Q: Instead of water, what would you propose they focus on at a moon base? BTW The savings from reusability are in addition to the savings from not having to launch fuel from Earth. But even getting fuel derived from the Moon or asteroids will not be free, since it will still be quite a hassle.
I would say to do things which may be expensive even with re-usability, or where reusability isn’t such a help and does not matter so much. With the goal to make use for all those activities for at least few main goals – ease access from earth to space, and get some reward for the people for whom space isn’t an interest and those who are focused on things here on earth.
Delivering propellant to LEO can be a small part of that. But it more like a sidekick project.
A bigger and more interesting goal can be pursuing the ability to do all technological stuff we do on earth but in space. It cn be rewarding for people who like to move in space and for those who stay by the what’s can be done by those in space(it isn’t about bs like producing stuff in orbit and deliver it on earth, but more like solving problems on a global scale on planetary scale – maybe simple as getting more light to certain regions, get less light to others, influence weather patterns, climate change etc – so those old projects of old times, but this time we have potencial to make them true)
And for the moon as starting ground it can be the ability to implement some technologies on the moon and have the ability to deliver materials from the moon in good quantities into orbit around the moon or in the orbit around the earth or in Lagrange points.
The ability to remove the necessity of heavy lifting of everything from earth, which open ability to build significantly bigger in those places.
As a subset of that, more initial stuff is the ability to implement certain specific technologies for increasing energy production(which is required for extracting materials and construction materials from the regolith, making and driving other processes we may need), and building some massdriver as more efficient way of converting energy to payload in orbit, and lesser demands of propellant and lesser demands for delta-v in the case. Potentially you need only massdriver to insert some payload in orbit around the earth.
you need about 87m/s delta-v to fix some 100×400 orbit in to 400×400 orbit. and you can use gas thrusters for that(pure oxygen as an example, or Al+oxygen) And it can be a fully 3d printed engine or be very simplistic one. And there is no need for water. And you can drop speed by aerobraking.
Prior that a step can be multiple steps with multiple tasks.
as an example attempt to make a reflector from materials on the moon – some glass coated with some aluminum vapors(plasma coating of glass), or something like that.
Or dig a ditch, parabola shape, smelt the surface, coat it with reflective stuff and use that as stuff which focuses energy.
Or test more complex contraption which is capable to be teleoperated, and capable to produce another such system from materials available on the moon.
Prior to that, test such system here on earth, which does similar stuff from stock/planks provided to it, in a fashion similar to what could be suitable for the moon.
I mean to the time you attempt to establish a base here on the moon, hm there on the moon, you should have resources and capabilities which help you in the process.
And it is not the water on the polar region, it is not peaks of eternal light, but energy and materials and ability to shape materials in the way you need them.
As simple as producing iron beams or titanium beams, as beams we are used to, not necessarily trying to smelt regolith in bricks and such and discovering how to work with them when our end goal is probably to use materials we have good experience to work with.(do not say melted bricks are bad, they are good, but flexibility, where to use or not to use them, can be helpful compared to a situation when you have to do everything out of the material which not necessarily good for that everything).
Hydrogen is available in regolith enough to produce about 40 gram of water from a tonne of regolith processed, and technology of processing regolith to extract gases is relatively simple, just heat it to 800K(or something like that). It better than gold concentrations we extract and easier as the process how to do so. It is not enough to use it as a propellant, as fuel, but it is not a problem if you do not have to do so. And it may be sufficient to have it as a byproduct of processing to grease other processes in the system.
if you process 1000ton per hour you can get 40t of water in about a month as a byproduct.
And in terms of operation, it just needs diggers which skim the surface, separates rocks, big rocks from stuff they can carry, deliver on the sort of belt, heat the thing with solar concentrators, capture the stuff.
It just example that if you have enough energy you can do stuff which you would not be able to do without it, which solves a problem which was unsolvable and required special conditions like water in craters.
Map one square km of the surface, for depths of digging, and let rovers dig according to the map and your algorithms which are not more complex than NPC in games, and intervene like in the game when you detect some problems in the process.
just one square km will entertain them for month’s (depending on the approach)
repeat, extend the capabilities.
Be able to produce the digger transporter and it is your repair system.
When you have few GW of electricity production and 1000 ton of water, come and make a base and a water pool there if you like.
So local production of equipment capable of doing meaningful work, introducing changes on the moon according to our goals, this should be the goal. BFR helps here too.
And a lot of work in the direction can be done here on earth, in terms of testing and development. Just human base on the moon isn’t cool, it does not serve a bigger purpose, or does it very slow and very expensive.
So the ability to do more stuff, more intensive should be a goal, not just a presence. Removing the restriction – one fail is an end of the mission – those things should not be a problem to us, as they really make stuff very expensive on RD phase and in the implementation phase and in launching phase as result.
This should go. And if we have humans it can’t go away.
So we should have humans when securing them in terms preventing one fail is on the budget of the profit of the whole system.