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View Full Version : Building a Base on the Moon: Part 2 - Habitat Concepts



Fraser
2008-Feb-10, 06:30 AM
Plans are afoot to build a manned base on the Moon. As you probably would have guessed, there are quite a few hazards and dangers with sending humankind back to establish lunar "real estate". However, once our intrepid lunar colonists begin to build, the hazards will become less and development will accelerate. This is all [...]

More... (http://www.universetoday.com/2008/02/09/building-a-base-on-the-moon-part-2-habitat-concepts/)

Noclevername
2008-Feb-10, 08:19 AM
They would maintain their shape by using high-tensile beams to battle against the bellowing membrane material.
Shut up, membranes! I'm tryin' ta sleep!


Classic erectables have been extensively tested

...Shouldn't that one go in this thread? (http://www.bautforum.com/general-science/70109-make-up-your-own-viagra-headline-israeli-pilots.html)

JustAFriend
2008-Feb-10, 09:48 PM
'Ya gotta wonder how many million$ they'll spend on design studies
when all they have to do is go back and watch the Clavius Base
sections of '2001: A Space Odyssey' (1968).....

The buried base NAILED it!

Ronald Brak
2008-Feb-10, 11:01 PM
I have a few ideas on how a lunar base may be built. I'd appreciate people letting me know if they think they make sense or not:

On the moon equipment will be at a premium as it is far cheaper to drop a kilo of gold into the ocean than it is to send a kilo of payload to the moon. But since microwave energy can be beamed to the moon from earth, electricity might be comparitively cheap, so it might make sense to economize on the weight of equipment while making the most of energy. For this reason, perhaps a cheap way to build living space is to cut it out of lunar basalt with a laser. This is likely to be a very slow process, but could be done by machine before anyone arrives.

A couple of small wheeled robots could be landed at a suitable location. Perhaps near a cliff that can be cut into. This cliff shouldn't be too high, because without air to slow it down, gravel falling from enough height can hit like a bullet. The cliff could be in an area of shade as it's easier to heat than to cool, or a sunshade could be errected. Landing humans near a cliff might sound dangerous, but a beacon could be placed in a clear, safe spot allowing crewed landings to be completed automatically.

A large lightweight mesh to would be unfolded to intercept microwave energy beamed from earth. There would be three stations on earth to provide continous power to the moon. We have had a lot of experience stabilizing large telescopes and other objects precisely, so it should not be too difficult to focus a tight beam of microwaves onto the area where the mesh is located.

If a teleoperated machine with a laser can cut one square meter of basalt a week, then in a year it could cut over fifty square meters of living space, which should be enough for a small group of astronauts. When they arrive they can simply install an airlock. The basalt walls might need to be sealed or treated in some way to stop the dry rock from absorbing moisture, or an inflatable habitat could be used within the space cut into the rock. This could be lightweight as the rock would provide radiation and micrometeorite protection.

The base could be located at or near the equator as it is cheaper in terms of fuel to land and take off. However, there may be ice deposits at the poles that could be used. The cheapest way to get them to the equator might be to have a solar powered robot transport it from the pole to the base. It's a 2,700 km trip from the pole to the equator, and probably a lot more once obstacles are avoided, but if the robot can average 25 km an hour it might be able to make the trip in a lunar day. It coud gather up ice or ice rich dirt collected by an ice mining robot at the pole and transport it back to the base at the equator. To deal with the rough terrain it might use legs instead of wheels.

Noclevername
2008-Feb-11, 04:34 PM
But since microwave energy can be beamed to the moon from earth, electricity might be comparitively cheap, so it might make sense to economize on the weight of equipment while making the most of energy. For this reason, perhaps a cheap way to build living space is to cut it out of lunar basalt with a laser.

I don't think that would be a very efficient use of energy. The transfer "from Earth" (or probably Earth orbit, no point in beaming through atmosphere) to the Moon is basically untested technology; I'm pretty sure they have yet to get to 50% efficiency beaming power over a few miles, let alone to the Moon. A laser is also inefficient in enenrgy use. And designing a laser mining robot that can act unmanned, without maintainance, under Lunar conditions, seems a lot harder than just lowering the cost of launches by making more rockets.

Torsten
2008-Feb-11, 06:37 PM
I've no clue how tightly a microwave beam can be focused, especially through the Earth's atmosphere, but the laser beams used in the lunar ranging measurements spread out to a width of several km by the time they reach the moon.

How about delivering mirrors made of milar on light-weight, flexible frames of sufficient size, to the lunar surface to focus sunlight directly at the target of interest? Dealing with the melt product is another matter though. Could vaporizing temperatures be achieved with such a method? (And would the products of vaporization drift off uncontolled, only to contaminate the mirrors??)

At >1300 W/m2, there is a lot of energy potentially available right on the lunar surface, and delivering raw heat to a rock should be amongst the simplest of challenges. If only ~75% of the sunlight could be focused and used, that's still 1 kW/m2 of reflective surface.

Alternatively, is there another reliable way, in the lunar environment, of using sunlight energy collected and concentrated in this manner?

I realize there are more moving parts and complexity in such a proposal, but how else to deal with the dispersion of the signal sent from Earth?

But I like the idea of doing things remotely, and using time to advantage. No point delivering humans for such a task if a robot can take care of it.

(Looks at watch: Alrighty, back to solving Earthly problems.)

Noclevername
2008-Feb-11, 07:22 PM
But I like the idea of doing things remotely, and using time to advantage. No point delivering humans for such a task if a robot can take care of it.

Some simpler aspects of building a Lunar base, like collecting regolith, can be done by robots, assuming no major glitches. There are even possible designs for self-erecting structures (I suppose inflatables would be considered in this category); I have no idea how well this would work, but if it's practical, it could make matters much simpler. The only hurdle would be landing it on a flat enough spot, although they'd still need to be covered with shielding material after they inflate.

Any plans to have robots build a base using lunar materials with no human presence is, IMO, very unrealistic at the present time. We don't even have robots here on Earth that can do things of comparable complexity without any human involvement, especially in a natural environment with random obstacles and conditions.

Ronald Brak
2008-Feb-11, 11:52 PM
I don't think that would be a very efficient use of energy. The transfer "from Earth" (or probably Earth orbit, no point in beaming through atmosphere) to the Moon is basically untested technology; I'm pretty sure they have yet to get to 50% efficiency beaming power over a few miles, let alone to the Moon. A laser is also inefficient in enenrgy use. And designing a laser mining robot that can act unmanned, without maintainance, under Lunar conditions, seems a lot harder than just lowering the cost of launches by making more rockets.

I'm sure that it would be inefficient. But just how inefficient, I don't know. But if it saves hundreds of kilos in payload it might still be cost effective, desite low efficiency. Obviously machines can simply shut down during the lunar night when there's no solar power, but I was thinking that, for humans, a constant power supply beamed from earth would eliminate the need heavy RTGs or other methods of providing power during the long lunar night.

Beaming microwaves through the atmosphere might add to the inefficiency, but beaming from orbit would be far too expensive. The idea is to save on costs. From what I've read in threads on solar power satellites, the efficiency of beaming microwave power through the atmosphere and across long distances isn't too bad. However, what people said in those threads could be wrong.

Microwaves are used for beaming power on earth. There is a resort that uses them to beam power to an island. I don't know what sort of efficiency they get, however.

Ronald Brak
2008-Feb-12, 12:07 AM
How about delivering mirrors made of milar on light-weight, flexible frames of sufficient size, to the lunar surface to focus sunlight directly at the target of interest? Dealing with the melt product is another matter though. Could vaporizing temperatures be achieved with such a method? (And would the products of vaporization drift off uncontolled, only to contaminate the mirrors??)

At >1300 W/m2, there is a lot of energy potentially available right on the lunar surface, and delivering raw heat to a rock should be amongst the simplest of challenges. If only ~75% of the sunlight could be focused and used, that's still 1 kW/m2 of reflective surface.

Now this is a good idea. It uses local power and could be set well back from the rock face to avoid contamination. Several units could combine their output on one point. It's possible the units could use fiber optics and mirrors to guide the light.

And rather than dealing with the melt product it might be simpler to just let it be. Also, this sort of treatment might seal the basalt, so nothing will have to be taken from earth to seal it to stop it absorbing water and air.

Ronald Brak
2008-Feb-12, 12:12 AM
Any plans to have robots build a base using lunar materials with no human presence is, IMO, very unrealistic at the present time. We don't even have robots here on Earth that can do things of comparable complexity without any human involvement, especially in a natural environment with random obstacles and conditions.

I'm not sure if you count cutting into rock with a laser or focused sunlight as complex or not. But using robot to make thousands of precise cuts with a laser is exactly what we use them for on earth. And focusing sunlight by hand accurately enough to melt basalt is something no human can do, so machines will be required for it. Having a place prepared were astronauts can shelter from radiation from solar storms on hand would be an important safety consideration.

Noclevername
2008-Feb-12, 01:03 AM
I'm not sure if you count cutting into rock with a laser or focused sunlight as complex or not. But using robot to make thousands of precise cuts with a laser is exactly what we use them for on earth. And focusing sunlight by hand accurately enough to melt basalt is something no human can do, so machines will be required for it. Having a place prepared were astronauts can shelter from radiation from solar storms on hand would be an important safety consideration.

Yes, but as I said, that's here, with constant human oversight and maintainance.

(The major complexity for laser or reflector concepts, aside form getting all that very expensive gear to deploy properly, is in the accurate placement of the equipment, something hard to come by on a rocky/dusty Lunar surface.)

How about a compromise? Since it's planned for humans to go back anyway, just have them set up the (sent beforehand) automated building equipment before leaving. It'll be a huge help. Then the second team will have their shelter, and/or can troubleshoot whatever goes wrong.

Ronald Brak
2008-Feb-12, 01:50 AM
Yes, but as I said, that's here, with constant human oversight and maintainance.

Well no, the majority of laser cutting robots do without constant human oversight and maintance. That's sort of the point. Obviously one sent to the moon to operate without human maintenance for a long period would be the sort that didn't require human maintenance for a long period. As for oversight, any oversight that is required can be provided from earth which is close enough for equipment to be teleoperated.


(The major complexity for laser or reflector concepts, aside form getting all that very expensive gear to deploy properly, is in the accurate placement of the equipment, something hard to come by on a rocky/dusty Lunar surface.)

This isn't really a problem as digging a cave doesn't need exact tolerances.



How about a compromise?

I don't understand what you mean by compromise. I've suggested what may or may not be a low cost way to build a shelter on the moon. By compromise do you mean a compromise between a low cost ways and high cost ways of setting up shelter, resulting in a moderate cost way? Having humans set up automated equipment and leave is one option, but then you'd have to go through the expense of sending humans there to set it up. And those humans who wouldn't have the benefit of a prepared shelter. I don't see the benefit of having humans set up automated equipment on account of how it would be automated. If you are going to send humans, why not send them with drills and explosives so they can tunnel quickly and get the benefit of shelter in a day or so? This is slightly dangerous, but being on the moon's surface without shelter from possible solar flares is also dangerous.

Noclevername
2008-Feb-12, 02:07 AM
Well no, the majority of laser cutting robots do without constant human oversight and maintance. That's sort of the point.
Er, yes. We obviously have differing definitions here. But I don't know of any industrial equipment that's allowed to run without oversight. And maintainance is needed for any machine.


Obviously one sent to the moon to operate without human maintenance for a long period would be the sort that didn't require human maintenance for a long period.
I'm not up on industrial laserology, which machines did you have in mind?



I don't understand what you mean by compromise. I've suggested what may or may not be a low cost way to build a shelter on the moon. By compromise do you mean a compromise between a low cost ways and high cost ways of setting up shelter, resulting in a moderate cost way?

Between manned and unmanned.

Having humans set up automated equipment and leave is one option, but then you'd have to go through the expense of sending humans there to set it up. And those humans who wouldn't have the benefit of a prepared shelter. As I said, we're already planning to send people. It's part of the existing program. So sending people is not "a waste". I just think that while they're there, the first back can also set up the machines to build shelters. Since they'll already be there anyway.


I don't see the benefit of having humans set up automated equipment on account of how it would be automated. Because it'll take a long, slow time to do it all, instead of just set up the machines that can run without them. That's the parts that are hard to design into a robot; human judgement on where to put things, and the ability to maneuver in a random environment. Once in place, then the machines can run until they break down or the job's done, moths or years if need be.


If you are going to send humans, why not send them with drills and explosives so they can tunnel quickly and get the benefit of shelter in a day or so? This is slightly dangerous, but being on the moon's surface without shelter from possible solar flares is also dangerous.See above. Let the robots do it. They'll just need human help to get out of the boxes and put together and in the right places. Sort of like the adults putting the kids' toys together on Christmas morning- "tab A into slot B"...

The first astronauts on the Moon had no flare shelters either. Space is risky, after all. The first-backs will have to either take their chances, or NASA's purse-stringers will have to pony up some bucks for a one-piece shelter module to be ready up there for them.

Ronald Brak
2008-Feb-12, 02:41 AM
I'm not up on industrial laserology, which machines did you have in mind?

Well, I was thinking of the Voyager probes, and Spirit and Opportunity, and so on. All machines that were designed to operate without human maintenance and which have done so quite well.


Between manned and unmanned.

The shelter is meant for a human crew. It is supposed to help a crewed mission. I wasn't about to suggest that Asimov the robot be sent up to live in it.


As I said, we're already planning to send people. It's part of the existing program. So sending people is not "a waste". I just think that while they're there, the first back can also set up the machines to build shelters. Since they'll already be there anyway.

If there was a naturally occuring cave on the moon that was suitable for use as a shelter, would you suggest that the astronauts not use it as building their own shelter or setting up machines to do it would not be a waste? I don't think you would, as using the natural cave would save time, money and effort. If using an artificial cave made by machines saves enough time, money and effort, then it would make sense to use it. If it doesn't save enough time, money and effort, then it won't make sense to use it.


Because it'll take a long, slow time to do it all, instead of just set up the machines that can run without them. That's the parts that are hard to design into a robot; human judgement on where to put things, and the ability to maneuver in a random environment. Once in place, then the machines can run until they break down or the job's done, moths or years if need be.

Why would you have robots use judgement or decide how to maneuver? Why not have humans make those decisions? The boring repetitive stuff can be automated if you like.


The first astronauts on the Moon had no flare shelters either. Space is risky, after all. The first-backs will have to either take their chances, or NASA's purse-stringers will have to pony up some bucks for a one-piece shelter module to be ready up there for them.

Perhaps it will be cheaper to cut a hole in rock then to send a one piece shelter. Then not so many bucks would need to be ponied up and the money saved could be spent on something useful. Perhaps a lunar rover.

Noclevername
2008-Feb-12, 04:22 AM
Well, I was thinking of the Voyager probes, and Spirit and Opportunity, and so on. All machines that were designed to operate without human maintenance and which have done so quite well.
Yes, and they all do relatively mechanically simple tasks. Building a building is quite a bit harder for robots.



The shelter is meant for a human crew. It is supposed to help a crewed mission. I wasn't about to suggest that Asimov the robot be sent up to live in it.


What? Did I ever say anything that could lead you to believe anyone suggested that wacky idea?

If there was a naturally occuring cave on the moon that was suitable for use as a shelter, would you suggest that the astronauts not use it as building their own shelter or setting up machines to do it would not be a waste? I don't think you would, as using the natural cave would save time, money and effort. If using an artificial cave made by machines saves enough time, money and effort, then it would make sense to use it. If it doesn't save enough time, money and effort, then it won't make sense to use it.


...Yeeeees? Did you want to put a response to something I said in there? :confused:



Why would you have robots use judgement or decide how to maneuver? Why not have humans make those decisions? The boring repetitive stuff can be automated if you like.

That's what I said. Twice.


Perhaps it will be cheaper to cut a hole in rock then to send a one piece shelter.
It wont. Unless you can whip up a zero-mass mining machine, it'll probably be much more expensive. ADDED: Especially once you count the research and construction costs for such a specialized piece of equipment.