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   SAVE the astronauts' LIFE with the LSS   

When I look at the Apollo missions, I think that, the astronauts, was brave and great pilots but, FIRST OF ALL, I think they was LUCKY, very very lucky, incredibly lucky! Lucky to be (ALL of them!) alive despite the old technology used to build the vehicles and rockets (with the early computers, displays, chips, engines, fuel cells, spacesuits, etc.), despite the very little experience of NASA with the manned spaceflights (the first Apollo mission was SEVEN YEARS ONLY after the Glenn flight!) and despite the very risky "one-shot-or-die" moon missions' architecture: only one engine on the LEM descent stage, only one engine on the LEM ascent stage, only one engine on the Apollo Service Module to come back to earth, only one right trajectory to enter the earth atmosphere (with a very critic angle!) and a total life support (oxygen, energy, water, food) very close to the planned missions' lenght, a few days only!!!

In '60 the Apollo's technology was the only technology available and the, already very very high, costs of the Apollo program was not sufficient to build bigger rockets and vehicles, launch them with longer life support, plan and launch in a few hours a rescue mission if something goes wrong on the moon, etc. etc.

That was acceptable (and accepted) in the early days of spaceflights, but is no more accepted (nor acceptable) to-day especially after Challenger and Columbia accidents with 14 astronauts dead.

But, unfortunately (and incredibly!) also the "new" VSE/ESAS moon missions will copy EXACTLY the same OLD and VERY RISKY Apollo architecture, with a few days life support and the only (worst) difference of more missions and more astronauts per missions that will risk to die on the Moon!

Of course, all the spaceflights was, are and will be very risky, also with the better vehicles, but, I think, there is no reason to repeat the same (risky!) Apollo architecture, if we can (easy!) do a safer mission!

As I've already suggested in my ArianeX article, the only way to reduce (very very much!) the risk to fail many moon missions and lose many crews, is to increase the astronauts' life support time on the moon, with 2+ Crew Habitats and a 6+ months of extra life support, and in lunar orbit, with this modular Lunar Space Station and 6+ months of life support, to be used for standard (very long!) moon missions and if something goes wrong on the moon or in lunar orbit, to wait for a manned rescue or a new remote-controlled CEV or LSAM sent from earth or for one or more automated re-supply vehicles and, of course, the Crew Habitats and the Space Station, must be sent before the first manned missions!

The Lunar Space Station can be built with many standard modules sent with single CaLV or SLV launches and assembled in lunar orbit remote-controlled from earth; like the ISS, each LSS module may have a 20+ years life-cycle (with re-supply) full internal systems and devices (for easy repair and maintenance) 6+ months of (standard) life support for 8 astronauts each (extended infinitely with automated re-supply vehicles!) endless energy with solar panels, recycled water, orbital reboost/change using CEV engines, 2+ airlocks and 4+ CEV/LSAM hatches, external parking for reusable-LSAM fuel tanks, hardware, extra re-supply, extra life support, undockable or undocked vehicles, GPS, comm, etc.

The first LSS may be like the image in this page (that you can also see in 3-D with RED-BLUE glasses in my 3-D images page!) with only two modules but, in a few years, 6+ modules can be launched to have THREE full (2 modules, 16 astronauts, 6+ months standard life support, each) Lunar Space Stations in three different equatorial positions and the right altitude to cover/communicate/observe between the space stations and with the entire moon surface (including the far side and the north/south pole) and with all the vehicles/habitats/astronauts/modules/LSAMs, lunarSUVs, etc. giving and receiving accurate moon surface positioning like the GPS, orbital and earth-moon-earth travels and positioning for safe and accurate flights from/to earth and from/to/around the moon (like a mixed earth's Norad & airline traffic control) and to send/receive/relay all the hi-res 3-D images that come from moon and orbital cameras!

A better LSS design may be with large (12+ meters each) modules that rotates slowly to give to the astronauts an half-earth gravity to avoid the health's problems to live and work months with the zero orbital gravity and the low moon gravity, also, the big modules may have an internal radiation shield (at its center) to save the astronauts' life and the most important/critic electronics from sun flares!

About LSS costs... the astronauts' life is priceless, of course, then, costs don't matter... but the LSS costs don't need to be so "high" since its modules/hardware may be like the ISS modules/hardware then they may have a long life-cycle (and multiple re-supply) with low R&D and manufacturing costs.

I think that the full LSS system with three lunar space stations each built with two standard modules launched with six CaLV may costs less than $10 billion ...or "$ 0.oo", if NASA converts its "proprietary" VSE plan to an "international VSE plan" with all LSS modules/hardware built by ESA (that has 10 years of experience with the ISS and an excellent technology!) and the full manufacturing & launch costs paid with ESA (extra) funds, also, all modules may have the hatches for to-day's and future spacecrafts built in Russia and China to accomplish many international moon-exploration/re-supply/rescue missions.

But the REAL (and GIANT) money saving (and a moon exploration "quantum leap"!) may happen if NASA changes (now!) its (bad!) "100% expendable" rockets/vehicles/moon-missions' architecture to use only a 20+ times reusable LSAM for moon exploration, that will reduce the missions' costs, needs only ONE mid-size rocket to launch all the moon hardware and will MULTIPLY by TEN the number of moon landings/missions because each Crew may stay 3+ months on the LSS and accomplish 10+ moon landings/missions (with multiple LSAM re-supply/re-fuel/maintenance) then, they come back to earth!

Last but not least, the "LSS/moonHabitats/reusableLSAM" architecture may have a (very intersting) POLITICAL ADVANTAGE for NASA, because, if they use the (very expensive!) "all-in-one" ESAS architecture, the ENTIRE plan may delay many years after the first (little!) "shuttle-like" problem or may END if some crews will die on the moon (or if the TV audience after 3 missions will be too low...) while, if NASA will use the early VSE funds to build some (20+ years stable) "infrastructures" on the moon and in lunar orbit, they can be sure to receive all the funds to maintain/re-supply/support the LSS and (maybe) also the funds to accomplish many moon missions (or a few with its annual budget).

June 5 - 2006

[update] More about the ESA Lunar Space Station and architecture.
 

>>>>>>  If you talk/discuss about this argument on space forums/blogs/websites/magazines/articles please refer to the source of the idea and/or put a link to this article. Thank You. <<<<<<<<<<

Copyright © 2006 Gaetano Marano - All rights reserved - The base images used for the drawings are © NASA

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