Illustration of NASA astronauts at the South Pole of the Moon. The mission ideas we see today have at least some heritage from the early days of the space age. Author: NASA

It’s only natural to look at the moon and wonder what it would be like to live there. Thanks to Buzz Aldrin, who landed there in 1969, we know it’s a beautiful wasteland. Even before the Apollo missions, science fiction writers and scientists knew how desolate this place was. But, back in the late 19th century, they also saw it as a natural outpost. So did NASA, the former Soviet Union and their respective militaries. And this led to people on both sides coming up with elaborate plans to put bases on the moon.

It was probably for strategic use, but there were also positive scientific reasons for building these outposts. The last historical treatise published in Acta Aeronautica looked at some of these plans. The ideas behind them, especially from the US side, were quite strong. The planners wanted to show that the US was quite capable of creating the technology to get to month the first.

The military is involved in lunar bases

After its creation in 1958, NASA began designing lunar bases. There have already been some interesting proposals from the US Air Force and Army around the space exploration sector. The idea of ​​the Air Force was the LUMAN project in 1958. It included a three-part goal of sending military astronauts to the moon by 1964. The first step was called Most Likely Man in Space (MISS). The idea was to send humans into space, preferably before the Soviets did. Once the US achieved this, the plan was to implement LUREC (Lunar Reconnaissance). It would send an orbiter to the moon. Then the manned lunar landing and return phase would begin, eventually sending humans to the moon by the 1964 deadline.

Interestingly, Neil Armstrong featured prominently in the group of astronauts who will be participating. But the program outlined by the Air Force was canceled and revived as Project Mercury. As we all know, Armstrong did fly into space and became the first man to set foot on the moon

Not to be left out of the moon race, the US Army came up with Project Horizon. This was a feasibility study for a military base on the moon in 1959. German-American rocket scientist Wernher von Braun was part of the short-lived project. He went on to become the first director of NASA, and the Army’s research ideas continued into the Apollo project. This included the development of the Saturn V rocket, which led to the development of the Saturn I7, which eventually became the Saturn V.

Bombing the moon, searching for water and mining on the moon

Probably one of the weirdest ideas (which thankfully never came to fruition) was the Air Force’s secret plan to send nuclear bomb to the moon and went. The planners had, in their opinion, a good scientific basis for such an experiment, but it literally failed.

The mission planners, who didn’t plan to nuke the moon, came up with good plans for long-term habitation. They designed living modules to be buried under the lunar regolith. Underground cities will protect lunar visitors from radiation, meteorite bombardment and other surface hazards. In addition, Art mission teams thought long and hard about using natural resources to produce water, oxygen, and other materials for residents to use.

Much of In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is part of modern mission planning, not just for future lunar bases. The infrastructure of the Mars mission will also benefit from this. Many of the early ideas for lunar mining are part of what NASA hopes will be lunar bases in the coming decades and habitats on Mars in the distant future.

Still looking at the moon

The history of lunar base mission planning contains many other projects that never made it off the drawing board in their original form. But they were not completely rejected. They are a reflection of a period in history when the “best and brightest” in the two countries faced challenges while staring into space.

Almost 55 years have passed since Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. The mission plans he followed may have been born in the first half of the 20th century, but they laid the foundation for the Apollo missions and beyond. And the ideas in those plans still resonate with today’s scripts.

Today, we watch the Artemis program slowly work its way through enormous challenges, and the Gateway project takes shape. New generations of planners are involved: scientists, astronauts, engineers and others are creating new and improved plans to settle the Moon. And it’s not just US plans. For example, China is targeting possible settlements. Underlying all these scenarios are some of the basic principles first laid out by 20th century planners and well-informed science fiction writers who brought the idea of ​​lunar bases to the public. The dream of lunar bases is still alive.

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Additional information:
Sandra Hauplik-Meisburger et al., Reflections on Early Lunar Base Design—From Sketch to First Moon Landing, Acta Astronautica (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2022.09.021

Citation: NASA Designs Lunar Bases Decades Before Armstrong First Walked on the Moon (2022, October 7) Retrieved October 7, 2022, from bases-decades-armstrong.html

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