Oct
10
2007

Lunar labor: Mars missions could be crafted on the moon

Industrial sites for sale?: According to some futurists, the moon could be the creation site and launching pad of missions to Mars. Robots would use materials found on the moon to make the spacecraft and then be able to blast off faster and cheaper from the moon's smaller gravitational pull. (Photo from NASA)
Industrial sites for sale?: According to some futurists, the moon could be the creation site and launching pad of missions to Mars. Robots would use materials found on the moon to make the spacecraft and then be able to blast off faster and cheaper from the moon's smaller gravitational pull. (Photo from NASA)
It looks like our moon could someday be rezoned for industrial use.

That’s what those involved in space exploration learned at a recent conference. For economic and efficiency reasons, robots would lead a team of manufacturers based on the moon building the spacecraft that would go to Mars.

Those attending the Space & Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville, Ala., learned that a Mars spaceship might be too large to build and launch from Earth. The ideal situation would be to have a team of robots based on the moon doing most of the work in building the craft.

Robots would be needed because the construction work would be too cumbersome for humans to do while wearing spacesuits. Researchers are also investigating ways to process moon soils into metals, such as aluminum, iron and titanium, which would then be used to build the spacecraft.

And due to the moon’s weaker gravitational pull, it will 20 times cheaper to launch Mars missions from the moon than from Earth.

While this all sounds pretty futuristic, aeronautic and space manufacturers are already designing and building the next generation of U.S. spacecrafts, the Ares I and Ares V, which will replace the current fleet of space shuttles. The Ares I will shuttle astronauts in and out of space. The larger Ares V will be used to transport heavier cargos.

What do you think about using the moon as a factory? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

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