Missing the Wet Workshop
By Gary Michael Church
Considering what little funding NASA scraped together for the Shuttle Program, the question of what could have made the last 30 years of space exploration a success instead of dismal failure is first a simple matter of filthy lucre. After the obvious answer of easy defense profits taking priority is accepted the second question can be entertained by examining that huge and never filled cargo bay on the orbiter. The short list of wrong turns that has kept humankind trapped in Low Earth Orbit since 1972 begins with NASA foolishly building a cargo bay of dreams and expecting a miracle. What is left out of all the recent popular science books dealing with space exploration is that single critical concept partially realized with Skylab; the Wet Workshop. The Space Shuttle cargo bay was somehow expected to make the Wet Workshop concept unnecessary. That so many rocket scientists and engineers could go along with such a sham is a testament to the power of greed and the idiotic political games forever played with taxpayer dollars. The Space Shuttle was a case of going cheap in a field of endeavor where there is no cheap. This eventually resulted in the Challenger disaster and physicist Richard Feynman’s famous quote: “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”
The Saturn V sent its third stage into cislunar space while the Space Shuttle only went into that very-high-altitude-low-drag domain beneath the Van Allen belts mistakenly thought of as space. Despite all the promises of “cheap lift” the cost per launch was essentially the same. But while the Saturn V sent a spacecraft and lander combination to the Moon the Shuttle went nowhere except in circles. The same game is being played by “New Space Entrepreneurs” with their hobby rockets sucking up tax dollars and billions in free NASA support for trips to some tin cans going in endless circles. Space tourism masquerades as exploration but is in reality a confidence game designed to allow the ultra-rich to display their obscene spending habits by transporting them to Low Earth Orbit playboy clubs. All subsidized by tax dollars. What a deal. The Shuttle was not designed with tourism in mind but did manage to send a Florida Senator on a joyride. Exactly what the Shuttle was designed to do is a subject of speculation since in practice it was almost useless. There is the rumor that its design features were actually the result of an Air Force plan to kidnap a Russian spy satellite. It sounds just crazy enough to be true. The logical step by step sequence for an expansion of space exploration was well known to those in the know in the late 60’s and early 70’s but the money was not forthcoming so anything to keep the space launch infrastructure intact was the substitute goal. The loss of a second Shuttle crew finally ended that play. The next step after Apollo was to build a much larger launch vehicle that could lift several times the payload of the Saturn V. So obvious was this next step that one aerospace company built a huge factory in the Florida everglades to supply the giant solid fuel rocket boosters that would be required.
The test firings of half size models of these boosters were the most powerful rockets ever fired at 5 million pounds of thrust. Studies of larger models with a thrust of 15 million pounds were completed and a pair of these mounted much like the 7.2 million pound thrust combination on the present SLS project would have provided over 30 million pounds of thrust for a successor to the Saturn V. This lift would have sent an upper stage Wet Workshop to the Moon with several times the living space of the ISS in one afternoon. It was guessed that there would be water on the Moon and deposits of ice were recently detected and any program of lunar resource exploration after Apollo in the 80’s would have found this water and provided the massive radiation shielding necessary for a true space station. The importance of such a development cannot be emphasized enough. Humankind has not left Low Earth Orbit since the last Apollo mission in 1972 due to the radiation hazards outside the protection of the Van Allen Belts and the Earth’s magnetic field. The amount of radiation shielding required to protect human beings outside of Low Earth Orbit is massive and bringing this shielding up from the surface of the Moon in the form of water derived from lunar ice is the only practical solution. In this logical step by step progression the next increment is nuclear energy to propel these massively shielded stations and thus create the first true spaceships capable of deep space long duration missions. If such a space program had been funded after Apollo instead of the lame shuttle, the present situation would of course be much different. Depending on how difficult a project exploiting the lunar ice resources turned out to be, journeys beyond the Moon to the outer solar system may have been possible…..about now.
1) ClSA: Cislunar Space Acronyms- Acronyms peculiar to Spudis- inspired Lunar Resource Utilization schemes.
2) HSF-BELO: Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Lunar Orbit- Multi-year missions beyond the Moon into deep space requiring true spaceships equipped with massive radiation shielding, artificial gravity, and nuclear pulse propulsion. Primary funding by DOD for planetary protection.
3) ZBOOMs: Zero Boil Off Oxygen Methane systems- A family of engines, thrusters, stabilizers, and fuel cells for use in chemical propulsion and power applications on MULEs, landers, orbital platforms, spacecraft, space stations, and spaceships.
4) MULE: Multipurpose Universal Lander Exoskeleton-A quadropod oxygen methane single engine module that can combine in a grid with others to form multi-engine spacecraft for descending or ascending into and out of the lunar gravity well. Various combinations can be used for different missions to include landing wet workshop torus from lunar orbit. Engine module can also dismount from landing gear and attach to torus for geostationary space station Earth orbit insertions.
5) IotM: Industries on the Moon- Generic term for activities on the Moon involving human life support, water production, nuclear material handling, and metal alloy and solar cell refining and manufacturing- and others.
6) HIoM: Human Industry on Moon-Activities specifically involving human life support and food production.
7) WIoM: Water Industry on Moon-Activities specifically involving water derived from lunar ice deposits.
8) WWISP: Wet Workshop Integrated Space Station Spaceship Program-Use of empty rocket stages in lunar orbit to construct near-Earth environment artificial gravity and radiation shielded crew compartments used for first a lunar surface base, then geostationary Earth space stations, and when integrated with nuclear pulse propulsion systems as interplanetary spaceships.
9) WERS: Water Envelope Radiation Shield-Use of water derived from lunar ice as massive shielding protecting human beings from the heavy nuclei component of galactic cosmic radiation. Water mass is typically required on space stations and spaceships in the thousands of tons.
10) FSRO: Far Side Radio Observatory- Progressively enlarged antennae fields located on the far side of the Moon for science missions.
11) LOWD: Lunar Orbit Water Delivery-Operations devoted to sending water into lunar orbit from surface to be used as radiation shielding on wet workshops.
12) LOTD: Lunar Orbit Torus Depot-Space stations in lunar orbit used to transfer water to returning spaceships that have drained their shields for pulse unit reaction mass to slow down and re-insert into lunar orbit.
13) ToGAG: Torus Generated Artificial Gravity-System utilizing wet workshops connected end to end in the shape of a ring matching the size of the large lunar manufactured pulse engine disc and mounted on the disc with shock absorbing struts.
14) GTESS: Geostationary Telecomm Earth Space Station-Fully operational torus inserted into Earth orbit to replace satellite network and de-orbit space junk with lasers. Eventually to be tasked with maintaining orbital space solar power stations. Preliminary commercial profit generator.
15) NIoM: Nuclear Industry on Moon-Activities specifically involving the preparation of nuclear pulse units for interplanetary travel and asteroid and comet interdiction.
16) TeGAG: Tether Generated Artificial Gravity-System utilizing a spaceship separating into two equal masses at the end of tethers radiating from central pulse engine disc when not using pulse propulsion. Equips interim spaceship.
17) SMPPs: Small Monolithic Pulse Propulsion system-Small disc transported in sections from Earth to use low power fission devices as an interim spaceship until lunar large disc production commences. Utilizes tether system for artificial gravity and tower enabling long crew section stroke to absorb acceleration forces.
18) PPIM: Planetary Protection Intercept Mission-Spaceship sortie for the express purpose of deflecting impact hazard away from the Earth, Moon, or other human occupied space.
19) SMIBM: Shield Mass Icy Body Mission-Spaceship travel to icy body using radiation shielding water as reaction mass to slow down and subsequently utilizing local ice resources to replenish shield and furnish pulse unit reaction mass for departure burn. The first destination for this mission type is Ceres possibly using an interim small spaceship and the second Callisto depending on Jupiter space radiation factors.
20) UMNEX: Under Moon Nuclear Explosive Excavation-Use of thermonuclear devices to form large underground artificial caves for factories and habitation.
21) SLTM: Standard Lunar Tunneling Machine-Designed to dig endless service tunnels as a constantly expanding fleet eventually numbering in the thousands.
22) LIST: Lunar Inhabitant Sleeper Train-Circular one gravity centrifuge underground apartment complexes where long term inhabitants of the Moon must sleep, spend a percentage of their day, and exercise to maintain health.
23) AIoM: Alloy Industry on Moon-Activities specifically involving the mining, refining, and manufacture of large monolithic alloy disc nuclear pulse propulsion engines.
24) LMPPs: Large Monolithic Pulse Propulsion system-Large nuclear pulse propulsion disc manufactured on the Moon for efficient use of fusion pulse devices. Disc flexes somewhat like an airplane wing when pulsed and has a support web that secures magazines for pulse units and other modules as well as the torus shock absorbing struts.
25) SIoM: Solar Industry on Moon-Activities specifically involving the mining, refining, and manufacture of very large solar arrays to be used in an Earth geostationary orbit solar power network.
26) SALoM: Solar Array Lift off Moon-The use of nuclear pulse propulsion engines to lift massive solar energy array segments from the lunar surface for subsequent insertion into Earth geostationary orbit. Engines integrated after lift with space stations resulting in interplanetary spaceships. Arrays are the primary commercial profit generator in space.
27) GGIBM: Gas Giant Icy Body Mission-Spaceship travel to icy body using gas giant to aerobrake and subsequently utilizing local ice resources to furnish pulse reaction mass for departure burn. Destinations for this mission type are the moons of the gas giants.
28) TIBO: Transported Icy Body Outpost-Double torus transit to icy body, separated from spaceship torus and landed with system for rotating on track and generating artificial gravity while grounded for long duration science missions. Outpost equipped with a shielded two spoke hub bell and rotation corrected hoist to lower drills, submarines, divers, and other equipment into body.
29) FSLLV: Future Super Lift Launch Vehicle-Follow on vehicle to SLS with monolithic solid rocket boosters of several times the thrust and proportionately more powerful liquid core engines. Upper stage wet workshop designed to incorporate water shielding with a minimum of modification.
30) FTAP: Future Thorium Americium Project-Experimental lunar reactors designed to utilize lunar thorium and produce Americium 242 for use in fission fragment power/propulsion systems.
31) FBPLV: Future Beam Propelled Launch Vehicle-Microwave powered concept utilizing space solar power and super- gyrotrons to lift multi-thousand ton payloads into space from the Earth’s surface.
32) FMSH: Future Massive Spherical Habitat-O’Neill inspired Bernal Spheres several miles in diameter and mass produced as self-sustaining space habitats supporting populations in the tens of thousands.