Settling the Eighth Continent — Three Steps to Mankind's Colonization of the Moon
Cutright, Bruce L.; Ambrose, William A.
We are now on the threshold of not just visiting the moon, but establishing permanent self-sustaining colonies on the moon. There are three major conceptual leaps necessary in application of existing technologies to space exploration that will make this possible. Chemical rocket propulsion from Earth's surface to orbit is both expensive and limited, and this is the first hurdle that must be overcome. The second major leap must focus on available power in space once we can economically move mass to orbit. The third major paradigm shift for colonization of the moon without geographic restrictions is deployment of beamed power technology.
Access to space can be achieved if we discard our attachment to chemical rockets and recognize that nuclear thermal rockets can provide an order of magnitude improvement in performance and in launch cost reductions. Another order of magnitude improvement can occur if we discard rockets altogether and rely on space elevators for movement of mass from Earth's surface to LEO.
Compact nuclear fission generators in the multi-megawatt range are the only near term practical source for high energy demand activities in space such as manufacturing, mining, refining and fuel production. A viable lunar colony must have abundant power available to produce water, breathing atmosphere and building materials from source materials that are similar to igneous rocks on earth. Solar power is not practical when it is limited by a 28 day-night lunar cycle, and the power density of solar energy is insufficient for the identified activities. Orbiting large solar arrays, manufactured in Earth or lunar orbit from materials mined from NEOs and with beamed power from these units to the lunar surface can be the transition technology between lunar surface-based compact nuclear fission power plants and He3 fusion technology. The deployment of orbiting beamed energy technology to provide power anywhere on the lunar surface, and ultimately, the establishment of He3 fusion plants on the Lunar surface with power beamed to lunar or earth orbit to support power demands on Earth and asteroid mining ventures in space could be a viable economic benefit to Earth's economy, linking the economic development of the Earth, NEOs and the Lunar surface in an expanding triangle trade association that would be beneficial to all.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90163©2013AAPG 2013 Annual Convention and Exhibition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 19-22, 2013