- a proposal for America’s space program during the current administration -

The Plan presented here proposes a path for America’s space program which starts humanity’s first, permanent steps off Earth. Using cost-effective approaches and near-term technology, it would not require any significant increase in NASA’s budget yet it would establish a permanent base on the Moon in such a way as to thoroughly inspire the citizens of the US and around the world.

The Plan proposes that, for only 5-7% of NASA’s budget, using proven public-private approaches, the US could:
   - telerobotically harvest the ice at the poles of the Moon to refuel reusable landers,
   - establish a permanent base starting with a commercial crew of eight,
   - facilitate a great deal of international lunar exploration,
   - gain experience of use for Mars while not slowing the Journey to Mars.
   - set the stage for private individuals to move to the Moon (i.e. actual settlement),

The Plan calls for continuing (and even accelerating) the Journey to Mars by seeking to conduct the first major step which would be a flyby mission lasting about 600 days. Lunar development is unnecessary for this step. This would be the first of several major steps ultimately resulting in the establishment of a permanent base on Mars. But the focus of this Plan is the Moon.

We can establish a cost-effective transportation between the Earth and Moon using the commercially-viable Falcon Heavy launcher, the reusable Xeus lander, and telerobots. All parts of the system would naturally be reusable. The much more expensive, government SLS rocket should not be used for lunar development but should be reserved for that role which requires its high level of capability – namely, the Journey to Mars.

Using a public-private approach termed “Lunar COTS”, it is estimated that it would cost only about$15.2 billion dollars for all steps leading to the first crew settling into the permanent habitat. It is estimated that a full-scale demonstration lander could be conducting test flights within two years, telerobotic missions could be flying within six years and crew could start arriving at the Moon in about eight years.

The first uncrewed mission would deliver ten metric tons of payload with enough power systems, redundant telerobots, and spare parts to harvest lunar polar ice, process it, and electrolyze it to fully refuel the lander in a bit less than 30 days. This Plan proposes that NASA’s Space Power Facility be made available for telerobotic companies to immediately begin the development of the ice-harvesting robots in a laboratory environment simulating all of the known conditions of the lunar poles including suspending hardware with tethers to simulate the 1/6th gravity. In six years, highly robust systems should be able to be developed.

Once lunar ice is processed into propellant, the refueled lander could ascend to an Earth-Moon gravitational balance point where the next Falcon Heavy could now deliver nearly twice as much payload thereby giving it the capability of the Saturn V. With reflights of the lunar lander, the flight experience necessary to human-rate the landers could be achieved with relatively few Falcon Heavy launches.

Once human-rated, the first crew of eight would then be sent to the Moon. Ideally, they would be a commercial crew for the purpose of maintaining and expanding the telerobotic, ice-harvesting workforce and preparing another habitat for national astronauts not just from the US but from around the world.

The “UniHab” is a concept for a large, flat-roofed habitat providing all of the space necessary to support a crew of eight. Telerobotically covered with lunar dirt and with an indoor centrifuge providing up to four hours of full, artificial gravity. It is likely that even the first crew would be able to safely remain on the Moon for several years and perhaps indefinitely. As such, it would be ideal that their social status (e.g. children, spouse) would allow them to remain indefinitely. If so, then this is the beginning of settlement – couples settling down and establishing for an indefinitely long period of time. Hence, if this Plan were to be adopted as national space policy, we could achieve something as historically significant as what was accomplished by Columbus and the Pilgrims. This historic step should be taken by the United States and it should lead the rest of the world off Earth rather than leaving it to others to play that leading role.

The whole experience of the initial crew could be immensely inspiring if done with a mind that we are writing history. Four men and women, all Americans but many having come from other countries to join America as naturalized citizens.

If properly selected, they could speak to about 70% of the world’s population in their own language. Unlike Apollo, each crew member would have a different job essential to increasing the Earth independence of the UniHab. The people of Earth would watch and be inspired as they demonstrate life on the Moon including:

  • growing plants and fish,
  • harvesting and producing metals for replacement parts,
  • assembling more telerobots,
  • producing a variety of organic and inorganic materials,
  • conducting studies with animals to determine the artificial gravity prescription for healthy gestation and childhood,
  • celebrating holidays,
  • performing music (e.g. string quartet), and
  • husband and wife dancing in 1/6 gravity.

And then there’s the dog. Yes, a dog! The ninth member of the team. With it’s own space suit and helmet. Trained to do remarkable feats in 1/6th gravity. Later it’s mate would be shipped resulting in, yes, Moon puppies. Unsurprisingly, this is the most popular part of the Plan. If the public is excited about America’s space program it would help to sustain it across administrations.

Finally, although the base would be establish with NASA funds, this Administration should challenge other countries to do likewise – fund their own companies to develop redundant, dissimilar components of the transportation and habitation systems. Rather than fear competition, we should encourage it. When our Space Shuttle was down, we saw just how important it was for others to provide back-up systems.

And the companies who we helped establish the transportation, telerobotic, and habitation systems would then have an immediate, potentially huge anchor tenant market, namely, international suborbital lunar exploration. That market could quickly transition our lunar companies off of NASA’s budget to economic sustainability. Then, with increased flight rate and reusable systems, private individuals could begin to afford to move to the Moon as part of a growing settlement. This Plan lays out a clear, reasonable path from where we are now to settlement in a way that aligns government and private interests.


  • "Lunar COTS" public-private programs (full-scale) at 5-7% of NASA's budget.

  • Encouraging international partners to fund their own companies to develop redundant elements of the systems.

  • Communicating with all countries of the potential for their conducting lunar exploration using the transportation system.

  • Development of a full-scale (e.g. Xeus) lunar lander starting with the Terrestrial Demonstrator.

  • The development of Ice-harvester and Dexterous telerobots able to function in lunar polar environments.

  • Development of a flat-roofed, inflatable, lunar surface habitat.

  • Initiate the educational and training criteria of the initial crew of eight.

  • Accelerating the Mars program starting with an early Mars flyby mission.

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