By Gary Michael Church
The recent 15 year “celebration” of the ISS drove me to comment on a certain forum and once again, I have been banned. I have been persona non grata on all of the popular space websites for several years now.
The ISS is the “jobs program” the NewSpace mob is always screaming at the top of their lungs about. It is a statement about how stupid they think the public is that the jobs program they wail and gnash their teeth about is actually their own sacred cash cow. Without the ISS there would be no SpaceX or NewSpace. The Flim Flam trapping the U.S. in LEO is made clear by the infographic at the top of the page which explains the energy required to lift radiation shielding from the surface of the Moon to GEO.
The present situation concerning space travel is this- there is only one place to go and that destination is the Moon. LEO is not really space, it is basically a 3 hour drive straight up. The real edge of space is GEO, 23,236 miles up. The radiation environment above LEO in real space means no extended human presence is possible without massive shielding. Short of lifting thousands of tons of plastic or tapwater out of the deep gravity well of Earth, the only place offering a radiation sanctuary is the Moon.
There are actually immense lava tubes that a small city could fit in theorized to exist under the surface of the Moon. Unfortunately, while we have spent billions on science probes to every planet in the solar system (and the space station to nowhere) we do not know where these ready made sanctuaries are in our own back yard. Human beings can dash across the quarter-million-mile-wide cislunar sea between Earth and the Moon but if they get caught in a solar particle event, a “storm”, they will suffer profound life-shortening or fatal radiation exposure.
Robots can possibly create a sanctuary in lunar orbit by way of robot ice harvesters that land on ice deposits and ferry water up to empty rocket stages. When these stages are partially filled with several hundred tons of water they become a radiation sanctuary. Attach a cable system between two such stages and spin them and an Earth gravity and near-sea-level radiation environment exists where a human being can survive indefinitely with no ill effects. These true space stations should be the bare minimum result of several hundred billion dollars and decades of investment. It follows such stations are the precursors to any true spaceships.
Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit (BELO) any human missions will require a several thousand ton water-filled spinning construct and for pushing such a conveyance around the solar system chemical propulsion is essentially useless. Only nuclear energy will work and LEO is the worst place to acquire shielding, assemble, test, and launch any such nuclear mission. To go anywhere we must go to the Moon first.
LEO and Mars are a dead end on one hand and an impractical fantasy on the other; the only path to space is the Moon and that is not “flexible.”