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SHIFTboston Contest: Design a Moon Capital! June 21, 2010

Posted by Nick Azer in lunar land use planning, SHIFTboston Moon Capital Competition.

Boston-based urban design firm SHIFTboston is holding a competition: design a lunar capital!

Calling on urban designers, architects, artists, engineers, and anyone else that’s interested, SHIFTboston is challenging teams to combine vision and planning to come up with what a future lunar base/capital might look like, and how it might function.

“This competition is intended to collect and inspire… The goal is to attract greater public interest in future possibilities for human expansion into the solar system, and in elements of self-sustaining cities of the future – efficient cities – that no longer rely on fossil fuel.”- SHIFTboston competition page

The winning effort will recieve a $1,000 cash prize, present at a swanky panoramic gala in Boston, have their entry as part of a new virtual moon tourism world/game (!), and have their entry displayed as part of a MOON CAPITAL exhibit at none other than the Johnson Space Center. Wow.

This contest is awesome to see for me, personally—I have my Bachelor’s in Urban Planning (from Cal State University-Northridge), and the way I fell into moon colonization at all was through similar thinking, circa 2007: “We’re going to build on the Moon…what’s that going to look like? What are the challenges?”

Urban design’s what got me into planning, so this kind of visionary/practical melding is totally my cup of tea. (I finally have some proof  to backup that urban planning and moon colonization are related! ;) )

I’ve got a Bachelor’s in it, and the contest is open until early September, so if anyone’s forming a team…drop me a line! :) I’d love to participate.

Regardless, I’ll be watching this closely as the entries come along and their jury panel (which will include an Apollo astronaut) selects the winner.

For the full details on the competition categories and its requirements, check out this page.

The Dust is Settled?: Lunar Dust ‘Stickiness’ Influenced By Sun’s Elevation April 21, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, lunar land use planning, Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, NASA.
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A new study of old dusted-off data has shown that lunar dust’s stickiness varies with the elevation of the sun.

75-year-old Australian scientist Brian O’Brien compiled the study by himself over a period of two years. By studying the data of the dust collection on various instruments and when it fell off, he determined that the sun’s rays affected the forces keeping the dust attached to the objects.

Lunar dust is quite the nuisance, and generally the greatest hazard on the Moon—causing equipment to overheat and posing a health threat to astronauts should it get inside working spaces. So, any knowledge towards solving the lunar dust issue is a huge boon to lunar planning of any variety. Check out the news release for the full skinny on O’Briens story and how he made his conclusions.

O’Brien offers a straightforward solution to the problem—a sun-proof shed to shadow lunar operations from the sun’s rays, therefore reducing the stickiness of the dust.

According to Leonard David over at the Space Coalition blog, O’Brien says that “more surprising findings from his studies are on the way”, so stay tuned…

For more on lunar dust solutions, keep an eye on my Lunar Surface Systems Workshop coverage, as several presentations from that forum offer neat concepts and scenarios for dealing with various dust issues.

LSS = More: Luna C/I’s Lunar Surface Systems Workshop Coverage Begins! March 17, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in Event Coverage, Habitat, infrastructure, lunar land use planning, Lunar Surface Systems Workshop, NASA.
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Today begins a major new series of coverage here at Luna C/I: an in-depth look at all the concepts presented at NASA’s Lunar Surface Systems Workshop (LSSW), which took place on Feb. 25-27th, 2009 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.

NASA has posted the 18+ PowerPoint presentations from the event, and they are absolutely stuffed with exciting new information and renderings. While everything presented was conceptual (as requested by NASA from the study groups represented), these presentations are an invaluable resource that give a vivid picture of what NASA’s lunar outpost and technology will be like, right down to the nuts and bolts. This represents a vast expansion of the publicly available details on what the base’s nitty-gritty will be like.

There’s an amazing amount of detail to be found, and what I’m going to do here at Luna C/I over the next few weeks is present the best details from the forum in an easier-to-digest form. I should have at least one feature a day (often more), and will typically cover the significant topics of each presentation with seperate posts.

I’ll be going in chronological order, starting with NASA’s introductory presentations. Expect sweet renderings from the PDFs, links and background galore on what they’re talking about, and more juicy lunar base details than you can shake a stick at :)

Should be a very busy few weeks–so sit back, stay tuned, and get ready for an outpouring of neat features. And, of course, you can always check out the presentations yourself—but I’m not kidding when I say it’s a truly vast amount of information :)

Exciting times, and I hope you enjoy all the goodies that these presentations have to offer.

RASC-AL Student Competition Finalists Announced by NASA/NIA March 10, 2009

Posted by Nick Azer in lunar land use planning, lunar transportation, NASA.
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NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace have announced the Moon Design finalists in their university-student competition, the Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) forum.

The 15 finalists are composed of teams from 5 graduate schools and 10 undergraduate programs, who will present concepts regarding one of the four themes.

The themes include the expansion from a lunar outpost to lunar settlements (including global lunar transportation); concepts for the initial lunar outpost and challenges it could face; methods to ‘bring the world along’ with virtual exploration (e.g. like the Google Lunar X PRIZE’s Mooncast); and ways to improve sample return from the lunar surface.

Today’s students are tomorrow’s engineers, leaders, and bloggers (less than two years removed from my Bachelor’s myself), and these kinds of presentations are always interesting, so I’ll be keeping an eye out when the forum comes around in June for any particularly insightful nuggets :)

Picture of the Week: A Mysterious Development… November 25, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Lunar Development Corporation, lunar land use planning, NASA, Picture of the Week, private sector, public-private partnership, Sherlock Holmes.

This relatively unassuming rendering caught my eye when searching for something completely different (the International Lunar Network–features coming soon on that), and it was a small detail in the image that struck me, and sent me on a magical mystery tour of the web for more info:

Up on the carrier there, the label (in this NASA rendering) says:

Lunar Development Corporation.

As a 24-year-old with an Urban Planning degree, seeing such a particular phrase on a NASA rendering really got my attention. And what I’ve found has surprised me: this ‘Lunar Development Corporation’ could not only be a massive player in our colonization of the moon, but this reference on an official NASA image has proven to be highly mysterious.

A quick search on “lunar development corporation” dug up some gold (or helium-3, if you will):

  • A detailed paper on public-private partnerships (PPP), including the concept of a singular Lunar Development Corporation (I’ll provide a full analysis of this paper as a marquee feature within the next two weeks);
  • A mildly dated (February 2007) article from Space.com on methods of solidifying public; investor; and other support for lunar plans, which it notes could (in part) be accomplished by instituting “a public-private lunar development corporation” (again, singular).

Among other things, mostly odds and ends.

This became extremely strange upon finding the original source of the image; I first encountered it via a mostly unrelated ThomasNet article. Then, after some digging based on the ThomasNet description, I found the image in the Wikipedia article on Moon Colonization.

Taking the hunt to NASA itself, a search for “lunar development corporation” on their main site turned up….nothing. Hmm. I then applied my method for finding that Wikipedia repeat of the image to NASA’s new official images site, NASAImages.org, and found the image with a full (and revealing?) description.

The archived image’s original source is this page, which has the same description alongside it.

That description is potentially very revealing, by just how unrevealing it is. Nowhere is the appearance of “Lunar Development Corporation” mentioned, as the brief text talks only about the rover and cargo lander.

A search on NASA’s site for “lunar development corporation” turns up only a brief mention of “the new Houston-based Lunar Development Corporation” being listed as founded apparently by the Artemis Society‘s Gregory Bennett (a bio which does not mention this LDC in any form), and a Google or other search turns up no official site or mention of the entity in any form..

…yet it appears on the cargo lander on this official NASA image.

This may be explained by a small detail, from the end of the image’s description:

“This image was produced for NASA by John Frassanito and Associates. Technical concepts from NASA’s Planetary Projects Office (PPO), Johnson Space Center (JSC). “

Here’s the website for John Frassanito and Associates, but a search for “Planetary Projects Office” and/or alongside “Johnson Space Center” turns up…nothing (except more concept images). NASA has a plethora of official sites for its various departments, but yet this Houston space center’s “PPO” does, apparently, not.

A little more hunting at the Johnson Space Center site turns up a reference that the PPO became the “Planetary Missions and Materials Branch”, a search for which, again, fails to turn up an official site. Searching the JSC’s site brought up more odds and ends, including a newsletter (Lunar News issue number 62) from 1998, so it looks like “Planetary Mission and Materials Branch” may have been a name that was changed again, though to what, I’m not sure.

In fact, closer inspection of the original image’s page confirms it is from 1994.

So after all that adventure, it may just be an old and outdated concept. Still, the prominence of the “Lunar Development Corporation” on the rendering (and others, it turns out), combined with the dual facts that the rendering is from “technical concepts, and the lack of mention of the Corporation in the image descriptions despite it being so readily apparent in them, suggest that “Lunar Development Corporation” was an element of the technical concepts not entirely intended to be released; e.g., an innocuous leak.

I’m going to do some further investigating, sending off some emails, and I’ll post an update in the very near future about whether the Lunar Development Corporation could be something currently being worked on (as it is featured in concept images that are alongside much more current ones in the galleries). Stay tuned… :)

"The Future of Urban Planning": The Moon? September 5, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in China, Fusion Power, Helium-3, infrastructure, lunar land use planning, NASA, Roscosmos.

I, your beloved blogger, am a recent graduate with my Bachelor’s in Urban Planning, and part of why I started this blog (despite having a rather different background than your typical space enthusiast) is that I maintain that lunar colonization is, in fact, urban planning. My argument being, that the Moon’s surface is now land for all intents and purposes, and therefore any colony/mine, infrastructure, or other utilization of its surface is land use; and land use planning is the core of urban planning. NASA, Roscosmos, the CNSA, etc. are all well into programs to complete substantial built environments on the Moon by 2030, and so this has become a timely subject.

Once in a while, I find that I am (in fact) not the only one who thinks about these things, and here’s a case in point I came across today.

“In the future, these questions will likely be posed for cities that exist on the moon or Mars… You might think that such a city is unrealistic, but NASA has been planning a “city in the sky” for years.”
-“HowStuffWorksarticle on Urban Planning by William Harris

A Wired.com article chronicles NASA’s ‘recurring dream’, with the first substantial and ‘modern’ looks (that included thoughts on industrialization of the moon, a key to current efforts) coming in 1972 and 1975.

Check out that HowStuffWorks article linked above, and keep an eye here for more and more content regarding just what the planning topics are for moon colonization in the next 10 years (the early phase) and beyond. :)

MoonPop: "WALL-E" (News) July 13, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, Current News, Fusion Power, Google Moon, Helium-3, lunar land use planning, Mare Tranquillitatis, MoonPop.
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“Outlet Mall, coming soon!”
-A ‘Buy N Large Corp’. billboard on the Moon, next to the American Flag at Mare Tranquillitatis, in the film “WALL-E

I had a chance last week to finally catch Pixar’s latest masterwork, “WALL-E”. Much like with “Iron Man” earlier this summer, a movie that a whole heck of a lot of people ended up seeing happened to also be a movie with a look at the Moon; and in WALL-E’s case, a look specifically at the Moon colonization and the potential outcomes of it.

It’s a simple, and brief, moment in the film, but a memorable one: In a fly-by of the Moon, the site of the American flag in the Sea of Tranquility is seen as having a billboard adjacent to it advertising a future outlet mall (which, given the circumstances and setting of the film, the builders apparently never did get around to).

The placement of the sign directly next to the flag site could suggest that the fictional Buy N Large Corporation in the film was intending to plow right over the site for their new mall; or that they simply plopped that sign down there for attention.

The strange thing about all of this is that this isn’t really that far from the truth, as things are developing now. The Sea of Tranquility is rich in Helium-3, a resource extremely rare on Earth but plentiful on the Moon that could be valuable for fusion power. So within 15-20 years, we could very well be seeing mining operations going up right next to the Apollo landing sites.

With the generation of kids seeing WALL-E today being the ones who will have the newscasts of their lives dominated by Moon colonization, it should be interesting to see how this one moment in an extremely visible film gets referenced and remembered, as commerical development of the Sea of Tranquility and the rest of the Moon becomes an imminent reality (and potentially, a major public debate).

Hotel on the Moon? June 24, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Integration, Lunar conservation, lunar land use planning.
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“Enjoy the view – enjoy low gravity – enjoy your stay”
-The Hotel Lunatic website

In my meanderings across the sphere of the Moon’s presence on the internet, I came across this one particularly eccentric little corner: the Hotel Lunatic.

It’s a draw-up (and a Dutch draw-up, at that) of a lunar hotel concept. There’s an interactive section where you can check out different aspects of the ‘proposed’ towers, and a design aspects list noting that a “good view of the Earth”, a “beacon effect” for people landing on the Moon, and an optimal view of the lunar surface (which probably isn’t too hard).

It’s an interesting and whimsical look into the possibilties of integration on the moon. Waste away on Margarita 1 and take in the sights of the Sea of Tranquility (though, realistically, a hotel would be located someplace not on a mare, as the maria will be big mining targets and that doesn’t typically make for great scenery).

“The rimea Prinz area has been transformed into a nature reserve to preserve the beauty of the moon and not to be polluted by footprint ect.”
-The Hotel Lunatic FAQ

And once again, I see that I’m not the only one with an eye on the idea of preservation on the Moon. I get the impression in my readings and research that there’s a latent consciousness and want for lunar preservation, which is interesting, as the environmentalism movement began around the time NASA’s and other space programs declined (though of course, national parks had been established long before). Barren as the moon is, this was not something I took as a guarantee.

Now, whether a conservation movement, or nations’ and companies’ desire to get as much out of the Moon as they can (and out of their investment) ends up having more leverage as far as what actually gets developed on the moon, we shall see…

We have "Land"-ing? May 15, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Helium-3, lunar land, Lunar Land Ownership, lunar land use planning, Mare Tranquillitatis.
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This budding era of Moon Colonization, like few eras in our history ever have before, brings up new frontiers not only in terms of land, but in ideas, concepts, and societal functions.

Now, wait– “land”? A quick look at the Wikipedia entry for that lovable dry space we call home (mostly) brings up an interesting note:

“Land may refer to:

  • Land, the part of the Earth that is not covered by water

That would lead one to believe that, since the surface of the Moon is in fact not part of Earth (or is it?), and therefore not a part of Earth that isn’t covered with water, it doesn’t technically have ‘land’.

A quick field trip to Dictionary.com, though, reveals more:

“land /lænd/ –noun
any part of the earth’s surface not covered by a body of water; the part of the earth’s surface occupied by continents and islands:
Land was sighted from the crow’s nest.
an area of ground with reference to its nature or composition:
arable land.
an area of ground with specific boundaries:
to buy land on which to build a house.
rural or farming areas, as contrasted with urban areas:
They left the land for the city.
any part of the earth’s surface that can be owned as property, and everything annexed to it, whether by nature or by the human hand.
any legal interest held in land. “

When talking about ‘land’ on the Moon, numbers 3 and 5 are the most relevant here: an area with specific boundaries, and the legal definition of…well, technically, that’s defined there as Earth’s surface. So we’ll stick to number , and let the space law junkies duke it out over number 5.

So now that we’ve more or less established that land, as a concept, does exist on the Moon, what does that mean? So what?

Well, Mankind is about to gain an extra 3.793×107 km² , or 0.074 Earths’ worth of land. Mare Tranquillitatis alone is the size of the Phillipines (population: 92 million), never mind the entire surface of the Moon.

I got all excited to find a link in the Space Law article to a “Lunar Land Management Society“, but came away with nothing but a broken link. But, Google provides victory!–A link that works. The site remains pretty barren, though (much like Luna herself). One valuable piece of information can be wrought from it, though: they’re based out of the Mojave Space Port (or, were?).

The point here being, I’m not the only one who thinks lunar land management is not only a serious topic, but a timely and current one.

As a matter of fact, a little more digging reveals you can already be your very own Lunar land owner. That one surprised even me; even land in the Sea of Tranquility is supposedly available…which is rich in helium-3…which countries want. Their site has some amusing analysis of what happened with the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty; that looks like a thick treaty, and something I’ll have to cover in depth here another day.

For now, though, we can rest knowing that not only is the Moon ‘land’, it can already be bought. This, therefore, opens up the concept of Lunar land use and land use planning. Now, what end of the spectrum lunar land development ends up being on remains to be seen; and, in fact, could be decided by this very generation within the next decade. A little law and effort can go a long ways