29 thoughts on “You Don’t Say”

  1. I don’t see how. Judging from Oregon Trail, the ways a pioneer dies are:

    a fever – almost impossible
    dysentery – impossible
    measles – impossible
    cholera – impossible
    typhoid – impossible
    exhaustion – unlikely
    a snakebite – impossible
    a broken leg – almost impossible
    a broken arm – almost impossible
    drowning – impossible

      1. The key to avoiding cannibalism is to bring more food and fewer people, and to ignore Biden’s green directive to allow folks only one hamburger a month.

        One thing that I think will slow things down is if the astronauts on extended lunar stays start showing signs of radiation damage, such as the destruction of dendrites from cosmic rays. Virtually all prior lunar base plans including burying the habitats under the regolith. Current Starship plans have it standing erect like a big grain silo with the crew quarters up top. Based on what everyone knows about radiation exposure outside the Van Allen belts, that’s not going to work out for anything longer than stays of a few weeks.

        I anticipate SpaceX will quickly shift gears.

        They could rework Starship’s lunar descent engines so it lands horizontally instead of vertically, allowing a shielded permanent habitat to roll out of the forward section.

        They could switch to having Starship take on the role of the CSM module and S-IVB, with Starship deploying a large dedicated habitat that would perform the lunar descent while Starship stays in lunar orbit.

        They could design a lunar Starship to be the permanent habitat, handling the entire descent, landing horizontally, and then covering it with regolith, with the main propellant tanks getting converted into more habit or storage areas.

        They’ll figure something out pretty quickly because their design cycle time is so short.

        However, the experience will likely show the importance of providing radiation shielding for the Mars transports, and that will probably result in a dedicated coast stage, perhaps one that also provides some level of spin-induced artificial gravity.

        One of the hallmarks of actual settlement is when the settlers abandon the notion of just living on the ships that brought them.

        1. Or you forgot to mention: re-orient Starship minus fins to land nose first, with some degree of force due to delta-V from trans lunar injection maneuver. Thereby burying Starship at least to the engine section deep enough into the regolith to avoid radiation exposure. Recommend hardening of the nosecone section and perhaps Starship not be crewed during the landing er, touchdown phase.

          1. They could fly Starship into a large lava cave, though that didn’t work out real well for the Millennium Falcon due to the giant space worm.

          2. Recommend hardening of the nosecone section and perhaps Starship not be crewed during the landing er, touchdown phase.
            After some afterthought, that should be called the ‘boring phase’…. Starship could borrow some gear from the Boring Co. for the nosecone….

        2. For a permanent habitat, use an inflatable donut. The donut hole would be a hard module. The outer part would be the inflatable. Place the inflatable donut in a lava tube. That will protect the settlers from cosmic, and solar radiation. It would also offer a heat sink. The hard module would have the life support, bathroom, electrical supply, and communications.

          Each inflatable donut houses 6 people. Place 5 of these on the Moon. That will house 10 astronauts, and 20 settlers. The settlers would do the maintenance, food production, fuel production, and cleaning. Some operations would be done from Earth.
          Then build community size inflatables. These are 100 meters long, and 25 meters wide. These will house 80 settlers, and astronauts. That’s 80 people for each inflatable. The buildings inside of these inflatables would be about 4 stories tall. Ladders would be used to go from one floor, to another.

          Nest build glass tubes. These will be about 200 meters long, and 50 meters wide. Each residential tube would house 130 settlers. That’s about 65 per an acre. This would look like a smaller version of an O’neill space colony.
          Some of these glass tubes would be used for residential. Others would be used for agriculture, business, and government.

          Much later on. The terraforming of lava tubes. All settlements should be in lava tubes, or craters that can be covered over.

          1. Inflatable habits would serve dual use. One for establishing [sub]surface habitats the other for interplanetary spacecraft modules. Again attached to a hard truss, ala Nautilus X. Rather than being stuck on any given surface, my druther would be an interplanetary EV (Exploratory Vehicle) traversing the solar system. Okay so maybe I’d get only ONE planetary mission before having to ‘yield my seat/lab-bench’ to another researcher. The most interesting one(s) I’d sign up for is any of: Ceres, Ganymede or Europa.

        1. Don’t send the Donner Party or the British Navy, problem solved.
          Sir, I object! Cannibalism has been virtually eliminated from the Royal Navy! That such slurs persist into the 21st Century are an assault on sensibility and good taste!

          – Vice Admiral Sir Robin ‘Candylegs’ Tastes-Lichicken

          1. And let us not forget the outraged words of Charles Dickens, angered to hear of scurrilous Inuit reports that the dying men of the Franklin Expedition had resorted to cannibalism: “We submit that the memory of the lost Arctic voyagers is placed, by reason and experience, high above the taint of this so easily-allowed connection; and that the noble conduct and example of such men, and of their own great leader himself, under similar endurances, belies it, and outweighs by the weight of the whole universe the chatter of a gross handful of uncivilised people, with domesticity of blood and blubber.”

      1. And perhaps the worst:
        Microgravity Biodegeneration: 100% fatality after 10 years – unknown (let’s hope not, otherwise the only breakout to space will be the AC Clarke, brains-in-boxes approach or possibly L5 type space colonies).

        Another possibility, also considered in “The Expanse” and the highly under-rated “The Space Between Us”: Non-lethal bone degeneration or other degenerative effects with: 15% mortality on Mars. 35% mortality if returned to Earth after 10 years, 90% mortality if born on Mars and sent to Earth without bio-augmentation. Brittle bone syndrome on steroids, pardon the pun.

          1. Depends on what you are using for propulsion. If you are doing ion-electric it would never need to be in ‘free-fall’, but always accelerating pro-grade and retro-grade. The only time you’d need to rotate is when in orbit around another body. And the brief periods during which you are re-aligning the velocity vector. Perhaps the orbiting vehicle is a separate ship that detaches from the always accelerating ‘solar-cycler’.

            Anyway I digress. I looked at your link. It could work, but the decks would need to be curved in the extended cylinders. Esp. the decks nearest the outer edge. Seems more fanciful to implement than Nautilus-X which leverages a lot of technology that already exists (except for propulsion and perhaps electrical power and cooling).

            Besides there is an advantage to having a part of your vehicle always in zero g.

          2. Make that plasma-electric. Not sure you’d get appreciable g out of ion-electric, appreciable V yes, but that would be true of both.

    1. A more likely lists for Mars would include:
      – landing accident
      – equipment failure
      — life support
      — electrical system
      — food storage
      — just about any other major system
      – radiation sickness
      – micro meteorite impact during EVA
      – death as a result of injury

      I’m sure we can come up with others.

      1. I think the jury is still very much out on the effects of low gravity. It will be sad if this is a silent killer that we never paid attention to.
        Zero gravity we already know.

  2. In the 1960’s Douglas proposed landing an S-IV on the lunar surface to use as a habit. It would land vertical, but then would be lowered by extended jacks to become horizontal at which point it would be covered with regolith. Do the same with a Starship, then since the engines won’t be needed to keep the center of gravity low just pull them and return them for reuse.

    1. There’s a whole lot that could be optimized. Why even fly a Raptor all the way to the lunar surface? As an architecture, Starship is akin to the direct ascent ideas of the 1950’s, and horribly inefficient in terms of mass leaving LEO.

      But as a system, it’s going to be well-proven, ubiquitous, and dirt cheap. I ran some number last year and my vague recollection is that a Starship fueled in high orbit (basically a GTO orbit) could deliver about 400 tonnes to the lunar surface and still make it back to LEO, if it aerobraked. That’s about 50 Apollo missions worth of mass in one go, if we counted the entire LEM on the surface as payload mass.

      Just looking at launch costs, if Elon can get a Starship up for $25 million, then even if it takes three fuel tankers to fuel a single lunar mission, he’s coming in at $100 million for 400 tonnes delivered to the moon, or $250K per tonne. If the SLS takes two launches per lunar mission with Orion and some new Apollo-like lander, via the Gateway, the recurring cost would be about $200 million per tonne, or 800 times more expensive than Starship.

      If Elon were to optimize the system to be more mass efficient, say gaining a 20% increase in payload capacity, but that increased the cost by more than 20% due to design, fabrication, and testing costs, the system would end up being less cost-efficient. That would also run the risk of delaying operations by many years as a completely new design gets developed.

      Inefficient but cheap should beat efficient but currently unaffordable and unavailable. I’m reminded of Alan Turing’s quip about why the Americans beat the British to the first fully programmable computer. He said the Americans badly wanted a computer, and the British wanted a well-run development program.

      1. How would lunar dust affect the exposed raptor? Even using different engines shown in animations, the raptors are still exposed to dust from all of the activites people engage in after they land. Could the lunar dust be an issue when landing back on Earth?

        1. Seems unlikely. The high-mounted ring of thrusters used for terminal descent and initial ascent just do the near-surface parts of both descent and ascent. Most of ascent will be Raptor-powered. Vibration should clear all or most of any lunar dust initially adhering. Re-entry at Earth, and the passage through atmosphere at high speed, should take care of any residuum.

          Lunar dust is mainly a problem if it gets into moving parts. Just being on Starship external surfaces shouldn’t cause any problems.

          Keeping dust out of the hatch mechanisms is one good plus to having the main hatch located so high up. The main mechanism that has to incorporate active measures against dust incursion, I should think, would be the elevator hoist/track mechanism. The base of the elevator cage seems to be mesh. That would allow for a short elevator ascent pause fairly low down to allow crew returning from surface excursions to stomp and clap most of the dust off themselves before proceeding higher.

          1. Alice: “Astronauts on elevator, prepare for anti-dust procedure.”
            Bob: “Roger.”
            Alice: Flips toggle switch off/on a couple of dozen times.
            Bob: “Wait, is this really in the SOP?”
            Alice: Giggles.

          2. “The base of the elevator cage seems to be mesh. That would allow for a short elevator ascent pause fairly low down to allow crew returning from surface excursions to stomp and clap most of the dust off themselves before proceeding higher.”

            That may require more. In the Moon’s vacuum environment, static charge is an *enormous* factor in dust movement. It is likely, however, that since the dust on the surface gets electrons driven off by UV & X-Ray wavelengths, their static charge is positive. Charge up the Starship, and elevator, and crew, positively, and the dust should be substantially ameliorated.

          3. While you are very knowledgeable and lay things out very well, I think this falls into the realm of we wont know for sure until we try.

            This is exciting because we are moving from “knowing” to doing and everyone’s imaginings will be tested, or have the opportunity to be tested. There could be a lot of outcomes people respond to like, “Of course this happened. We knew X was like this the entire time.” and, “Wow, we had a good idea how things worked but we never expected this problem to pop up.”

            I think the most interesting thing to watch will be what happens with Zubrin as things change from aspirational to perspirational.

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