Review: “Lunar Settlements”

“Lunar Settlements”, edited by Haym Benaroya. Published in 2010 by CRC Press, it weighs in at 783 pages all told. A handful of errors, the most notable the use of decent for descent in a number of papers, a typical spellcheck oversight.

These are the conference proceedings of the Rutgers Symposium on Lunar Settlements, held in June 2007, and which I unfortunately missed as it was right after my ISDC and I was still in recovery mode. I should have been there, as it looks to have been a good conference.

The overwhelming volume of content (45 chapters and many, many abstracts) is divided into seven main sections:

I. The Past and Future

This section opens up the proceedings with a bit of looking back to look forward. Harrison Schmitt makes his pitch for Helium-3 as an energy source, one that he thoroughly outlines in his book “Return to the Moon“. Paul Lowman, whom I met at NASA Goddard during my summer with the NASA Academy and who nurtured my Lunar interests, gives an overview of the conference and some background on a few of the speakers. Marsha Freeman gives an overview of the work that Krafft Ehricke did on Lunar settlements as part of his Extraterrestrial Imperative, and the basis for her book from Apogee Books. Next up is a series of extracts from H.H. Koelle‘s weekly notes to Wernher Von Braun back in the day. Then there’s Dennis Wingo and Charles Lundquist addressing the issue of preserving knowledge gained during the Apollo years, a project that Dennis is working on right now. Last up, Terry Hart gives an overview of the challenges of working in space.

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II. Lunar Development

Paul Eckert, who was instrumental in getting the Lunar Commerce Roundtables started, outlines some of the lessons learned from the LCRs. Ida Kutschera and Mike Ryan from Bellarmine University give an unusual perspective on the Human Resource management issues that might be faced in non-terrestrial settlements. Walt Kistler, Bob Citron and Tom Taylor give a thorough overview of Lunar Commercial Logistics Transportation and suggest solutions for some of the challenges, such as a Lunar ‘Burro’. Mary Lynne Dittmar and a bunch of folks from the Astronaut Office at JSC look at using robots for the initial stages of resource development and how they might be tasked to that end. This is further explored by Alex Ignatiev et al in the context of solar cell fabrication and how the Moon can supply the basic components.

III. Outer Space Habitat Design

The Italians have long been known for their design work, and Irene Sclhacht argues in her paper that by applying a multi-disciplinary approach to Lunar habitat design can provide for much higher levels of user reliability. Melchiorre Masali et al look at the human body in outer space, and how the their research has identified the Madagascar Lemur as a model for adaptation to 1g/0g and how that might affect design considerations. Ms. Schlacht returns, with Henrik Birke, to highlight the importance of visual design in promoting a sense of well-being in outer space facilities, and provides some sample color schemes. Ayako Ono, an ISU alum, talks about art as a further enhancement to the quality of life of future Lunar dwellers, and provides a number of specific examples of how that could be achieved. Some of these ideas are further explored by Bates and Marquit of USU, who have looked at the psychological benefits of plants in enclosed facilities. I, for one, am 100% in favor of having an abundance of growing things at a future Lunar base. Ms. Schlacht closes this particular section with perspectives on how applying a multi-disciplinary approach to Lunar habitat design can provide for much higher levels of user well-being to future inhabitants.

Section IV. The Human Condition

One way to try to figure out what will happen to people over the longer term on the Moon is to work up a digital model of human systems, and then change the environmental parameters. This is what Richard Summers et al have done at the University of Mississippi Medical School. They have adapted an existing model for over 4,000 biologic interactions in the body, as well as conditions particular to spaceflight. Running these for presumed Lunar condition does raise a number of concerns. There are more than biophysical processes to worry about, and Chester Spell from the Rutgers School of Business addresses the mental health of workers in a Lunar settlement. Jesper Jorgensen of SpaceArch notes that humans are both the strongest and the weakest link in the chain of Lunar development, and some of the lessons we’ve learned from extreme circumstances here on Earth. Sheryl Bishop of UTMB looks at psychosocial factors that will be important for long-term and permanent residents, and some potential design solutions. From a physical health perspective, François Lévy of synthesis international looks at the issue of Radon in the Lunar regolith, which may have implications for its use as a construction material. Claudio Maccone talks about an issue that I am in favor of, that of the creation of an area on the far side of the Moon that is protected from radio wave “pollution”, what he calls a “protected antipode circle” that would be shielded from even activities at L-4 and L-5. Last up, Dr. David Livingston of The Space Show takes a 2×4 of harsh reality to the upside of the heads of dreamers in “Developing the Moon with Ethics and Reality”, whose thesis basically boils down to “there’s currently no transportation to the Moon, so talking about Moon business is fantasy”. It’s couched in slightly more sophisticated terms, but comes across as rather harsh. This was a time when David was hanging out with the Space Cynics, so the tone doesn’t particularly surprise me.

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V. Planning and Analogues

In this section the focus moves into moving Moon bases from talk to action. Jim Burke, whose Lunar work dates back to the Ranger/Surveyor days and for whom I have an enormous amount of respect, takes a high level view of what it takes to move Lunar base living beyond the pioneering stage. Marc Cohen of Northrop Grumman takes a look at a workshop conducted by the Space Enterprise Council, previously of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in August 2006 to evaluate NASA’s candidate Lunar objective. Attendees plowed through some 87 objectives in 18 scientific and technical groupings to find priorities and provide some structure. This was a complex paper, but there were a lot of interesting nuggets to draw out of the content. Niklas JärvstrÃ¥t from Sweden talks about field testing future Lunar equipment, and the Moon-Mine he is setting up to that end. Olga Bannova from the Univ. of Houston Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture covers some of the lessons of extreme terrestrial environments in preparing for Solar system exploration. Larry Bell, also of SICSA, looks at some of the infrastructure planning they’ve done and some suggested solutions. Gregory Konesky of SGK Nanostructures suggests a series of hierarchical rovers devoted to specific tasks which work together to achieve exploration goals like site selection for a base. Lastly, Jerome Pearson et al from Star Technology and Research describe a Lunar space elevator for the transport of Lunar resources to cis-Lunar and/or trans-Lunar space.

Section VI. Lunar Bases

Moving on to setting up shop on the Moon, Florian Ruess et al from Habitats for Extreme Environments (HE2) look at the greyfield development of a Lunar base site and some of the equipment requirements. Jablonski and Ogden review some of the technical requirements for Lunar structures and the materials from which they are composed, with lots of bibliographical references. Giorgio Gaviraghi of eDL offers up a design concept for a first crewed base, the Bidu Guiday (local Charruan for ‘Beautiful Moon’), as does Werner Grandl , who takes a more modular approach. Haym Benaroya looks at robotic construction of a future Lunar facility, and how local materials can be used. Braun and Ruess from HE2 undertake an extensive mathematical analysis of reliability-based design in Lunar habitats, some pretty advanced stuff. Phil Metzger from NASA and Lane et al from ASRC Aerospace look at how the Lunar dust behaves in proximity to rocket motor operation, a talk I got to see at a subsequent LEAG meeting. Glassifying the landing pad and building up berms around the pad will go a long way towards solving the problem. A bigger threat is meteoroid impacts (a question raised during my Moon talk at Moon Day), and William Schonberg of Missouri University of Science & Technology and Putzar and Schäfer of Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics look at shielding and mitigation strategies to deal with the issue. Lastly, Rygalov and Stoffel from the UND Dept. of Space Studies look at some of the important factors in setting up a greenhouse on the Moon, and include an appendix on some past efforts at closing the life-support loop.

VII. Lunar Soil Mechanics

One of the most important considerations for construction and long term living on the Moon involves dealing with the dust and soil. The last section of the book explores this topic in great detail. Chang and Hicher develop a mathematical model for the physical properties of the Lunar soil. Arslan et al from the Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, Laboratory of Atmosphere and Space Physics look at the the geotechnical engineering properties of Lunar soil simulants, which are growing in popularity as a research tool, and something that NASA is looking closely at. Jason Florek of Baker Engineering and Risk Consultants looks at extending terrestrial models for soil penetrating and excavating to Lunar conditions. Martina Pinni takes a close look at Lunar concrete. And lastly, Satadal Das of the Peerless Hospital and B.K. Roy Research Centre speculates on how silicon-utilizing organisms can be used to treat Lunar soil.

Subsequent to this section are the abstracts submitted by all of the speakers in the symposium, in order of appearance, not all of which ended up as papers. Nevertheless, there are a lot of interesting nuggets buried in the abstracts, so they definitely merit a review.

Overall, a very chunky work that digests slowly. As can be seen, the book covers a broad range of Lunar related topics, and in many ways can be considered a spiritual successor to “Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century“, but it works very well in conjunction with the much more current “Lunar Base Handbook” and “The Moon: Resources, Future Development, and Settlement“. I imagine if someone were to offer a university course on Lunar studies, this would be a good candidate for one of the textbooks.

This one is definitely not for the lay person. A number of the papers are clearly written at the graduate level, and some of the math left me behind. Anyone who spends any time at conferences like LEAG and LPSC will be familiar with much of the content, but it is still useful for the many bibliographic references throughout.

Hopefully Haym will be putting another one of these together for the not too distant future. There’s a lot more Moon interest out there than most people realize, but folks are starved for good information. Many are the times that people have come up to me after my Moon presentation and said they had no idea there was so much to know. The more Moon conferences the better as far as I’m concerned.

This one gets a Full Moon rating.

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