Moon first or Mars first?

By July 12, 2015Season 8, TMRO:Space

In this live episode we ask you, should humanity start cosmic colonization with the Moon first or go straight to Mars first? Would love your thoughts below!

In Space News:
* PSLV Launches
* New Horizons less than 1 week away
* Rocket Labs to complete launch site construction this year
* Philae communicated with Rosetta again for 12 minutes
* Xaero performs a night test

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4 Comments

  • Ken Murphy says:

    If the ultimate ends of humanity leaving Earth and working throughout the Solar System, then stating that ‘Mars is the goal’ is rather counterproductive for a number of reasons.

    The Gripping Hand solution is to focus on the development of cislunar space, through the emplacement of infrastructure at key locations, the development of a satellite services capability, a pit stop at the on-ramp to the Inter-Planetary Superhighway at EML-1, facilities for micro-g materials work, and much more.

    Focusing on ‘water as fuel’ is a mistake, but a useful one. You wouldn’t go to the Moon to get fuel for a Mars trip, you would use fuel delivered from the Moon into cislunar space to fuel voyages throughout the Solar System. NEOs, Ceres, Venus…there are plenty of interesting destinations that aren’t Mars..

    An interesting thumbnail from the Apollo program is that you need 5 tons of mass in LEO to put 1 ton of stuff on the Moon. That missing 4 tons is propellant (basically). If using LH/LOX, then 7/8ths of those 4 tons are oxygen and 1/8th is hydrogen. If you deliver LOX from the Moon to LEO (which has been recognized for decades as the first likely market for Moon exports), then you’ve increased your capabilities eight-fold, since those entire 4 tons of propellant delivered from Earth to LEO could be hydrogen.

    The reason you put something at EML-1 is that if you put a facility there and route Moon exports through that facility, then you can drop materiel into any LEO inclination orbit in which it might be needed. It’s also a phenomenal staging point for GEO satellite services – salvaging dead satellites, topping off the propellant and checking the oil, putting on larger solar arrays, assembly of new satellites from components sent from Earth, whatever. It’s also the on-ramp to the Inter-Planetary Superhighway, a physical phenomenon we can use to our advantage to establish a network of probes throughout the Solar System that could be serviced a la Hubble at EML-1 and sent back out on station, and provide an ongoing stream of data from all over the place instead of these once-a-decade behemoth missions we’ve been doing.

    Once on the Moon there are a lot of really relevant scientific and commercial activities to be undertaken there. Imagine this – you stage your mission to Mars from EML-1, the lowest delta-V launch point to interplanetary space from cislunar space. There you aggregate the equipment and supplies, including propellant from the Moon. Another product you could get for trip would be cladding for your spacecraft made from Lunar slag created by other activities (like oxygen extraction from the rocks). This would be added radiation shielding that didn’t need to be lifted up out of Earth’s gravity well.

    At this stage of the game, going to Mars is pyramid building. Going right to the Moon is nostalgia building. Developing Cislunar Space is industry and economy building. Not as exciting, perhaps, but in the long run the much better option for everyone’s prosperity and their posterity.

    • DougSpace says:

      Very well explained. Bravo!

      But on the very last point, if the initial purpose of returning to the Moon is to telerobotically harvest ice for propellant then returning to the Moon is the same thing as building a cis-lunar transportation system. But those same Centaur-sized landers could then be human rated to shortly send crew. IF the purpose of sending the crew to the Moon is for scientific exploration then yes, it’s for nostalgia. But if they were to step into a large inflatable hab, previously placed in a small crater and telerobotically covered with regolith then we’d be witnessing the establishment of the first off-Earth settlement. And Apollo never did any such thing.

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