beecee

Lunar Tunnels and Moon Colonies:

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Posted (edited)

https://phys.org/news/2019-05-lunar-tunnel-moon-colonies.html

Lunar tunnel engineers excited by boring Moon colonies:

As space agencies prepare to return humans to the Moon, top engineers are racing to design a tunnel boring machine capable of digging underground colonies for the first lunar inhabitants.

"Space is becoming a passion for a lot of people again. There are discussions about going back to the moon, this time to stay," US-Iranian expert Jamal Rostami told AFP at this year's World Tunnel Congress in Naples.

The administration of US President Donald Trump wants NASA to put humans back on the Moon by 2024, and the agency is also drawing up plans for a "Gateway" station to serve as a platform for astronauts travelling to and from the lunar surface.

Billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are among those feverishly competing for military, civil or commercial launches, with Musk's SpaceX leading the race on building rockets ready to fly in time.

more at link.....

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Donald Trump or no Donald Trump, Government or private, the only question as far as I can see is whether this happens sooner or later. Costs will always be a question, [along with the many other questions put in the article] which is why I have always thought an International effort for returning to the Moon and eventually putting foot prints on Mars, in an as safe as is humanly possible way need be undertaken. The success of the ISS shows this to be a reasonable and possible scenario.

What is the general consensus of opinion here on this question?

 

Edited by beecee

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In my view the renewed passion for going back to the moon is on shaky ground. My views on this are not secret - that I think there is no economic basis for such ventures and that without it it will struggle to be more than a feel good exercise in nationalist pride building through showcasing aerospace capabilities .

It will be very, very difficult, dangerous, expensive and won't advance grand space dreams or advance humanity on Earth in any substantial way. If it does happen it will be reliant on continuing subsidised supply lines with transport costs that, even optimistically, be astronomical; it will still be multi-million US$ per ton to reach the Moon. The capital costs of a functional launch facility that can turn around, refuel and repair re-usable rockets is, well, astronomical. No mining will make sense except to reduce the huge costs for the most basic things like water and air - and if the most basic things are such a big deal the prospects of things growing from there are slim indeed.

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4 minutes ago, Ken Fabian said:

In my view the renewed passion for going back to the moon is on shaky ground. My views on this are not secret - that I think there is no economic basis for such ventures and that without it it will struggle to be more than a feel good exercise in nationalist pride building through showcasing aerospace capabilities .

It will be very, very difficult, dangerous, expensive and won't advance grand space dreams or advance humanity on Earth in any substantial way. If it does happen it will be reliant on continuing subsidised supply lines with transport costs that, even optimistically, be astronomical; it will still be multi-million US$ per ton to reach the Moon. The capital costs of a functional launch facility that can turn around, refuel and repair re-usable rockets is, well, astronomical. No mining will make sense except to reduce the huge costs for the most basic things like water and air - and if the most basic things are such a big deal the prospects of things growing from there are slim indeed.

It goes beyond economics. It looks like Homo sapien sapiens have an existential problem looming, so we don't have much choice but to start to looking away from Earth.

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Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, Ken Fabian said:

In my view the renewed passion for going back to the moon is on shaky ground. My views on this are not secret - that I think there is no economic basis for such ventures and that without it it will struggle to be more than a feel good exercise in nationalist pride building through showcasing aerospace capabilities .

It will be very, very difficult, dangerous, expensive and won't advance grand space dreams or advance humanity on Earth in any substantial way. If it does happen it will be reliant on continuing subsidised supply lines with transport costs that, even optimistically, be astronomical; it will still be multi-million US$ per ton to reach the Moon. The capital costs of a functional launch facility that can turn around, refuel and repair re-usable rockets is, well, astronomical. No mining will make sense except to reduce the huge costs for the most basic things like water and air - and if the most basic things are such a big deal the prospects of things growing from there are slim indeed.

All real problems certainly. And all will certainly be considered if this takes place either sooner then later. It will happen in the course of time but, you agree? And wouldn't an International effort be beneficial?  

Edited by beecee

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Ken Fabian said:

In my view the renewed passion for going back to the moon is on shaky ground. My views on this are not secret - that I think there is no economic basis for such ventures and that without it it will struggle to be more than a feel good exercise in nationalist pride

If that is the prime reason as far as NASA and the USA is concerned, is there really anything wrong with that? How about simply because its there? for the Adventure, exploration, etc, and obviously any exploratory venture should lead to knowledge. Costs of course are still prohibitive but then again, why not a concerted effort for an International venture?

Edited by beecee

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Posted (edited)

We're not good at living in enclosed spaces for long periods of time and moon dust poses health and maintenance issues to making regular treks on the surface. Added to that you're still in a gravity well and the resources are limited.

I have the feeling stations will be the better option in the short term. Ferrying lunar resources to them might be economical enough. What you don't want to do is land resources only to lift them off again. I foresee mainly an automated mining affair with very light tourist areas. Maybe even just the equivalent of a location for day-trips from a more substantial orbiting colony.

Looking further out we need to reach Jupiter to secure our future as a species though Mars wouldn't be bad as an intermediate goal. Stations could become generational ships and make the voyage as economics allows.

Edited by Endy0816

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My question is will efforts to establish a base on the Moon delay doing the same thing on Mars?  Why not just focus on a Mars base?

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On 5/12/2019 at 1:16 AM, Ken Fabian said:

In my view the renewed passion for going back to the moon is on shaky ground. My views on this are not secret - that I think there is no economic basis for such ventures and that without it it will struggle to be more than a feel good exercise in nationalist pride building through showcasing aerospace capabilities .

The space industry is currently worth $330 billion, projected to be $3 trillion in 30 years time. That's not counting corollary technologies that have contributed to the economy.  By what metric or figures do you come to the conclusion that there is no economic basis?

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4 minutes ago, Prometheus said:

The space industry is currently worth $330 billion, projected to be $3 trillion in 30 years time. That's not counting corollary technologies that have contributed to the economy.  By what metric or figures do you come to the conclusion that there is no economic basis?

That is not the same. Most of the revenue, especially if only looking at the private sector are connected to satellites and similar services. Space colonization has no sustainable revenue generating stream that I am aware of. There are side benefits as some (typically public funded) projects may generate IPs that, in turn can result in revenues. The main customer are still governments, though.

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1 hour ago, CharonY said:

Space colonization...

I forgot we were only considering space colonization. 

Can we draw any inferences from the colonisation of the New World? I hear parts of the Americas are economically viable now, but when first being established there was no shortage of threats and starvations. Were Columbus's, and many subsequent, voyages not state sponsored? 

And even if it does just end up costing, in a world that globally spends $83 billion on hair products, isn't there room for another vanity project? I'd be happy to go baldly to finance this...

And while economic arguments are important, should they be the only consideration? 

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Posted (edited)

Establishing colonies on Mars will be many times more difficult and dangerous then a Moon colony or outpost. Just getting to Mars is many orders of magnitude more difficult then to the Moon. I see establishing a Lunar outpost as far more advisable then a Martian outpost.

1 hour ago, Prometheus said:

And while economic arguments are important, should they be the only consideration? 

I often get tired and irritable when those arguments are trotted out. The facts are, in the course of time, we will return to the Moon, we will establish a colony or outpost, we will set foot on Mars, and if we are able to overcome our Earthly follies and squabbles and not destroy ourselves, will venture even further afield. Even simply for the mundane reason of "because its there"

Edited by beecee

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4 hours ago, Prometheus said:

I forgot we were only considering space colonization. 

Can we draw any inferences from the colonisation of the New World? I hear parts of the Americas are economically viable now, but when first being established there was no shortage of threats and starvations. Were Columbus's, and many subsequent, voyages not state sponsored? 

And even if it does just end up costing, in a world that globally spends $83 billion on hair products, isn't there room for another vanity project? I'd be happy to go baldly to finance this...

And while economic arguments are important, should they be the only consideration? 

In some way shape or form they did it for the return on their investment. Trade routes, land, resources. The Virginia Company of London and Plymouth Company are probably easier to consider as models.

Ongoing cost would also be high. There's an absolute lack of many things, whether due to the Moon's formation, never having surface water or absence of past lifeforms. At the same time there will be increased demands from dealing with the Moon itself.

 

4 hours ago, beecee said:

Establishing colonies on Mars will be many times more difficult and dangerous then a Moon colony or outpost. Just getting to Mars is many orders of magnitude more difficult then to the Moon. I see establishing a Lunar outpost as far more advisable then a Martian outpost.

Mars has fewer environmental issues along with more abundant and diverse resources. Ideally we move a station into orbit above Mars, then proceed with ground colonization. Worst of the risks are minimized that way. You have the resources of the station overhead to draw upon and sizable pool of local talent to deal with problems as they arise.

If we go with orbiting habitats around Earth first, it opens up many more doors than a Lunar colony would.

 

In general we need more basic research. Spending at least one full day/night cycle on the Moon's surface. Exploratory drilling. Investigation of the health effects of Lunar dust. International legal framework for the land rights/purchasing would be good too. That alone might help get speculatory investments going, insulating governments from the costs.

 

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15 hours ago, Prometheus said:

And while economic arguments are important, should they be the only consideration? 

Not at all, however to kick off those grand space dreams I think it is essential. There is existing and then there is thriving; economic success is the very definition of a colony thriving.

Especially as the costs to do anything in space are very high, the need is for extraordinary opportunities to generate sufficient income and I don't see them in any base on the Moon or Mars. I am not seeing them anywhere much beyond Earth orbit. I think raw nickel-iron is the best resource with economic potential space has. My 'vision' of a space mining industry would try for an absolute minimum processing (can space cold Ni-Fe be shattered to be more manageable? Cutting it into manageable portions could otherwise need a lot of energy and equipment). It would need to deliver very large quantities at very low prices to Earth markets, on the order of a thousand US$ per ton, delivered; if someone can find a low cost way to extract the precious metals out of it, so much the better, but wouldn't count on that as the way to make the venture work. I can see how that might use facilities and a workforce in Earth orbit. I remain doubtful the costs can be brought down that far, but my instinct is that, if raw Ni-Fe metal is abundant, it is the best existing opportunity. And instinct again says only big scale could work - and that requires a business plan that investors have a lot of confidence in; the economics have to stack up.

 

7 hours ago, Endy0816 said:

If we go with orbiting habitats around Earth first, it opens up many more doors than a Lunar colony would.

If there is no space mining to service there may still be industrial processes - although they would have to be exceptionally high value, multi-millions per ton high. Drugs maybe? I'm not really seeing anything emerging from ISS work. I've heard of batches of below spec micro processors being sent up, heated in zero gee, to have defects clear up, but not using the ISS or manned rocket. Given the constant advances in manufacturing that could be a short-lived opportunity. Use of space resources is a threshold that could prove very hard to achieve; 

Beyond that I can see meteor defense becoming a serious long term space project, sustaining a continuing human presence in space.

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Posted (edited)

Would there be any advantage to installing a telescope on the far side of the Moon to survey our neighborhood for dangerous NEOs?  It could scan the sky once per month as the Moon orbits the Earth.

Edited by Airbrush

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1 hour ago, Ken Fabian said:

If there is no space mining to service there may still be industrial processes - although they would have to be exceptionally high value, multi-millions per ton high. Drugs maybe? I'm not really seeing anything emerging from ISS work. I've heard of batches of below spec micro processors being sent up, heated in zero gee, to have defects clear up, but not using the ISS or manned rocket. Given the constant advances in manufacturing that could be a short-lived opportunity. Use of space resources is a threshold that could prove very hard to achieve; 

Beyond that I can see meteor defense becoming a serious long term space project, sustaining a continuing human presence in space.

I'm thinking would be service based. Manufacturing and construction facilities to support and expand space industry. Tourism hub/destinations. Eventually senior living down the line. Providing economic value for the Earth that way instead.

Then the Moon might start making more sense as a source of raw materials. Metals and Oxygen mainly. Could be automated eliminating the issues a colony of people would have.

As time goes on older stations could be re-purposed for outward colonization efforts. Mars and the Jupiter system have the diverse resources to be self-sufficient once set-up. Trade could then be largely information and tourism based.

 

I do think the use of space resources on Earth itself is at least a long ways off. Would take something both valuable and scarce, that we could cheaply nudge in our direction.

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On 5/15/2019 at 12:05 PM, Airbrush said:

My question is will efforts to establish a base on the Moon delay doing the same thing on Mars?  Why not just focus on a Mars base?

Many of the problems you would have on Mars will be present on the moon. The main difference I can see is that if there is a solution to a problem that can be remedied by a resupply mission from earth, travel to the moon takes ~3 days while Mars takes many months.

So the moon might be a proof-of-principle test case that represents lower risk to life.

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On 5/17/2019 at 1:07 AM, Endy0816 said:

I do think the use of space resources on Earth itself is at least a long ways off.

Whereas I don't see how we can develop space resources except as economically viable commodities for trade with Earth. I keep coming back to minimum pre-investment thresholds being very large for things like space mining - that starting small, such as is suggested by mining initially servicing in-space activities may not be feasible. And I also keep coming back to what are they doing in those space stations that makes enough income to support that mining as well as itself? Because it would be such a big project to establish mining, refining and space launch facilities on the Moon and it is way beyond economically viable to do so I think it will remain cheaper and easier to keep sending stuff up from Earth. Launch and other costs will remain a huge impediment - so I don't think these hypothetical space activities will lead to a thriving space 'economy'.

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4 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

Whereas I don't see how we can develop space resources except as economically viable commodities for trade with Earth. I keep coming back to minimum pre-investment thresholds being very large for things like space mining - that starting small, such as is suggested by mining initially servicing in-space activities may not be feasible. And I also keep coming back to what are they doing in those space stations that makes enough income to support that mining as well as itself? Because it would be such a big project to establish mining, refining and space launch facilities on the Moon and it is way beyond economically viable to do so I think it will remain cheaper and easier to keep sending stuff up from Earth. Launch and other costs will remain a huge impediment - so I don't think these hypothetical space activities will lead to a thriving space 'economy'.

I was thinking to start with something really basic. Surface material collection robots with an automated refining station. Could run fairly steadily and have materials waiting for pickup or used to expand local operations.

Bulk of human transport between the planets will have to be done in plastic vessels. Space dock would be best for their construction. Ideally they never travel in an atmosphere, land or liftoff. Otherwise we are facing a whole host of additional concerns and costs.

Tourism and repairs/refueling for satellites would probably be main business starting out though. People are definitely interested and continually replacing satellites is expensive in its own right.

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16 hours ago, Endy0816 said:

Surface material collection robots with an automated refining station.

That makes it sound simple. Cheap and easy, even. But I think the devil will be in the details and I think those details will remain prohibitive.

Every piece of equipment, which has to perform under extreme conditions, has to be developed and built and tested and deployed, all at enormous cost. Robotics adds a level of complexity - developed entirely by Earth based industry  with Earth based resources - and has a very long way to go to be really be considered a durable and reliable means to run remote mining and refining and launch vehicle refueling and refurbishing on the Moon.

Surface collecting or other mining of what? I see no evidence there is going to be much in the way of concentrated ore bodies apart from meteorite fall sites and those will be nickel-iron rich but poor in almost everything else. And doing all this will make operating a tourist destination in space cheaper and easier? Which will somehow thrive and support more Moon mining because of Moon mining - and people will want to live there and somehow they will thrive? Sorry I just do not see how this would or even could work.

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On 5/19/2019 at 7:59 PM, Ken Fabian said:

That makes it sound simple. Cheap and easy, even. But I think the devil will be in the details and I think those details will remain prohibitive.

Every piece of equipment, which has to perform under extreme conditions, has to be developed and built and tested and deployed, all at enormous cost. Robotics adds a level of complexity - developed entirely by Earth based industry  with Earth based resources - and has a very long way to go to be really be considered a durable and reliable means to run remote mining and refining and launch vehicle refueling and refurbishing on the Moon.

Surface collecting or other mining of what? I see no evidence there is going to be much in the way of concentrated ore bodies apart from meteorite fall sites and those will be nickel-iron rich but poor in almost everything else. And doing all this will make operating a tourist destination in space cheaper and easier? Which will somehow thrive and support more Moon mining because of Moon mining - and people will want to live there and somehow they will thrive? Sorry I just do not see how this would or even could work.

I think we're envisioning different things here.

We'd be going after the Oxygen, Silicon, Aluminum and Iron; common in the regolith and soil. For all the technology involved, it still won't be an overly complicated operation. Multiple simple, midsize, yet hardy robots with some repair/rescue capability. Would be building upon the expertise gained with the Martian rovers and to an extent experience from past Lunar missions.  Refining step poses the biggest issues.

Everything will really depend on shipping costs. Earth may well prove the better option depending on how technology develops though. More interested in getting out to Mars and Jupiter, whether we develop the Moon or not is really a side issue. Gotta get out where the bulk of the resources are in the solar system, not stick around where the Sun will likely engulf.

Do have to say there's quite a bit of interest in space tourism and colonization. I think many would appreciate lower gravity if given the chance. Even something as silly as shipping limited amounts of unprocessed moon rocks back could be a lucrative source of income. In general though I think further construction/maintenance of space infrastructure will be the most profitable and stable revenue stream.

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