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What would be easier?


Leader Bee
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Building and maintaining a permanently manned base on the moon, or the same for a permanently manned base on the ocean floor?

 

Both would be difficult tasks. However, the ocean floor would be far easier as to put anything there (even gigantic items) only requires releasing them from a ship. Putting anything on the moon (even very small items) requires an enormous amount of energy. This differential means it is far more affordable to build and maintain living quarters in many ways. You could, for example, simply pipe fresh air down to the ocean floor if necessary. But on the moon you must recycle what little air you bring with you.

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The ocean floor would be easier, I'm sure, just because it's so much easier to get there. You can just lower down whatever you need from a ship on the surface.

 

But even assuming they're both already established, and both cut off from everyone else (so the ease of resupply and assistance isn't relevant), the ocean floor would probably still be easier. You're surrounded by a limitless source of water, oxygen, and food, and areas where the temperature would be comfortable. On the moon, at best you've got a small concentration of ice crystals, and extreme temperature swings. On the ocean floor you have a higher pressure differential and a more dynamic environment and whatever problems living things can cause, but on the moon you've got radiation and exposure to meteorites of all sizes. Shifting silt on the ocean floor vs. sharp (unweathered), staticy moon dust. Abundant solar power for 2 weeks then darkness for 2 weeks on the moon, vs. probably geothermal power on the ocean floor. I'd say the ocean floor is more hospitable, over all.

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You guys make it sound so simple. OK I admit that i'm certainly no expert on this but isn't the reason we have very little knowledge of the deep ocean due to the fact we have only a handful of submarines that can withstand the pressure?

 

Even if we were to build in shallower waters, a structure large enough to function as a permanent residence would still need to be able to withstand an incredible amount of pressure; How do we just "drop" something like that from the ocean surface and wouldn't it need to be anchored?

 

In space the pressure problem is reversed as atmosphere inside the structure is only pushing on a small surface area to get out (rather than being sucked out) and I imagine isn't as much of a problem to get around as having a 1000 or so atmospheres crushing down on a large surface area.

 

I know there is technology to somehow extract oxygen from surrounding water (not sure if it uses electrolysis or not, I don't think so but the name of the technology evades me right now) and would be suited to providing an underwater outpost with oxygen, but aren't there such things as Co2 scrubbers already in the ISS and space shuttle?

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You guys make it sound so simple.

 

I explicitly said it would be a difficult task, it would not be simple at all. But the ocean floor is still easier than the moon for the reasons already discussed.

 

OK I admit that i'm certainly no expert on this but isn't the reason we have very little knowledge of the deep ocean due to the fact we have only a handful of submarines that can withstand the pressure?
But we have logged considerably more research time on the ocean floor than we have on the moon. It just seems different because the lunar probes (and the Apollo program) gets much more publicity. I would also submit that we possibly know more about the ocean floor than we know about the moon...it just seems the other way around because there is additionally much more unknown about the deep ocean than the moon.

 

Even if we were to build in shallower waters, a structure large enough to function as a permanent residence would still need to be able to withstand an incredible amount of pressure; How do we just "drop" something like that from the ocean surface and wouldn't it need to be anchored?

If it sinks to the bottom, where else will it go? But even still, its a relatively easy task to anchor the structure. How do we anchor the offshore oil rigs, for example?

 

In space the pressure problem is reversed as atmosphere inside the structure is only pushing on a small surface area to get out (rather than being sucked out) and I imagine isn't as much of a problem to get around as having a 1000 or so atmospheres crushing down on a large surface area.

yes. But likewise you aren't limited by how much you can deliver there. This is an engineering problem with obvious solutions, not a fundamental physics problem. For example, I'm sure we could make the structure out of meters thick stainless steel for less than the cost it would take to send a minimal structure to the moon.

 

I know there is technology to somehow extract oxygen from surrounding water (not sure if it uses electrolysis or not, I don't think so but the name of the technology evades me right now) and would be suited to providing an underwater outpost with oxygen, but aren't there such things as Co2 scrubbers already in the ISS and space shuttle?

At a worst case, any scrubber used in space (indeed any of the systems except for solar power*) could also be used in the underwater facility. But any system to extract oxygen from the ocean water is useless on the moon. The ocean bottom has much more resources that could be used, but its not imperative that they must be used.

 

*Edit: Solar power could actually be used with floating solar panels with cables to the bottom...

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The seafloor base would be much easier, and much less useful. Our first extraterrestrial base would be a stepping-stone to the rest of the solar system. It would be a source of national (or international) pride. The seafloor is still in earth's biosphere.

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Why the trouble of putting people into such harsh environments when a robotic probe can do almost everything people can do. Maybe not yet, but in the near future robots will be able to do a lot.


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What would be easier? Have a team of controllers here on Earth, in a comfortable environment, watching 3-D video feeds, coming from every direction, from the Moon, Mars, or the asteroids (heck even Europa and Titan!). The controllers will feel like they are there in virtual reality. The robot can be MORE sensitive than a human. It can have "eyes" on the sides and back of his head, and detecting all sorts of other things we don't even know about yet.

Edited by Airbrush
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What would be easier? Have a team of controllers here on Earth, in a comfortable environment, watching 3-D video feeds, coming from every direction, from the Moon, Mars, or the asteroids (heck even Europa and Titan!). The controllers will feel like they are there in virtual reality. The robot can be MORE sensitive than a human. It can have "eyes" on the sides and back of his head, and detecting all sorts of other things we don't even know about yet.

 

Don't forget the time lag. That half hour time lag between what you see and what you do is gonna bite you. Space is big...

 

Underwater robots would make a lot of sense since they don't have any problems with pressure if they have no gas or nitrogen dissolving in their blood, and negligible time lag (but instead, communications become distance-limited very quickly).

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Yeah, you can't "virtual reality" operate a robot on a different planet. The time lag means they either need a serious amount of autonomy, or just be willing to wait however many minutes or hours between every action. The Mars probes, for example, are not controlled in real time for this reason.

 

On the other hand, that's not a huge problem on the moon, since it only adds 3 seconds to an Earth-based controller's reaction time. You could pretty much operate in real time, as long as you drive slow...

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The time lag between reactions will be an issue. The robot will need to be able to respond instantly to it's environment for survival. The controller may simply take a break for several minutes, hours, or days, between each change in commands, or for initiation of complex actions. But other than that inconvenience, the controllers may feel like they are really there. You can have many minds working on one experiment by this remote viewing.


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There is a way to have a sort of "virtual reality" control. First you map the area of exploration. If an asteroid you can image every square foot of it from an orbiting camera. Then that image of the object goes into the computer and recreates a CGI of the object, or area of exploration if on one of Jupiter's moons, Europa for example. The controller enters original location, along with the speed and direction the traveler is rolling over the alien landscape. And the computer can advance the perception of the controller on Earth's to match the virtual Europa. So his perspective would match in real time the location of the traveling robot.

 

It is not the reality the robot is facing that very moment, there is a real time delay of only one hour, at the most for the Jupiter system, but it gives one additional perspective to use when following the mission. So the time delay for missions to Mars and the asteroids would be much less, only half an hour or less. Just explore slowly.

Edited by Airbrush
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The ONLY problem to solve for a permanent base on the ocean floor is food supply. And even that is trivial if you're allowed a "resupply ship" and don't require the base to be self sustaining. After all, it's done all over the world every single day... They're called "nuclear submarines." They go down for months at a time, do all the life support functions, and heck, they even move! The primary reason to bring them back to the surface is crew fatigue but if you're willing to just send a sub down and swap the crew out.....

 

It's EASY.

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Easier is have a robot submarine do everything people can do. It won't be long before jet fighters, submarines, tanks, (as well as all ocean exploration) are robots controlled remotely. Like the robotic camera that went thru places on the Titannic that a human could not travel as gracefully.

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On the moon you would have the sunlight to grow the food you need to survive under a dome, Underwater you would have to create the light to propogate plants to live on, anyway...why live under the planet when we could improvise the technology to survive on another body apart from earth.

We need to expand not contract to the earth we know.

We have the know how to make a Habitat on the Moon so we should go for it...

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  • 2 weeks later...

What would be the point of a stationary base on the ocean floor? Unless you are the bad guy in a James Bond movie and you just need a secret base for your evil plans, you can't do much on the ocean floor. You'd be stuck in a spherical, or perhaps cylindrical home. You can only go out in a very heavy spherical submarine. Just forget about walking around yourself.

But if you're only going to be able to move around in a bathyscaphe, why not make the trip a few kilometers longer, and actually go back to the surface? It does not require much energy.

 

On the moon however, it does take a significant effort to come home. The benefit therefore would be that you can keep a crew on the moon for a while for research purposes. We've already learned that special suits will allow people to walk (or hop) around.

 

What would be easier? The ocean floor. But it would also be more pointless.

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building and maintaining a base that has to withstand the pressures of five miles of water on top of it is more expensive, more difficult and much harder than building and maintaining an environment that only has to withstand 14.7 psi. Food, water and air are reasonably accessible even on the moon. Power is free, water is there, that gives you oxygen to breathe and the ability to grow food. Reclaiming the air through the "gardens" and water through the gardens and treatment plants means that it is possible to virtually eliminate the maintenance costs. Using the native rocks for permanent structures eliminates the largest expense of transporting materials from the earth. Initial costs would be higher but over a 50 year period the price would be about the same. The difference is that on the moon you could actually offset the costs by exporting minerals and ore from the moon to the earth using something similar to rail guns to get product back to earth.

On the other hand we could just as easily mine sea water for minerals too - but we don't need a manned base to do that and it isn't as glamourous as mining on the moon.

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The difference is that on the moon you could actually offset the costs by exporting minerals and ore from the moon to the earth using something similar to rail guns to get product back to earth.

 

So you're proposing we fire hypersonic chunks of rock at the earth?

 

I hope the containers have some sort of air brake because I wouldn't want to be near where they land otherwise.

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