NASA has published its new goals for the moon and Mars.
Most of the ambitious goals will require SpaceX to develop the Superheavy Starship, in orbit refueling and the lunar Starship.
The purple infrastructure goals are interesting for developing a lunar power grid and robotics automation.
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8 thoughts on “NASA Has New Plans for the Moon and Mars”
My feeling is that the Mars components of this ‘plan’ are largely not real – in the sense that few if any of them would get funded until the lunar goals are largely achieved. It’s too much to expect NASA to do so much up-front development for Mars, given the large risk of failure of a direct-to-surface Mars mission.
Crew-rated Mars landing and the energy and fuel production on Mars surface to launch back to Earth are major items that can be put off. (The latter can also be greatly reduced by establishing oxygen production on Phobos, which is probably a sensible goal to add to the list.)
A more realistic approach for Mars would change the first crewed Mars mission to “Mars orbit and Phobos visit, with remote-control robots on Mars and Phobos surfaces, and sufficient fuel taken along for Earth return from orbit”.
This would cut the Mars-specific elements of the plan mostly to extending the lunar Starship’s life support to handle several years of reliable operation, and testing it. Those are natural next steps after getting Lunar Starship operating, and increase lunar mission safety. Maybe SpaceX (or at least Elon Musk) would pay for the long-transit life support enhancement, if NASA agrees to pay for the missions to test it.
Your more realistic approach certainly would be in keeping with NASA’s SOP for everything: When they send a couple guys out to pick up lunch, the first one travels to Chick fil A and establishes a base camp in the parking lot, then comes back without bothering to go through the line, it’s the second guy who actually gets the food.
I’m only joking a little.
This aligns well with L1 Moon Dust Geoengineering constructed by robotics on the moon.
Why are we not considering radiation and flares as the main impediment to mass migration/ development and significant surface infrastructure? I get that we need a few feet of regolith for occasional occupany and a few storeys (20+ feet) for flare risks, but certainly localized fields could be created to mitigate risk.
Localized fields need to be absurdly strong to deflect the radiation; The Earth’s magnetosphere isn’t very strong, but it’s absolutely huge, even compared to the size of the Earth. It’s a matter of gyroscopic radius; If the field isn’t strong enough to bend the charged particles in a circle a lot smaller than the size of the field, it’s a bust as far as radiation shielding.
By contrast, sand bags are dirt simple, don’t consume power, and don’t cause problems with machinery.
That last is important: You want your shield to use a field weak enough that it doesn’t interfere with the operation of machinery, which means that to be effective, it has to be quite large. Not “local”.
Agreed that we may not attract anything more than a South Pole-type researcher population without a certain level of amenities, surface access and -yes- views!
Defniitely want a full-time 5 – 20k moon population (75+% civvies) in next 25 to 50 years.
Never let a ‘failure of imagination’ impede progress:
That is actually a pretty neat concept, thanks for bringing it to our attention. Mars is too close to the sun to try to set up an equatorial band of cuprates to generate a magnetic field (though you could probably do that easily in the moons of Jupiter or further out), so this kind of out-of-the-box thinking is needed.
I wonder if we can redirect a near-Earth asteroid into Lunar orbit and dry run that?
I certainly pine for some means of lunaforming that would allow inhabitation rather than periodic ‘tours’ of duty/ vacation (the ‘wait’ for the essential $200k/5-Yr waiting period moon weekend price point) – this certainly must start with managing surface risks.
Of course, I am not entirely sure that the overall uses of the moon’s surface have been roughly figured out – how much mining/ extraction; how much noise-free observatory, how much solar production, how much landing site/exo-system vehicle jumping-off point, how much is at high risk of inner-solar system impact, how will the various countries/NGOs divide and politicize this surface — all impediments to popular access.
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