A Lunar Outpost

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Establishment of a permanently inhabited lunar outpost is a crucial step toward fulfilling the national space policy goal of expanding human presence into the solar system. The Moon is an ideal laboratory for learning to live and work on the space frontier. Planning for such an outpost is in the early stagesú A few more years of concept studies will precede the choice of a final lunar outpost design.

This artist's concept shows what a lunar outpost might look like, based on the results of studies conducted thus far. Actual lunar surface systems may be different from those shown in the picture. A site for the lunar outpost will be selected by evaluating factors such as closeness to surface features of scientific interest, Earth's visibility, soil chemistry, and roughness of terrain. The outpost could expand into a network of lunar bases and ultimately a lunar settlement.

In this scenario, the construction "shack" (2) shown in the picture would be built before a permanent lunar habitat. Crews on early scientific missions could live in their landing craft and use the shack to support their surface exploratory missions. Crews on these missions would bring with them all of the air, water, and food that they need for their stay on the Moon. The shack could also support the construction of other elements of the lunar outpost.

The experimental six-legged robotic "walker" (8) is an example of the kind of machine that could assist people with surface exploration. Beyond the horizon, at the end of the road in the middle of the picture (10), is a landing site for lunar vehicles, located 2.2 kilometers away from the outpost for safety reasons.

One design option for a permanent lunar habitat is an inflatable structure (1), erected in a crater or an excavation and shielded with bags of lunar surface material. known as regolith (4), to protect crews against solar and cosmic radiation. Regolith would be bagged by machine (5). The habitat in this picture is 16 meters in diameter, with 2,145 cubic meters of volume, four levels of living and working space, and 594 meters of floor space. Accom- modating 12 people, it would be pressurized and thermally controlled. A pressurized tunnel (3) could connect the construction shack with the habitat.

Research could be conducted in fields such as geology, astronomy, astro- physics, and life sciences at a lunar outpost. In addition, technologies required for human missions to Mars could be demonstrated on the Moon. The use of extraterrestrial resources could be demonstrated as well; for instance, a pilot plant could be built to test various methods of extracting oxygen from lunar surface materials. The oxygen would be used for space- craft fuel and breathable air.

Power needs at a lunar outpost could be met by solar photovoltaic power systems (7,9,11). Thermal radiators (6) would dissipate excess heat.

For the Classroom

1. Why must people be shielded from radiation on the Moon?
2. How long is the lunar day? How long is the lunar night?
3. What is the chemical composition of lunar regolith?
4. Why is the Moon a good place for astronomical observations?
5. What might we learn by studying geology on the Moon?

Above is a sketch of the lunar outpost. The following lists identifies characteristics and structures which comprise the outpost.

1. The inflatable habitat
2. The construction equipment structure
3. Connecting tunnel
4. Continuous, coiled regolith bags for radiation protection
5. Regolith bagging machine, coiling bags around the habitat while bulldozer scrapes loose regolith into its path
6. Thermal radiator
7. Solar panel
8. Experimental six-legged walker
9. Solar power system for the outpost
10. Road to landing pad
11. Solar power system for the lunar oxygen pilot plant