This paper describes an architecture that extends human reach beyond low Earth orbit by creating a permanent space transportation system with reusable and refuelable vehicles. Such a system is made possible by establishing an outpost on the Moon that harvests water and produces rocket propellant from the ice deposits of the permanently dark areas near the poles. Our plan is affordable, flexible and not tied to any specific launch vehicle or family of vehicles. Robotic assets are teleoperated from Earth to prospect, demonstrate and produce water from local resources. These robots are launched separately over several years, allowing the program to be implemented under constrained and uncertain funding conditions. In addition, the stepwise, incremental approach encourages and facilitates international and commercial participation. Humans arrive only after we have begun water production. Once there, the human mission begins to explore the potential for possible, practical, and affordable use of regolith for material production for outpost sustainment and growth. Consistent with the overarching goal to see if we can learn how to live off-planet, another objective of human activity on the Moon will be the experimentation of biological systems and their interaction and performance in the lunar environment. Our arbitrarily defined end stage is a fully functional, human-tended lunar outpost producing 150 metric tonnes of water per year – enough to export water from the Moon to orbiting propellant depots and create a permanent, extensible reusable transportation system that allows routine access for people and machines to all points of cislunar space. This cost-effective architecture advances technology and builds a sustainable space transportation infrastructure. By eliminating the need to launch everything from the surface of the Earth, we fundamentally change the paradigm of spaceflight. This lunar outpost serves as the vanguard for studying the practical employment of techniques, processes, and systems that allow humanity to effectively extend its reach off-planet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Paul Spudis is a geologist specializing in research on the histories of and the processes on the terrestrial planets. He has served on NASA’s Lunar and Planetary Sample Team (LAPST), which advises allocations of lunar samples for scientific research, the Lunar Exploration Science Working Group (LEXSWG),that devised scientific strategies of lunar exploration, and the Planetary Geology Working Group, which monitors overall directions in the planetary research community. He also served on the Committee for Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX), an advisory committee of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Synthesis Group, a White House panel that in 1990-1991, analyzed a return to the Moon to establish a base and the first human mission to Mars. This lead him to being the Deputy Leader of the Science Team for the Department of Defense Clementine mission to the Moon in 1994.
He was also a member of the Presidential Commission on the Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy in in 2004 and the Principal Investigator for the Mini-SAR experiment on Indian Chandrayaan mission to the Moon, 2008-2009. He has participated as a team member Mini-RF technology demonstration experiment on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission to the Moon since 2008.
Paul is currently the Chief Scientist at Moon Express Inc.