If you are the typical space tourist, a week-long vacation in Low Earth Orbit served only to whet your appetite for an even more audacious adventure.
The ultimate space vacation would be walking on another astronomical body, such as the Moon or Mars. Since asteroids and comets have such low gravity, an EVA there would look more like a space walk than a moon walk (the actual kind, not the Michael Jackson kind).
A Mars vacation would be awesome, but, unfortunately, it is not available (yet). However, what would be just as awesome is "strolling on the Moon one day".
This diary describes a typical vacation going to the Moon. We will require that the space adventurer have spent a week on the LEOS before being allowed to travel to the Moon. This should weed out the ones that will have a hard time enduring a month off world.
So again, just like last time, as a "typical" multi-millionaire interested in space travel, you purchased a ticket for a vacation in space. The price paid was $25M (USD) for 30 days in space, with 17 of those days on the lunar surface. You also placed another $1M in escrow in case you do not pass the pre-spaceflight physical. So what do you get for your money?
Just like the LEO vacation, you arrive at Spaceport America to board a Skylon to the LEO Station.
Once in space, you will catch a lunar shuttle, or Lunar Transfer Vehicle (LTV) that will take you to the Moon. After the Skylon docks with the city in space, you exit and go immediately to the Crew Module (CM) that is also docked with the space station. The LTV's CM will be home for the next 6 days.
Lunar Transfer Vehicle (LTV) with attached Crew Module (CM)
The flight crew, consisting of the Captain and First Officer, prepare the CM for the trip to the Moon. When everything is ready an OUV grabs the CM and transports (tugs) it to the LTV. The OUV then attaches the CM to the lunar shuttle, and the entire vehicle is ready for the trip of a lifetime.
Continued below the fold...
Once clear of the LEOS, the LTV-CM combination is ready to fire its engines. This rocket burn is known by the historic term of "TLI", or "Trans-Lunar Injection". The flight crew ignite the engines at the proper moment, and you are on your way.
The flight to the moon itself will be incredibly boring after a while. But for now, everything is very exciting.
Since the moon base operates in a pure Oxygen, low pressure environment, the atmosphere aboard the CM will be slowly adjusted to this lower atmospheric pressure. This is so that the lunar crew can go outside without having to pre-breathe for 7 hours. So over the next 4+ days you will go from a Nitrogen/Oxygen, 14.7 lbs psi sea-level atmosphere to a pure Oxygen, 3 lbs psi EVA environment.
To complicate matters even more, we need to get into a lunar polar orbit. Here is a diagram of the flight to the Moon and back:
Diagram of a lunar journey
This is why the flight takes so long; Apollo flights took about 3 days. We need to perform a plane change maneuver to get us into a polar orbit, so that we can land at the lunar base inside of Shackleton's Crater at the lunar South Pole.
To sum everything up, here is the breakdown of a typical journey to and from the Moon:
36 hours - Spaceport America - LEOS Docking
3 hours - LEOS Docking - Offload
6 hours - Offload - LTV Dock
3 hours - LTV Dock - Systems Check - TLI
108 hours - TLI - LOI
12 hours - LOI - OPC
12 hours - OPC - LOC
6 hours - LOC - LLV Dock
3 hours - LLV Dock - Systems Check - LSL
408 hours - LSL - On the Lunar Surface - LLO
3 hours - LLO - LTV Rendezvous
6 hours - LTV Rendzvous - LTV Dock
3 hours - LTV Dock - Systems Check - DOI
12 hours - DOI - OPC
12 hours - OPC - TEI
72 hours - TEI - EOI
3 hours - EOI - LEOS Dock
3 hours - LEOS Dock - Off load - Skylon Onload - Skylon Undock
6 hours - Skylon Undock - Spaceport America
720 hours = 30 Days
TLI - Trans Lunar Injection
LOI - Lunar Orbit Insertion
OPC - Orbital Plane Change
LOC - Lunar Orbit Circularization
LSL - Lunar Surface Landing
LLO - Lunar Lift Off
DOI - Departure Orbit Insertion
TEI - Trans Earth Injection
EOI - Earth Orbit Insertion
Once we arrive in lunar polar orbit, a Lunar Landing Vehicle (LLV) is waiting for us. A robot arm from the lander is used to detach the CM from the LTV and attach it to the LLV itself.
Once everything is secured, the LLV lands on the lunar surface.
The Lunar Landing Vehicle (LLV)
The CM is then detached once again, and placed on a Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV).
Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) with CM attached
The CM flight crew then drives the CM to the docking terminal at the moon base. The terminal is at a lower level than the rest of the base.
LRV-CM docked at the Lunar Surface Station (LSS)
Once the CM is lined up, an extendable docking collar is attached, and everyone exits the CM from the top. The CM is then placed into Quiescent Mode, and the lunar adventure can now finally begin.
Your first official day on the Moon is a tour of the lunar facility. It is pretty expansive, and there are no Bigelow modules here, due to the lower atmospheric pressure of the lunar base.
The Lunar Surface Station (LSS)
But your mind is on other things: the trip outside. Since you are at the required lower atmospheric pressure already, you can go outside virtually anytime that you want (virtually, because you can never go outside unsupervised).
Finally, the short tour is over, and your chance to get into the Z-1 spacesuit and get out onto the lunar surface is at hand.
You get to the EVA section, and climb into your suit. After the hatch in your backpack is sealed, you unhook from the side of the EVA module, and stand on the "porch" (in the image above, it is the rectangular shape at the right). You and your new friends walk to the ladder, and climb down. And then you step onto the lunar surface.
Many thoughts are going through your mind, but you stop to be in the moment. You are standing on the surface of the Moon!
Of course, you paid handsomely for the privilege, no doubt. But here you are, and you are going to do as much as you can in the short stay that you have.
You take a few faltering steps, but soon get the hang of it, and are bounding around like a child, playing on another world.
Too soon, it is time to return, but you are still elated: you will get to go outside to the lunar surface every day of your stay here at chez LSS.
After a total of 7 days on the Moon, where you get to explore the crater floor, you are ready for the big adventure (how can it get bigger than this?). You will get to spend another 7 days inside an Exploration Lunar Roving Vehicle (ELRV), where you get to leave the crater and trek out to various points nearby.
Exploration Lunar Roving Vehicle (ELRV)
You enter the smaller CM and note that it is indeed, smaller. But you are too excited to care. You are part of a crew of 5 lunar tourists and 3 lunar crew members. You are in safe hands.
The hatch is sealed, and you are on your way. First stop, a point just outside the crater. The ride up the crater slope is steeper than you imagined, but the vehicle scales it no problem. After a while, you finally top the crater lip, and are on the other side. The vehicle stops, and you and the other tourists and 2 of the 3 crew climb into their spacesuits to go outside.
It is a thrilling experience, because you can see the LSS lights out in the distance on the crater floor, and you can see the Earth hanging just above the horizon. The scene absolutely takes your breath away.
However, this particular journey has only begun.
The next stop is after travelling all day (as in in Earth 24-hour day). After walking around for a while, you help break out some scientific equipment and sensors to be deposited at this spot. This trip has turned out to be more than just a mere tourist attraction; you are actually participating in real science, even if its just laying the equipment down on the ground and walking away. Small rovers are also deployed, and they go about their merry way, controlled by the crew back at the LSS.
The days begin to blur together, as each day is a repeat of the day before: Get to the lunar surface, unload that day's science payload, deploy said payload, play around for a while, then go back inside. It is the most fun you have had since... well, ever.
Your ground track turns out to be a huge circle, and after your last stop, you are suddenly back home. Home on the LSS, that is. Soon you will be leaving this place, and so you want cherish each moment.
But alas, before you know it, it is time to depart. You pack up and climb into the CM that brought you here, after the flight crew has woken it from its slumber. The docking collar is detached, and the LRV-CM combination drives over to the waiting LLV. A crane lifts the CM from the LRV and attaches it to the LLV. The LLV lifts off, rendezvous with the LTV, and the CM is attached to it. At the appointed moment, the rocket is turned on for the voyage home.
On the way home the reverse as far as the atmosphere then occurs: air pressure increases, and Nitrogen is added to the air, so that the CM winds up at a sea-level environment by the time you dock with the LEOS.
And then it finally hits you, as if you were blocking it out for fear of being wrong. You always thought that the Earth was pretty tough, and that those Progressive hippies have it all wrong. But all of a sudden, looking back out at the Earth as you've done a hundred times before, you suddenly see it for the fragile Christmas tree ornament that it really is. Your eyes fill with tears of outrage and sorrow; outrage for the shortsightedness of human beings in defecating on such a place; sorrow for yourself because you were one of those defecating on this ornament on your way up the corporate ladder.
You are seeing things a little differently now.
The LTV then heads home to the LEOS, where an OUV "tugs" the CM back to dock with the LEOS. You offload the CM and on load a waiting Skylon attached to the LEOS for the ride back to Earth. The Skylon detaches from the LEOS, and the fiery flight home signals the end of this most amazing of journeys.
Once on Earth, gazing up at the Moon on a clear night is never the same. In your mind's eye, you pick out the part of the Moon you actually stepped on, and relive those thrilling moments, even if most of it is still a blur.
You have the rest of your life to sort things out, now that you have a different perspective on life. Maybe those Progressive weirdos have it right after all. You decide that you will do something, you don't what yet, but something to help, allowing you to give back to the people of this planet
who have given from whom you have taken so much...
These fictionalized accounts of vacations in Low Earth orbit and on the lunar surface all have one thing in common: the Z-1 Spacesuit. To our horror we discovered that we should have published the essay on this most excellent spacesuit before we did the vacation posts. So, to rectify our error, the space suit diary is coming up next.
The Z-1 spacesuit is suited for (pun intended) both a weightless and low gravity environment. It is lightweight, easy to get in and out of, and has greater flexibility than any spacesuit ever made. It truly is a magnificent piece of machinery. The spacesuit will be used in a variety of ways, and in a variety of environments.
Of course, that's a story for another day.
A version of this diary was cross-posted at NMSTARG.
The DKos NMSTARG diary series:
- History, Part I
- History, Part II
- Space Port
- Space Plane
- Space Stations
- Space Ships
- Recharge and Resupply
- Lunar Ships
- Lunar Base
- Lunar Propellant
- Clean Up
- Space Health
- Advanced Systems
- Improved Space Station
- Space Vacation
- Lunar Vacation
- Space Suit
- Preserving History
FULL DISCLOSURE: I work for the New Mexico Space Technology Applications Research Group (NMSTARG), a commercial space flight venture, which in its current form exists as an unfinished technical paper. NMSTARG is not affiliated with any of the businesses that were discussed in these posting. These diaries exists as a way for the DKos community to get a first look at our research, and to ask said community for any technical and non-technical (just as important!) feedback. The paper provides information on how to make a profit in space, detailing the infrastructure that will be needed and all of the associated costs involved. As such, we hope that it eventually attracts the attention of investors, where the paper then becomes the technical portion of a space-related business plan.