- with low-cost transport, where would international astronauts go? -


There is some good work being done by Michelle Hanlon (For All Moonkind) and others seeking to preserve historic artifacts on the Moon. This includes things such as the Apollo landing craft, Soviet landers and rovers, footprints, etc. The Space Development Network joins the many others who support this work.

Various efforts are being made to ensure that the historic artifacts will be preserved for future generations. Ultimately, the goal is to achieve and internationally-recognized agreement whereby the historic sites are preserved from damage by the curious who would like to take a little "souvenir" for home.

Whereas there is likely no life that needs protecting on the surface of the Moon, there is an environment. For example, later visitors might disappointed to find a landscape covered with rover tracks. Tracks and boot prints on the Moon will remain visible (even pristine) for a very long time. Yet there are historic (e.g. firsts) tracks and boot prints that would be considered historic as they tell an important tale. What to do?

As a lunar lander comes down, its exhaust velocity exceeds orbital speed at kilometers per second. The lunar dust is very fine grain such that each landing essentially sandblasts the area. It is generally felt that vehicles should not land closer than two kilometers from important artifacts lest those artifacts get covered by a layer of dust and in the case of boot prints, go away completely. Telerobots could create sintered (microwaved) landing pads which could help but two kilometers is not too far for visitors to travel by rover after landing.

Keeping the lunar landscape free from a lot of rover tracks is possible using two approaches. The first would be to create a network of roads between locations likely to be those most highly visited. This page goes into some depth as to how those roads could be made. But in a nutshell, solar-powered telerobots could smooth out and compact the lunar dirt so that crew and cargo vehicles could drive over them at fairly high speeds allowing for transport from poles to equator in a couple or so days. Telerobots operating 24/7 could begin constructing these dirt roads even prior to crew arrival. Visitors travel around the Moon using these roads. Whereas electric, self-driving vehicles would be slower that using a refueled lander to do a suborbital hop, they wouldn't require the energy-expensive process of producing propellant from the lunar polar ice.

By clicking here one can view the many sites that have been identified as likely interesting during a large, International Lunar Exploration Phase (ILEP). The goal is to identify which of these sites would make up a Grand Tour of the Moon, map out that "freeway network", and then branch off spurs to many of the other sites.

After visitors drive along the road network close to a site that they want to visit, there may be an untraveled distance between the road and the site. So, should the rovers just drive off the road thereby permanently marring the landscape?

It is proposed that, as science rovers, cargo vehicles, and crew vehicles drive off the roads, that they convert into "stick walking" mode. As the image to the right illustrates, this is where mobility would be achieved using poles as legs and that the poles would be pressed vertically down into the lunar dirt for each step. In this way, nearly invisible holes would be pressed into the ground thereby leaving behind little if any track.

Currently there are a few recognizable artifacts on the Moon from landers to rovers to impact sites. But, if a cost-effective, commercial transportation system were to be developed for transport between the Earth and the Moon, then as many as two-thirds of the countries of the world could afford to purchase at least one seat on a mission of lunar exploration. Given the decent number of countries that have had their own astronauts on the Mir or International Space Station, it seems likely that most all of those countries would take advantage of such an opportunity.

Each time astronauts from a new country landed on the Moon, they would be creating artifacts in the form of their boot prints of great interest to later visitors from that country. It would seem a pity if later visitors would mar that historic record. So, what could be done to preserve those many historic features?

As a lander lands at a new location, it would sandblast an otherwise undisturbed area. But dust being blown on dusty terrain wouldn't change the appearance substantially apart from the immediate blast pattern. But, as the astronauts exit the lander, they will be placing their historic, first boot prints on the ground and towards the destination site. As they get back into the lander and ascend, the blast would destroy their historic boot prints. Yet, an accompanying small telerobotic rover could place little plastic domes over their footprints thereby ensuring their preservation when the lander takes off again. Later visitors could land on a landing pad away from those historic boot prints and then ride walking stick chariots to the point of interest as well as to an area overlooking the track of the first explorers to that point.

Using thoughtful approaches, historic sites on the Moon could be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.

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