Moon Miners' Manifesto
#99 October 1996
Section 188.8.131.52.099.of the Artemis Data Book
To / From the Lunar Surface
"TO/FROM THE LUNAR SURFACE"
Relevant Readings From MMM Back Issues
MMM # 6 JUN '87 "Bootstrap Rockets"
MMM # 55 MAY '92 "A Better Slide-Skid Lander? Enhanced Harenobraking"
MMM # 56 JUN '92 "Harbor & Town"
How do we cut expenses for landing on the lunar surface? Use as low-mass a
landing vehicle as possible to bring down the equipment, supplies, people,
etc. Leave unneeded mass in orbit. See last article. In addition, we can
pursue these strategies.
Fuels and Oxidizer from Moondust
- Liquid Oxygen for fuel oxidizer is the most obvious opportunity to save.
There are many ways LOX can be processed from the lunar regolith soil. "LOX"
can even be used to refuel Moon-bound vessels in low Earth orbit.
- Less potent but quite adequate, powdered metals (alone or in a liquid
hydrogen slurry) can be used in place of hydrogen. Abundant lunar aluminum,
iron, calcium, and magnesium will do well. Aluminum oxygen combination is
the most potent but it will take a lot of equipment and energy to produce the
aluminum powder. (A 75% aluminum, 25% calcium alloy is be easier to keep
powdered). Pure iron powder is everywhere, especially on the mares, and can
be produced easily by passing over the soil with a magnet. The exhaust is
rust powder which will fall harmlessly back to the surface without degrading
the lunar vacuum.
Densifying Hydrogen Extenders
Hydrogen may make the ideal fuel, but on the dry Moon, even if there is some
polar water ice, hydrogen will be a precious commodity and using it - at
least in unextended form - will constitute an obscene waste of an invaluable
and limited and expensive resource. Two ways to use it as a fuel extender are
as a slurry medium for powdered metal fuels (above) and in chemical
combination with other elements. One of the hydrocarbon analogs of
Moon-abundant silicon will do such as Silane, SiH4, the silicon analog of
methane, CH4l. According to Dr. Robert Zubrin, Silane can be produced in a
Sabatier Reactor (the nuclear thermal powered device he successfully
demonstrated for the production of methane fuel from Mars' atmosphere).
Economic pressures (impatience for short term advantage and profit at the
expense of long term sanity) to use precious lunar hydrogen reserves directly
will abound and there are many "damn the future" space advocates ready to do
just that - some of them prestigiously placed. By treaty or lunar charter, it
is in the interest of future Lunans and their civilization to restrict such
use with adequate safeguards and stiff penalties.
Landing without Retrorockets
Mars fans are quick to point out that thanks to its atmosphere, it will be
cheaper to land people and cargo on Mars than on the Moon. But there are a
few tricks other than aerobraking that can be used on the Moon in similar
- Krafft Ehricke described a "Lunar Slide Lander" that would dump horizontal
momentum into a prepared regolith runway in Lunar Industrialization and
Settlement - Birth of Polyglobal civilization" in "Lunar Bases and Space
Activities of the 21st Century" ed. by W.W. Mendel, Lunar and Planetary
Institute, Houston 1984, pp. 825-7.
In what we hope is an improvement on this idea, Doug Armstrong and I
published an article on "Enhanced Harenobraking" [sand-braking] in MMM # 55,
cited below. It is conceivable that some limited application of this trick
could be used to shed some of the momentum of an incoming personnel carrier.
- Cushioning Farings of non volatile material - e.g. metal and ceramic foams
might land G-hardened payloads on the Moon intact, in specially restricted
landing zones where they can then be "harvested".
- Chicago inventor Ed Marwick has put forth an elaborate proposal in which
guided payloads enter a sloping chute dug into surface and encounter ever
denser sprays of regolith dust, slowing the capsule down to a halt. Such a
facility would have to be as long as a mass driver per level of Gs to be
Loading and Unloading Facilities
The earliest ships coming to the Moon to set up operations in any given
development area will be "self-unloaders" weighted down with the cranes and
winches needed to unload and reload themselves. Landing on and launching
from the Moon will take less fuel and be cheaper, once such equipment is set
up on a site, thereby establishing a "port". "Go any-where" craft will
operate at a competitive disadvantage as compared to craft designed to trade
via an established lunar surface port facility. Population will follow, so
that port-establishment will tend to be outpost and settlement site
preemptive. (The same applies to the establishment of fuel processing
facilities and fuel depots, harenobraking smoothways, electromagnetic
launchers and catchers, etc.)
Mass Drivers have been principally investigated for the regular continuous
shipment of unprocessed lunar regolith into space for production of building
materials for Solar Power Satellites and Space Settlements. Such devices
provide very high G launch over relatively short mag-lev tracks.
Other elaborations are possible:
- value-added pelletizable processed materials
- G-hardened small size manufactured items
- Larger items (cargo holds, personnel pods) in more potent, longer, slower
accelerating launch tracks
Reversing mass drivers or Mass Catchers which catch and brake landing
payloads have been mentioned and need further investigation for high traffic
situations. In most cases this will not require a new facility, just a new
"reverse" mode use (where launch demand allows) for an existing mass driver.
Mass Drivers-Catchers are expensive big ticket items. They will lower costs
to and from the lunar surface only when amortized over a long period of high
traffic use. MMM
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto
Moon Miners' Manifesto
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