- Solving Settlement Problems: Dealing with Moon Dust Ad Astra By Edward D. Flinn, posted: 23 February 2006 07:11 am ET
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Galactic Wheeled Vehicle Speed Record
On Luna it is possible for wheeled vehicles to go faster than on Earth or Mars because there is no air resistance. One reaches a limit caused by wheels flying apart from centrifugal force at high speeds. That limit can be circumvented by having a large diameter hub, such as about sixty kilometers in diameter, and a wheel in the shape of a ring of perhaps three meters thickness supported from a magnetically levitating track on the hub. The hub would orbit Luna at the equator rotating once per orbit to keep the same part of the hub down constantly. The wheel would run on the track at 1635 meters per second relative to the hub and stationary relative to Luna wherever it is at the bottom of the hub. It would touch Luna's high spots. The wheel would experience 92.31 meters per second squared (about 9.42 g's) including centrifugal and tidal forces. The hub would experience the stress from supporting the wheel and 0.0816 meters per second squared tidal force near Luna's surface and 0.0784 meters per second squared at the top. Tidal forces are zero at an altitude of 30 kilometers. The hub can be made as thick as it needs to be to support the wheel without calling for any super strong materials because the added weight from the hub's thickness is based upon the weak tidal forces it must resist. Initially it would be possible to use just a small ark of the wheel and spin it up to soft land cargo on Luna and pick it up. Eventially mountains could be lowered and valleys filled in so a wheel would be constantly rolling down the road maintaining orbital speed and altitude for the hub while two other wheels would spin up and spin down on the same hub to transfer cargo to and from the first wheel or directly to and from Luna.
The Grand Equitorial Road
If someone is reading this article in the year 2208 while driving a private vehicle on Luna near the equator, look about. If you see two parallel roads streaching off east and west as far as you can see with groups of trucks and stacks of crates standing at intervals along the side of the roads, do not park your vehicle in the middle of a road. The traffic may not stop.
There has been criticism of virtually all aspects of Lunar settlements based on the stuff being too expensive. It has been claimed that enthusiasts consider the products of Lunar industry free for the use of supporting their schemes. Is it a good assumption to consider the products of Lunar industry as nearly free? One can point to the use of industrial infrastructure to produce more infrastructure thus demonstrating the basis of compound intrest. This has a potential after we pass an unknown threshold of producing a vast amount of wealth, but some people seem unconvinced. A historical analogy should help. In 1700 AD most people were farmers and the industrial revolution was barely started. A citizen of an English colony in North America at the time would be unlikely to be able to concieve of the amount of wealth needed to provide an interstate freeway system, an automobile each for most adults, and central heating in most houses. We are at a point in the development of industry with similar potential to exceed present expectations. The development of computer controled automated production is almost ready to be turned loose on Luna. We are so close in concept that it would be a shame to be stopped by a threshold investment higher than convenient and a start up time longer than investers expect to live. In any case, we are doing some of the right things. Space probes are examining the Lunar poles and are under development to carry the task further. Just don't be pikers when describing the potential developments from lunar industry. If Luna ever makes break-even, it will go on to make all previous space development efforts look like peanuts. Space ships bigger than the Titanic could be cycling between Earth and Mars. People merely need to choose the right development projects to work on and keep working on them for half a lifetime or more.