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Economic Selenology

W. W. Mendell, M. B. Duke

The Space Shuttle was intended to introduce an economy of operation to routine access of low Earth orbit (LEO) with a reusable vehicle. Although design economies were compromised somewhat by political and budgetary pressures, the highly successful shuttle missions have proved that human presence can enhance space operations. Similarly, operation of the permanently manned space station will demonstrate the benefits of continuous human presence. Future manned programs also will emphasize these new principles of reusable spacecraft, continuous human presence, increased participation by the private sector, and reduced operational cost.

By the year 2000, the Space Transportation System will include orbital transfer vehicles--reusable upper stages delivering payloads from the space station to destinations such as geosynchronous orbit (GEO). Since launches to lunar orbit require slightly less energy than launches to GEO, the Moon inevitably will be included in space activities during the first decade of the 21st century. The principles being expressed in space policy predict that a permanent lunar surface base will be on the agenda within two decades. Although commonly viewed as an exercise in technology, human occupation of the Moon has implications for science, law, domestic politics, international relations, and the economies of space development. Economic issues take on particular importance for strategic planning. Long-term continuous presence cannot become a reality unless political drivers are superseded by economic ones. Current models of space activities indicate potential markets in space for lunar resources in the form of propellant, shielding, and structural material. More complete cost and market analysis requires research on process technologies adapted to the lunar environment and on geologic inventory of the lunar resource base.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91043©1986 AAPG Annual Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, June 15-18, 1986.