|Posted by Rohvannyn on June 3, 2011 at 1:11 PM|
The next few entries we’ll devote to a minimal expenditure base on Luna and the investigation of what investments must be made to keep a dozen residents alive for an extended period. Initially I’d like to point out that the recent publicity concerning evidence of water on the Moon and how much closer it brings us to Lunar colonization is perhaps overstated. In the early phases of lunar settlement agriculture will be a marginal proposition and I suspect it will be unwise to use lunar water for propellant manufacture as it is likely to prove a limited and therefore precious resource. It’s also the case that water would appear to be concentrated in the polar regions of the Moon where sunlight may be available most of the time yet not in the concentrations available at the equator. The ability to store heat at high temperature in rock bins and (cold) similarly during the lunar night, offers a potential for using simple and relatively inexpensive heat engines throughout the lunar day/night cycle In the absence of green plants at least initially; there will be found to be advantages in access to very high and very low temperatures.
Anyone who has planted a successful garden knows that there’s a lot more to growing vegetables than simply pushing seeds into any available substrate and pouring water on it. We may be able to farm moon dust but it will need to be inoculated first with a range of fungi and bacteria needed to support growth. Soil has it’s own ecology and this doesn’t develop immediately. We may be able to grow algae in an aqueous environment and this may allow us to mulch prospective soil among other things but growing a sufficient amount to feed everyone in the base will require a good deal of energy and in the absence of a nuclear reactor, will require a good deal of window or plastic film to admit sunlight.
Any plan for a Lunar outpost must depend initially at least; upon food shipped from Earth, probably freeze-dried and possibly mixed with seed and grain for sprouting and bread manufacture. It takes about a half kilo of dry mass food to feed a person for a day so 12 persons will require around 2,200 kilograms per year. Rounding up to 2,500 for packaging and a single Apollo Mission of Old could feed our dozen for a couple of years.
Even totally dry, a food ration has the potential when burned within the body with oxygen; to yield about 1/3 liter of water in the form of exhaled vapor. Cooking oxygen out of Lunar soil and suitably recycling air as well as other metabolic outputs will continuously increase our water supply. In the absence of green plants it will also help us build a feed stock of carbon dioxide which will be useful in a variety of ways. Next time we’ll have a look at building a lunar shelter then we’ll continue to look at the semi-open but potentially closable, life support for permanent residency on the Moon.