I have explained the rationale for Mankind and space; why a return to the moon should be a foregone conclusion not a question of should ‘we’. But now I offer you some food for thought, a “plan” that builds off of that rationale – a methodology that supports routine access orbits beyond LEO.
Consider our goals and objectives; we are choosing to create the capability to go where we want in the solar system, in the Universe and we aim to do that often. What are some of the constraints on that? Launches are costly, from Earth anyway. First of all Earth has an escape velocity of 11.2 km/s. Then there’s the relationship between the weight of the cargo (that includes the fuel needed to obtain that escape velocity) and the cost of the launch. If our goal is to extend the footprint of mankind into space and allow ourselves the safety of occupying more than one location (placing less of a drain on Earth’s resources) then we need to welcome into existence the plan for Cislunar space.
So the question is – what is Cislunar? Well dictionary-wise Cislunar means the space between the Moon and the Earth.
Next the question becomes what do we do there? Once “we” have gone to the Moon and our eyes have shifted outward – to say Mars, Europa, Alpha Centuari Bb then we need to lift cargo and all sorts of materials out into space to meet us. The answer lies in the creation of something similar to the picture below.
A sustainable cislunar transportation system that will unleash new opportunities for economic and industrial expansion into space by having fuel and supplies in a “space station” of sorts that the Orion or whatever advance transport we may have just docks and loads up.
Odds are we could build the “space station” using an amalgamation of parts from the ISS since in 2024 the ISS will be decommissioned. The same space station would perhaps produce propellants or carry propellants that had been made on the Moon. La grange points such as L1 seem custom made for this project! AND likely this station will be run primarily by robots and automation and be manned by NASA astronauts who work in 6 month shifts.
Sounds very next century doesn’t it?