Saturday, July 5, 2014

Possible Future Space Exploration and The Tasks Needed To Make It Happen.

A question posed about the last post, "Space Race - The Untold Story National Geographic & Discovery HD Channel", why are these documentaries almost always about the past -- successful missions that were accomplished 40-60 years ago?

David G. Schrunk commented:
We went from Sputnik to Apollo 11 in less than 12 years.  A similar time span (or, say, 20 years) of human technological progress beginning with the placement of a mining / manufacturing base on the Moon in 2020 would allow us to become masters of the solar system(!).  For example, by 2040 we could be 1) launching lunar-made spacecraft (satellites, probes, landers, solar sails...) from the Moon with mass drivers every ten minutes or so -- and thus explore every region of interest in the solar system in depth, 2) supplying the Earth with all of its energy needs from lunar-made SPS's, and 3)intercepting and mining near Earth objects for Earth / Moon benefit.  The Moon would have permanent human settlements and the first phases of human exploration and settlement of Mars would be underway (etc). Seems to me that a "documentary" of the future based on existing ("lagging edge") technology should be quite inspiring. But I'm not holding my breath...

Which prompted a much longer glib reply, some of which here:

I should think that having a lot of pictures from past events that have historical value should be easy to assemble and then tell an interesting and eye catching story that people would watch long enough to be bombarded with paying ads.  The more pictures the less one has to write script for.

Writing a forward looking, possible science fiction, would present a lot of "what if", "possible" happenings and would require work to develop a thought provoking story as well as a lot of "possible" imagery. 

Unless there is something exciting, like sex, mayhem, destruction of some other evil alien/enemy, you might not hold the attention of your audience long enough to saturate them with ads that would be appropriate to fund such a "reality show."

It is easy to watch, without really having to commit ones attention, a visual flip chart of events with a mesmerizing narration of a selected historical documentary..

I think it would be harder to convince the audience to watch and participate with full attention, some futuristic, possible,foretold history, like a future that is running out of Helium 3 and what has or will happen, if you just go mine the lunar regolith.  Never mind that YOU are not going to the Moon, and YOU might never need any tests that use Helium 3 or that you need to be concerned about detecting any radio active bomb material in incoming port cargo containers.  Too, complicated, and I don't want to have to THINK about such things since I am not the policy maker, or I am not on the payroll of a large corporation that has an interest in making laws to ensure there is a legal loop hole for whatever interest they need a lobbyist for.

And of course I had to back up my Helium 3 statement with several links, which then lead into references to Helium 3 on the Moon.  

Google searches then led to reading abstracts of papers presented at "Space 2000" and "Robotics 2000".  I don't belong to the organizations participating and don't have the money to buy all the papers, so looked for author websites in hopes of finding their work in public domain.  

David also had some suggestions and so the list of opportunities to look at what is being done to make it possible to go to space, including the Moon, followed. Warning, Warning, I am going to provide some of those links below with a taste of their contents.

Read on if you wish.
- LRK -

Helium-3 is a most important isotope in instrumentation for neutron detection. It has a high absorption cross section for thermal neutron beams and is used as a converter gas in neutron detectors. The neutron is converted through the nuclear reaction
n + 3He → 3H + 1H + 0.764 MeV
into charged particles tritium (T, 3H) and protium (p, 1H) which then are detected by creating a charge cloud in the stopping gas of a proportional counter or a Geiger-Müller tube.[15]
Furthermore, the absorption process is strongly spin-dependent, which allows a spin-polarized helium-3 volume to transmit neutrons with one spin component while absorbing the other. This effect is employed in neutron polarization analysis, a technique which probes for magnetic properties of matter.[16][17][18][19]
The United States Department of Homeland Security had hoped to deploy detectors to spot smuggled plutonium in shipping containers by their neutron emissions, but the worldwide shortage of helium-3 following the drawdown in nuclear weapons production since the Cold War has to some extent prevented this.[20]
Do take a look at a list of the papers presented at "Space 2000".
- LRK -

Civil Engineering Database
Space 2000

 Active Integration of a Lunar Base Agricultural System with Crew Requirements (by Judith Fielder, ...) 
 Advanced Life Support Systems (by Jennifer L. Gardner)
 The Advantages of Using the Hubble Space Telescope (by Lia K. Evans)
 Amateur Radio in Space Communications (by Maria Ashna)
 The Application of Fourier Transform Heterodyne to Astronomical Interferometry (by Bryan E. Laubscher, ...)
 Asteroids: More than Just Chunks of Rock (by Amy C. Sorenson)
 The Astral Highway: A National Space Infrastructure (by James Michael Snead, P.E.)
 Astronaut Training in Field Geophysical Methods (by Patricia Wood Dickerson, ...)
 Black Holes: A Great Mystery (by Lindsay A. Smith)
 Bridging the RLV Financing Gap with a Space Development Bank (by Thomas L. Matula, ...)
 Building Lunar Colonies (by Kristen Alford)
 The Caltech Mars Society Human Mars Mission 2.0 (by Derek Shannon, ...)
 Cheaper, Better Near-Earth Asteroid Prospecting (by Kevin L. Reed)
 Circuit: Analysis and Propulsion (by Daniel Boorsma)
 Civil Engineering in the Design and Construction of a Lunar Base (by Y. Cengiz Toklu)
 A Civil Engineer’s Perspective on Mars Mission ISRU: Reinforced Regolith (by Joel Farrier, P.E., M.ASCE)
 A Coherent Vision for Space Exploration and Development in the 21st Century (by David G. Schrunk, ...)
 Commerce at a Lunar Base (by Haym Benaroya)
Which continues down the page for many, many more.
- LRK -

David suggested the paper that Philip T. Metzger was a co-author on.  Again, I could only reed the abstract so looked on the web for more information.
- LRK -
Philip T. Metzger, Anthony Muscatello, Robert P. Mueller, and James Mantovani (2013).
 ”Affordable, Rapid Bootstrapping of the Space Industry and Solar System Civilization.” 
J. Aerosp. Eng. 26, SPECIAL ISSUE: In Situ Resource Utilization, 18–29.

Affordable, Rapid Bootstrapping of the Space Industry and Solar System Civilization

Philip T. Metzger, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE1; Anthony Muscatello, Ph.D.2; Robert P. Mueller, A.M.ASCE3; and James Mantovani, Ph.D.4

1Physicist, Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Kennedy Space Center, NE-S-1, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899 (corresponding author). E-mail:

2Chemist, Applied Chemistry Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Kennedy Space Center, NE-S-2, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899. E-mail:

3Aerospace Engineer, Surface Systems Office, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Kennedy Space Center, NE-S, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899. E-mail:

4Physicist, Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Kennedy Space Center, NE-S-1, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899. E-mail:

Advances in robotics and additive manufacturing have become game-changing for the prospects of space industry. It has become feasible to bootstrap a self-sustaining, self-expanding industry at reasonably low cost. Simple modeling was developed to identify the main parameters of successful bootstrapping. This indicates that bootstrapping can be achieved with as little as 12 t landed on the Moon during a period of about 20 years. The equipment will be teleoperated and then transitioned to full autonomy so the industry can spread to the asteroid belt and beyond. The strategy begins with a subreplicating system and evolves toward full self-sustainability (full closure) via an in situ technology spiral. The industry grows exponentially because of the free real estate, energy, and material resources of space. The mass of industrial assets at the end of bootstrapping will be 156 t with 60 humanoid robots or as high as 40,000 t with as many as 100,000 humanoid robots if faster manufacturing is supported by launching a total of 41 t to the Moon. Within another few decades with no further investment, it can have millions of times the industrial capacity of the United States. Modeling over wide parameter ranges indicates this is reasonable, but further analysis is needed. This industry promises to revolutionize the human condition.

Dr. Philip Metzger is a senior research physicist who works at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where he founded and leads the Granular Mechanics and Regolith Operations Laboratory, part of the KSC Swamp Works. He performs research related to solar system exploration: predicting how rocket exhaust interacts with extraterrestrial soil, investigating the mechanics of soil, characterizing lunar and martian soil simulants, modeling the migration of volatiles on airless bodies, etc. He leads the Agency’s work in rocket blast effects for human-class missions. He has participated in architecture studies for the Lunar Architecture Team, the Mars Architecture Team and the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group. He is also leading projects to develop extraterrestrial excavators, regolith conveyance technologies, dust-tolerant quick disconnects, lunar/martian landing pads, and other surface systems technology. He co-founded NASA’s biannual Workshop on Granular Materials in Lunar and Martian Exploration and is a founding member of the ASCE Technical Committee for Regolith Operations, Mobility and Robotics.  He received the astronaut’s Silver Snoopy award in 2010 and was selected as the Kennedy Space Center’s NASA Scientist/Engineer of the Year for 2011.

You should follow Phil on Twitter @Philtill777 to get more cool, space-related content daily!
Link to his blog -

And one more to make clear why you write papers.
- LRK -

How to Colonize the Solar System in Six Easy Steps

About three years ago, my colleague Rob Mueller asked me if I had an idea for a technical paper we could write for the International Astronautical Congress in Prague, the Czech Republic.  I did, in fact, have a topic that was beginning to fascinate me. I had been looking at pictures from Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, sent back by the Huygens probe in 2005 after parachuting through the thick, orange atmosphere. Seeing Titan’s regolith from less than a meter away, with alien pebbles strewn across the mysterious sand, changed my view of Titan from a mere “moon” to a very real “world.”  (The regolith is the broken up rocky material and soil that covers the surface of a planetary body.)  Suddenly I wanted to go there!  I wanted to head out toward those alien horizons where no human had gone before.  And probably, since I couldn’t realistically go there, a part of me wanted to fulfill the fantasy of exploring Titan by studying its regolith, because studying regolith is what I do in my job. For years we had been developing technologies to work with the regoliths of the Moon and Mars:  to land on it, to drive on it, to excavate it, to process it for resources, to build with it, and to study it for science.  But what about the regoliths everyhere else in the solar system? So I suggested to Rob that we compare and contrast the regoliths of all of the planets, moons and minor planets throughout the solar system.

I had no idea, then, that writing this paper would change the course of my life.

Over the next several weeks, Rob and I along with the help of Jim Mantovani pored over information about the solar system to hastily write this paper.  As we wrote it, we began to notice the beautiful pattern of resources in our solar system.  This has been noted by others, of course.  John Lewis talked about it in at least one of his books.  But for me it was a revelation.  I began to realize that you can’t fully utilize the vast resources of this solar system unless you set up a logistics network to move things around.  Accessible metals are mostly in the asteroid belt.  Accessible volatiles are mostly in the outer solar system.  Humans may want to ship them around so we can do things things on a grand scale all over the solar system:  building colonies everywhere where we can; establishing research stations and observatories everywhere else.  Ships could travel back and forth on regular routes for both people and resources.  This vision of the solar system as a living, pulsating civilization drew me in, and suddenly exploring the Moon and Mars for scientific discovery was not enough.  I wanted to make space colonization happen!
Do read the whole blog as there are a number of links to other papers and blogs to keep you interested and informed.
- LRK -

Still trying to get back to reading those funny paper things called books.. :-)

Thanks for looking up with me.
- LRK -