MUS/cle Strategy for Lunar Industrial Diversification

A Strategy For Following Up Lunar Soil-Processing

With Industrial M. U. S. c. l. e.


by Peter Kokh, 1988 The Lunar Reclamation Society

First published in Moon Miners' Manifesto #18, September 1988, pp. 3-4


How can a small settlement (anything less than some hundred of thousands and probably a whole lot smaller) have the most effect industrially? Some "muscle"? Fortunately, we have a clear and precise criterion by which to judge, and it points the way like a beacon: keeping upport tonnage from Earth to a minimum, i.e. making do for as much (mass-wise) of the settlement's needs as possible from local lunar resources. To strive in this direction, the settlement -- while not neglecting any possibilities -- will do well to give top priority to items which, multiplying unit weights by quantity needed, embody the greatest opportunity for savings if manufactured locally.

Among equally weighty categories, those items that require less industrial sophistication and diversification and which are not unreasonably labor intensive would naturally get first attention (e.g. one ton of dishes over one ton of electronics).

Shelter itself, with some parts of utility systems (e.g. pipe and conduit at least), and basic furniture and furnishings made of 'lunarcrete', iron and steel, ceramics, glass, fiberglass, and glass-glass composites (glax) are obvious items on the list. Such things should account for most of the settlement's physical plant.

What about sophisticated products: machinery of all sorts, vehicles, electronics, appliances? Too ambitious? Only for the unresourceful! Consider that every supposedly more involved product is an assembly of parts that often includes a shell, casing, cabinet, body, hull, table, etc. that is less complex and yet often represents a considerable part of the total weight of the item. If such parts were made in the settlement and final assembly done there (the really complicated and sophisticated portions representing the output of many subcontractors being preassembled on Earth in subassemblies as large and as integral as possible ) this would hold down the principally weight-determined upport price of everything from major shop tools to telephones to vehicles.

This would mean standardizing the size and interfaces of upported subassemblies, cartridges, chases, etc. to fit the very minimal number of cabinet, casing, and body models, etc. that the small lunar workforce could produce. (If the completed item were upported, parts supply would be the only limiting factor on variety). Even so, "standard" cabinets and casings could be made to take varied finishes, textures, and colors.

Now the way we make many items on Earth, especially electronics, would lend itself to this approach. Of course, a central office (on Earth would save lunar manpower from paperwork ) would have to coordinate everything, so that only chases and work-trays, etc. that would fit made-on-Luna casings and cabinets would be upported. This should not be hard to arrange on a bid basis.

The weight savings on major appliances in cases in which the settlement is not prepared to make more than the housing should be considerable. Many such items could be redesigned so all the sophisticated "works" are in one or a few slip-in cartridges.

By the way, all this reasoning holds just as true if it turns out that the first off-Earth settlements are in free space colonies rather than on the lunar surface. Such settlers would operate under the same constraints until their numbers are vast enough to support self-manufacture of all their needs. They too will need the right strategy to build industrial "muscle".

Why not vehicles (both surface and intra-biosphere ) with the body or coach made on the Moon, designed for easy retrofit of a cartridge-like wiring harness, control panel / dash, and motor ( even here major heavy parts could be locally made and designed for ease of final assembly )? The benefits of such a setup would be immense.

To maximize the possibilities for "lunar content" and the ease of final local assembly will require designing such vehicles from scratch with this very goal as utmost priority. In a future article, we will talk about the need for an agency to take the initiative in stockpiling such "cartridge designs" for future lunar need.

Keep in mind that a lunar surface vehicle _is_ a vacuum-worthy spaceship. So the next step would be Earth-Moon (or rather LEO, low-Earth-orbit to Moon or lunar orbiting depot) ferries of high lunar content (cabin, hold, tankage, etc.) and then even space station modules for LEO and GEO designed for easy snap-in outfitting of "works" from Earth.

You will have noticed that our "muscle" was spelled as a two part acronym, "M.U.S. - c.l.e.". For our strategy calls for the M.U.S (Massive, Unitary, Simple) parts to be made by the settlement and the c.l.e. (Complex, Lightweight, and Electronic) components to be made on Earth for upport and mating on the Moon (or early space colony). Here then is the logical formula for giving industrial muscle to the early settlement still too small to diversify into a maze of subcontracting establishments. It is a path that has been trod before. It plays on the strengths of the lunar situation and relies on the early basic industries: lunacrete, iron-steel, ceramic, and glass-glass composites (glax).

And not surprisingly, it is the path of lunar development that will produce the most in exports to LEO, GEO, L5 (?), and even Mars.


The Importance of the Lunar M.U.S.- c.l.e. Plan for the Opening of Mars

Yes, Mars. That strangely romantic, sirenic world that so many are so impatient to get  just once even at the cost of perhaps never being able to return. It is possible to go direct to Mars from an LEO depot around Earth. The plan would send humans and cargo not needed till later separately. But if it is worth going to at all, it is worth having every advantage in our favor, including the capacity -- for the same total fuel cost -- of sending enough equipment to make a prolonged, even permanent stay possible as well as making follow-up trips economical enough to withstand the inevitable public loss of interest when they find out just how hostile a place Mars really is: that it isn't Barsoom, after all!

Back to our Mars expedition. Think of the weight savings if only the basic core crew cabin (let the crew put up with the sardine-packing of "steerage" for the short trip out to the Moon on the shoulder of Earth's gravity well) and "c.l.e." cargo had to be boosted up from LEO. More spacious quarters in shell form (M.U.S.) and even the hulls of the Mars landers themselves could be added on at the lunar staging port (probably at the L1 Lagrangian point some 36,000 miles Earthward from the Moon). The crew would be highly motivated by the need for more space and could complete the assembly during the months-long journey out to the Red Planet. Give 'em something to do. The fuel savings would translate into more total cargo and, consequently, a much enhanced chance of success on Mars.

If Mars were truly opened up for settlement, and it is in the Moon's interest that it should be developed as an alternative trading partner to Earth, then until Martian industry developed its own "muscle", there will be a strong market on Mars for made-on-Luna vehicle bodies and hulls, ready-made and portable shelters, and other items. It will be far less expensive for the new Martians to import items co-manufactured on Luna as opposed to those wholly made on Earth. Without this advantage, the Martian settlement effort will last only slightly longer than a snowball on Venus.


The Further Contribution a Phobos-Deimos M.U.S.- c.l.e. Plan Could Make to Mars

Here we think of those items not needed by a Mars expedition until arrival in Mars orbit: aerobrake shields, parachutes, and landing skids / skis. This is in addition to fuel needed for descent and final braking. Ph.D. (Phobos Deimos) could also make solar panels for Mars-orbiting communications satellites brought from Earth, etc.

Leveraging each new foothold in space on the one before, we can go far!


Back to LRS/MMM Papers