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A Proposed Moon Society Lunar Analog Research Station
Project Status as of January 19, 2009
"We have a dream... "
History and experience
Designated MDRS Crew #45, the Moon Society hosted Artemis Moonbase Simulation One from February 25th to March 12, 2006 at the Moon Desert Research Station outside Hanksville, Utah. The host terrain was hardly ideal. The colors and landforms screamed Mars. We concentrated on research for which the terrain did not matter, and above all, we learned how the Mars Desert Research Station and its Research Program worked.
Research goal differences between a Mars and a Lunar Analog Research Program
From this experience, it quickly became clear that there are major differences in appropriate research goals between Mars and Moon Analog Research programs:
The Mars program is concentrating on demonstrating the value of Human - Robotic Teams in the exploration of Mars. For a Lunar program, this was amply demonstrated in the Apollo program. " been there, done that."
For a Lunar program we want to demonstrate the technologies needed to stay on the Moon and to expand human presence. For a Mars program, such research is premature.
For a Lunar Analog Research Program, these technology research areas include:
Thus it is clear that a purposeful Lunar Analog Research program could be much more comprehensive than the program attempted at the Mars Desert and Arctic Research Stations
Challenge 1 - Finding a suitable site
There are many areas that have desirable features: lava tube sites in Oregon, northern California, Idaho, SE Utah, New Mexico - Ideal are either publicly owned sites such as Bureau of Land Management lands (MDRS in Utah) or private properties.
Remoteness is important to allow operations to proceed without interference from the public, passersby, and the curious.
On the other hand, it is probably a diversion to insist on a location that is "off-the-grid." While it certainly sets the mood to pretend we are off grid and have to supply all of our own power, at MDRS, troubles with the off-grid system have been frequent and interrupting and comical in the sense that repair and resupply from local (on Mars) locations (7 miles away) totally shattered the illusion of being off-grid on Mars. We need to pick our battles wisely, and this is not one of them, in our opinion.
Local support is essential. It would be useful to be within easy reach of a sizable metropolitan area and of major universities, especially any with strong lunar research programs. It would be most useful if the site was handy to a Moon Society chapter.
Our current thinking is that these desirable conditions are best met in the Phoenix-Tucson area of Arizona. There may not be lava tubes handy, but that is something that can be simulated.
Both the University of Arizona and Arizona State have strong lunar research program areas. The University of Arizona has the Closed Environment Agricultural Research facility (CEAC) where to our thinking the best and most practical biospheric research is being done.
That said, scouting out potential locations in this still vast area will be a challenge.
Once we have a short list of suitable locations to which rights of use can be acquired, a ground team will have to investigate the pros and cons of each in order to make a good decision.
Challenge 2 - Finding initial funding
If you look at the proposal for a phase by phase implementation of a station that, as in real life, will start small and keep growing, you will see that our Phase 1 plan is rather modest and should cost less to purchase, assemble, and outfit than did the Mars Desert Research Station. A suitable initial funding goal would be to purchase all the components needed to build and outfit this Phase 1 station, non-volunteer labor when necessary, and estimated operational expenses for the first field season. We have not tried to put a numbers on these items, but +/- $100,000 should be more than ample.
Fundraising is a word easily pronounced. But it is an activity that is very challenging and requires a capable person to conduct.
Possible gimmicks: selling the naming rights to the first phase unit, or, if need be, to the entire proposed station, for enough to cover these phase 1 costs listed above. The Mars Arctic Research Station got half its initial funding from the sale of naming rights to the Flashline online software company.
Daunting but Doable
The Moon Society is the smallest of the mainstream space advocacy groups. Yet we pride ourselves, on the grounds of our successful design, construction, and exhibiting of a solar power beaming demonstration unit at ISDC 2008 as "the Little Engine that Could" of fairytale fame. Is it pretentious to "think big?" If we don't we will surely do nothing.
When we mounted our expedition to the Mars Desert Research Station, the National Space Society came along as an equal financial co-sponsor (with the Moon Society and the Lunar Reclamation Society. At that time, NSS indicated that should we want to develop a lunar analog research station facility, they would be interested in looking into cosponsoring that also. That was not a commitment but a statement of possible interest. It suggests a scenario where "if we build it, they will come."
Now that is not money in the pocket. It is a reason to proceed with the pretentious enthusiasm and determination of all explorers and pioneers.
You are hereby invited to help us brainstorm every part of this process to the point that we have a game plan ready to launch.
Make it so!
President, The Moon Society
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