ASI W9700484r1.0

Moon Miners' Manifesto

#97 July 1996

Section the Artemis Data Book

The Lunar Frontier

Peter Kokh


Relevant Readings from Back Issues of MMM

MMM # 3 MAR '87, "Moon Mall"
MMM # 13 MAR '88, "Apparel"
MMM # 15 MAY '88, "Rural Luna"
MMM # 18 SEP '88, pp 3-4 "A strategy for following up lunar soil processing with industrial M.U.S./c.l.e."
MMM # 29 OCT '89, p 4 "Cottage Industries"
MMM # 32 FEB '90, pp 3-4 "Import-Export Equation"
MMM # 47 JUL '91, p 5 "Native Born"
MMM # 55 MAY'92, pp 7-8, "Moon Roofs"; "Shantytown"
MMM # 56 JUN '92 pp 3-4 "Harbor & Town"
MMM # 57 JUL '92 pp 4-5 "Space Xity Biomass Ratios"
MMM # 65 MAY '93, p 8 "MUS/cle Substitutions"
MMM # 83 MAR '95, p 5 "Tarns"
MMM # 84 APR '95, p 5 "Ghost Towns and Ruins"

"Praise the darkness, and creation unfinished!" - Ursula K. LeGuin in "The Left Hand of Darkness"

In the Moon, we have a lifeless, barren world that would seem to be anything but friendly. We cannot deal with it at all as "naked apes", but only through the mated interfaces of technology and biospherics. Far more than other "alien shores" we've come across before, on this globe of unrelieved horizons of rock and rock powder against an unfiltered sky of cosmic hazards, we have little of past precedent to go on - little except the spirit of our pioneering past.

The Moon presents itself as a frontier in a much more pervasive and deep-challenging sense than has any previously unexplored and uninhabited niche on Earth. True, terrestrial frontiers have confronted us with challenges we don't have to worry about on the Moon: wild animals; strange diseases; the elements of fire, wind, water, and ice; and unfriendly natives.

Our acculturation to the Moon will have to be more far-reaching and all-encompassing than any humans have had to make to date. This will be necessary if we are someday to sit back and realize that through seemingly endless struggles with one problem after another, through battles lost and won, with ourselves as much as with our adopted world, we've somehow come, amazingly, to feel enough "at home" to experience real contentment, to let go of standby plans to return to Earth if in the end the rows of hurdles are just too much.

Frontier Interfacing 1.01

It would seem to some that the technical challenges to extended human presence on the Moon are either solved, on the way to being solved, or present only modest difficulties. In fact, most of the more flippantly offered solutions exist only on paper, or have been tried only in a laboratory without review by the engineers who would have to scale them up, and certainly not in any integrated systems approach. The early challenges include low-leakage pressurization integrity, thermal management, dust control, and overnighting power supply.

Beyond that, we must quickly progress beyond imported habitat volumes (rigid, inflatable, and hybrids) to (a) demonstration of building materials easily, efficiently, and reliably processed from lunar materials, (b) demonstration of fabrication of modules and modular elements made from them, and (c) demonstration of construction techniques based on them. Nor will this ever be a "been there, done that" step. Lunar pioneers, deprived of the enormous repertoire of manu-facturing stuffs and building materials nowadays available on Earth, will be challenged into the indefinite future to come up with new solutions, better fit for newer applications. It will not be enough to demonstrate crude sintered iron technology or crude glass composites (Glax - suggested generic trade name for the whole family of likely formulations) technology. Lunans will have to aggressively seek to add to their stable of metal alloys, ever more specialized and higher performing glass and glass composites, ceramics, lunar concrete, sulfur composites, and other inorganic possibilities. All of these curiosities will not come on line together, or quickly. And until we've learned the whole suite of "lunar tricks", for all our achievements, we'll still be on a frontier.

"Nuke" solutions notwithstanding, there will always be more power available during dayspan (when "solar" can be tapped) than during nightspan, baring the achievement of some circum-lunar superconducting power grid in which dayspan solar cogeneration additions anywhere can feed nightspan power demands anywhere else without appreciable losses. This means that the dayspan-nightspan polarization of processing, manufacturing, and labor duties that we have forecast (energy-intensive and labor-light vs. energy-light and labor-intensive) is likely to characterize lunar living rhythms for a long time. Even after good solutions to the overnighting problem have been found, relics of this sunthly task-switching routine are likely to endure, having become endeared to the population.

Settlement architecture and general plans are likewise not soon likely to be mature. Regolith-buried modular towns are the early likely favorite, along with modular outposts within the protective cavernous "leespace" of handy lavatubes. But beyond that the vision lures of more "Earth-normal" type of habitat architectures within atmosphere containing megastructures: domed craters and crater chains ("catennae"), vaulted rille valleys [the LRS "Prinzton Settlement Study", detailed in the MMM series "Ventures of the Rille People" in MMM #s 26-33 JUN '89 - MAR '90], pressurized lavatubes, and similar farther-future dreams. It is dreams that provide any frontier with its fountain of youth, and with the vision of how it was, how it is on Earth taunting rugged lunar pioneers, they are not likely to ever be satisfied until they have been able to token-reproduce as much of Old Earth on the Moon as possible.

How extensive can lunar settlement become? Those of little imagination would go to their graves content and satisfied if we establish a vintage Little America type outpost with a handful of people. But the Moon is a very empty world, and only the size of the interdependent interplanetary economy can limit the growth of a lunar human population. Even if we limit our settlement areas, including biological natural parks and parkways, to the available "square miles of prime turf" (the definition will change as our capacities change: "ideal size" craters, crater chains, lavatubes, and rilles, etc.) - we will find enough of that to comfortable house and feed and recreate a population of some millions, only a fraction of whom need to be engaged in production for export. So from outpost to an appreciable off-world population, a progression that will take generations, the Moon will remain a "frontier".

On Earth, pioneering a new territory has always been easy. On the Moon we will have to cope with an across-the-board dearth of all the "in situ" assists and handicaps we have enjoyed in the past. We will find no trees, no wood, no bamboo, rattan or reeds or bark. There will be no food for the finding: no fish to catch, no game to hunt, no berries or nuts or seeds to gather. There will be no rich ores of iron, copper, or other metals to prospect. In addition to the lack of wood, there will be clay, no sod, no easy carve stone to use as building materials for shelter, not that we could seal them against the vacuum and cosmic elements if they were on hand. Nor, to make ourselves at home, will we find ready or almost ready to use art and craft materials
We'll be learning what to make and how to make it, over and over again, medium after medium, for a long time. In the process we will cope better and better with the exclusions and substitutions and compensations - the lunar facts of life.

We'll have to adjust to material excesses as well as material insufficiencies. Regolith, regolith everywhere, with its intrusive and all-befouling dust - a challenge to house-keeping, to machinery with moving parts, to health. For most, that first fresh-off-the-lander impression of "magnificent desolation" will soon be replaced with an innocence-lost lasting impression of scenic monotony and boredom. Lucky the few for whom the variability of the lunar topography will never cease to amaze, with every new moonscape around the bend or over the rim! But for all, on the Moon we will be greeted only by rock and stone and dust: geology unrelieved by life with its verdant vegetation in so many forms, along with expanses of water: streams and lakes and seas. It is this combo of the awesome and the beautiful that has made our home world the lonely jewel it is, for as far off into the starry reaches as we have yet to thoroughly probe.

And then there are the black skies - as black by dayspan as by nightspan, unrelieved by alternating equal time periods of horizon to horizon sky-blue, variably pocked with restless white to gray clouds. Again, lucky the few who will never cease to be thrilled and soul-sucked by the clusters and clouds of stars - for these, when all is said and done, remain "the" frontier of human destiny.

Frontier Biospherics 1.01

If "gray engineering" has technical problems yet to be addressed, "green engineering" as it will be required on the off-planet frontier is in its earliest fetal stages. Most, amazingly not all, do appreciate that we cannot return to the Moon "to stay" without being prepared to aggressively phase in a mini- but functionally integral "biosphere" to reencradle ourselves on worlds without atmosphere, hydrosphere, and native flora and fauna. We may have long taken it for granted, but that does not alter the fact that we are quintessentially a symbiotic species. We must take our symbiotic partner with us as we move out into space. That partner is Earth-life in general, call it Gaia if you are not too hung up on the speculative excesses of the Margulis-Lovelock feedback theories. Sure we expect to be able to engineer an artificial symbiote: chemically regenerated air and water reserves, and foodstuffs a la Solyent Green. And need this approach we will, for cramped conditions on space stations and long-voyage spacecraft. After all, we have a long tradition of substitution of less than ideal life-support means aboard submarines, ships in general, and Arctic and Antarctic research stations. But long term, such measures can only support a caricature of human settlement.

Normalcy, such as a general population will find tolerable, will require "nature" in recognizable familiar terms to be involved. At first this involvement may be token, as with salad stuff cubicle farms, and CO2 scrubbing algal vats etc. But without the sure prospect and unquestionable commit-ment to a schedule of progress in the general direction of a self-maintaining diversified and balanced biosphere regenerating clean air and water, as well as producing ample food, fiber, and feedstocks of various utilities, frontier settlement will not be psychologically tolerable or self-maintaining in any sense.

Think of the ratio of water tonnage to biomass tonnage on Earth, and then of the ratio of biomass tonnage to the gross weight of the human population on Earth. Obviously, we have a tremendously long road to travel on the Moon or in other off-planet biosphere sites if these terrestrial ratios are the standards at which we ought to aim. Even with such high ratios, we are now seriously straining the recuperative capacities of our environment. How could we pretend to dream of not poisoning ourselves in very short order if, in off-planet mini-biosphere-wanna-bes the ratios of water:biomass: humans are only ridiculous tokens? Our mini-biospheres must be very extensive: not landscaped cities, but farming villages with farms. It is vegetation that must play host to man, not man to vegetation a la houseplants! Until this is the case, and it is a direction to move in, not something we can achieve at the outset, lunar settlements will still be "the frontier".

Diversity of agricultural crops and complementary wild plant species, and a certain amount of post-human wild life as well (such as we find in our own urban and suburban and farming areas) will also be needed to provide a real biological flywheel as well as increasingly good mental health.

Frontier Economic Stratagems 1.01

Those whose bottom line dream is of a settlement invulnerable to the political and economic whims upon which continued lifeline support from Earth must always rest, face a long uphill struggle. In such a campaign nothing can be over-looked, certainly not the dollars, but neither the pennies. In addition to the obligatory money-earners like Lunox and a few other export items that have occurred to nearly everyone, there are innumerable less glamorous potential export commodities. (Anything Lunans can make for themselves at less expense than they can upport an equivalent out of Earth's deep gravity well, they can also sell to other space markets at a similar disadvantage: LEO and GEO lab-stations, factories, resorts; L4 and L5 space oases; and other off-planet pockets of human presence.) As anyone who has ever managed a budget knows, the nickels and dimes do add up, inexorably, often to sums that literally dwarf more attention-getting dollar expenditures.

Thus it is absolutely imperative that the domestic lunar economy not be neglected in favor of concentration on production of obvious exports. That would be self-defeating.

At the same time, it is clear from the limited suite of economically producible lunar elements as well as the limited manpower pool, that not everything we might want to have on the Moon can in any foreseeable future be produced there. These facts of lunar life suggest the M.U.S./c.l.e. stratagem in which Lunans concentrate on self-manufacturing the more Massive, Unitary, and Simple components of various items they need, and be content with importing ready to assemble works cartridges containing any complex, lightweight, and/or electronic elements required. An Institute of Lunar-Appropriate Industrial Design, perhaps on Earth, could design products from scratch for just such a collaboration. Lunar products, all exportable, could include habitat and ship and vehicle hulls and body components, tankage, furniture, appliance casings, etc. In aggregate, the total import burden could be decimated.

The "yoke sac" stratagem is another "piece of the puzzle". Lunans must move to quickly extricate themselves from realistically fickle umbilical dependence on Earthside policy-reviewers. Instead of supplies received "just on time", the current newly embraced conventional wisdom, settlement fathers need to over-import any strategic commodities without which outpost failure is certain, swift, and without recovery. If economically recoverable water-ice reserves are not confirmed at the lunar poles, hydrogen will certainly be at the top of that list, along with sister volatiles carbon and nitrogen. A tank farm with a 2-5 year supply (based on growth assumptions) of methane and ammonia ought to do the trick.

Added reserves that need to be built up are copper and other industrially impor-tant metals, scarce or not yet economically producible on the Moon, including needed alloy ingredients; nutrient additions for regolith-soil-based farm production; pharmaceu-ticals or their feedstocks. We'll also need well-stocked tool cribs and parts stores. The settlers need reserves to buy time in which to open up alternative sources if the squeeze is put on, deliberately or as an unfortunate side-effect of some unrelated policy development on Earth. Strategic planners must seek to open alternative off-planet sources of critical materials in seeking to build an independent capacity to self-replenish them. This is the frontier.

Opening the Solar System in general is part and parcel of securing the future of the lunar settlement. Other off-planet pockets of humanity will make more dependable trading partners. Early daughter frontiers may include asteroid mining operations, a Mars colony and processing and manufacturing facilities on its moonlets, Phobos and Deimos.

But they will also include the genteel suborbs - more sophisticated and Earth-reminiscent space oases settlements - or so the expectation goes. In truth, these artificial outside-in worldlets will be "lunar frontiers" in disguise, where Made-on-Luna items and lunar raw materials will be less expensive than more desirable, more sophisticated equivalents made on Earth.

Attracting Immigrants will also be vital to maintain and grow the settlement in a viable and sustainable fashion. To do this, the powers that be must "sell" the frontier, making its obvious and undeniable hardships come across as "more than worth it", however counter-intuitively, in light of the rewards. If the "sell' is done right, it will attract the right people, the ones who will be able to contribute to the building of the frontier, and who will find themselves amply rewarded by the intangible satisfactions that will come, however haltingly, from being able to make a real difference at ground floor level.
Immigration - selling the frontier

Frontier Adjustment 1.01

Many are the psychological adjustments that will be needed to be made, some of them over and over again, by those who have taken the plunge and made an honest commitment of the rest of their lives to their new adopted home world. They will have chosen to forsake the world of their birth with all its real attractions and advantages.

Consumer types who crave the latest and finest need not apply. Early settlement "issue" wears and wares will be crude and esthetically uninteresting, however serviceable. Local arts and crafts will develop slowly, and with them, the prospect of nicer things. The small market, even in tandem with other off-planet markets, will mean markedly fewer choices.

Those needing lots of elbow room will also have a hard time of it. Even with inflatable and hybrid rigid-inflatable prefab shelter imports, per person private and common spaces alike will be at a premium until shelter can be built routinely and generously with local materials we've learned to process and fabricate and erect on the Moon.

Occupational options will at first be limited, but expand in diversity exponentially as the population grows. There will be those with the psychological "right stuff" who will need at least temporary occupational reassignment.

A very real sacrifice, one most do not expect, is the enormous physiological obstacle that will build up over years in the way of ever returning to Earth, a place where one would suddenly, not gradually, weigh 6 times (not 1/6th) more than one had become accustomed to bearing. Earth, and its beauty and meccas of many kinds, will inexorably become a destination out of reach except for the physically most determined.

Risk acceptance will be a frontier trait that affects much more than the prospects of ever reneging on one's settler commitment. Lunans will live far, in gravity well terms, from Earth's encyclopedic problem-fixing resources. Some equip-ment may rest unused, waiting unaffordable repairs or parts. "Medical Triage", however, will be a more powerful concern for the less than supremely dedicated. Despite possible development of time-delay-scourged labaroscopic surgical teleoperation procedures, many less common medical crises, manage-able on Earth, may mean certain death on the frontier.

Frontier Prospects

It is characteristic of any frontier for there to be too many jobs needing done for the too few people available to do them. The frontier puts a strong premium on multitalented individuals. Everyone has the opportunity to be useful, even the young, the handicapped, and the elderly. And these ground- floor openings will give all a chance to make meaningful, satisfying differences that will be worth all the hardships.

The LeGuin quote at the top sums it all up. The darkness of hardships and sacrifice are undeniable. But nowhere is Creation more Unfinished than on the frontier. And it is that opportunity for us to help finish creation which makes being human more than a cosmic joke. MMM

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