Logbook #76

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Desai looked around and felt a shiver of unease crawl the length of his spine. As if the brush of an insidious shadow had maneuvered across his own in a vain attempt to suffocate it out of existence. And in result, who would he be if he didn’t even have a shadow? Desai always felt this way while striding about the dust encumbered hills and valleys surrounding the Hab. Even inside the Haven, a purposefully designed enclosure of refuge, he felt a sense of caution and concern contort his thinking. Only when he was inside the Hab did he feel totally comfortable. He had contemplated this oddity often as he wanted to understand and control his emotions. Yet, no answer presented itself. He slowly let out a breath of air, tried to loosen all his muscles just a bit more and then he continued his journey to the Overlook.

Somehow he had become the champion of the border patrols; the reason for his trip to Overlook. Whenever someone had to visit an area, to demonstrate a presence, a sense of ownership, his name would come up. Around the breakfast table this morning, everyone had waxed eloquently on their upcoming work tasks. Xu was meeting the Lunar Colony Fund’s Board of Directors to confirm the expectations for infrastructure build-out. Jean was returning to the Haven to continue the installation of a new airlock. Zara was adjourning to the geochemical lab to run tests on some samples that Woof had recently returned. And Aditya had a full day planned in the horticultural sections to sample and measure plant growth. Just before Desai was going to remind them that he had an equally full day planned at the computer workstation, Xu had piped up with a precocious smile and asked that he return to the Overlook.

Inwardly he had groaned at the request. Outwardly he quickly agreed. No-one wanted to be on Xu’s bad side. Misfortune always seemed to befall a person so oriented. Thus, agreement was his automatic response. He had asked why but Xu had just responded that it was time. He wondered how she kept her sense of time.

He slowly continued his journey up the embankment. One foot shuffling forward past the other.

“In a way,” he thought, “it’s amazing how humans are so structurally adept at moving about on the Earth’s surface and equally adept at moving about on the Moon’s surface. Was it manifest destiny or some sort of commonality of physical laws?”

About 30 metres to his right, Woof was making his own path toward the Overlook. They both had the destination’s co-ordinates embedded in their path-logic. Woof’s route was set to accommodate the limits of his robotic limbs. Desai’s had his route finding set to cover as much area as possible. It constantly updated depending upon his last few steps. To Desai the whole journey was another forlorn attempt at waving the flag. Claiming this patch of the Moon as theirs.

“Honestly.” went his thinking “Who would want any of this? And how would we possibly stop anyone if they decided to land here for whatever reason?”

Then it dawned upon Desai. Last night at supper, he had made an offhand remark that the vehicles at the Moon’s north pole seemed to be traveling further south than ever before. One had even been seen sniffing along the edges of Anaxagoras crater. He had thought nothing of it. Perhaps Xu had thought otherwise. Or someone on Earth had thought of it and they had advised Xu. Desai contemplated again the value of thinking before setting his mouth into action. He thought some more about lunar conquest.

“If these robots were on a mission to dominate the Moon’s surface” wondered Desai. “they’d need to refuel, much like Opportunity does on Mars. So refueling is already occurring on worlds other than Earth. So there’s no reason why malevolent robots couldn’t be anywhere. Everywhere. Including here at the south pole. And what if they were to start getting in the way? Who would be responsible if they damaged some of the colony’s sintered pathways. Or worse, if they damaged any of their life-supporting infrastructure? It wouldn’t take much to disrupt their water extraction facilities. Those were little more than buckshee arrangements of metal poles and a few motors. A lunar Meccano set without formal definition or design.”

Desai didn’t pause his shuffling. Continually forward up-hill. Around large rocks. Carefully across shallow depressions. Always wary of pits and protuberances.

“Why did the up-hills always seemed so much longer and higher than the down-hills? Like the paradigm of bicycle riders.” he asked himself.

If he had been in the Hab instead of on this journey then he could have used some of his time at the workstation to investigate this idea of lunar domination. But if he had been in the Hab, he might never have made the connection between foreign robots and the colonists’ survival.

Desai was annoyed. He wanted to focus upon his ambition to influence the Earth’s global food supply system. He didn’t want to have to worry about invaders while here on the Moon. How could he manage his earthly affairs if he had to defend against some unfettered robotic interloper descending from the other pole. Rationalizing this concern made another spasm of unease travel along his spine.

Bulletin #54

Logbook #75

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Zara raised her eyes and slowly took in the vault of the heavens. Dots and shimmers of light beckoned to her from every which way. Sighing, she wondered how so few stars could raise such strong emotions and vibrant conjecture. She remembered an earlier class where the instructor had said that with the bare eye people could see only a few thousand stars at best. And somehow those few stars drew aspirants on. She could spend and has spent countless hours contemplating the dots, the Earth and her existence. While no grandiose schemes miraculously appeared in her mind, she happily felt humbled and devinely curious as to what lay in store for her and the heavens.

She traced her eyes through the familiar constellation of the Southern Cross and down to the patch of regolith in front of her.

“It’s much as we’d imagined” she reported back to Xu in the Hab. “This patch of lunar dust looks exactly like every other dust heap around” she continued, then laughed. “Perhaps their maid’s taken the day off. Or the last few billion years off.”

“Keep looking” implored Xu’s voice over the intercom. “There may be shards of glass or a slight depression.”

Xu was hoping to find the impact spot of a small asteroid. Their local seismographs had triangulated a recent disturbance somewhere nearby. The equipment’s accuracy wasn’t great, probably due to its lack of sensitivity. From a few previous events the colonists had build a log lunar strikes versus seismograph readings. They didn’t have enough points to have a reliable sample so they valued every chance to add another. The latest event could have been from a tennis ball sized bit of asteroid. If they could find it then they could add one more point to calibrate the seismograph as well as learn a bit more about ‘heavenly’ particle interactions.

Zara was undertaking the standard ground sweep pattern. Nearby, Woof helped by setting a reference point from which she could stay on course. She was slowly stepping through, or really shuffling through the regolith. Trying to use her feet to detect the expected cone-shaped depression. Given the low angle of the Sun she was also keeping an eye out for oddly shaped depressions at the surface of the regolith. Yet, as she continually found when doing assaying, the Moon’s surface was for the most part oddly shaped in every which way. There were shallow depressions and abrupt, sharp holes. Cliffs would tower nearly straight up above her while others gently sloped like a primordial shield volcano. And immediately adjacent to these were flat lands or marias that spread across from horizon to horizon. This variety held sway with little attention to rock composition. After the weeks on the Moon, Zara was getting much more used to selenology, associating various ground patterns with rock types and chemical compositions. She knew that she was in a slight depression and even though there was no atmosphere to move dust around, the depression had a greater depth of regolith in the centre than on the edges. Actually the northern edge had no regolith and was likely the lip of an old, small impact crater. So, in a sense, she was looking for a crater within a crater. Not an easy task.

She paused and looked up again. She was sad that she would never see a meteor shoot across the sky. Without an atmosphere, any asteroid would either strike the Moon or go sailing directly by. Unless the Sun glinted off its edges, no human on the Moon would ever know of its existence. She had once imagined herself standing on a lunar mountain top and holding up a hand to try to grab one as it flew by on its long elliptical orbit about the Sun. She knew that she could never stop an asteroid. And even the impact of a speck of dust could prove lethal. But, if the opportunity ever presented itself, she would raise her hand and try.

 

KRUSTY

NASA: Kilopower project

Energy is the most critical of commodities whether on Earth or on the Moon. Humans eat to obtain energy to power their bodies. Humans release stores of energy to power their technology. One of the most amazing, controlled releases of energy occurs whenever we launch platforms into space.

Living on the Moon will require great amounts of energy. In comparison, consider the International Space Stations. Its solar arrays provide about 100kW of power. That ‘s a lot. While solar arrays will certainly provide some power on the Moon, they need to always be aimed at the Sun. And be dust free. This may not always be practicable. We have other, higher density power sources. For example, NASA is developing KRUSTY. This little fission reactor could provide 10kW of baseline power for up to 10 years.  One or more KRUSTY reactors could provide local power for locations on the Moon or even remote locations on the Earth. These sources of controlled energy could make the lives of humans on the Moon very resourceful.

For those interested in a little history, check out the TOPAZ reactor for a different, Soviet design.

In any case, remember the human need for energy. It is critical to our bodies and our technology. On the Moon we will be relying upon machines for recirculating air, growing plants, and cleaning water. And the machines like us, won’t function without energy.  So we have to have an assured source of controlled energy. Before we set foot back upon the Moon.