The Third WayJune 18, 2009
Or where we should be going.
Being a response to the Augustine Commission (500 CHAR only? Really!)
This addresses some comments from both the Audience and Norman Augustine concerning the fascination that Kids of all ages have with space and does something to improve the situation.
To nail my colours to the mast this British Space Cadet (IANARS) is a HUGE proponent of HSF. But facts are facts…
The big dichotomy in Space Exploration is the eternal argument: Robot vs Human? Whilst the former has logistical advantages; the latter has been problem solving in harsh environments ever since we walked out of Africa. The Moon is probably the best next harsh environment. And we already know how to Walk there! If we can learn how to survive on the Moon, we can learn to live ANYWHERE. And, just as we are using ROVs to explore (and exploit) the ocean depths, so should we be using ROVs to explore and exploit the Moon.
To this end the American (and Global) Space effort should be primarily tasked to develop an explosion of Tele-Presence on the Lunar surface. In order to accomplish this goal, NASA should be immediately tasked to provide a robust sustainable and evolutionary transportation system with a range from ESL1 to ESL2 and all (Lagrange) points in-between.
The OASIS (RASC 2002) study nailed it. IMHO.
Rather than build a L1 crewed “Gateway”, NASA and the International Space Effort should use L1 or L2 as an automated (but crew mended) Waystation and Prop. Depot. Initally using Hypergols; evolving to Methane and LUNOX. From here a reusable fleet of Landers would deliver tens, then hundreds and eventually thousands of virtual humans presences; “TeleBots” to the lunar surface. Hence the democratisation of Lunar exploration. Rather than a few select civil servants with actual Boots (and Flags) …anyone can Play!
Especially your Children and Grand Children!
Unlike my generation who were quite happy to watch our representatives (of the human Race) bunny hop across our screens in black and white, the Next Gen already *get* tele-presence via computer games and online immersive environments. And which would you rather do? Watch some highly trained civil servant pick up some rocks, or pick up those rocks ‘yourself’ using your virtual hands. Especially if one of these hands has a cool “Laser thingy” to blast a spectroscopic sample!
Lunar exploration will evolve from singular ‘Bot visits… to the development of numerous (National) ‘Bot Villages… the selection of suitable sites for Multi-National ‘Bot Towns and, at the International ‘Bot City the construction site of our first large International Lunar Base The first Real Home away from Home and Deep Radiation Shelter!
All we will have to do is put up the curtains and unpack the few Knicknacks brought from Earth!
Obviously the first iteration will be handled by the various individual centres/administrations/national space agencies responsible for ‘their’ individual ‘Bot. However right from the start of the program, the kids should be involved: Clara Ma‘s “Curiosity” multiplied 1000 fold. By engaging the Next Generation directly, instead of a passive acceptance of less the result will be an active demand for MORE!
Thus, in addition to naming competitions… for the plethora of: Lunar Rovers; Prospectors; Dozers; Drillers; Shovellers; ISRUers, etc. NASA should be encouraging ‘Bot madness. From Kindergarten drawings to University designs. And all points in between. We already see that the NextGen are quite capable of using kits (Lego Mindstorms springs to mind.) … to build their own ‘Bots. Let’s just up the stakes. With Lunar hardened plug in and play equivalents along with school competitions to design new ‘Bot functions; find new ‘Bot synergies; develop new tasks for old ‘Bot designs and innovative ways of recycling ‘Bot scrap!
COTS for Kids!
With increasing confidence, Kids should be allowed to actively participate, especially if one of their own designs: drawn in Kindergarten; formulated at Junior school; built in High School;… is now working on the Moon! And operated from the self same original Kindergarten, with TeleOps (with a little direction from the Geological Team) virtual ‘little hands’ are equally capable of picking up Lunar samples just as well as Neil and Buzz’s were, back in their day!
In the mean time an we should see an evolving Open Source Lunar ‘Bot architecture for future synergy: inter-changeable parts; common interfaces; power systems; comms protocols and open-source software. Producing more than the sum of its parts and a new form of space barter (As used on the ISS!)
The Human Element
Whilst massively engaging the NextGen -through play- with the desire to actually live, work and play more on the Moon in the long term (say 20-50 years), a lunar human presence will be necessary in the medium term. (Say 10-20 years.)
HOWEVER THE PRIMARY TASK IN THE SHORT TERM MUST BE THE ISS.
In addition to the paramount task of learning how to live together in space. (With some vital lessons on how to live together on the ground!) The ISS is a prototype for the next generation of MOBILE deep space vessels that will visit NEOs, Phobos & Deimos and take up station at the various useful L points of the Interplanetary Super-Highway; as well as form the prototype of the third generation interplanetary (Aldrin) cycler and permanent NEO/ PhD habitats. Solving short term problems on the ISS today opens up Space for the infinite tomorrow!
The next goal of HSF: an International Lunar Station in Low Lunar Orbit with a emergency shelter on the Ground in the case of bad weather.
By keeping the ‘Base camp in orbit the entire prgram is given flexibility whilst the ‘Bots do the wheel work. The same reusable Lunar Landers -now perfected and human rated after multiple Bot drops- can visit sites of historical interest, or particularly stunning scenery and allow Humans to do the stuff that Robots, no matter how smart, will never be able to do: Emote. Inspire and Interpret.
In a similar manner to our best beloved ‘Bot: Hubble, I expect we will have to fix stuff whilst we are down there too. That’s the trouble with ‘Bots they keep breaking down!
(And yes I have read Rudy Rucker’s “Software“!)
OASIS (Orbital Aggregation and Space Infrastructure Systems)
OASIS the Images
OTHER FUNKY STUFF
OASIS the PDF