Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Desperately Seeking: Moon First Advocate

As it seems Paul Spudis isn't going to respond I am left without a sparring partner. Anyone who wants to pick up the gloves and make the case for returning to the Moon, come at it. The ground rules are simple: you must make an argument as to why we should return to the Moon first. It would also be good if you could explain how NASA can do it within a time frame that can be sold politically and within the current budget profile, but I'll settle for a why that makes sense. Note that if you just preach the dogma of someone else, you're unlikely to be able to defend it, so, please, only apply if you've got the stones.


  1. Would deploying an EML-1 transfer station count as "Moon First" or not?

  2. Bill, your book is entirely about commercial development of the Moon, so you're taking an end run around the question :)

    But if you were advocating for NASA to dedicate its limited resources to developing an EML-1 transfer station and then landers, before going beyond cis-lunar space, if at all, then yes, I think you'd be in the Moon First camp.

    Now, if you were advocating an EML-1 transfer station, lunar ISRU provided robotically, with a focus on deep-space capability, then I'd put you in the Flexible Path camp, even though you advocate more infrastructure than is envisioned by the new NASA direction.

    To be clear:

    Mars First = let's stay home until we're ready to land on Mars.
    Moon First = let's stay home until we're ready to land on the Moon.
    Flexible Path = let's go to low gravity destinations in deep space until we've got landers for the Moon or Mars or both.

  3. What I advocate "in real life" is an EML-1 facility that can simultaneously support:

    a) Lunar exploration and ISRU development (do as much with robots as is feasible and add people as is necessary). I note that a reusable lunar lander that parks at EML-1 between missions could deliver and recover Robonauts and rovers anywhere on the lunar surface as well as deliver people to various points on the lunar surface.

    b) Use the Gateway to stage exploration beyond cis-lunar space (whether NEOs or Phobos/Deimos or Mars). Recall that fuel, supplies (radiation shielding?) and equipment needed for sending humans beyond cis-lunar space can be stockpiled at EML-1 (or EML-2) efficiently using low delta v / high delta v trajectories.

    c) Task the EML-1 Gateway to support several spacefaring nations simultaneously.

    Whether "Moon First" makes sense (IMHO) is a function of how difficult it will be to harvest lunar water for rocket fuel.

    Also, how much of that lunar ISRU will be human or robotic is currently unknown (again IMHO) and therefore we should be willing to consider human presence for ISRU but curtail that if the robots can succeed without us.

    In any event, delivery of lunar water to EML-1 or EML-2 for use as rocket fuel would be a significant game changer, also IMHO, as always.

    Therefore, I am tentatively "Moon First" subject to amendment based on early results of robotic precursor missions.

  4. PS -- I am somewhat surprised by the NewSpace support for FY2011, given the relative lack of in-space infrastructure found in that proposal.

  5. Thanks for the clarification Bill. I recommended your book to someone today and they seemed interested enough to buy it.

    He did ask: where's SpaceX?!

  6. Where's SpaceX? In my novel?

    Never explicitly mentioned but "ITAR restricted" and thus unavailable to my protagonists would be a reasonable inference to draw from the text.

  7. Hmm, I had a longer response written, but I seem to have lost it due to a closed window or some-such. The gist of it is that one could make an argument that the Moon is a better mid-term target for commercial ventures, and so if one wanted to do a public/private exploration partnership of some sort the Moon might be a better option. Maybe.

  8. Neil, absolutely, and that's what a number of people do, including Dennis Wingo and Dr Phil Harris. To which, I have to ask, isn't it begging the question? The Moon is close to humanity's *current* home, but will it be relevant to our *future* homes? See http://quantumg.blogspot.com/2010/07/future-mines-of-humanity.html