- establishing humanity's first, permanent foothold off Earth -


The goal of the Apollo program was to land astronauts on the Moon and to safely return them to Earth. People walking on the Moon! How amazing is that! And that is exactly what happened. Now doubt those working on the Apollo program understand that those first steps on another world and the words spoken would go down into history. Words such as:

    President Kennedy - "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade..."

    Neil Armstrong - "One small step for giant leap for mankind".

When we return to the Moon, will it be history making or just a ho-hum repeat of something that happened over 50 years ago? Well, it all depends upon how we do it.

We are approaching a point in time that could prove to be a very historic moment -- at the level of Christopher Columbus or Plymouth Rock. The moment that humans start moving off Earth will be looked back upon as when it all started. And just like during the Apollo program we can know that we are writing history while we do it. But it makes a great difference exactly how we do it.

NASA's current Default Plan is to establish a Lunar Gateway, do a sortie-class mission with a man and the first woman to step on the Moon and then continue with sortie missions until a permanent base is established. The plan is for occasional visits to the base to maintain telerobots and conduct some science. That permanent base is compared to the McMurdo station in Antarctica.

Frankly, this is not a very history approach. Yes, the first woman on the Moon will be a big deal. But it probably will be somewhat below the significance of the first man on the Moon -- Neil Armstrong in 1969. Neither McMurdo base in Antarctic nor even the International Space Station are viewed as turning points in human history. In America, each year we celebrate and retell the story of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. But some astronauts going back and forth to a permanent base just isn't at that level. But could we write a different story that generations in the future would tell their children?

SpaceX is developing its Starship super heavy lift vehicle in Boca Chica, TX. It makes possible a turning point in human history where humanity first began moving beyond Earth. A fully and rapidly reusable vehicle capable to transporting 100 people per launch to Mars and more to the Moon will not only enable exploration but, more importantly, the establishment of permanent bases / settlement. The development of the Starship is proceeding faster than anything we have seen in recent memory. It seems entirely plausible that a permanent lunar base will be established on the Moon by 2030 and a permanent base established on Mars by 2035 because of Starship.

The key to writing a truly historic program comes from the true understanding of the term "settlement". Fundamentally, settlement is one sells their home, moves to another place, and establishes a new home there. We call it "settling down". And a home is where your family is.

So, the basic elements to the start of space settlement would be a permanent habitat with life support and such, families starting with the simplest form of couples, the environmental conditions where these individuals could remain at the growing base for an indefinite length of time, and their base eventually growing up to become a large settlement akin to a town.

It should be noted that a government base and the start of settlement are nearly identical. In both cases, one needs permanent habitats, life support, and mechanisms to utilize local resources. Approaches to extending crew stay would help the government both financially and from a risk standpoint and would allow the private settlers to remain "indefinitely" meaning for as long as possible. Those approaches include telerobotically covering the habitats with lunar dirt and the use of an indoor centrifuge to provide several hours of full gee each day.

So, the only difference between government astronauts in this setting and the first settlers is that the former are there only for the job whereas the latter are settling down into their new homes while doing their job.

Due to the similarities, it is here proposed that America's space policy intentionally seek to seize the historic prize of establishing humanity's first, permanent, off-Earth foothold (i.e. the first space settlement). A set of public-private program (aka "Lunar COTS") should be used to fund not initial science-related sorties but private, company crew whose job it will be to maintain and expand the telerobotic workforce harvesting lunar polar ice for propellant. That reusable transportation system will then be used by US astronauts, international astronaut/settlers, and private settlers.

THE HISTORIC STORY describes an approach to developing space including a scenario for how humanity's first, small colony could be established. In particular, read through the scenario of the first four crew missions as they lay out a story which would be both significant and memorable.

By choosing the settlement approach to our next lunar return, we can knowingly write the story of off-Earth settlement and seize that historic prize.

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