Non-Fiction Books about the Moon
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The Moon: Resources, Future Development, and Colonization

The Moon: Resources &c.
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Resources, Future Development,
and Colonization
by David Schrunk, Burton Sharpe, Bonnie Cooper and Madhu Thangavelu
John Wiley & Sons
(Wiley-Praxis Series on Space Science and Technology)
ISBN No. 471-976356-0
Cover price: about $75.00

July 1999 from Wiley-Praxis

Publisher's Blurb

In the past five years, there has been growing interest in the idea of an immediate return to the Moon and its development as a platform for science, industrialization, and exploration of our Solar System and beyond. This book describes the reasons why we should now return to lunar development and settlement, and how this goal might be accomplished.

In The Moon: Resources, Future Development and Colonization, the authors consider the rationale and steps necessary for establishing permanent bases on the Moon. Their innovative and scientific-based analysis concludes that the moon has sufficient resources for a solar-powered electric grid and railroad, creation of a utilities infrastructure, habitable facilities, scientific operations and the involvement of private enterprise with the public sector in the macroproject.

By transferring and adapting existing technologies to the lunar environment, it will be possible to use lunar resources and solar power to build a global lunar power- communication- transportation- manufacturing infrastructure. This will support the migration of increasing numbers of people from Earth, and realization of the Moon's scientific potential. As an inhabited world, the Moon will become a center for Solar System exploration, human settlement, and exploitation of the resources of near-Earth objects. The development on the Moon of an 'off-Earth economy' will result in substantial benefits on our home planet.

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Review added by Arthur Smith 11-01-2001
Summary Review: This book is an up-to-date introduction to lunar development, focusing on the primary technical infrastructure necessary to expand from an initial base via In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) to global development of what the authors term "Planet Moon". The book makes a clear case first for why we should do this, and then in quite detailed outline, how. While some technical components, such as remote robotic tele-operation, or lunar materials mining and processing, still require research and development work, nothing in this project is far from mundane things we already know how to do. The book isn't entirely self-consistent and the organization of topics sometimes seems a bit odd, but the range of material covered is satisfyingly broad: lunar topography and composition; railways, telecommunications and materials transport; requirements on construction and chemical processing equipment; human-suitable habitats, life support, agriculture, and "cislunar" transport and logistics, and more. Beyond the technical discussion of the physical, chemical, and engineering issues are several sections of the book dealing with lunar government, including a proposal for creation of a "Lunar Economic Development Authority" (LEDA) following a port authority model, which looks extremely promising. At least as valuable as the 10 main chapters are the 20 appendixes, to which over half the book's pages are devoted. These appendixes, based heavily on work published elsewhere, bring a lot of information together in one place available for ready inter-comparison. Perhaps the most interesting is also the longest, Appendix E, which thoroughly covers the proposed processes for lunar oxygen extraction and related chemical processing.

Despite the somewhat hefty price tag (at least for the hardcover version), this book is an essential guide for anybody hoping to work on lunar development and participate in, as the authors phrase it, the "Planet Moon Project".

Full Review: The book begins with not just a preface, but additionally a foreward, acknowledgments, and introduction. These introductory remarks are quite interesting. The "Preface" quickly dispenses with five critical misconceptions about lunar development, concluding that the Moon is due for a mental and physical "re-visitation", particularly now that our technological base has grown to make it much more readily feasible. The subsequent "Introduction" presents "Planet Moon" in 2100 AD with ten areas in which lunar development has succeeeded and become of great benefit to humanity, ranging from astronomical observations to energy and spacecraft production.

The first two chapters then cover the physical and human history of the Moon, and a brief outline of scientific opportunities and engineering challenges related to development. Some of the opportunities and challenges are covered in more detail later in the book; one area not really covered elsewhere is sustaining physical and mental health - but there experiences from the Space Station and in Antartic bases may be sufficient for the first groups of colonists.

The centerpiece of the book is a specific development plan for establishing a lunar infrastructure starting at the south pole, detailed in chapters 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9. An interlude in chapter 4 covers how to get there with off-the-shelf technology and existing launch systems, and concepts for tele-operation on the moon before the first humans arrive (or even afterwards to reduce the need for human exposure to the lunar surface). Another interlude in chapter 7 covers lunar government and the concept of a Lunar Economic Development Authority (LEDA) to oversee at least the initial development stages. The authors seem to have a rather rosy optimism on the applicability of scientific methods to the lunar government, but they thoroughly cover the existing legal situation with regard to the moon. The final chapter discusses opportunities to explore the rest of the solar system once the lunar manufacturing base is established.

Why start at, or close to, the south pole? Despite being slightly harder to get to, the authors note two points that favor the south (or possibly north) polar region for the first base: (1) The Clementine and Lunar Prospector missions appear to have found water there, conspicuously absent elsewhere on the lunar surface, and (2) the 355-hour lunar nights mean we either need good power storage systems to last through the night-time, or else some way to be in continual sunlight. One way to find continual sunlight is to simply build a tall tower on high ground in the polar regions; there may even be mountainous regions near the poles that are already constantly illuminated. The second way to have continual solar power is to build stations on opposite sides of the moon and link them by electrical cabling, a railway, or more; doing so within 5 degrees of a lunar pole reduces the circumferential distance to less than 1000 km, rather than the 10,000 km required at the equator, reducing the materials requirements by an order of magnitude.

Even then we do not want to import all those materials from Earth. "Living off the land", or in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), is the goal here. Solar cells and concentrators, electrical cabling, piping, rails for a 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.

Each chapter has copious reference sections; in addition the book's 20 appendixes are full of more specific information. Appendix A discusses in detail Clementine's discovery of hydrogen, and R covers Lunar Prospector's finding of water in the polar regions. B and C cover the properties of lunar soil (regolith) and "simulants" available for large scale testing here on Earth, while D and E cover particular processes suggested for materials extraction and manufacturing using lunar soil. In particular Appendix E's coverage of oxygen extraction is extremely thorough, and the authors, while finding it somewhat difficult to directly compare techniques, find 4 of the approaches worthy of considerable further research: hydrogen reduction of glass, magma electrolysis, sulfuric acid dissolution/electrolysis, and ion sputtering.

Appendixes F and G go into the government issues - in particular F is the detailed proposal for the Lunar Economic Development Authority. Appendix H briefly discusses the potential uses for Helium-3, while I discusses NASA's 1980 ideas on a self-replicating lunar base, and the implications for nanotechnology use on the Moon. Appendix J discusses human factors - the extra complexity introduced by having to support humans at a lunar base. Appendix K discusses maglev trains and mass drivers, essential for efficient launch from the lunar surface. Appendix L is on economics, and particularly proposes the "Lunar Electric Power Company" as an investor-financed operation supporting the lunar infrastructure and eventually sale of energy to Earth or elsewhere.

Appendix M discusses four still unexplained phenomena that were either observed on the Apollo missions or in Earth-based lunar observation. N and O provide summary lists of lunar development milestones and benefits. Appendix P discusses a concept "Space Tug", permanently in space, for servicing satellites and other facilities in cislunar space. Q covers an interesting idea for preserving data of critical importance to humanity in a lunar repository. S is concerned with the MALEO assembly concept, while the final appendix T is on a proposed "Nomad Explorer" vehicle that may provide a mobile human base for construction and linking of stations at a dozen or so locations on the lunar surface, while conducting a much wider geological and topographical survey than would be readily feasible from a fixed base.

The publishers' blurb on the back cover describes the targeted audience as "[...] students in astronautics, space science, [etc...]; professional space scientists, engineers, [etc...]; [and] space enthusiasts with a particular interest in the future development and colonization of the Moon." Perhaps a reviewer from one of the first two groups would find more to quibble with in this book - certainly more coherent analysis would benefit those trying to correlate the MT (metric tonnes?) of Appendix T with tonnes of Appendix E, or what seems to be some occasional confusion about electric power and energy units. And the layout of the book is more in a persuasive conversational style than a typical textbook. But from the space enthusiast's perspective, this book was an ideal introduction to the latest ideas on lunar development, and I commend it to anyone seriously interested in this topic.

Non-Fiction Books about the Moon

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