Create a commercial lunar cargo market.

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kelvinzero

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Im proposing that instead of merely a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, we should have a Commercial Orbital/Lunar Transportation Services (COLTS :) ) and claiming we can definitely start right now within the current budget.

I am not talking about manned. To create and sustain the ability to land anything would be incredibly useful, as I will justify.

Why we can do it.
Very simply, because it is already in the budget; it just isn't phrased that way. There is already money for precursor missions, for example to land something at the lunar poles. There is already money to encourage commercial lunar landers, such as the lunar lander challenge and the google lunar X-prize. Again, there is specific mention in the budget.
So we have money to land stuff, we have money for commercial landers, my proposal really is just to underline the obvious implication that there should be a commitment to sustain a healthy lunar lander market.

Why we should do it.
...To reclaim the moon. To actually explore something in realtime. Think how embarrassingly long we could not even demonstrate in blurry photos evidence of our previous visit. It cost 80 million just to crash something into a pole and watch the flash to be analyzed over months to detect water. Even if the cost per kg is 200k, that would be far superior to our current situation.

...Because the reasons are already in the budget. To give focus to our R&D. A common complaint of the new budget is that Technology demonstrators without focus may lead nowhere. Perhaps as important, it may seem that way to the public if not applied to immediate achievements. By moving just our most promising teleoperating and ISRU demonstrations to the moon, it creates significant competition between a wide range of projects to be the best of the best, and on time. There are also many other R&D projects that would benefit. We can probably evolve small rocket systems faster than massive earth-to-LEO launchers.

...Because we will never run out of useful missions for small cargos. Once every possible space science mission is performed there are stream of teleoperating and ISRU demonstrations.

...To move beyond one off space science missions and LEO space stations that fall down again when interest wanes. What ever we put on the moon stays there. We can actually do things such as lay down acres of solar power panels printed on regolith with lawnmower sized robots, extract water from the poles. Water and power services will eventually leverage other larger experiments such as smelting and manufacture. A robotic colony will lead in inevitably to a human one, and not just a sortie or a base which is really just a rationalization for the rockets that got you there. When humans arrive they will increase by a large factor the effectiveness of an already functional infrastructure.
 
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Valcan

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I like the idea but we need to make it cheaper before we try anything like that.
 
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kelvinzero

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Read again you guys :)

Those points are both covered, in fact your two points nearly summarize my point..

It need not cost anything beyond what is already budgeted for, because the key elements are already in the budget. There is already the google x-prize, there is already the lunar lander challenge, there are already projects for ISRU, there is already budget for precursor missions.

This suggestion is really about (a) bundling up all these projects under a common purpose and (b) not just develop the technology to land once, for a one-off mission, but for ongoing use, in a competitive environment.

I think we could probably actually save money by not forcing the development of an entire landing system for a narrow goaled precursor mission. Whoever is going to take a serious attempt at the google prize are obviously going to be looking beyond one-off missions, or would do so if a little incentive were added.
 
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kelvinzero

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Thats very interesting!

But we have already established that it is already happening, in terms of all these projects mentioned above!

However it is not really happening until NASA adopts this officially as a goal. All the pieces are there, we just need this one extra small thing: a commitment from NASA to nurture a commercial lunar cargo market.

There really are so many parts in place I wonder why they have not. It wouldnt make any sense to encourage private companies to develop this technology except for sustained use.
 
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