Infrastructure aids us in our daily tasks. Usually we think of roads, rail lines and air ports when thinking of aids. Now, space is also getting aids. The European Space Agency has begun a Space Data Highway or European Data Relay System (EDRS). This infrastructure serves to transfer data to and from the Earth to locations high above the earth: like a geosynchronous satellite, the ISS or maybe an orbiter about Mars. Aside from demonstrating the advancing demands we are placing with our activities in space, this infrastructure demonstrates two other very practical feats.
1) The Space Data Highway uses lasers to transmit the data. Though NASA demonstrated this principal by sending data to the Moon and back, the EDRS relays between two satellites and between a satellite and the Earth. Seems simple but just imagine the accuracy needed to maintain a beam of light pointed at a dot that’s 45 000km away! And then keeping the pot of light upon the dot while the satellites changes shape due to thermal flexing. They did it. And the result is a delivery of 1800 Mbit/sec data.
2) The Space Data Highway is funded as a public partner partnership (PPP). Presently two satellites relay data from Europe to and from space. For a planned 15 years. So take the expected data rate, the lifetime and the amortization of the design and development and you can determine the data relay charges. And there are more satellites on the way for the EDRS constellation.
The EDRS enables data sources such as the Copernicus system to download data in near real time to Europe. They also aid space systems by reducing the data demand being placed upon the existing infrastructure, principally the ground stations.
And this EDRS infrastructure is in place through a PPP. Where else can you see PPP emplacing infrastructure?
What if you tried to give away money and nobody took it? As we know, funding is the greatest challenge for developing off-Earth (and on-Earth!) infrastructure. One inspiration for funding came from the Google Lunar X Prize which promised a large sum for anyone building a robot, getting it to the Moon, then have it take a trip on the Moon. It was an idea; a closer, non-gov’t version of Opportunity and Spirit. Many teams took up the challenge, much as with the Ansari X Prize. It didn’t happen. And the deadline was extended. And extended again. Finally the organizers admitted no-contest. In summary then, offering a prize at a tenth of the very large cost of competing wasn’t enough. Apparently seed money isn’t enough to start the infrastructure build-out.
On the promising side, big rockets are back into vogue. In particular, the Falcon Heavy. The former saw Starman take a giant leap forward. To somewhere in space. Often we’ve blasted non-functioning test systems into space. Yet, this is the first time that a private company has done so. A $90M test according to some spreadsheets. Congratulations! But wonder to yourself, even at $90M per launch, is there sufficient global interest to establish infrastructure on the Moon’s surface? And access resources off of Earth? And extend humanity’s reach into the future?
We at the Lunar Colony Fund believe. We continue to build our base of support here on Earth. We are extending communications to other like-minded organizations such as the Moon Village Association. We envision a future for our children’s children. Join us, support us and represent us. We have a future for humankind that offers so much.
Jean looked again in the mirror. When he looked slightly down the overhead lighting cast strong shadows on his face. If he looked up, all the shadows disappeared and his face looked puffy as if something inside was trying to get out. When he looked up he also saw his nascent goatee, a sprinkling of hair about his mouth and building into a barb on his chin. By adding it he had hoped that his face would look less puffy and more Earth-like. What he hadn’t hoped to see or wanted to see were the very noticeable grey hairs. And a few white ones too. The mirror didn’t lie!
“Hey Xu” he called. “What do you think of older men?”
“That depends” she answered. “Are they short, sweet and cuddly like you? Or are they full of tough machismo and have no ability to think of others like this loser on the Net?”
Jean wasn’t certain he wanted to explore this choice but with trepidation he continued. “Well I’m trying this new look. As I’m sure you’ve noticed. But what I’ve noticed is that my facial hair isn’t all dark. Before, when I went camping for a few weeks and ‘forgot’ to shave then I’d return home with a face covered in a luxurious, black, barbed blanket. So here I am trying to look like I did on Earth and all I’m seeing is age. Do they let old guys stay on the Moon? Do you guys still like me now that I’m old?”
Xu turned around. Completely ignoring the text-war she was having with the Lunar Colony Fund director, she began “Jean, you are the most solid, complete man that I’ve ever come across. If your hair grew out with a tinge of white or even blue or whichever colour I wouldn’t respect you less. Your humour, your stalwart comradery, your warmth as a human continue to attract me to you. As it does for everyone else here in the Hab. Don’t you go worrying about silly little thing like natural aging. You just keep getting and better with it”
Jean smiled and he felt his shoulders lighten. “You are really amazing Xu. You know exactly what to say and when to say it. That makes you the best in my books.” he happily responded. “Today your optimism has won the battle.”
He paused. “But what about tomorrow? And the next day? And twenty years from now? Can we gracefully age here on the Moon? Or do we become grumpy old demented seniors waiting to become plant fertilizer? I just have this feeling that that I’m missing so much being on this old grey world called the Moon. I’m not sure I want my child to grow up without ever being touched by his dad. I don’t want to get old on a foreign rock”
Xu took a big breath in. She knew questions like this were bound to come up. During the pre-flight sociology exams they had seen them and answered them to the best of their abilities. But life was a lot different between when you were answering abstract questions and when you were living the moments.
“I’d say that age doesn’t really change the person.” she began. “As we become adults then it’s life’s experiences that shape our character. It’s how we deal with challenges, how we deal with success, how we respond to failure that defines us. The colour of our hair or the shape of our head doesn’t. This is true no matter what world you live upon. Have faith in yourself together with faith in us, your colleagues, your lovers. We truly do love each other as it’s so necessary in such a hostile place. Don’t you worry about what people on Earth are thinking about how you look. Don’t worry about mindless banter wasting bandwidth on the Net. Just, please, stay the way you are. Because we need you just that way.”
She walked over to where Jean was standing by the mirror and put her arms around him. She pulled him in as tight as she possibly could and held him. Neither said anything more. Reveling in the moment. Slightly anxious about the next. And neither wanting to consider years down the road.
What’s a space truck going to look like? Hopefully it will b a darn sight different than the trucks speeding down your nearby interstate. Given the lesser concern for gravity and a complete lack of atmosphere then a lunar space truck may be as simple as a converted booster stage of a rocket. Or at least that’s the idea from George Sowers of the United Launch Alliance.
With this ‘truck’ as a dependable transfer vehicle then resources could be extracted from the Moon and delivered to lunar orbit. For use anywhere… maybe back to Earth, maybe on to Earth-Moon Lagrange 1, maybe a trip to Mars, maybe to your own development environment.
This truck could be one useful tool for developing the Moon. Can you think of any other useful tools? Any ready now for use on the Moon? Send us a description and we’ll happily present it.