Warning! Incredibly POOR lunar cargo!
June 8, 2008

Last month, while discussing on HobbySpace (about the "Space and Lunar Farming") I've suddenly and quickly realized HOW INCREDIBLY POOR THE LUNAR CARGO WILL BE !!!

Now that a new multi-country/multi-company (USA, Europe, Russia, China, India, private companies, etc.) "LUNAR RACE" (a "commercial race", not "military race" like in '60s) has begun, we have/will have plenty of "space plans" (aimed to the Earth orbit, Moon, Mars and beyond...) coming everyday (from anyone and anywhere...) but, the most credible (and better funded) is (of course) the american ESAS plan, that should cost in the range of $125 billion (NASA evaluation) to $230 billion (GAO evaluation) in the next 20 years.

Unfortunately (despite the GIANT amount of money involved) the ESAS' lunar plan will be INCREDIBLY POOR in terms of missions # per year, astronauts # per mission, total lunar exploration hours per mission/per year and mainly in terms of TOTAL NET CARGO landed on the Moon in the next 40 years of operations!!!

As reported in my Altair lunar lander article the early ESAS plan's LSAM lander design was planned to carry four astronauts with 7 days life support and 2.5 mT max cargo (in the manned, sortie mission, lander) OR up to 21 mT of gross mass (for cargo-only missions) but, last march these figures was downsized (mainly due to an underpowered Ares-5) to less than 17 mT of gross cargo (that means a mere 1 mT of cargo or less for each manned sortie-mission OR less than 12 mT of NET mass for a cargo-only mission!) while the latest news says that this already poor landed mass, will be reduced to only 14 mT of gross cargo, that means less than 10 mT of NET cargo mass landed on the Moon!!!

But, how many crew and cargo Altair will be landed on the Moon (and when?) then, how many mT of total NET cargo will be carried to the Moon surface in the next 40 years?

In the early ESAS only TWO manned (sortie-mission) landers (and an unspecified number of cargo landers) was planned to be sent, each year, on the Moon from 2018, but, after several Orion and (mainly) Ares-1 design and development delays, the date of the first (new) manned landing is (now) planned around 2020-2022, while, the total number of sortie-missions should remain two per year (in the first four-five operational years) then (about) 10-12 crew missions within 2025.

Assuming two more cargo-only Altair landed on the Moon each year the TOTAL CARGO NET MASS carried to the Moon within the end of 2025 should be LESS THAN 110 mT !!!

In other words, we must wait the year 2025 to just have on the Moon a TOTAL CARGO NET MASS that equals the GLOW (gross lift-off weight) of ONE Space Shuttle Orbiter!!!

After 2025, IF the US Congress will increase (rather than CUT ...or DELETE...) the NASA annual budget for lunar missions by +50% (or more) the cargo mass landed on the Moon from 2026 will grow to 33 mT net per year, so, the TOTAL CARGO NET MASS landed on the Moon within the end of 2050 will be increased to 900 mT the GLOW of ONE Space Shuttle Orbiter + ONE (fueled) Shuttle's External Tank.

Then, IF in 2050-2080 the lunar program will receive at least the same annual budget, within the end of 2080 we will have on the Moon a TOTAL CARGO NET MASS that may equal the GLOW of a ONE Space Shuttle (Orbiter + ET + SRBs + propellents) ...in other words, by the end of 2080 and after $800+ billion spent, we will (finally!) have on the Moon a total cargo net mass that equals ONE FULL Space Shuttle!!! ...and don't forget that THIS is the BIGGEST and RICHEST "lunar exploration program" of the world!!!


Clearly, with an INCREDIBLY POOR cargo mass landed in the next 70 years, nearly ALL programs (lunar outposts, big polar base, lunar farming and mining, moon colonies, large surface exploration, radio and/or optical telescopes on the far side of the Moon, tourists, cities, etc.) will remain a DREAM or an ILLUSION for (at least) the NEXT 100 YEARS!!!

How to solve this problem? I can suggest FIVE (possible) solutions (or a mix of them) in the short and long term to allow a larger amount of cargo to be carried on the Moon or (at least) have a very good and extensive lunar surface scientific exploration:

1. develop and build a bigger Ares-5 able to carry 200 mT (or more) payload to LEO.

2. carry all lunar cargo with several small and cheap rockets, rather than a few big.

3. change the current (99% expendable) lunar architecture to RLVs, orbital refuel, etc.

4. start NOW a "low cost lunar cargo" better COTS program then hope it will succeed.

5. use the same amount of money and payload to send 20,000+ rovers to the Moon.

If you talk/discuss about this idea on forums, blogs, websites, magazines, newspapers
please acknowledge the source of the idea, putting a link to my article. Thank You.

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