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LSSW: Extreme Mobility and Unlimited Exploration August 2, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, NASA, rover , add a comment

This is the latest in my ongoing series of coverage of the Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, where oodles of new, advanced concepts for NASA’s future lunar base were shown.

Lunar Surface Architecture Status: Part 6

Scenario 8 is a fun one—it emphasizes using the small pressurized Lunar Electric Rovers (pictured below) liberally.


The rovers can sustain a two-person crew for up to two weeks at a time, and travel hundreds of miles per trip. They’re pressurized, so astronauts can live comfortably and suit-free inside (with nifty suitlocks for excursions on foot). Mobile habitats, essentially.

There’s an adventure to the idea that appeals to me—camping trips exploring new areas of the Moon. An exciting concept with a sort of old-frontier romance to it, I think this would go a long ways toward inspiring the public, especially as the initial novelty wears off over the crew’s long stays.

Below is the manifest (timeline) for this scenario, which gets the LERs down pretty quick after the initial human return to the Moon:


Up next: a look at the basics of the base itself.

LSSW: Going Fission For Power Options? June 9, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Fission Power, Lunar conservation, Lunar Surface Systems Workshop , add a comment

This is the latest in my ongoing series of coverage of the Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, where oodles of new, advanced concepts for NASA’s future lunar base were shown.

Lunar Surface Architecture Status: Part 5

Following the look at Scenario 4 in the presentation, are details of the Scenario 5 option—which is the use of nuclear fission power on the Moon

Scenario 5 is described as being basically the same as Scenario 4, but with fission as the primary power source instead of solar (which to me, seems like it could certainly free up potential base zones).

There’s two options talked about for location of the reactor: have an ATHLETE bury it close (100m) to the outpost:


Or, have the reactor remain 400m away on the lander itself, with a system of regolith fill and bags to keep the system shielded:


Below is the manifest for the “buried” scenario (5.02), showing that the reactor would be deployed in early FY2020.

This manifest also has a significant difference than the one from Scenario 4: it shows operations beginning a full FY earlier, in FY2019! No mention of potential sorties either, and the graphic for the Robotic Assistant appears more current. Interesting:


I’m personally not too hot on the fission option at first glance.  Burying nuclear reactors under the surface seems like it could get out of hand as a precedent—having dangerous material buried all over the moon smells like an environmental disaster waiting to happen, and while NASA clearly would be careful, perhaps later colonists (companies, etc.) taking that lead would not.

Up next is the rather fun-sounding “extreme mobility” option, Scenario 8. Check back soon for that! (And yes, by the way, the pun in this post’s title is intentional ;) )

LSSW: Lunar Scenario 4—Manifest Destiny? May 28, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Lunar Surface Systems Workshop , add a comment

This is the latest in my ongoing series of coverage of the Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, where oodles of new, advanced concepts for NASA’s future lunar base were shown.

Lunar Surface Architecture Status: Part 4

Now that the idea of lunar scenarios is introduced, the presentation dives into selected scenarios themselves.

The first scenario is pretty brief, but comes with some spiffy imagery:

The NASA Lunar Base Concept with Technology Labeled

That is a graphic of the lunar base, with the technology labeled. All or most of those elements will each get their own post here in the coming weeks, but the note at the bottom there mentions two in particular: the ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) and the PUP (Portable Utility Pallet). The ATHLETE is probably the coolest thing I’ve seen from Constellation yet—video evidence of such :).


And that is a manifest showing the technology rollout to the base, under this scenario. That’s pretty darn neat, as it says right down to the quarter when they generally expect crew and elements to be there.

This scenario’s manifest shows that crew would be there 6 months at a time each of the last three fiscal years, for the middle two quarters—so from January through the end of June. In FY2020, four crew would only be there for a week in Q4 (late summer), and in FY2021 that goes up to 14 days (also in Q4).

As far as the tech, the bulk shows up in the form of the Lunar Electric Rovers (also known as Small Pressurized Rovers [SPRs]) and utilities in late 2020. The first ATHLETE shows up in late 2021, and the Core Habitat is in place by late 2022. So, despite NASA planning to have the base ‘completed’ by 2024 or so, there will be plenty of action up there before then :)

The diagram also notes that in FYs 2022, 2023, and 2024 there may be sorties to other lunar locations—potentially expeditions in the Lunar Electric Rovers (which can hold astronauts, comfortably, on trips as long as two weeks), versus seperate flights up there.

Check back soon for Part 5 of the Lunar Surface Architecture Status: a look at Scenario 5, which outlines nuclear fission as a lunar energy option.

The Dust is Settled?: Lunar Dust 'Stickiness' Influenced By Sun's Elevation April 21, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Apollo, lunar land use planning, Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, NASA , add a comment

A new study of old dusted-off data has shown that lunar dust’s stickiness varies with the elevation of the sun.

75-year-old Australian scientist Brian O’Brien compiled the study by himself over a period of two years. By studying the data of the dust collection on various instruments and when it fell off, he determined that the sun’s rays affected the forces keeping the dust attached to the objects.

Lunar dust is quite the nuisance, and generally the greatest hazard on the Moon—causing equipment to overheat and posing a health threat to astronauts should it get inside working spaces. So, any knowledge towards solving the lunar dust issue is a huge boon to lunar planning of any variety. Check out the news release for the full skinny on O’Briens story and how he made his conclusions.

O’Brien offers a straightforward solution to the problem—a sun-proof shed to shadow lunar operations from the sun’s rays, therefore reducing the stickiness of the dust.

According to Leonard David over at the Space Coalition blog, O’Brien says that “more surprising findings from his studies are on the way”, so stay tuned…

For more on lunar dust solutions, keep an eye on my Lunar Surface Systems Workshop coverage, as several presentations from that forum offer neat concepts and scenarios for dealing with various dust issues.

LSSW: The Families of Lunar Surface Scenarios April 12, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, NASA , add a comment

This is the latest in my ongoing series of coverage of the Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, where oodles of new, advanced concepts for NASA’s future lunar base were shown.

Lunar Surface Architecture Status: Part 3

With the general introductory material out of the way, the first subject looked at is the eleven different families of lunar surface scenarios. Only scenarios 4, 5, and 8 are looked at in detail in the presentation, and I’ll cover those in subsequent posts.

Here’s the list of all 11, and any tidbits of background I have on each:

 The LCCR was the first big internal review of lunar base concepts at NASA. (Click here for my post detailing the full skinny on that.) As you see there, there’s three general orientations: full-on everything (=$$$?), an outpost focused more on sorties across the lunar surface, and an outpost focused more on habitation of the primary location.

The nuclear power scenario, which is one of the three looked at in detail in this PowerPoint, is an alternative to solar—have a shielded or buried nuclear reactor a safe distance from the base.

There’s a pretty healthy Wiki article on power beaming in general as a starter, but solar beaming (particularly, from Earth orbit to Earth) has generated some hubbub as a cutting-edge alternative energy source over the medium-term.

The Lunar Electric Rovers are really cool—being pressurized, astronauts won’t need their suits inside them, and they’re designed for sojourns that can last for weeks. One was shown off as a part of President Obama’s inaugural parade, garnering it a whole lot of attention.

A major motivation for the lunar colonial efforts is to prepare for putting a man on Mars–it takes months to get to Mars (versus several days to the Moon), and once there any astronaut would have to stay for months before having a return launch window, and so mastering colonial systems is key to both putting people on Mars, and getting them back alive. The lunar environment is similar to the Martian one, so it’s a natural test bed.


Check back soon for Part 4 of the Lunar Surface Architecture Status: a closer look at Scenario 4 and the lunar architecture’s support technology.


LSSW: Sunflowers, and the Basic Capabilities of NASA's Lunar Outpost April 7, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, NASA , add a comment

This is the latest in my ongoing series of coverage of the Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, where oodles of new, advanced concepts for NASA’s future lunar base were shown.

Lunar Surface Architecture Status: Part 2

The next section of this presentation starts with a nice rendering, featuring what I’ve started referring to as “sunflowers”:


Each element of that image is covered as the presentation goes along, but for now we take a look at the “Basic Outpost Capabilities” (Slide 9):

So our first settlers will be a crew of four; our lunar Pilgrims (or Vikings; though the Apollo crews probably fulfill that latter allegorical role).

“ISRU” is in situ resource utilization–e.g., using lunar-local resources (hit that link for an interesting discussion of lunar ISRU).

NASA’s pressurized rover (e.g., don’t need a suit inside it) is the Lunar Electric Rover, which made a dashing appearance in President Obama’s inaugural parade. I find the idea that the astronauts can go on little surface adventures for weeks at a time a really fun concept :)

Those last three bullets are pretty self-explanatory.


Tune in soon for Part 3 of the Lunar Surface Architecture Status, as the presentation begins delving into particular scenarios for outpost development.


LSSW: Lunar Surface Architecture Status–Intro to NASA's Lunar Concept Review Process March 26, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, NASA , 1 comment so far


That spiffy panorama kicks off the first really big presentation of the Lunar Surface Systems Workshop from Feb 25-27th, 2009–the Lunar Surface Architecture Status overview. (Check out the full series of LSSW coverage here at Luna C/I).

My coverage of this presentation should stretch over a good number of posts, as it is really stuffed with fun new details on everything related to NASA’s eventual outpost.

“Since forming, the LSS Project Office has focused primarily on supporting the ongoing agency work to define a viable Lunar Architecture, the framework for defining how to return humans to the moon.” –Slide 3 (PDF)

The presentation begins with slides introducing the topic, as well as the Lunar Surface Systems project office, e.g. as quoted above.

The first big topic is the Lunar Concept Capability Review (LCCR). This was a major review that occured in July 2008, the first biggie in the process of lunar outpost concept development (after over three years of concept work).

It’s this review that spurred the LSSW workshop I’m covering here–NASA issued a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) that resulted in 12 study contracts (private, university, etc.) to develop innovative lunar concepts for presentation to NASA. The LSSW is where the results of these studies were presented (and then posted online as PowerPoint PDFS), and with them has come an avalanche of new details and imagery of the lunar outpost, and the functionalities/technology NASA is looking at for it.

The next big review is in mid-2010, with a “significant focus on maturing International Partner relationships and discussion”. Another BAA is also in the works, with a size and timetable to be announced at a later date.

With all the background on the review process out of the way, the presentation moves into the details and scenarios for the outpost; so, stay tuned, and I’ll begin coverage of those goodies with my next LSSW feature post :)

LSSW: NASA's John Olson Presents Exploration and Architecture Plans, In Brief March 19, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, NASA, rover , add a comment

For the second feature in my series of Lunar Surface Systems Workshop coverage, I’m going to be taking a look at the second opening remarks–a 9-slide beauty presented by Dr. John Olson of NASA’s ESMD (Exploration).

The presentation begins with some introductory content–why explore the Moon, and more on the partnerships potential detailed in the first presentation

What’s talked about next is “Architecture Development Driven by a Strategy”, a chart noting where NASA has been and the next steps in the program. It mentions an major NASA review that comes up a lot in this LSSW forum—the June 2008 Lunar Concept Capabilites Review (LCCR).  At this stage, there are surface system concepts (hence this forum exploring them) but no final designs, with a big NASA review of the concepts coming in June 2010.

Now comes some really cool stuff:


That spiffy rendering comes in a discussion of the Lunar Architecture Framework. The rendering compares the Lunar Electric Rover (aka Small Pressurized Rover; which made an appearance in President Obama’s Inaugural Parade), which can carry astronauts comfortably for two-week ventures, to the more utility/construction-oriented Lunar Chariot and the old Apollo rover.

The slide’s bullets are below:

            -Characterize critical environmental parameters and lunar resources

            -Test technical capabilities as needed (Build-up approach)

The sorties mentioned sound like a fun concept–astronauts hopping around  in the lander to different locations on the Moon, perhaps even to visit other countries’ bases. And of course, they could also be overseeing robotic missions to points of interest from the base. Also of note is the lean towards solar—there are concepts proposed for nuclear options, but this suggests they take a back seat strategically, if you will.

The graphic below is an even more fun one: a labeled rendering of the outpost itself. It’s extremely cool, and also fairly self-explanatory, so I’ll let you click below and explore that personally:


Check back tomorrow for the beginning of my look at the incredible, titanic Lunar Surface Architecture Status, filtered down with loving attention on its individual elements so it’s easier to digest :) (It updates the status on basically every element, so generally expect a post on each element, with all the background and links you need.)

LSSW: The NASA Exploration Introduction March 18, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, NASA , 1 comment so far

It’s time today for the first feature in my new series of coverage of the NASA Lunar Surface Systems Workshop presentations.

First up to the plate is the brief introduction by Doug Cooke, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. At 5 slides, the presentation isn’t a whopper like many from this forum were, but it still manages to hold some goodies.

It begins with a straightforward summary of the foundation of NASA’s exploration policy:

And, perhaps most significantly:

The last point, highlighted in the presentation, ties into some of the main themes of President Obama’s campaign space plan–in particular, Obama’s desire to “reach out to include international partners and to engage the private sector to amplify NASA’s reach”. NASA is also currently studying the idea of an International Lunar Network: a system of infrastructure nodes installed across the lunar globe by different nations and organizations. The linked page there sets a 2013 start date for the ILN.

The best visual treat is embedded below (click for larger):


That is NASA’s roadmap outlook for the development of the lunar exploration program. The most interesting aspect is the ~2018 era, where development is complete and the Lunar Outpost Buildup begins (running through 2025).

The rest of the presentations for the workshop are an overview of, and concepts for, all the technology that will compose the actual outpost as it builds over that 2018-2025 period. So, stay tuned, as all the best details on that are soon to come here at Luna C/I :)

LSS = More: Luna C/I's Lunar Surface Systems Workshop Coverage Begins! March 17, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in : Event Coverage, Habitat, infrastructure, lunar land use planning, Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, NASA , 1 comment so far

Today begins a major new series of coverage here at Luna C/I: an in-depth look at all the concepts presented at NASA’s Lunar Surface Systems Workshop (LSSW), which took place on Feb. 25-27th, 2009 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

NASA has posted the 18+ PowerPoint presentations from the event, and they are absolutely stuffed with exciting new information and renderings. While everything presented was conceptual (as requested by NASA from the study groups represented), these presentations are an invaluable resource that give a vivid picture of what NASA’s lunar outpost and technology will be like, right down to the nuts and bolts. This represents a vast expansion of the publicly available details on what the base’s nitty-gritty will be like.

There’s an amazing amount of detail to be found, and what I’m going to do here at Luna C/I over the next few weeks is present the best details from the forum in an easier-to-digest form. I should have at least one feature a day (often more), and will typically cover the significant topics of each presentation with seperate posts.

I’ll be going in chronological order, starting with NASA’s introductory presentations. Expect sweet renderings from the PDFs, links and background galore on what they’re talking about, and more juicy lunar base details than you can shake a stick at :)

Should be a very busy few weeks–so sit back, stay tuned, and get ready for an outpouring of neat features. And, of course, you can always check out the presentations yourself—but I’m not kidding when I say it’s a truly vast amount of information :)

Exciting times, and I hope you enjoy all the goodies that these presentations have to offer.