Beyond Earth

Our civilization’s future has many opportunities and constraints. Especially, while we remain fixed to Earth’s gravity well, we are limited to material that is available on Earth. Thus our future on this planet is constrained by the amount of available resources; in particular, energy. One can even scale a civilization by its energy availability as in the following table.

Civilization Types

Type 1

a civilization that harnesses all the energy on one planet

Type 2

a civilization that harnesses all the energy from one star

Type 3

a civilization that harnesses all the energy from one galaxy

Nikolai Kardashev

If our strategy includes extending our resource utilization to include beyond Earth then we may progress to a Type 2 civilization.

The following is our plan.

First Step: A Lunar Outpost

To push our civilization past Earth’s lower atmosphere, we need to maintain and extend our spacefaring capability. Our next step, after the International Space Station, is to encamp people upon the Moon’s surface. The encampment has people living self-sufficiently on the Moon, growing their food and leading productive lives. For our civilization, both energy and material availability greatly increase. Another benefit is that resource extraction on Earth will decrease thus lowering the ruination of our natural living space.With this, our civilization has made its first foray into off-planet resource acquisition.

A permanent settlement on the Earth’s Moon naturally extends the progress made with the International Space Station. An encampment at the Moon’s pole gives our civilization survival techniques and provides it with an opportunity to survey for resources, trial processing techniques and initiate trade practises.

Encampment Elements

The main function of the lunar encampment is to provide the necessities for human survival and to enable human advancement. Survival entails maintaining the human body with adequate nutrition and water together with air. These are the basis for powering the body’s locomotion and the brain’s processing. Workshops and laboratories put current technology at the fingertips of the residents. These allow the residents to continue the human traits of research and development. Starting here, people move to colonize the Moon.

Living Space – Functional Needs

  • Sleeping
  • Cleaning, self and clothing
  • Dining
  • Food Preparing
  • Communicating
  • Relaxing

The NASA Man-Systems Integration Standards (NASA-STD-3000) recommends a minimum habitable volume for mission durations of 4 months or longer of about 20 m3. Other sources suggest 120 m3 per person [Eckart].

Services – Functional Needs

  • Health Care
  • Data Analysis
  • Equipment Monitoring
  • Autotroph Production
  • Power Generation

Power – Functional Needs

  • Acquisition
  • Storage
  • Transportation / delivery
  • Provision
  • Metering

Interface – Pathways

  • Living space to/from surface
  • Living space to/from vehicle
  • Surface to/from vehicle

Transportation – Functional Needs

  • Encampment to/from local environs (100km radius)
  • Earth to/from encampment

The Facility

A lunar encampment grows from continual deliveries from Earth. Robotic equipment prepares the site much as done with the ISS. People follow.

The south lunar pole is the most amenable to an encampment. Water can be extracted from the lunar regolith and used for rocket fuel and drinking. Perpetual sun and shade allows for the common heat transfer cycle and thus power generation. As well, perpetual shade implies a shield against the ever present solar radiation.

But radiation is a concern. It’s present for a 27.5x24h day then is absent for a 27.5x24h night. Radiation dose from cosmic rays is a constant figure of approximately 300 mSv/year. Current safety limit is 50 mSv/year. During solar flares, the energy may exceed 1 million electron volts and can deliver a fatal dose to lunar surface dwellers in a matter of hours.

Nevertheless, energy is the basis for existence. Its acquisition and utilization is paramount. The sun shines at a steady 1.365 kW/m2 when directly overhead. Photovoltaic cells can capture much. Batteries and fly wheels can store the energy for awhile. Standard electrical potential systems from Earth ensure technology ready to hand.

Harnessing this energy falls out from a few steps;

  • Build minimal human support
  • Engage people and expand infrastructure
  • Extend duration of human presence
  • Enable a continuous occupation over the full day / night cycle
  • Empower many day/night cycles
  • Ensure indeterminate self sufficiency, and
  • Outreach

Let’s break this out.

Step A: Build minimal human support
Launch ONE
This static base station has redundant communications, onboard processing capability and energy acquisition. We aim to have it function in perpetuity. Functionally, it will have monitors for solar intensity (to map into energy acquisition plans) and radiation (to assess biological needs). A co-located probe will test for water / ice. It has guaranteed power supply for a minimum of 30 days.
    Research items;

  • dust control,
  • energy storage,
  • temperature profile in regolith,
  • regolilth manipulation,
  • energy transfer via lasers,
  • micrometeorite detection and protection,
  • solar incidence in shade and full Sun.
    Commercial items

  • still images
While this first lander has aims for perpetual capability, its location will likely be sub-optimal. We have two diametrically opposing needs; sunlight to power the energy source VS shade for protection and possible location of ice. Yet, with a direct sight line to Earth and a transponder, its usefulness as a backup system would endure.
Launch TWO
Locate the lander base for the Lunar Outpost in an area with perpetual shade. Gather ice, make water and separate into Hydrogen and Oxygen. Have a mobile rover that can precisely define the Lunar Outpost structural limits. Substantiate infrastructure with redundant communication and power generation ability.
    Research items

  • structural integrity of lava tubes,
  • relay laser energy
  • sensors (tactile, visual, chemical
  • water / ice divination
  • radiation monitoring
  • precision landing
    Commercial items

  • drive rover on lunar surface
Local knowledge has accrued to allow for prediction of radiation exposure, ground tremors and meteorites. Mobile vehicles designate likely places for habitation modules, landing fields and support infrastructure.
Launch THREE
Begin build-up of station for human occupation. Location is based upon ease of access and current knowledge. Minimal radiation exposure such as a place of perpetual shade would be an advantage. This module will directly support human presence and as such will have a third generation power supply and communications system. –
    Research items

  • structural integration,
  • precision landing
  • sintering
  • berm construction
  • solar cell production
    Commercial items

  • transfer power to Earth
Energy capture, retention and transmission is a significant factor for this launch.
Launch FOUR
This fourth launch delivers a module that joins with the third. The two constitute the work and living accommodations for future human visitors. However, to achieve this, this module must either land very near the module from Launch THREE or move afterward. Automatic joining and sealing the modules is necessary.
    Research items

  • module joining
  • robotics
  • self-sealing
  • closed system regeneration
  • water production
    Commercial items

  • advertisement on structure
This is the embryonic Lunar Outpost. It is sufficiently robust as to readily allow temporary human occupation. Appreciably Earth infrastructure is in place for routine communications and transportation between the Earth and the Moon.
Launch FIVE
The Lunar Outpost is visited. Humans can finish the fit-out. A rudimentary landing field aids reception of vehicles from Earth and return of vehicles to Earth.
    Research items

  • locate optimal location for permanent settlement
  • monitor conditions at optimal location
    Commercial items

  • lunar accomodations
The Lunar Outpost is now functioning and is human rated for brief stays, essentially a lunar inn. The facility will be used intermittently on an as-needed basis to facilitate the ensuing settlement. –
Step B: Engage People and Expand Infrastructure
Launch SIX-
The Lunar Outpost can support humans in a shirt sleeve environment for short durations (days). We now aim for a settlement that can accommodate a group of people for an indefinite period. This launch will confirm and lay out the settlement’s location.
    Research items

  • human factors
  • rovers
  • surface characteristics
    Commercial items

  • drive rovers from Earth
With this stage, we return to exploring. Our experience and the installed sensors together with current audits will define the optimal location for the permanent settlement.
Launch SEVEN
What would you like to see?

This could be part of a grand strategy for civilization…if we want it, and plan for it.

photo – NASA