Category Archives: Space Settlement

Space settlement roundup – May.13.2020

A  sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings):

** NIAC grant for Aqua Factorem, an Ultra Low-Energy Lunar Water Extraction system. This approach, briefly mentioned in an earlier roundup, takes

advantage of the processing that the unique lunar geology has already performed. Micrometeoroid bombardment has already broken most solid material in the upper part of the regolith into fine grains. This includes solid material of all compositions, including the ice, which is as hard as granite at PSR [Permanently Shadowed Regions] temperatures and is therefore essentially another type of rock. These ice grains are intermixed with all the other minerals, so a simple, ultra-low-energy grain-sorting process can extract the ice without phase change.

As another benefit it can extract the 1 wt% free metal known to be in lunar soil, again with very little energy. The ice can then be hauled to the chemical processing unit in solid phase and converted into rocket propellant. We estimate the 800 kW power needed for thermal extraction can be reduced to less than 100 watts using the new method. This affects the entire architecture of the mining operation producing extensive economic benefit, which we will quantify in this study.

We will study it in the context of a mission to mine propellants commercially for space tugs that boost commercial communication satellites from Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) to Geostationary Orbit (GEO) then return to the lunar surface for refueling. This simple architecture requires the minimum number of in-space elements, and notably does not require an in-space propellant depot, so it provides the lowest cost and lowest risk startup for a commercial operation. The study will also test the innovative Aqua Factorem process through laboratory experiments, and this will produce basic insights into the handling of lunar resources.

“Graphic depicting the Aqua Factorem: Ultra Low-Energy Lunar Water Extraction concept.” Credits: Philip Metzger

See also

** Lots more articles on lunar mining and settlements:

** Space Settlement Progress – “Cutting edge technology enabling settlement of the final frontier” – John Jossy writes on a wide range of space settlement related topics. A sampling of recent postings:

** AIAA whitepaper offers recommendations on development of in-space infrastructure:

Executive summary:

Expanding our economic sphere beyond Earth will bring humanity greater prosperity and security. A space-based economy has already taken root. There are hundreds of communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit, the Global Positioning System has made terrestrial navigation with cell phones commonplace, weather satellites warn us of approaching hurricanes, wealthy tourists are paying for space adventures, and the International Space Station has welcomed numerous commercial initiatives. The prospects for further economic expansion into space seem full of promise with plans to send human exploration missions beyond Earth orbit to open new frontiers.

To enable this process we start by asking a few fundamental questions: Why should we try to stimulate this economic expansion? What are the benefits to society? What steps can best facilitate it?

By drawing on parallels from history, we argue that enabling in-space infrastructure will stimulate economic expansion and generate significant benefits to people on Earth. In-space infrastructure would consist of the systems and services operating in Earth’s neighborhood to facilitate commerce, exploration, and scientific discovery. We postulate that there is an immediate need for at least a “critical mass” of in-space infrastructure to be planned, funded, and implemented to expedite broader, efficient, and easy access to cislunar space for all interested stakeholders/participants, and lay the foundation of a vibrant space-based economy.

Since a fully developed space economy will have worldwide significance and impact, we further suggest that a global advocacy for development of an in-space infrastructure should be initiated

Statement of attribution:

This paper was written in 2018, submitted to AIAA for review in January 2020, and approved by the AIAA Public Policy Committee in January 2020. The AIAA Space Exploration Integration Committee (SEIC) members are nationally and internationally renowned aerospace professionals with expertise in one or more space exploration-related disciplines. The SEIC also recruits students and young professionals who desire to serve the aerospace community at large and to become valuable assets to the community. This statement reflects the views and opinions of SEIC members and is not necessarily a position of AIAA at large.

** Check out the latest newsletter from The Space Resource, “an independent media platform dedicated to building an interactive community of space resources enthusiasts and professionals”.  The Space Resource Newsletter – April 2020 — The Space Resource.

Sampling of topics covered:

  • Synthetic asteroid under development for future in-space test.
  • US executive order signed that promotes utilization of space resources
  • NASA Lunar Flashlight to peer into lunar PSRs.
  • NASA accepting PRISM Request for Information (RFI) for future lunar missions.

** Nicole Shumaker – Research Synergy for Lunar Construction Methods at Texas A&M – CSP S02E30

Nicole Shumaker, Research Specialist at Texas A&M, is in a unique role focusing on identifying opportunities for and developing synthesis in lunar construction methods. What gaps are there in the field between research, institutions, business and government? That’s the key question Nicole is continuously answering, bringing people together in lunar construction efforts who may otherwise have not known the other existed. Resulting from her effort is acceleration of research and technology development in lunar construction. Nicole meets with host Jason Kanigan on the Cold Star Project to discuss her work and developments in lunar construction methods. Center for Lunar and Asteroid Surface Science (CLASS) website–see Programs and Seminars tab for recorded and upcoming lectures: NASA ISRU page:

** Speculation on the possibilities of settlements someday on the Galilean Moons of Jupiter: Viability of Colonizing the Galilean Moons | astrobites

… Developing a habitat on another celestial body is no simple task. With the challenges posed by long-duration space travel, the construction of habitats able to withstand extreme environments, and the physiological effects of living in a low gravity environment being of particular concern, the destination must be well worth the investment and struggles of the pioneering astronauts. Living within the influence of Jupiter has its own set of unique challenges stemming mostly from the intense radiation belts that result from the extreme magnetic field output by the gas giant. However, humans are adaptive and willing to take on challenges if nothing else. Instead of allowing these risks to turn us off to the idea of establishing permanent settlements on these moons, the unique features of Io, Ganymede, and Callisto should be analyzed through the lens of viability for inhabitation and their individual challenges viewed as exciting engineering problems to overcome.

** Daniel Faber – On The Way To A New Economy: Gas Stations In Space – Cold Star Project S02E36

Past Deep Space Industries CEO Daniel Faber today runs a company called OrbitFab. As a pioneer of space mining and resources development, what is Dan doing now? Kickstarting the next massive new space economy by creating “Gas stations in space”, that’s what!

** SpaceX Starships could enable space settlement in a shorter time than even many space enthusiasts thought possible. By far, the greatest hurdle to the expansion of humanity into the solar system is the extremely high cost of launching people and materials from the Earth’s surface into orbit. If the Starship/Super Heavy Booster vehicles fulfill the goals of SpaceX, this hurdle will finally be surmounted:

See the recent Space Transport Roundup that describes NASA’s selection of SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Dynetics to carry out studies of human lunar lander systems. SpaceX’s entry is based on a Starship customized for lunar operations.

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. Credits: SpaceX

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Space settlement roundup – April.15.2020

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings):

** NASA hang-out examined the role of civil engineering in developing the initial landing site on Mars: Paving the Road to Mars: Civil Engineering at the Human Landing Site – Feb.2020

Speakers from Bechtel, Kennedy Space Center, Langley Research Center, and NASA Headquarters join HLS2 steering committee co-chairs Paul Niles and Richard (Rick) Davis to discuss the use of Civil Engineering on Mars.

Speakers include:

• Pete Carrato (Bechtel, Fellow Emeritus)
• Rob Mueller (Swamp Works Kennedy Space Center, Senior Technologist/Primary Investigator)
• Michelle Munk (Langley Research Center, EDL System Capability Lead)

Here are the slides: Human Landing Site Hangout – Paving the Road to Mars: Civil Engineering at the Human Landing Site – NASA – Feb.27.2020 (pdf).

** More about building roads and structures on Mars from civil engineer Peter Carrato, who participated in the above hangout, in this recent Planetary Society Radio program: Building Our Future on Mars | The Planetary Society

How will we build the structures, roads and landing pads humans will someday need on Mars? Civil engineer Peter Carrato has been building grand structures on Earth for decades. He says the skills we’ve learned over thousands of years are well-suited for the much more challenging Martian environment.

**  A model for a Martian settlement: Why a business case for Mars settlement is not required – The Space Review

Some people have claimed that a “business case” for profitable interplanetary trade with a Mars settlement, or at least the identification a saleable product for trade, is required before such a settlement can be established or supported by business or government. But there is no reasonable prospect for trade in any significant mass of physical material from a Mars settlement back to Earth in the near future due to the high transport costs. In his recent article in the National Review, “Elon Musk’s Plan to Settle Mars,” Robert Zubrin makes exactly the same point: a business case based on physical trade is not necessary and makes little sense. Later trade and commerce via non-physical goods such as software is probable once a settlement is fully operational. More significant and interesting economic situations will occur on Mars.

A good model for the expenditures needed to found colonies is the Greek and Phoenician expansion all across the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas in the period early in Greek history (before about 600 BC), leading to the founding of one of the greatest trading cities in history, Carthage. The cities who founded each colony did not expect immediate profit, but wanted good places for an expanding population and knew that, once the new cities were established, trade would also become established. Most of the cost was probably in building more ships. When European colonies were first established in the New World by Spain and Portugal, the emphasis was initially on a search for treasure, not production of products. English and Dutch colonies later led the way to commerce across the Atlantic, with tobacco, sugar, and cotton suddenly becoming a major part of world trade.

A look at some of the steps required to create a Mars settlement will help us understand at least a little about Mars settlement economics. For a Mars settlement, motivation and economics are interwoven. It is possible for at least a partial business case to be made for the transport of settlers and the materials they will need to initiate some phase of Mars settlement. This includes the current effort to create a large number of reliable, low cost, and reusable super-heavy boosters and spacecraft, able to take payloads of 100 tons or more of cargo and passengers to Mars and land them at the right location. Part of this development and construction cost will be defrayed by commercial and government uses of the same vehicles, such as placing very heavy payloads in LEO and taking equipment and passengers to and around the Moon.

** A design for a first-generation in-space habitat settlement affordable at launch costs of $300/kg is proposed by Pekka Janhunen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki.:  Shielded Dumbbell L5 Settlement: New in the NSS Space Settlement Journal – National Space Society

We present a two-sphere dumbbell configuration of a rotating settlement at Earth-Moon L5. The two-sphere configuration is chosen to minimize the radiation shielding mass which dominates the mass budget. The settlement has max 20 mSv/year radiation conditions and 1 g artificial gravity. If made for 200 people, it weighs 89000 tonnes and provides 60 square meters of floor space per person.

The radiation shield is made of asteroid rock, augmented by a water layer with 2% of the mass for neutron moderation, and a thin boron-10 layer for capturing the thermalized neutrons. We analyze the propulsion options for moving the material from asteroids to L5. The FFC Cambridge process can be used to extract oxygen from asteroid regolith. The oxygen is then used as Electric Propulsion propellant. One can also find a water-bearing asteroid and use water for the same purpose. If one wants to avoid propellant extraction, one can use a fleet of electric sails. The settlers fund their project by producing and selling new settlements by zero-delay teleoperation in the nearby robotic factory which they own.

The economic case looks promising if LEO launch costs drop below about $300/kg.

I’ll note that SpaceX‘s Starship is aimed at achieving launch costs even below the $300/kg range at high flight rates.

A schematic diagram of the dumbbell design of a large space habitat. Credits: Pekka Janhunen via NSS

The full paper – Shielded Dumbbell L5 Settlement – NSS Space Settlement Journal (pdf) – and other reports are available at the NSS Space Settlement Journal website.

* Gateway Foundation releases an update on the design of a first-generation large scale space habitat, which they now call Voyager Station. This video discusses how the development of the SpaceX Starship could benefit the project.

** Overview of the 2019 Mining Space Summit held in Luxembourg: White Paper Focuses On ‘Major Takeaways’ From The 2019 Mining Space Summit – SpaceWatch.Global

The experts agreed that collaboration between terrestrial mining and commercial space will be crucial to the development technology and mission capabilities needed for a viable space resources industry.

Suggestions which might help jump start the collaboration process included a global competition based on the Google Lunar XPRIZE model and the development of ‘dual use’ Earth/space technologies.

Demand for space resources could potentially be driven by offworld outposts, space laboratories, Moon-based facilities and space tourism.

However, early development will require support from governments around the world, with sound legal agreements on ownership of resources and stable markets to sell them.

Governments and their agencies will also play a central role as the primary source of demand for this fledgling market.

The white paper Major Takeaways of the Mining Space Summit 2019 – Luxembourg Space Agency (pdf)

The second Mining Space Summit was a great success, as was the whole Space Resources Week. By attracting more representatives from the terrestrial resources industry, it represents an important step forward towards establishing a meaningful connection between two industrial sectors, terrestrial resources and space resources.

With the attendance of more than 180 experts, we had a significant increase of participants, only limited by the size of the breakout session groups. One important metric was the participant representation -58% from space, including start-ups and global players, and 42% from mining, oil and gas industries, finance,and (non-space) government sectors.

The Summit focused on two challenges that are key in enabling the success of the space resources sector: the viability of their business models and the development of critical technologies and operations.

This summary paper has provided the major results of the discussions, and will help to set the foundation for future work.

The 2019summit was only an intermediate step of a long-term process to identify areas of collaboration between the two industrial sectors.Space Resources Week2020, announced at the end of the ESA ISRU Workshop, will happen between the 5thand 9thOctoberandwill build on these results.

** TransAstra wins a NIAC grant for development of lunar propellant mining architecture: Lunar Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO) | NASA

The Lunar Polar Mining Outpost (LPMO) (see quad chart graphic) is a breakthrough mission architecture that promises to greatly reduce the cost of human exploration and industrialization of the Moon. LPMO is based on two patent pending inventions that together solve the problem of affordable lunar polar ice mining for propellant production.

“Graphic depiction of the Lunar Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO) concept.” Credits: Joel Sercel [Click for large image]

The first invention, Sun Flower™ stems from a new insight into lunar topography. We have found multi kilometer landing areas in lunar polar regions on which the surface is likely ice rich regolith in perpetual darkness but with perpetual sunlight available at altitudes of only 100s of meters. In these landing sites, which we found and mapped in our Phase 1 study, deployable reflectors on towers a few hundred meters tall (lightweight and feasible in lunar gravity) can provide nearly continuous solar power.

A large lander, such as the Blue Moon vehicle proposed by Blue Origin or lunar ice mining outpost can sit on mineable ice at ground level in perpetual sunlight provided by lightweight reflectors. A single New Glenn launch can deliver a Sun Flower with over 1 MW of solar arrays, tower, and reflector in an integrated package.

The second enabling innovation for LGMO is Radiant Gas Dynamic (RGD) mining. RGD mining is a new Patent Pending technology invented by TransAstra to solve the problem of economically and reliably prospecting and extracting large quantities (1,000s of tons per year) of volatile materials from lunar regolith using landed packages of just a few tons each….

** Several other NIAC awards went to technology projects relevant to space settlement. For example,

  • Fueling a Human Mission to Mars – Caroline Genzale (Georgia Tech Research Corporation):  Development of “a renewable, liquid, storage stable rocket propellant that can be produced and burned on Mars using bioorganisms to perform atmospheric in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). Utilizing 100% ISRU for propellant production, we aim to reduce the Entry Descent Landing (EDL) mass of a crewed mission to Mars by approximately 7 tons. This technology will enable long-term human presence on Mars and beyond because costly propellant deliveries from Earth would be unnecessary. We will genetically engineer organisms to efficiently convert the abundant CO2 in the Martian atmosphere into liquid hydrocarbons suitable for rocket propulsion and other energy needs on Mars.
  • Aqua Factorem: Ultra Low-Energy Lunar Water Extraction – Philip Metzger (University of Central Florida) – To extract water from lunar polar crater floors, this proposal takes “advantage of the processing that the unique lunar geology has already performed. Micrometeoroid bombardment has already broken most solid material in the upper part of the regolith into fine grains. This includes solid material of all compositions, including the ice, which is as hard as granite at PSR temperatures and is therefore essentially another type of rock. These ice grains are intermixed with all the other minerals, so a simple, ultra-low-energy grain-sorting process can extract the ice without phase change. As another benefit it can extract the 1 wt% free metal known to be in lunar soil, again with very little energy. The ice can then be hauled to the chemical processing unit in solid phase and converted into rocket propellant. We estimate the 800 kW power needed for thermal extraction can be reduced to less than 100 watts using the new method. This affects the entire architecture of the mining operation producing extensive economic benefit, which we will quantify in this study.
  • Instant Landing Pads for Artemis Lunar Missions – Matthew Kuhns (Masten Space Systems) – “The Masten in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique (FAST) Landing Pad changes the approach to landing on planetary bodies by mitigating the landing plume effects by creating a landing pad under the lander as it descends onto a surface. This approach uses engineered particles injected into the rocket plume to build up a coating over the regolith at the landing location. The hardened regolith would have greater thermal resistance and ablation resistance to reduce regolith erosion rates and deep cratering. This innovation would enable large and small landers to safely perform transportation to any region on the Moon without major risks posed by engine plume effects.

** Commercial lunar projects by Intuitive Machines and Masten Space receive support from NASA. In 2019, IM was among the first set of companies selected by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative to carry payloads to the Moon. This week IM announced the launch date for their Nova-C lander and the site where it will touch down: Launch Date and Landing Site Selected For 2021 Moon Mission – Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines (IM) engineers selected an area in Oceanus Procellarum near Vallis Schröterias the landing site for its upcoming IM-1 lunar mission with an anticipated launch date in October 2021.

Vallis Schröteri, also known as Schröter’s Valley, is the largest valley on the Moon (comparable in size to the Grand Canyon) and is surrounded by Oceanus Procellarum, the largest lunar maria on the Moon. Oceanus Procellarum, also called the Ocean of Storms, covers over 10 percent of the entire Moon and has a diverse array of geological features. NASA considered a site near Vallis Schröteri for Apollo 18; now, IM is taking up the baton to conduct the initial survey.

Nova-C, the first lander wholly developed by a private company, will deliver commercial cargo and five NASA-provided payloads to the lunar surface. These payloads will conduct scientific research and technology demonstrations as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, in preparation for sending astronauts back to the Moon in 2024.

Intuitive Machine’s Nova-C lunar lander. Credits: Intuitive Machines

Last week, NASA announced the selection of Masten Space (see post here) to

deliver and operate eight payloads – with nine science and technology instruments – to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024.

The payloads, which include instruments to assess the composition of the lunar surface, test precision landing technologies, and evaluate the radiation on the Moon, are being delivered under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative as part of the agency’s Artemis program.

Masten’s XL-1 lander will incorporate lessons and technologies derived from the company’s long experience with vertical takeoff and landing rockets. In addition to the NASA payloads, Masten expects to carry payloads from commercial customers.

Scott Manley gives a video report on Masten and the company’s lander:

Find more about the two projects at NOVA-C selects landing site, Masten gains CLPS contracts –

** Xplore awarded USAF grant to study ways to provide navigation services to the cislunar domain, i.e. from Earth to the Moon. Such systems would be similar to the invaluable GPS system used for a wide range of navigation and timing applications on earth: Xplore Receives USAF Award for Innovative Commercial Capabilities Around the Moon – Xplore

Xplore Inc., a commercial space company has announced they have won an Air Force award to study positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) solutions for cislunar space. The award category, for commercial and technical innovations between the Earth and the Moon — is entirely new for the Air Force, which is investigating the capabilities necessary to extend operations beyond geosynchronous orbit to now include cislunar space.

The Xplore plan would involve the company’s Xcraft, a standardized spacecraft platform that can be implemented for a variety of deep space missions:

Navigation considerations have been an integral part of Xplore’s development strategy since the company started rigorously developing its platform and multi-mission Xcraft™ — an ESPA-class space vehicle that will fly missions at destinations from Earth to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Lagrange points, near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) and other locations across the inner solar system. Beyond the more obvious hardware requirements for operating in extreme environments, Xplore will maximize the full value of its orbital assets by designing a PNT architecture that mirrors the accessibility and reliability of GPS for cislunar space. The Xcraft’s ability to operate across these vast distances provides tremendous value to customers in academia, industry, civil space and national security agencies.

An Xcraft at the Moon. Credits: Xplore

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Space settlement roundup – Mar.26.2020

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings):

** Joel Sercel – Mini Bee Prototype for Asteroid Mining – Cold Star Project S02E09 –

The Mini Bee asteroid mining craft prototype is the topic of this episode of the Cold Star Project, and Dr. Joel Sercel is our guest. Momentus Space and TransAstra are teaming up with a NASA NIAC grant and other investors to prove the concept of this new asteroid mining technology. Dr. Sercel has considerable experience in the space field, having designed JPL’s space project process. We cover:

– tradeoffs in vehicle design of the Mini Bee -process for Mini Bee proof of concept

– “process maturity” concept for Air Force projects he lead -biggest surprise in his JPL experience

– smallsat market predictions.

Mini Bee project info on NASA site:…

A NIAC infographic about the Mini Bee and optical mining concept:

Mini Bee optical mining system for extracting resources from asteroid and lunar material. Credits: Transastra Corp. & NIAC

** TransAstra’s Sun Flower solar powered module would enable extraction of water from permanently shadowed lunar craters at the poles:  TransAstra lunar outpost concept – Joel Sercel on LinkedIn

NASA has funded TransAstra to find a way to make a lunar outpost. Our system can evolve into a tourist destination and then grow into a city. The problem we had to overcome is that with today’s rocket technology launching just a single gallon of water to the Moon could cost upwards of $10M. Lunar outposts will need thousands of tons of water every year to drink, as a source of oxygen for air, and most importantly for rocket propellant. The best rocket propellant is made by breaking water into oxygen and hydrogen and liquifying the resulting gases at ultra low temperatures. Getting the water and turning it into rocket propellant will require megawatts of electric power. Solar arrays are not an option because the permanently shadowed regions that are expected to be loaded with ice haven’t seen the light of the Sun for billions of years.

Our new patent pending invention, the Sun Flower™ solves that problem. Sun Flower flies to the Moon as a single modular spacecraft and soft lands itself on the icy surface. With its landing legs stabilized on the icy lunar surface the tower grows vertically out of a modest package until the top of the tower is in the sun.

** ESA’s PROSPECT will extract materials from the crater floors of the Moon’s South Pole and look for water. The package will launch in 2025 as a payload on Russia’s Luna-27 lander: Hunting out water on the Moon – ESA

The overall payload is called Package for Resource Observation and in-Situ Prospecting for Exploration, Commercial exploitation and Transportation, or PROSPECT. A drill called ProSEED will extract samples, expected to contain water ice and other chemicals that can become trapped at the extremely low temperatures expected; typically -150 °C beneath the surface to lower than -200 °C in some areas. 

Samples taken by the drill will then be passed to the ProSPA chemical laboratory, being developed by an Open University team. These samples will then be heated to extract these cold-trapped volatiles and enable follow-up analysis.

ESA posts this “map of possible water beneath the surface of the Moon’s South Pole, based on temperature data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter”.

** Christopher Dreyer – Space Resources Program at the Colorado School of Mines – CSP S02E22

Dr. Christopher Dreyer is the Associate Director of Engineering and co-creator of the Center for Space Resources at Colorado School of Mines. The School offers an exciting Space Resources Program and Dr. Dreyer has played an integral role in developing it. Chris meets with Cold Star Project host Jason Kanigan to discuss the Program. We cover:

– how Chris got involved with the idea of asteroid mining

– the way one creates a curriculum for something that hasn’t existed before

– why the School decided to go with an online program format instead of in-class

– exactly what is taught in a course Dr. Dreyer developed for the program, such as Space Resources Fundamentals

– what if any relevance Earth-based capabilities and experience the Colorado School of Mines developed has for asteroid mining

– technologies available and being developed to prospect for and process resources in space

– how close or far away Dr. Dreyer believes we are to actual asteroid mining.

One of the first things I noticed on Dr. Dreyer’s LinkedIn profile was a recommendation from Dr. Joel Sercel, also a guest on this show. Dr. Sercel’s Momentus firm and Dr. Dreyer’s School do have a relationship and we discuss that in this episode. Dr. Sercel’s appearance is here:…

Space Resources Program:

** Elon Musk aims for a fleet of a 1000 Starships to transport thousands of people and thousands of tons of cargo every two years to Mars to build and maintain a permanent settlement until it can become self-sustaining.

Musk tweeted in January that the goal of his Starship transportation system to Mars will be to launch each of SpaceX’s reusable Starship rockets about three times per day, on average, while carrying a 100-ton payload on each flight. with roughly 1,000 flights per year carrying more than 100 tons of cargo on each flight. At that rate, Musk theorizes, each Starship rocket would make roughly 1,000 flights per year, launching a total of 100,000 tons of cargo into orbit.

“So, every 10 ships yield 1 megaton per year to orbit,” Musk also tweeted in January.

And 1,000 Starships could send “maybe around 100k people per Earth-Mars orbital sync,” Musk added on Twitter, referring to the period, every 26 months, when Earth’s and Mars’ orbits are best aligned for an interplanetary journey. “That’s the goal.”

Starships at a Mars settlement. Credits: SpaceX

** Bloomberg posted a series of videos last fall on various aspects of large scale space development such as space factories and  living in space. The full series will play out if you start with this one:

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Space settlement roundup – Feb.13.2020

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings):

**  Doug Plata of the Space Development Network gave two space settlement related talks at last fall’s convention of the Mars Society.  (There are many presentations available in the Convention Youtube collection.) The first of Doug’s talks was titled SpaceX Starship for Moon or Mars? in which he discussed

how, for each Starship, there would be 72 round trip flights to the Moon for every round trip flight to Mars. SpaceX could sell 72X more tickets if using their Starship for the Moon. For this reason, the Starship might end up being a Moon rocket initially.

The second talk was a Greenhouses Comparison:

Regarding the Space Development Network, Doug says,

For the last year, a great deal of work has been done developing one of the most extensive space advocate websites.  This website covers many aspects of space development, exploration, settlement, policy, and achieving Earth independence.  Not very many topics have been left out of the website.  So, check it out at:

Near-term plans for the Network are to inform more space advocates about the website and Network and the organizing of more working groups to move specific fields forward.

** The “Value of Mars Settlement” was discussed by Bishop James Heiser at the Mars Society Convention:

** Elon Musk recently sketched out how to enable a large Martian settlement using fully-reusable Starship transports: SpaceX’s Elon Musk and his plans to send 1 million people to Mars – Teslarati

Starship, which is currently in development for future deep-space travel, will be able to ferry as many as 100 passengers beyond low-Earth orbit. The way to achieving that goal is by reducing the cost of spaceflight. He would like for anyone who wants to go to Mars, to be able to.

“Needs to be such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don’t have money,” Musk wrote.

To that end, Musk said he wants to build a fleet of at least 1,000 Starships—and launch at least three of them every day.

The Starship system is the latest in SpaceX’s troupe of increasingly larger rockets. In 2018, the California-based aerospace company launched and landed its Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, generating 5 million pounds of thrust from the rocket’s 27 engines. But even that’s not powerful enough for Mars-based missions.

“Megatons per year to orbit are needed for life to become multi-planetary,”  Musk tweeted on Thursday.

But the ship would also be able to navigate the tenuous Martian atmosphere and land safely on the red planet’s surface.

Musk estimates that a fleet of 1,000 Starships, able to tote 100 megatons of stuff to Mars, would be required to build a permanent settlement. That fleet could transport about 100 passengers each, totaling 100,000 people per year.

A SpaceX vision of a Mars settlement built with people and cargo transported via Starships.

** Learning how to live in early space settlements is helped by both simulated habitats like those of the Mars Society and real habitats in remote places like Antarctica: Mock and Real Mars habitats on Earth – Behind The Black

What struck me however was the nature of the place and the experience of living at a polar station that had to manage on the supplies on hand, during an arctic winter with no sun and temperatures routinely colder than -90 degrees Fahrenheit. In many more ways that the situation at the Mars Society’s Utah facility, the U.S. South Pole station did a great job of simulating closely what living at an early Mars base will be like.

Interestingly, some of the differences would like make living on Mars easier then at that 1999 station. Because of the lack of full atmosphere on Mars, any Mars base must be sealed from the outside environment. At the south pole, they did not do this, so that the inside temperatures were generally colder than one would like. This also meant that the crews were somewhat oxygen-starved by the end of the mission, as the facility was also at about 9,000 feet elevation and thus had a thinner atmosphere then what you’d likely find inside a Martian base.

** The EuroMoonMars mission team simulates a lunar mission using the remote HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) facility on Hawaii: European crew wraps up mock moon mission on volcano in Hawaii –

A crew of six scientists returned from “the moon” Saturday to wrap up two weeks exploring a mock lunar landscape on the side of a Hawaiian volcano. 

The scientists began their mission on Jan. 18 and have been working and living at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS, habitat as part of the third EuroMoonMars mission (EMMIHS-III) — a series of analog missions run in collaboration with the European Space Agency, the International MoonBase Alliance and HI-SEAS.

The habitat, located on a remote slope of Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii, has hosted groups of researchers and explorers on analog moon and Mars missions since its installation in 2013. Analog missions such as this put researchers in remote environments that mimick a stay on Mars or, in this case, the moon. In this environment they can conduct research while testing what it might be like for humans to spend time at a remote, off-Earth location.

The Hi-SEAS space habitat simulation facility on the northside of Mauna Loa, Hawaii

Find latest messages from the project at EMMIHS (@EmmihsM) / Twitter.

** Here is a perspective on living in deep space: How to optimise your headspace on a mission to Mars – Aeon Ideas

If there’s one thing the limited research shows, it’s that it’s hard to predict who will cope best and work well together as the weeks and months, maybe even years, wear on. Many factors can boost the chances of success, however, especially if crew members give each other precisely the kind of support and encouragement that people in prison are deprived of.

A well-performing team needs talented leaders and a closely knit group of people. They need to build trust between each other while they’re training, long before the rocket blasts off. Diverse, international crews could help to overcome some challenges that might come up, but that diversity also sometimes results in cultural and interpersonal problems. A larger crew would likely perform better than a smaller one, but the team’s size will always be limited by how much weight and fuel can be launched.

Once they’re in space, people need to keep busy, and they need to think they have something worthwhile to do, even if it’s actually of limited value. They also need a tiny bit of privacy and entertainment at times, which might include something they brought from home or a simulation of the family and friends they left behind. While at work, the crew members need clear goals and procedures to follow in a wide range of situations. Only people shown to be resilient under pressure for long periods and who have strong teamwork skills even in stressful, sleep-deprived conditions should be part of the crew.

** Building lunar settlements will likely rely on 3D printing techniques like that used by ESA in a test of making blocks from simulated Moon dust:  3D-printed block of moondust – ESA

Closeup of a 3D-printed block of simulated Moon dust. Credits: ESA

** The Luna-27 rover is a Russian project in collaboration with ESA to investigate the resources of the southern polar region of the Moon. The rover is expected to launch in 2022. The PROSPECT  instrument package, for example, will drill a meter deep into the regolith to examine various chemical properties and determine mineral and water content: One step closer to prospecting the Moon – ESA

Prospect includes a miniature laboratory called ProSPA which will analyse the soil samples retrieved by the drill. Precise measurements will help unearth the secrets of the Moon’s history and indicate whether future explorers could use lunar resources on their missions to help set up a lunar base.

The lunar south polar region is of great interest to lunar researchers and explorers because the low angle of the Sun over the horizon leads to areas of partial or even complete shadow. These shadowed areas and permanently dark crater floors, where sunlight never reaches, are believed to hide water ice and other frozen substances that could be analysed to better understand the natural processes that formed them, and used to produce resources such as oxygen and propellant in the future.

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Space settlement roundup – Jan.26.2020

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system (see also previous space settlement postings):

** Mars settlement governance: Quillette offers its Mars Archives for discussions on Mars societies and how they could be governed.

Bob Zubrin refutes a silly Quillette essay about the threat of water eating Mars bugs: Mars & Human Exploration: A Rebuttal of Those Who Fear the Unknown – National Review.

** Obtaining oxygen and metals from lunar regolith: Nearly half of the chemical content of lunar dust is oxygen and most of the rest contains metals, both essential for sustainable lunar settlements. Here is a report from ESA on research into an efficient way to extract these resources from lunar regolith: ESA opens oxygen plant – making air out of moondust – ESA

ESTEC’s oxygen extraction is taking place using a method called molten salt electrolysis, involving placing regolith in a metal basket with molten calcium chloride salt to serve as an electrolyte, heated to 950°C. At this temperature the regolith remains solid.

But passing a current through it causes the oxygen to be extracted from the regolith and migrate across the salt to be collected at an anode. As a bonus this process also converts the regolith into usable metal alloys.

In fact this molten salt electrolysis method was developed by UK company Metalysis for commercial metal and alloy production. Beth’s PhD involved working at the company to study the process before recreating it at ESTEC.

On the left side of this before and after image is a pile of simulated lunar soil, or regolith; on the right is the same pile after essentially all the oxygen has been extracted from it, leaving a mixture of metal alloys. Both the oxygen and metal could be used in future by settlers on the Moon. Samples returned from the lunar surface confirm that lunar regolith is made up of 40-45% percent oxygen by weight, its single most abundant element. Credits: ESA

“At Metalysis, oxygen produced by the process is an unwanted by-product and is instead released as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, which means the reactors are not designed to withstand oxygen gas itself,” explains Beth. “So we had to redesign the ESTEC version to be able to have the oxygen available to measure. The lab team was very helpful in getting it installed and operating safely.”

The oxygen plant runs silently, with the oxygen produced in the process is vented into an exhaust pipe for now, but will be stored after future upgrades of the system.

“The production process leaves behind a tangle of different metals,” adds Alexandre, “and this is another useful line of research, to see what are the most useful alloys that could be produced from them, and what kind of applications could they be put to.

See the related technical paper here.

Separating lunar regolith into oxygen and metals via the The Metalysis-FFC (Fray, Farthing, Chen) process. Credits: B. Lomax et al.

** Mars caves as shelters: More about the utility for settlement of lava tubes on Mars:  Mars Lava Tubes: Emergency Shelter and Storage – Leonard David

The use of lava tubes on Mars as emergency shelters and storage has been advanced by researchers at the Antarctic Institute of Canada.

Lava tubes are formed from fast moving lava which later cools and forms roomy caves that might serve various functions for future human expeditions to the Red Planet.

Svetozar Zirnov, Daniel Polo, and Austin Mardon of the institute floated the idea at this week’s Seventh International Conference on Mars Polar Science and Exploration being held in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

** Growing shelters on Mars with mushrooms: Could Future Homes on the Moon and Mars Be Made of Fungi? | NASA

Science fiction often imagines our future on Mars and other planets as run by machines, with metallic cities and flying cars rising above dunes of red sand. But the reality may be even stranger – and “greener.” Instead of habitats made of metal and glass, NASA is exploring technologies that could grow structures out of fungi to become our future homes in the stars, and perhaps lead to more sustainable ways of living on Earth as well.

The myco-architecture project out of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley is prototyping technologies that could “grow” habitats on the Moon, Mars and beyond out of life – specifically, fungi and the unseen underground threads that make up the main part of the fungus, known as mycelia.

“Right now, traditional habitat designs for Mars are like a turtle — carrying our homes with us on our backs – a reliable plan, but with huge energy costs,” said Lynn Rothschild, the principal investigator on the early-stage project. “Instead, we can harness mycelia to grow these habitats ourselves when we get there.”

Ultimately, the project envisions a future where human explorers can bring a compact habitat built out of a lightweight material with dormant fungi that will last on long journeys to places like Mars. Upon arrival, by unfolding that basic structure and simply adding water, the fungi will be able to grow around that framework into a fully functional human habitat – all while being safely contained within the habitat to avoid contaminating the Martian environment.

This video from the NIAC 2018 Symposium includes a presentation about the fungi construction starting at around the 1:25:00 point:

** A COTS model for space-based solar power: A Public/Private Program to Develop Space Solar Power, Al Globus and John C. Mankins, January 2020.

We propose a public/private partnership to develop and demonstrate space solar power at a sufficiently high technical level that commercial energy providers can subsequently build operational systems for high-energy-cost environments such as remote mining facilities. The outlines of the partnership are based on the successful Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program that helped develop the SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher/Dragon capsule and the Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares launcher and Cygnus spacecraft. The Space Solar Power Demo development described here features minimal NASA oversight, milestone-driven fixed-price payouts, minimal exit criteria, substantial commercial partner funding commitments, non-traditional contracts (e.g., Space Act Agreements with NASA), commercial partner choice of energy market and energy consumer, enabling system development (e.g., space robotics), and at least two winners.

More SBSP papers from Al Globus at Free Space Settlement.

** Settling the moons of Saturn: The Space Show – Tue, 01/14/2020 – In this interview,  Janelle Wellons of NASA JPL talked about Titan and other moons of Saturn and commented on the possibility of someday putting human settlements on them:

** Weekly Space Hangout: December 18, 2019 – Anita Gale of Space Settlement Design Competitions

We record the Weekly Space Hangout every Wednesday at 5:00 pm Pacific / 8:00 pm Eastern. You can watch us live on Universe Today or the Weekly Space Hangout YouTube page. Tonight we welcome Anita Gale, retired Boeing Associate Technical Fellow with over 40 years of experience in Payload and Cargo Integration on crewed spacecraft, including Space Shuttle and Commercial Crew. She is currently an elected member of the National Space Society (NSS) Executive Committee. Anita co-founded Space Settlement Design Competitions which give high school students on six continents the experience of working on an aerospace industry proposal team to design and sell a space settlement in the context of “future history.” To learn more about the competitions, visit You can read Anita’s full bio at…

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