Southeastern Section–55th Annual Meeting (23–24 March 2006)

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 11:40 AM


TAYLOR, Lawrence A.1, LIU, Yang2, HILL, Eddy3, PARK, Jaesung2, DAY, James1, TAYLOR, Dawn1 and PATCHEN, Allan1, (1)Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-1410, (2)Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, (3)Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN,

It has been too long since astronaut Harrison (Jack) Schmitt was the last person to step on the Moon [December, 1972]. But, the U.S.A. and other countries are now preparing to send humans back to the Moon in only 8-10 years or so, in order to establish a permanent Lunar Base. For such a grand endeavor, the extremely hostile environment on the Moon presents formidable conditions for sophisticated engineering research. In the grand scheme of NASA, the Moon is to be a “test-bed” for experiments designed for human missions to Mars and beyond into our Solar System. In addition, the Moon is to become a fueling station for oxygen (LOX), hydrogen (LH), and even methane (LM), to be used as propellants for space travel outward. The Prospector and Clementine Missions to the Moon sensed high concentrations of hydrogen at the poles, which has been interpreted as indicative of water-ice. This ice is supposedly concentrated in permanently shadowed craters, where temperatures are about 40 K (-233 0C) presenting major engineering challenges. However, there are regions on the rims of craters at the South Pole that are in constant sunlight, such that a solar cell placed upright will receive the same intensity of solar illumination as at the equator [no atmosphere to diminish the rays, such as on Earth]. Such polar regions also have temperatures that are near constant and more engineering reasonable at -50 ±20 0C, than at the equator with -20 0C, but with a daily swing of ±100 0C. Using solar power, it is obviously preferable to have a base located where it can have near continuous sunlight, versus one at the equator where the 14 day-night cycles will necessitate huge battery arrays for power during the long nights. NASA is planning various orbiter and lander missions commencing in two years. The early lander missions will utilize rovers in search of the supposed water-ice and for exploration of potential lunar base locations. With time, missions will involve more robotic and tele-robotic operations in preparation for establishing the Base. These robotic and autonomous projects will effectively begin the In-Situ Utilization (ISRU) of the lunar regolith for production of propellants and for the construction of habitats. Hopefully the bedspreads will be turned down by these robots when the first humans arrive in 8 years.