Most people pay little heed to breathing. We draw air in and we exhale air out on a regular basis. We understand that our bodies use some of the oxygen that comes in and that some carbon dioxide goes out. While this vague notion is sufficient for life on Earth, it’s far too vague for establishing life on another world. Such as the Moon.
Recently Airbus completed their Advanced Closed Loop System (ACLS) that Japan will later rocket up to the International Space Station (ISS). The ACLS converts ‘waste’ carbon dioxide from breathing and ‘waste’ hydrogen into breathable oxygen and drinkable water. A main benefit of this system is to reduce the demand for water on the ISS. Thus making life on-board much more self-sufficient. And less reliant upon the people of Earth. Who continue to provide over 400 litres of water each year to the ISS.
For any infrastructure development, like for a lunar colony, both the construction cost and the carrying cost must be factored. Consider that in 2018 the ISS flight manifest lists 18 launches. As the ISS is mostly complete then these flights represent the carrying costs. Estimate that each launch cost is $100M. Over $1.8B annually! Thus if new technology can reduce the number of launches by one then it represents a reduction in the annual carrying cost of at least $100M. Which partly explains why people aren’t living on the Moon. Yet. And, why funding is the most critical parameter.
Flying to the Moon won’t be cheap. And bringing all your accommodations and vittles with you adds to the cost and complexity. A recent post showed that satellites get lofted at $100 000 000 to $175 000 000 per launch. How many launches to get a livable structure on the Moon. And then send people to live there? And to bring the vessel that will carry them back to Earth? Is humanity ready to shoulder the burden or will we continue to emphasize other activities?
While there’s certainly increasing interest in putting more rovers on the Moon, and even people returning to the Moon, will the present high level of interest continue to see these to completion? Will interest continue for the years or decades needed? Can any one nation afford to invest in this endeavour? Or do we continue to wait until nations become more cooperative? Perhaps citing the goal of emplacing a habitat on the Moon may lead to more cooperation; an interesting and worthwhile objective for all.
Here at the Lunar Colony Fund, our confidence in humanity living beyond the surface of Earth remains strong. We continue to grow our network. We continue to accept more interested parties. Join us and let’s bring the future closer.
Xu looked about her. Seeing all the concerned eyes focused down upon her. And not being able to provide the beseeched for words of assurance. She felt their fear. She felt her own fear. And there was nothing that anyone could do but wait.
The four of them were huddled inside the Haven. An audible ticking sounded from the sensor on the wall like the sound made by a Geiger counter. Its frequency indicated the strength of the solar flare that was searing the surface of the Moon. Today the Haven, though little more than a scrape in the ground, was proving its worth. The internal sensors indicated that the radiation levels within the Haven remained nearly at background. But those for the outdoors were ticking away. Sometimes madly. Usually very strongly.
Though the SOHO prediction service had roused them from their sleep barely an hour ago, it had given them enough time to don their egress suits, drive to the Haven and step into its solid enclosure. Its comforting solid regolith walls and ceiling reassured them as they took the descent and sealed the door shut behind the. As protocol dictated, they kept their egress suits on even though the chamber was hermetically enclosed. That is, it reassured the four of them who had made it to the Haven before the flare struck.
Jean was not with them. And his absence is what caused Xu the greatest fear. Jean had been strolling at the extremes of their survey area when the alarm had sounded. Through relays, Jean had heard it nearly immediately and had quickly determined that he didn’t have the time to get to the Haven. Or even to the Hab with its few places of appreciable protection. Instead, Jean had elected to crawl into a nearby crevasse. From calculating the incident angle of the flare, he’d determined that there would likely be no direct path from the Sun into the crevasse. Except for a brief moment when the Sun was directly overhead, the crevasse was in perpetual darkness. However, no one knew how much radiation would bounce or curve into the crevasse. Jean would be the first to find out.
And because of the flare, Xu had no way of contacting Jean. She couldn’t use the comms to reach him as the flare made all of their above-ground network inoperable. She couldn’t use the lunar orbiting satellites to view him as they were in safe mode to protect against the radiation.
For the four of them, their whole world had shrunk to a very small space that had little more than the basic necessities to keep them alive. And it wasn’t a guaranty of a long life. From first donning the egress suits, they had 2 hours of air and water. Stored within the Haven were extra containers of compressed air and of potable water. These would could them alive for another 8 hours. At least it would keep the four of them alive for well beyond the expected duration of the flare.
But Jean had only about an hour remaining of supplies in his egress suit. All of them in the Haven knew the limited supply. None of them knew when the flare would subside. It should be less than half an hour. It shouldn’t cause Jean’s dosimeter to record excessive radiation. But no one knew for sure.
Xu talked into their local, direct microphone. It allowed the four in the Hab to talk without using the dysfunctional surface system.
“Yes” she began “this has been one of the strongest flares we’ve ever experienced. But we did get sufficient notice. And we’re here. Safe.”
“We also know that Jean is safe.” she casually lied. “He’s got himself a little downtime where he can listen to his podcasts and not worry about work for a while. Let’s figure out how to celebrate when this is over and he’s returned to us together in the Hab” she ended. All the while stifling the onset of the cracking of her voice that would display all to clearly the worry that enshrouded her.
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?