers (with enough energy) can teach and raise the young. In general, there must be programs to keep all citizens as productive as possible. In this light, retirement becomes more of a shifting of gears, of switching to less stressful, more relaxed, less demanding "half-time" assignments. Besides teaching, administrative paper-pushing duties come to mind. There will be other things. Everyone must, and must be given a full range of opportunities to, pull his or her weight in the forever upward struggling pioneer frontier community.
Population will have to grow too before their will be enough of a gene pool upon which to base a stable permanent population, if, for some reason, the traffic from Earth should be cut off, forcing the infant community to go it alone, hopefully in economic interdependence with other similarly stranded off-Earth pockets of humanity. While this seems far off, it is a scenario which has long motivated space supporters. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. We've tried here to outline some of these first steps, as well as some other forks in the road a bit farther along. If it is going to all happen, we will have to consciously take these steps in a timely fashion.
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto