Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Lunar Hostel scheme

Over the last few days I've been referring frequently to Kokh et al. [1] in their paper on the Lunar Hostel concept. But on Friday I stated that I disagreed with the main thrust of the paper. Why?

In essence, what they propose is to provide a "big dumb volume" on the Moon's surface (a "hostel") with absolutely minimal amenities, and have all the necessary life support systems etc. provided by visiting spacecraft.

I believe this to economically foolish, and I don't think any agency would fund this scheme. The problem is mass. Landing on the Moon takes a certain mass of propellant, and it's necessary to take the propellant needed to get back into orbit again with you. It's desirable to keep the amount of propellant you need to take onto the surface with you to a minimum, so that you can take more supplies, equipment etc. with you instead.

So if you're visiting a base, you want to leave as much as possible of the stuff you take with you behind. You don't want to land a huge piece of hardware for recycling the air inside the hostel, and lug it back into orbit again. The same goes for water systems. It'd be much more desirable to land a big tankful of water and then take an empty tank back to orbit than to land a toilet, a shower, a water recycling system, and so on, and then have to launch it all back.

In complete opposition to the LRS's idea, I think the way development of the Moon should proceed is with most of the equipment and supplies being taken to the Moon in big, slow containers, while crew exchange happens in lightweight, fast spacecraft with minimal functionality (a la Soyuz or Apollo).


[1] P. Kokh, D. Armstrong, M.R. Kaehny, and J. Suszynski, 'THE LUNAR "HOSTEL": An Alternate Concept for First Beachhead and Secondary Outposts', The Lunar Reclamation Society, 1991

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