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[personal profile] shadenoff
Not long ago, in the Net, I came across an idea: "the ship to fly to Mars should weigh a thousand tons - and this is just unthinkable!". But that is - one thousand tons? Even not very big sea ships weigh hundreds of tons - and biggest of them can achieve mass of hundreds thousands tons. That is, one thousand tons for an earth ship - it's quite normal, and not even a very large weight. One can assume that the spacecraft must weigh not less than that (it needs to go through a much longer path in a much more severe conditions) - but none of the space apparatus hold up to half tons: even ISS (which is under construction for more than ten years) wheighs about 400, all the other spaceships - much less.

I believe that this is not enough - and for any serious space exploration weight of the vehicles will need to be increased. Main problem - extemely high cost of launch cargo into space, and it can be solved in two ways: either by creating completely new system to reach the orbit (for example, high hopes submit the project "Skylon"), either... not launch spaceships from Earth at all. Point is that we do not need "bring a spacecraft from the Earth into space", but put it in the orbit (where it assembled - is the least of our questions). If you found a place where the spacecraft can be assemled from scratch (or almost from scratch), and from where they is much easily can be put into the space - the problem will be solved (by analogy - no one build shipyards in Tibet, when it's possible to build them nearby sea: so ships can be much easily launched).


Luckily, such place exists neaby Earth - it's the Moon. Force of gravity there is big enought to allow you, for example, lay down a hummer somewhere (and not be afraid that it will flight back and strike you into the forehead) - but in same time it much weak than on Earth, and it a lot easier to take off from the Moon (compare, for example, ascent stage of Apollo spacecraft, and Soyuz rocket), There is no atmosphere on the Moon - and that mean that to put something in orbit we can use not outdated chemical engines, but more effective plasma propulsion engines - like VASIMR, for example. Also, Moon have no biosphere - whis mean that we can bravely place here the most polluted productions, perform most dangerous experiments (say, with nuclear engines) - local environment will not been hurt due to lack of thereof.

Certainly, for producting something, resources and equipment needed. On the Moon, millions of tons of water (this, at least, water and oxygen for life support and fuel for engines), and minerals (such as titanium, iron, aluminum and silicon) have been found. Of course, initialy we need to bring equipment from Earth. This will be problem (we need it many, and delivery will be expensive), but it also a good news - as opposed to earth orbit, where nothing can be left for long (where russian Salyts and Mir, where american Skylab? they long time ago descended from orbit and burn down in the atmosphere), any object at surface of the Moon remains virtually forever. If necessary, we can send equipment by small parties during very long time - and nothing will happen with it.

As soon as less or more working production on the Moon will be established (capable reproduce itself with minimal resource from Earth), the real space revolution (like Indastrial Revolution in 19-th century) begins: moon plant will growth at explosive speed. This growth will be provided... no, not scientists or military, but very usual consumer electronics manufacturers. People tend to brag - and if person can show to his friends a phone, which was delivered directly from the Moon, with elegant, transparent insertions, where you can see very real moon soil within... Oh, I think for such things will be demand - and very great one!

With time, demand for moon fancy articles will fade - but at this point the main thing will be done: the full-scale industrial production will be active on the Moon, technologies for mining resources on a planet "from scratch" will be invented and fine-tuned, developed "Earth-Moon" transport system will appear, in addition, the stereotype that the Space is something like expensive and useless toy for mad scientists will vanish. Work in space will be rare, but quite usual job (like working on a sea drilling platform today).

What will be next? I belive, that some combination of manned and automatical exploratory missions will appear: for example, in relatively save point nearby Saturn a giant (by our measures) space station will be placed, from which operating personell will control exploration of planet's satellites by automatical probes. Why all this needed? As opposed to human, neither robot can work in unknown, changing conditions: artificial intelligence - no more than a illusion (say, mars rover Curiosity don't drive on her own - the whole team of programmers controls every her step). And when on Titan in sight of mindlessly walking by program rover someone curious face will flashed by - not robot will turn, but human.

After all, I hope that with time people will perceive the space not as something faraway and exotic, but as one mome field of their activity: yes, it's far; yes, it's hard; yes, it's very dangerous. But all problems - solvable, and if you want to do something - then nothing is impossible!

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shadenoff

February 2016

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