[ExI] Fwd: [Open Manufacturing] IOSI - The International Open Space Initiative

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Sat Jul 25 02:55:58 UTC 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Eric Hunting <erichunting at gmail.com>
Date: Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 8:51 PM
Subject: [Open Manufacturing] IOSI - The International Open Space Initiative
To: openmanufacturing at googlegroups.com

I want to present to the folks here for feedback a concept I've
started floating in the space advocacy community for an International
Open Space Initiative which is focused on the objective of telerobotic
pre-settlement of the Moon and Mars. The premise is pretty down-to-
Earth, really. Ever since the end of the first Space Race, space
development (as opposed to the SciFi theme of space) has been slowly
losing ground in terms of mainstream cultural relevance not merely due
to other economic and geopolitical distractions but because of the
essential inaccessibility of space programs as national space agencies
became entrenched bureaucracies. Riding on the fantasy of the
Astronaut Farmer -the 'everyman' who builds his own rocket and goes to
space in-spite of the government- the New Space movement has garnered
great, but brief, attention, now losing ground as the activity has
become dominated by the celebrity rich and the hard realities of
inaccessibility of personal participation once again sink in. Working
recently on the Avalon section of TMP2, which concerns the strategy
for development of lunar and Mars settlement through telerobotic pre-
settlement, I realized that there was an opportunity in this concept
that has long been overlooked. Most people realize that they will
never become astronauts, work for space agencies or the traditional
aerospace industry, or ever afford space tourism. But a vast number of
people around the world and across all demographics now can and do
build their own robots as a hobby. And sending robots to space is an
order of magnitude less challenging and expensive a prospect than
sending human beings. So if there was a truly open participatory space
program focused on this goal of telerobotic pre-settlement, even a
poor student in a developing country with some clever ideas would have
a pretty good chance of his electric progeny getting to space, along
with the brainchildren of a whole global community of people who would
otherwise never hope to be able to participate in space. Now THAT has
cultural gravitas. With telerobotics you can actually create a world
space program everyone has the potential to personally participate in
on some level. I liken the concept to the greatest model train layout
ever -the kind you might one day move into.

Now, obviously, we can't replace human beings with robots, especially
if people intend to go live out there. But the old argument over
whether humans are better or worse than robots is moot. You don't
really need the presumably superior capabilities of human beings to do
most of the stuff it takes to establish a working industrial
infrastructure in space to support human habitation with and anything
a robot can do in space with some efficacy it can do at an order of
magnitude better cost-efficiency than man. The essential value of the
telerobot is that is buys time and time is cheaper than manned space
flight. And lets face facts; they don't hold national days of mourning
for failed hardware! By pre-establishing the necessary infrastructure
for settlement telerobotically we radically reduce the cost of human
transportation to these settlements by allowing the design of manned
spacecraft to focus exclusively on efficient and comfortable human
transport -and not on all that other companion stuff for outpost life
support and exploration that add to the working mass of spacecraft and
get made much more expensive than they need to be because they have to
be combined with man-rated systems. So, basically, telerobotics isn't
a way of replacing human beings in space but rather a means to
lowering the cost of ultimate manned habitation by leveraging the
efficiencies and protracted on-site time robots have to offer. And it
sure doesn't hurt that you can actually crowdsource this technology
development rather than leaving it relegated to big expensive
facilities hosting tiny handfuls of elites with big salaries.

Another great benefit here is that, unlike man-in-space activity,
virtually everything that goes into a telerobotic settlement has
direct terrestrial re-application, particularly industrial. Pre-
establishing a local industrial infrastructure to support permanent
space settlement essentially means figuring out how to go from dirt
and rocks to microchips and groceries using hardware on the scale of
home appliances. Well, isn't that exactly what we talk about in this
forum every day? The implications of this technology on Earth are
huge, and the work parallels the existing trends toward technologies
of demassified and personalized production which we anticipate leads
to post-scarcity. This is world-changing impact from modest-cost space
development -what the space agencies have forever promised but never
actually delivered. And, again, we're talking about crowdsourcing this
development as well as making all this technology open source by
default. The key here is that we're giving this latent trend in the
evolution of industrial technology a coherent objective to actively

Furthermore, many of the technologies my proposed strategy for
telerobotic pre-settlement employs are actually rather low-tech and
thus lend themselves to much broader public participation. For
instance, I propose initial settlement based on the use of
telerobotically excavated habitats -simply carving habitat spaces out
of the native rock and in some case adapting pre-existing caves or
lava tunnels -which scientists suggest could be as large as kilometers
wide and hundreds more long. The traditional model of lunar and Mars
habitats are elaborate tin cans on a desert made like spacecraft. But
John Q. Public can't easily make such structures and so can't
participate in their design and testing. Well, that's no problem for
the excavated settlement which is simply sealed and pressurized with
modular bulkheads at access tunnels, possibly with the addition of
simple pneumatic hull skins or a wall coating of ceramic or fiber
reinforced epoxy. My proposed scheme would see the rock walls of such
chambers pre-finished by robot with a grid of inserted socket pins
which define a precision attachment grid for  modular light framing,
mezzanines, equipment, lighting, and deck/wall/ceiling panels. It's
the same system I've proposed for outfitting the concrete structures
of large marine colonies, deriving from the T-slot based Utilihab
system as used companies like Jeriko House. No fighter-plane workshop
for this. Every industrial designer, architect, garage-shop furniture
craftsman in the world get thus get involved with the design of this
habitat in space and test their designs anywhere. The challenge is to
figure out how to live well in an environment that's all indoors and
only uses video walls for windows. Note that here also you have direct
terrestrial re-application. All this can apply to the design of
modular component and relief architecture. There's no vicariousness to
the 'technology transfer' -like Apollo in some roundabout way
resulting in pacemakers and pocket calculators. The exact same
hardware can be used to build buildings right here on Earth. People
can turn their innovations for a space habitat into their own homes.

Putting this all together, I've arrived at the proposal of an
International Open Space Initiative; a global open source space
program focused on telerobotic settlement. The basic objective would
be to employ a Linux-like development approach to developing all the
elements necessary for a telerobotic surface settlement and the
industrial infrastructure to support sustained human habitation and to
replicate as many of its own equipment and systems as possible from
indigenous materials. All technology would be open source. First
target; the Moon because of its lesser communications latency and thus
lower demand for local systems intelligence. Then Mars, which needs
systems with more local intelligence to compensate for high
communications latency. Both destinations would use the same pre-
settlement strategy but with some variations for the differences in
environment -chiefly in the design of lander hardware and systems

The program would deliberately ignore initial development of launch
systems in favor of a focus on settlement systems, leaving this
largely inaccessible technology to the existing players and counting
on the virtue of robotics to be deployable with any launch systems
likely available in the near future. However, it would explore on-
orbit-assembled transorbital spacecraft to enable use of smaller scale
launch systems. Right now, we can do everything necessary for
settlement in a fab lab/garage shop setting except the rockets, whose
particular design just doesn't matter too much. We'll be busy for
about ten years anyway just with this settlement technology. So we
leave the rockets to the old guard who would only give us trouble for
invading their turf and dealing in 'strategic' technologies anyway.
This might change with time, but until we get some flow-back from the
new industrial technology developed for the settlements, concerted
launch system development is impractical for this open development
strategy. When the IOSI has the necessary cultural gravitas, deals
will be struck just to keep the establishment from being left in the
dust. Until then, I would anticipate this area of development to be
limited to on-paper engineering, though there are some possibilities
for New Space partnerships and some marine launch innovation using
very small scale vehicles.

Here's how I envision the program working. All development would
revolve around an evolving document called the Settlement Systems
Architecture which describes all the systems the settlements need and
their functional performance characteristics. The foundation of this
document would be what I have do far written for Avalon in TMP2;


The SSA would be administered by a core committee -an invitational
group that basically takes a roll similar to that of Linus Torvalds'
when managing Linux development. Though the SSA, it defines the
overall program architecture, objectives, and functional standards but
does not get involved in any management of individual project
development activity. However, there would still be forums for open
discussion on SSA specifics. This may seem less than democratic, but a
coherent vision is critical to this program and the core group would
be accountable to the larger community in terms of reputation. If they
make too many unpopular decisions, participation goes away. So they
have to seem responsive and engaged.

The SSA is broken down into a series of discrete project
specifications/solicitations and interoperability standards with
target Spaceworthiness Performance Criteria. This is then used as the
basis of a more advanced form of the Sourceforge site with each
proposed project getting a solicitation page, a status blog, and
forums. More than one person or team may declare adoption of a
project. They would all compete against the SPC. Lesser 'elemental'
technology projects  -batteries, solar arrays, excavation methods,
materials processing- would also be featured with the intent of their
being integrated into other whole systems, this in order to lower the
bar for participation in hard engineering projects. Similarly, some
projects would be devised specifically with younger age participants
in mind and geared toward public events. Philanthropists may also be
involved by offering prizes for completed projects to encourage
participation and they would be free to offer grants to support
projects, either for all participants or for those participants they
deem more promising.

To promote the program and cultivate socialization among the
participants, a global convention circuit would be developed offering
public events -ideally at least once per year on every continent-
where the basics of the telerobotic settlement concept are showcased
and attendees can demonstrate their hardware in open trials. Trials
for the younger participants would be particularly significant. The
number of these events is intended to grow with time and become more
regional. They may be associated with specific historic events, as
with Yuri's Night. They could be philanthropically sponsored but would
be organized primarily by IOSI participants/supporters/fans in a given
region and financed on attendee fees like typical fan conventions.
They could also parasitize other existing space-theme events such as
the X-Prize events. This would be particularly important early on as
the number of initial supporters may be too small to justify an
independent convention.

Initial promotion would be done on-line, through video presentations,
and with exhibits at existing space events. Four key promotional tools
I envision are a CGI-based video presentation, a trade show banner
panel walk-through labyrinth, a scale model semi-working settlement
mockup with simple robots intended to function as visual examples of
the major settlement hardware elements -with some visitor interactive
features-, and a T-slot structure habitat mockup -which might feature
the scale model settlement as centerpiece in a garden atrium. (the
basic design of my proposed manned habitats uses domed chambers from
household to city scale with artificial skies illuminated by surface
heliostat arrays linked by fiber optic cable hosting central garden
biomes surrounded by terraced perimeter dwellings -rather like a
Modernist take on the 18th and 19th century 'circus' communities of
Somerset UK. Later built-up surface structures would be largely the
same, except with domed enclosures made of regolete and using a
'virtually transparent' light transmitting heliostat system featuring
image-correcting optics. Early habitats would have much the same
organization, only based on much smaller scale installations in grid
vault excavations normally used for industrial facilities and having a
more modest tens of meters vault span)

As the program develops a larger following, regional labs would be
setup to provide more local meeting places for participants with
shared workshop facilities. These would be based on the model of
today's fab labs with the addition of 'nursery' testing facilities for
settlement systems and eventually telecom facilities and 'command
centers' to teleoperation of test system. These would offer yet
another opportunity for philanthropic participation, particularly in
developing countries or disadvantaged communities. They would not be
strictly limited to IOSI activity, functioning much like the current
fab labs. This would allow them to be important channels for flow-back
of technology out of the program and into local regional

As the program develops a good spectrum of hardware approaching the
spaceworthiness criteria, a number of testbed settlement facilities
would be established in relatively remote and rugged environments -
such as in Iceland. Here would be created virtually fully functional
settlement mock-ups intended to put systems to the test in a space-
analog environment for protracted periods of time until the complete
settlement 'package' is fleshed out. Individual settlement sites would
focus on different stages of the pre-settlement; 'beachhead' outpost,
open surface 'cluster' outpost, and excavated settlement. These sites
would be intended to be completely unmanned, operated entirely by
teleoperation via telecom links and with all equipment going in via
'drop zones' using prototypes of rough and soft lander systems dropped
from aircraft where possible and going out via 'dump zones' for human
pick-up. Only in emergencies would humans be allowed on site.
Communications would be administered through a central command center
but individual systems might be managed by participants anywhere in
net space, their teleoperator interfaces providing latency and
interference simulation. Getting equipment prototypes into these
facilities would be the ultimate goal of the basic development program
with the intent thereafter being testing for refinement and duty life
analysis -though initial hardware may be far from spaceworthy. I
anticipate about a decade to development of a complete spaceworthy

With the completion of a spaceworthy systems package for the Moon,
program activity would shift emphasis on deployment of initial lunar
settlements using partnerships with space agencies or launch
entrepreneurs for launch service. A production facility would be
established for fabrication of mission hardware, financed by
crowdsourcing from the then very large IOSI community, space agencies,
universities, and philanthropists. As previously noted, deployment may
rely on transorbital vessels assembled on orbit using modular
components. The initial 'beamships' (so-called because their core
structure is a single large truss beam. See
 would serve double-duty as transport vessels and remote sensing and
communications relay satellites on arrival. They would derive from my
MUOL (modular unmanned orbital laboratory. See
 concept for Later larger transport vessels would be reusable,
cycling between Earth and lunar/Mars orbit and eventually made partly
or wholly on the Moon or Mars and deployed from there. These would
later evolve into manned transport vessels with the addition of
TransHab-style cabin modules -potentially of office building scale.

So this is the rough plan for the IOSI. I think there's a lot of
potential in this for stimulate a new revival of mass cultural
relevance for space while also stimulating the pursuit of Post-
Industrial technology through a kind of global Manhattan Project.
There's no question here about the social benefits of space because
the public as a whole -globally- has access to active participation
with the technological spin-offs immediately relevant on Earth and
available to all. This would be the first true world space program,
allowing countries and their citizens that never imagined space could
be something for other than superpowers to participate in real and
practical space development.

Eric Hunting
erichunting at gmail.com

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- Bryan
1 512 203 0507

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