Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dr Paul Spudis Responds - Sorta

I thank Dr Paul Spudis for responding. His post isn't addressed to me but it certainly appears to be directed at me.

Clearly if we don’t go to the Moon with people or machines, there is no way to use the abundant water, metals, and other lunar surface materials to create new capabilities in space. Supporters of the new path suggest instead that we can obtain all the materials we want from near-Earth asteroids

.. in my dreams! Us asteroid mining advocates are a minority who have been swept aside in this debate. Asteroids are a "stepping stone" to Mars, not a destination. As Clark puts it:

As pointed out many times here, the main impetus for the Flexible Path option was simply to have useful and interesting in-space missions underway while landing and surface systems for Moon and/or Mars were in development.

Spudis also makes good points about the difficulty of extracting resources from asteroids. This is often cited as justification for human missions. What he doesn't address is the question of gravity requirements, or radiation protection, for humans living long term on the Moon, and how they compare to what is feasible on (or inside) an asteroid. This, to me, suggests that Spudis continues to look at space as the future mines rather than the future homes of humanity (which is admittedly better than the pure "exploration and science" mindset of other people).

I do note however that Spudis has finally adopted teleoperated robots on the Moon as his own idea.

In terms of closeness, it takes 3 seconds for a radio signal traveling at the speed of light to go the Moon and back. This makes the remote, telepresence operation of lunar robots from Earth feasible.

Maybe eventually he'll stop being a human spaceflight advocate for a while and try to get some influence over the currently exploration-and-science directed robotic program for the Moon..

I look forward to that day.


  1. Trent, do you really see the Moon as a suitable place to raise babies?

    IMHO, at best, the Moon will be a ginormous mining camp and industrial facility.

    IMHO, unless we build a rotating colony inside an asteroid (as suggested by Jim Logan) Mars simply is the 2nd safest place in the solar system to raise a family.

    And, if we do intend to build a rotating colony inside an asteroid, lunar fuel could be very helpful in getting people and equipment to that asteroid.

  2. Bill, I think I've made it clear I dont see the Moon that way, but I think that's what human spaceflight is ultimately about so one needs to address the issues with doing so if one is to make an argument for human spaceflight to the Moon. If you're not willing to make that argument, you're probably better off looking to the robotic exploration program.

  3. Bill, we don't know if the moon or Mars will ever be suitable as a place to raise a family. There have been no long-term studies of the effects of 1/6 or 0.38 gee. For all we know, the bone loss problem ends at 1/10 gee, or 9/10. If it's 1/10, then the moon and Mars will never be more than mining camps rotating in their temporary workers.

    Heck, we don't know if it is even possible to bring a baby to term in less than 1 gee.

  4. whoops. I meant "If it's 9/10, then the moon etc"

  5. Ed, hopefully the centrifuge in the House bill will help with that if it ever gets built?

  6. Ed & Trent -

    I agree, however if we compare Moon, Mars and Jim Logan's burrowed out asteroid (with a 1 gee race track inside) the Moon comes in a distant 3rd as a place to make babies, safely. IMHO, as always.

    I also agree that permanent settlement - out there - is the only long term justification for space exploration that is sustainable.

    In that context, Moon vs Mars vs NEOs is more a question of how far do we leap, in our first leap?

    I was once a Zubrinista however I no longer believe we can do Mars (or NEOs for that matter) without practice closer in. I also once believed the Moon was devoid of useful resources but if water is readily available, lunar water combined with EML depots will make getting to the NEOs (or Mars) very much easier.

    = = =

    Now, a question: Is Dr. Logan's Space Frontier presentation essentially the same as at ISDC?

  7. Yes Bill, but the 3 hour version at ISDC was better.

    And I have to repeat, it's not Moon vs Mars vs NEOs.. it's "Moon vs Mars (oh and NEOs I guess)". That's why Logan always sounds so pissed off. As far as he's concerned our minority is being ignored even though we have the facts on our side.

    Unfortunately I think that attitude is turning a number of people off.. that was the rumble in the crowd, the chat room and on twitter.

  8. FWIW, I try to be an "all of the above" person as often as possible so the "Moon, Mars AND NEOs" sounds good to me.

    I saw Dr. Logan in Chicago and frankly I think he may very well be correct that hollowed out asteroids with 1 gee racetracks will be the only place out there where our species can safely reproduce.

  9. Since I'm coming so late to this discussion, I don't know if my comments will be read or responded to.

    The Moon is within easy telerobotic distance and has plenty of ice. As a result it is the logical first place for the relatively low-cost mining of propellant which will fuel it's own transportation as well as being a marketable commodity for a variety of uses (NASA, DOD, and commercial).

    It may well be true that we need more than 1/6 or 3/8's gee for safe human reproduction and childhood growth. But we ought to agree that achieving adequate artificial gravity at Mars or an asteroid would occur later than a lunar mining operation because the lunar mining operation will be much cheaper and safer to achieve initially. We can fairly easily achieve 1 gee artificial gravity at LEO but most of the resources (by mass) will need to come from the Moon to be cost-effective and sustainable in the long run. So, my view of an "all of the above" approach is that telerobotic mining of the Moon lowers the costs, provides the experience, and propellant (and materials for LEO) for "all of the above".

    I would also like to point out that the Moon can provide the bulky metal parts for a rapidly expanding (and hence profitable) telerobotic mining operation. Also, the same lunar landers that deliver the initial mining equipment to the Moon can then be proven safe to land humans. So, the revenue-generating mining operations also makes regular manned missions to the Moon safer and more cost-effective. Routine human return to the Moon will follow naturally and perhaps would be paid for by profits and not dependent upon the fickle whims of Congress.

    Now, there will come a point in time in which we have a decent sized and financially sustainable Moon mining operation and supplying spinning LEO habitats, a manned mission to a NEO, or a manned mission to Mars are all within reach precisely because the Moon mining operations can supply the propellant and material needs of those destinations.

    But, at that point, the Moon will have the industrial capacity to produce metallic structures and we will probably have done enough partial gee animal studies so that we will know just how much artificial gravity we will need. With the Moon's capacity to produce metals, fiberglass, ceramics, and glass, and with a goodly amount of regolith excavating equipment, one could imagine the telerobotic excavation of ring on the surface of the Moon, emplacement of rigid structures, emplacement of a track, covering with regolith, and hence artificial gravity being produced in that manner. Likewise, depending upon the gee requirement, a centrifuge or tetherball from a tower arrangement could be options.