#89 October 1995
Section 18.104.22.168.089.of the Artemis Data Book
David A. Dunlop, LRS, LUNAX, WSBR_In the July Issue of MMM_, Doug Armstrong and Peter Kokh discussed the space architectural forms of the cylinder, torus, sphere, and helix geometries of space settlements and the economic argument that the cost feasibility of developing such structures is dependent on a phased pattern of growth in small cost-feasible steps. Further extension of this argument was made based on a broader range view of the gravitational standard that is "acceptable" in such designs.
A more basic beginning question should precede all such specifics and serve as a guide to the quest for development solutions. "What is an appropriate environment for man?"
Design Requirements: That question is both a question of design and a question of identity. It can be rephrased as
Man is the animal that needs _____x______ .
When you get to the end of the laundry list you add up the factors and have the environmental answer as to what is appropriate.
_Space Settlements: A Design Study_ (1) This NASA publication of the mid 70's has a section which provides a range of minimum values or design requirement used in urban design. These standards for human urban environmental support system whether we call it space oasis, town, city, are the most obvious set of considerations. They include characteristics such as minimum area per capita of living space, the number of gallons of water per capita per day ( far beyond life support minimum requirements by the way ), a per capita amount of power consumption, a formula for open space and public trans-portation space in relation to all enclosed buildings and so forth.
_The Political Economy of Design Toward the Short Term:_ However this use of such design laundry lists is in the initial stages confronted by the "practical" realities of:
What we "can" afford is in the short term always a political decision. Since the focus on the short term is the most consistent view, the long term requirements are not often well understood until the failure to provide for them has produced failures or problems whose short term significance was not realized or was denied significance in competition which the more "obvious" necessities. This after-the-fact understanding is often the most expensive way of learning the consequences of consistently focusing on the short term "practicalities."
What can be technically provided is another major practical constraint. Our rockets can lift only so much mass and can loft structures of only so much volume. These constraints are the main drivers of design discussion. When we "can't" provide something in the short term and we are "forced" to do without it in the short term, the accountants and cost-efficiency analysts are tempted to ignore as a practical matter that we must provide it especially in the long term but can't say exactly when.
Yet these practical constraints also beg the larger questions of what is the acceptable or even optimal environment for man? Here in the good ol' U. S. A. and especially in the central cities the lack of job opportunities, the lack of positive role models, the difficulty of easily obtaining jobs for livable wages, the difficulties of financing educational opportunities throughout the lifespan, result in a continuing wastage of human capital. This can be measured in terms of opportunity costs and in actual costs of crime, illness, and higher levels of police, fire and corrections costs, the instability of family structures and the problems of poor socialization practices of children.
These tradeoffs have been long understood but little acted upon in earthly urban environments. That human behavior is to a significant extent environmentally determined is well understood scientifically but most often not successfully defended politically. This is true when the individual's share of public expenditures for such matters on one hand are put against individual consumption prerogatives on the other.
In the area of environmental support systems, NASA studies have acknowledged that physico-chemical systems are over a 10 to 15 year period probably less cost effective for a small number of humans than a more complex bio-regenerative closed environmental life support system. We will "better" solve the problem of regenerating the oxygen/CO2 balance, of purifying the human liquid and solid "wastes", and providing the variety of biomass nutrients needed for sustenance with an environmental systems of 10 to 15 plant species which have complementary support requirements that interlock with these physical requirements of man.
This "engineering" conclusion seems so self apparent from an evolutionary context that one may wonder why it deserves comment. For one, it ridiculously understates the ranges of plant species that are necessary for long term sustenance of human populations. A suggestion of a 10 to 15 plant species solution to environmental control systems should be considered only a short term solution to an early phase of a development which will last for many generations. The construction of a sustainable biosphere off the Earth is at least the equal in our time to the task of cathedral building in the 10th or 11th century.
We seem to have lost culturally the capacity that existed during the middle
ages which concerned itself with "meeting the requirements of God" even if it
took generations to fulfill such requirements. The constructions of the
great Cathedrals of Europe were the work of centuries spanning many
generations. No such clear sense of over arching necessity or purpose
exists today for any national or international project which enlivens our
designs. Instead we have the increasing anxiety about the need to create or
preserve a "sustainable" future for our economy and our environmental system
as a reactions to the accelerating destruction of environmental resources.
We aspire to preserving a planetary Steady State! We don't aspire to visions of new worlds. The output of enormous effort in the here and now that will not see completion in one's lifetime is a very alien and even humorous idea in an era which is increasing conditioned to short term expecta-tions of accomplishment and maximized individual consumption. In the 1930's Roosevelt's vision for society was "two chickens in every pot." in Eisenhower's it was two cars in every garage. Today in the U.S. our vision seems to be focused on hanging onto our declining standard of living. We no longer seem to be "on the make."
This loss of the "larger context" is reflected in the accounting system which defines the concept of useful life in terms of depreciation schedules which range from a 3 to 5 year period on "short term" consumables to a 30 year "long term" mortgages for a house. Practically speaking the financial system has no schedule for valuing in numerical terms and financial terms periods of depreciation over 30 years. "Nettlesome" considerations are ignored or defined as "externalities." A corresponding change has been the focus on immediate consumption and the corresponding decline in the rate of savings. This loss of psychological and sociological software is as significant in terms of its functional consequences as the failure to provide for an adequate water supply.
In the matter of designing space oases the accountants and engineers have controlled and dominated the discussion and therefore the designs. The political position of these groups has been such to portray these space enterprises as being cost-infeasible. This consideration has lead to the morass, stagna-tion, and failure of this generation to aggressively pursue the Apollo initiative.
It would appear clear today that stabilization of the global population, a
sustainable environment, and a sustain-able economy providing a high standard
of material well being to everyone on Earth, cannot be achieved without
relying heavily on the use of space-based material and energy resources.
Kokh and Armstrong argue that the "classical" space settlement megastructures were too overwhelming a goal to approach. I would argue just the opposite! The "mega-structure" of the sustaining ecosystem for man is the only place to start because it is the larger context which demands a more realistic view of the longer context in the accounting system of our species and our immediate politics.
The design considerations from the start must consider the evolutionary trajectory!
Without some real experience exploring this question there is no intelligent position that can be taken on where limits below or above the 1-G level should be set. Kokh and Armstrong are absolutely correct in the evolutionary context to demand that the limit be pushed in consideration of design options. We may indeed find that a standard of 1/6th G or 1/3rd G is viable for our species. If this is so, it may mean that a considerably smaller scale of mass is necessary than would be the case for a strict 1 G standard. However they have fallen into the trap of accepting the limitations of the accounting and engineering elite that has stagnated our current space effort.
If it turns out that our species does indeed require a 1 G standard or a narrow range thereabouts which necessitates a 1000 meter rotating structure or a 5,000 meter rotating structure then that is what must be build! Even if it is the work of 5 presidential administrations! or five generations! Our financial conclusion should be to accept a longer time frame to achieve what is necessary, not to abandon the effort as financially impractical.
If we had made the commitment to build the space station pictured in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, we might actually have had such a station in existence by 2001 almost two generations later. Since our commitment was not made to a "magnificent grandiosity", we could not hang onto sky lab, design a shuttle effective to realizing such a station, or more sadly see that station in its proper context as a stepping stone to yet a larger ambition. The requirement of such an effort has clearly been within the national technical capability in term of freeing up sufficient numbers of specialists from the sustaining requirements of food productions and other material necessities of the U. S. economy. We have sunk at least that much effort into the Cold War, especially if one views what has been produced and purchased globally in the arms trade since Apollo.
The biological, psychological, political and eco-systems requirements of our species expansion are truly vast in relation to the existing planetary economic base on which we stand. But the gains of planetary expansion to the Moon, Mars, and planetesimals, so completely exceeds the efforts required to obtain the gain that the present limitations of the accounting systems must be revised to a more realistically modeling of this economic potential. The Apollo missions were planning for a few camping trips. We must now plan for an invasion! Only this scale of thinking will be productive!
In exploring grandly the questions of "What is an appropriate environment for man?" in the context of space environmental design and expanding this consideration toward factors which might be considered "optimal", we can gain the greatest immediate spin-off possible. That spin-off is better management and a clearer vision of what are our systems requirements for this beautiful planet, ourselves included. It is in gazing out toward the long term future of humanity that we may gain the best mirror of our self as a species and the more humble and wise understanding of the vast system of which we are one small but integral part. When we look at how our current economic, political, and planning systems have failed to adequately address these questions of what is an appropriate much less adequate or optimal environment on Earth we have to carefully and skeptically look at a minimalist approach to such questions in space. In this context I am not about to apologize for the label of big spender. Both the demands of entering the environment of space, the time demands of doing so, and the potential returns on the investment require our species to be a big spender. The size of the debts is balanced by the size of the assets! D.A.D.
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto