Order of Production
In What Order Should Lunar Products Be Produced?
A first lunar base should have equipment for various purposes set up by robots which will perform all functions of the base. The goal of establishing infrastructure to support people on Luna is one that can be attained through incremental steps along the path to profitable operation. Electronic launch of commodities for trade is essential to a profitable lunar base, but there are many smaller steps that can bring a lunar base closer to this goal. The following sketch of initial steps is a preliminary suggestion to be developed into a detailed development plan for Luna.
First, robots dig holes for thermal insulation of water and cryogenic fluids. Second, robots line the bottom of the holes with fines for insulation. Third, robots put tanks for water and tanks of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen in the holes. Robots position the radiators and shades that protect them. Robots use wiring, piping and valves to link solar cells, electrolysis units, fuel cells, liquid oxygen tanks, liquid hydrogen tanks, water tanks, cryogenic liquefaction equipment and radiators. Robots bury the tankage in fines and set up the tents that will protect the electrolysis units, fuel cells, tankage and liquefaction equipment. Robots will use the tent for shelter themselves during the night.
Exploration is a natural requirement for developing Luna but eventually there will need to be some production of useful things. Early products can include fiber-glass, woven glass cloth, rolled glass plates, and solar cells made from vapor depositing silicon on the glass plates. Using silicon from Earth at first for solar cells reduces the weight of stuff to be shipped to Luna because the weight of solar cells is mostly the supporting structure. Silicon shipped from Earth allows solar cell production without shipping a silicon production plant from Earth. Some metallic conductor will need to be produced for wires. Aluminum is good but calcium and sodium might be produced with a smaller amount of imported equipment. With solar cells, metal for wires, and fiber glass for electrical insulation there is a good product set for expansion of the electrical power base. Then there can be the addition of new products to the line.
There will need to be pressure chambers for many operations and there is no good local resource for door seals that will act like the rubber and silicone seals made on Earth. Welding the air lock door shut with a low melting glass every time it is closed is an option. When the door is opened, the gasket can be reheated and scraped into an opening position. If the gasket is broken to open the door, bits from the seal might be reusable by melting them into the next batch of glass. Fiber glass cloth can be rolled into a cylinder and stuffed with gravel sifted from the regolith to make substitute logs for construction. Various shaped stuffed cloth structures might be possible, such as stuffed clothe arches. Sintered Brick Construction is another possible construction method.
There is a long way to go from producing the iron, glass, calcium, and aluminum from crude lunar materials to making an electromagnetic mass accelerator. If we start out along the path we might find it's possible to reach the goal.