Wednesday, 14 November 2012

A Moon with a view.

One of the main reasons that nobody has returned to the Moon is the lack of things to do there beyond studying the Moon. It was for the most part easier to do investigations from Earth or from orbit. However this is not without its problems, while the lack of gravity has it uses it also has it's handicaps. In the case of manned vehicles it means that they are very noisy as no gravity means no convention to move the hot exhaled air away from your mouth, so if you lay asleep you would literally suffocate on your own exhaled breath.
Being in a hard vacuum makes cooling things down very difficult as the vacuum of space has the same effect as the vacuum in a Thermos flask, only it is a far harder vacuum.
In orbit you are moving very fast as are lots of other things, often in different directions, so it is perfectly possible if not likely you will hit these things on a regular basis, plus if you want to give a patch of sky a good hard stare then you have to slew then you have to make sure the Earth doesn't get in the way.
For radio astronomers there is the neighbourhood it is very noisy with signals from mobile phones and WiFi to radars popping up all the time, from earth.
The moon however provides a good place to look from, sure it moves, but not as fast as a Low earth Orbit Satellite. The moon rotates slowly once every 28 days meaning that for 10+ days in a row and a particular point in the Sky is visible. Though you have to cope with a 14 day lunar night so you need some pretty big batteries or other regenerate power source.
The weather is the same day in and day out, with the odd burst of brain melting radiation from the occasional Coronal Mass Ejection or Solar Proton Event, which do not have to be handled if you in LEO as you're still protected by the Earth's magnetic field.
With a firm base to anchor to heat can be dumped into the ground far quicker than being radiated into space and there there are no consumables that can run out as you do not need any reaction rockets, you also do not need flywheels to maintain your orientation.
The reason for holding back was there was no rocket big enough to get a lander and telescope there. Well hopefully NASA new system called the Space Launch System will solve that problem.
With the various private crew launch vehicles being built, it really does not need to be man rated but what it does need is the design of a specific lunar transfer module, the speed out there is not important so you transfer can be with ion motors, though something a bit meatier will be needed for landing but it could be done and it should be done.
With a decent telescope you could even do some nice earth observation on the near side whilst on the far side yours as shielded from Earth with its noise as you can be. Then all you need is an orbiting communications satellite to store and forward data.

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