- how an off-Earth base could quickly become self-sufficient -


Electronics: Dr. Doug Plata explains how stockpiles could buy an Initial Base sufficient time to implement technology protocols to produce "good enough" electronics such as 8086-level chips which got us to the Moon.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for achieving complete Earth independence would be being able to produce electronics only from local resources.

Electronics is the place where the concept of sufficient supply becomes most important. Again, sufficient supply is where one launches certain components or materials not easily produced or found on the Moon. Then these materials are stockpiled at the base for later use. Doing so buys the colony time to implement technology protocols to produce good enough components.

Modern central processing units (CPUs) are almost magical. A modern AMD CPU measures about 3cm x 3 cm x 1 cm and yet, in that tiny space are about 20 billion transistors! So, a one ton, one cubic meter box could hold about 2,000 of these CPUs. We typically don't discard computers because their CPUs go bad but because someone is producing a better computer. So, CPUs typically can last for considerably more than 20 years. So, that one box, delivered on a lander could supply a growing base with its CPU needs for a very long time. Granted, there are more electronics in the base than just CPUs, but this illustrates the potential of the stockpiling of electronics. OK, but for sure, one day the stockpiled electronics will run out -- then what?

This is where good-enough electronics comes in. In 1978, Intel produces their 8086 chip. It was 16-bit, had 29,000 transistors, used a 3,000 nm etching process, and could process up to 10 MHz. Its processor rate was as fast as the Apollo Guidance Computer that lander the Eagle lander on the Moon. So, a much more easily-produced chip from 1978 was good enough for space travel. Whereas the latest CPU would take a high level of industrialization to produce, perhaps 40 year old electronics could be produced with modern, small equipment able to be produced from local resources. This is a topic that needs to be formally addressed by someone with expertise in that field.

A sufficient stockpile of electronics buys a colony enough time to become self-sustaining.

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