Consideration of a Grass-Roots Space Program: A Didactic Introduction

Consideration of a Grass-Roots Space Program: A Didactic Introduction

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8401-8.ch001


Human space exploration has historically provided a great many people with a positive vision of the future. At this time, society faces many 21st century problems (global warming, sea level rise, etc.) and could use some of that vision. The economic state of the nations that historically paid for this exploration does not currently allow for a large and expensive new space initiative, like Apollo to the Moon or a trip to Mars. Nevertheless, there have been great strides in computing and resulting social media. Could a very large number of dedicated people self-organize into a grassroots human space program? This story envisions such a movement and the lessons today's students could learn from the attempt.
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Twelve men walked on the Moon between 1969 and 1972. They left scientific experiments on the surface and brought back to Earth almost 400 kg of rocks and surface samples. What is more important is that they left us with a positive vision of our future and an historic since of accomplishment.

To face climate change now, we need to regenerate some of that positive vision of our future, but to do so on a shoestring budget as most of our resources need to be committed to Earth’s problems. Can young people develop a low-budget, democratic, grassroots plan to build a lunar settlement? Can the latest technological and social media developments be applied to this problem? Can humanity as a whole maintain a positive vision of our future in the face of whatever comes?

The answer to all these questions in this, “Big Moon Dig” series of stories is an enthusiastic Yes.

Topics for Discussion

The following discussion points come from information in this chapter:

  • 1.

    Does the positive vision of the future provided by Apollo to the Moon have value today?

  • 2.

    How has our knowledge of the Moon continued to build?

  • 3.

    Why is it so hard for humans to live on the Moon?

  • 4.

    Is competition for funds between exploration of space and addressing global warming helpful today?

  • 5.

    Can humans and Artificial Intelligences (AIs) work together in teams today? In ten years?

  • 6.

    Given modern social media, e-education, and AI, is a low-cost grassroots human-plus-AI space exploration now possible? In ten years?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Scott A Massif: A major rock formation near the South Pole of the Moon and the proposed location for a lunar settlement. It runs from 20 to 45 degrees longitude and -84.7 to -86.1 latitude. The Scott A Massif is a remnant of one of the rings of the very old South Pole-Aitken Basin. It is a real plateau about 120 kilometers from the lunar South Pole. Its southern edge is a Peak of Eternal Light and it has at least three trails, that do not exceed a grade of 20 degrees, leading down to several permanently shadowed craters below.

Corporate Person: In the United States, a corporation has some, but not all, of the rights and responsibilities of a person. The major AIs in these stories are there for independently incorporated to make them some kind of a person and to provide human supervision through their board of directors.

Regolith: The finely pulverized rock that covers most airless bodies. It is the result of billions of years of gardening by micrometeorites. It does not qualify as soil as it contains no water or organic material. Lunar regolith not only contains no water but also contains no minerals formed in water. The top six centimeters are very finely ground and are a major problem for all seals and bearings.

Digger03: This is a lunar excavator, corporate person, and AI member of the Rocky Horror Team. It is specifically designed to work in teams with humans.

Massive Online Vetted Exploration (MOVE): This is a fictional means of organizing millions of people over the internet to take on specific exploration missions such as building a settlement on the Moon.

Big Moon Dig (BMD): A fictional grassroots space movement with the purpose of building a settlement on the Moon. It is a MOVE organization. Historically Apollo to the Moon provided an enormous number of people with a vivid, positive vision of the future. Such a vision would be a major asset in addressing the great problems of the 21 st century if it can be reestablished. The Big Moon Dig’s top-level purpose then is to rebuild that vision.

Interface Avatar: A representation used by a person, real or AI, which can interact with other avatars in a virtual environment. Their appearance is a personal choice of the person and include many fictional characters. In these stories, where there are multiple version of the same character they are identified with different colors. The avatar is isolated from the main AI so that if it is damaged the main AI remains safe.

Rack: A metal cabinet specifically designed for electronic equipment. Originally called a Relay Rack and designed before 1900 by the Bell Telephone Company. The original relay racks were 19 inches between the supports and had a complex bolt pattern. This is an example of a long-standing convention in design that will be extremely difficult to convert to the metric system. In these stories most of the electronics of the AI’s is assumed to be mounted in such racks.

Permanently Shadowed Crater: Any of several meteor craters near the lunar poles that have not seen the heat of the sun in more than a billion years. Because of their extreme cold, they accumulate volatile materials like water. They hold great promise as sources of materials for a human settlement but will be very difficult to mine due to the cryogenic cold and lack of sunlight for power.

Skype: An existing App for communicating between computers featuring both sound and pictures and often used for business communications.

Virtual Moon: In these stories, an enormous virtual reality environment and the primary setting for action. This environment shows the progress made on building the lunar settlement and provides a place for the various interface avatars to interact.

Apollo to the Moon: The formal name of the major space program run by the United States that put human beings on the Moon in 1969. It provided a positive vision of an expanding future that the Big Moon Dig is trying to reestablish.

Peak of Eternal Light: There are high points near the poles of the Moon that receive sunlight nearly all the time. These are simply accidents of geology. They are attractive sites for a human settlement as they provide an answer to the problems of powering the settlement through the 14-Earth-day-long lunar night.

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