Crooked Foot






[Note to the Reader: The following presentation boards are of a project done for an Architecture 402 Studio class in spring of 2013 at the University of Arizona.  Our assignment was to identify a problem, research and develop a solution, and bring that solution into fruition through architectural means. The project was to be delivered on (8) 11”x17” boards, 2 were to be combined into a double page map. enjoy.]
figure [1] - please click images to view at full size in a new tab.

  The name of the project is a play on the idea of escaping our current path of masking landscapes with pollution. Pollution affects everyone and everything on this planet.  It is a deeply rooted issue with many facets and has existed since the development of our first methods of energy production. From power plants to transportation, energy production clouds our sky, damages our bodies, kills our crops, scars our land, and wastes our precious natural resources. To truly grasp the issues of energy production, we must understand its history and trajectory.  This initial presentation board (Figure 1) holds a timeline of critical events regarding energy. Each column is a different significant event and is organized chronologically from left to right as represented in the bottom row.  The first three rows compare the events in different categories.

  - The top row shows “Availability” and is dictated by the ease of delivery, natural proximity, and technological requirements involved with each event. This is represented by the vertical location of the white or black gradients. The higher the gradient reaches, the more available the event is.

  - The middle row expresses the “Efficiency Rating” of events based on factors such as embodied energy, capturable energy vs. potential energy, lifespan, required supplies, and maintenance frequency.  This is represented by the vertical location of the event icon.

  - The third row contrasts the events’ “Effect on Nature” with investigation into pollutants and hazardous by-products as well as environmental displacement. The higher, the more negative the effect.

  The ideal solution is to have high availability, high efficiency, and a low effect on nature. Reading the timeline as a whole, we see a number of inefficient energy events that are highly available and destructive.  From the beginning, these events dominate and outnumber the more efficient, available, and non-destructive alternatives.  The middle of the graphic shows the ratio of availability to the effect on nature to be inversely proportional.  This only strengthens the concept that our consumption of energy is directly responsible for pollution.  Demand is only rising with the increase in population and the spread of technology throughout our infrastructure.  Luckily an alternative is prospected as recent events show fusion as a new front runner in the efficiency and effect categories.

figure [2]

  The second presentation board [Figure 2] is an investigation into the questions that arose from the initial timeline study.  It was critical to know how much pollution each energy source produces individually per plant in comparison to that plant’s output of electricity to derive a pollution/energy ratio.  These ratios were compared then to the percentage of use per source per year in the United States to truly gain an understanding of each source as well as our situation as a whole. This information was extracted with the help of multiple organizations such as The U.S. Energy Information Administration and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This board is the compilation and comparison of all of the data retrieved through that research.

  The diagrams on the left side of the board show the true nature of each energy source.  Currently, some of our most inefficient and damaging energy sources are our most highly used due to their output and availability.  Efficient and low pollutant sources don’t have the output to meet our skyrocketing demand and their availability is often limited by location.  Though efforts to lower our consumption are on the rise, they have yet to economically produce an absolute solution to eliminating our pollution production.  A light at the end of this dark tunnel is current research showing that fusion reactors are theoretically capable of producing over 10-times the output of current energy sources.  A bonus is that fusion does not off-gas carbon-dioxide and has potential for the smallest energy loss ever seen. It is by far the most efficient source of energy.

  The diagrams on the right show the average loss/gain ratios of our current energy sources compared to the potential of fusion.  Similarly, it shows how and where the energy goes, as well as the additional loss/gain ratio of those areas of distribution. These are all compared to the theoretical over-night transformation of our power grid to solely fusion.  Even though the idea of instant results is clearly absurd, the prospect of what we could accomplish, if we dedicated the time and resources, holds more reward than we can currently fathom.

figure [3]

  The third board [Figure 3] focuses on what we have, what we need, and how we can get it. It’s sad to put a damper on the excitement about fusion, but currently fusion doesn’t work as a power source. Most current reactors consistently lose or use more energy than they generate.  It’s the molecular reaction that is to be blamed for the inefficiencies.  As of now we primarily fuse Tritium and Deuterium for reactions, this produces a “Fast Neutron”.  This Fast Neutron holds a high percentage of the energy produced in the reaction in the high temperature plasma, but due to its neutral charge, it is extremely difficult to capture.  The fast neutron rapidly damages equipment and is dangerous if not contained.  Powerful electro-magnetic fields are required to contain the plasma and trap the energy, but these magnetic fields require a massive amount of energy themselves.  It’s similar to the efficiency ratio of using heat to make electricity to make heat.

  The solution is a different molecule. The reaction between Helium-3 (He-3) and Deuterium produces Helium-4 which maintains the reaction.  It also makes heat which can power current steam turbine generators which are the number one way that humans make electricity currently.  Thirdly, the reaction produces a “Supercharged Proton”.  This proton, because of its charge, directly integrates as electricity into the electromagnetic field.  All of the bi-products, of this reaction, only produce more capturable and clean energy.

  The United States spends over $75 billion on energy per year.  It is estimated that it would take 25 tonnes of He-3 to power the United States for that same year.  Therefore, theoretically, 1 tonne of He-3 could be worth $3 billion.  But, we don’t have much He-3 here on Earth because it primarily comes from the maintenance done to nuclear weapons.  The amount that we have currently is so minimal that it drastically limits research capabilities.

  Helium-3 is in constant supply just outside of our atmosphere.  It is ejected from the sun, carried by solar winds, and spread across our solar system.  Our atmosphere is too dense for He-3; just like bubbles in water, it rises to the surface and eventually dissipates into space.  The moon has no atmosphere and has been collecting He-3 since it had a surface.  It is estimated that over a million tonnes of He-3 exist on the surface alone as the soft regolith acts as a sponge, holding every molecule that touches it.  The problem is actually obtaining the He-3 from the moon and delivering it to earth in an efficient, timely, and continuous fashion.  Repeated launches to and from the moon with large quantities of material would be inefficient and wasteful.

  The Liftport Group’s concept of a Lunar Space Elevator completely fits the bill for a new solution and architectural typology: a theoretical highway from the moon.  The idea of using current technology to create a soft connection to the lunar surface through the use of a tether to space, which allows low-energy climbing gondolas to escape lunar gravity with payloads, is perfect.  It instantly removes vast quantities of the transportation cost per tonne of He-3 by not having to transport the massive quantities of fuel required to travel to and from the moon with 25 extra tonnes of additional payload. Utilizing resources such as Bigelow Aerospace and The Liftport Group, an understanding was established of the materials, technology, engineering, and theory behind such an endeavor.

  An event sequence was developed as a broad stroke that solidified the connection between the original problem, pollution, and the solution, a Lunar Space Elevator, to retrieve He-3 from the lunar surface.  It is an overview of how this could work and what it would take to effectively solve our energy crisis, supply us with valuable materials, and expand the borders of life as we know it.  There are many complicated factors that cloud the idea of a tether to space.  Each must be addressed with care and precision to ensure this solution resolves its programmatic needs with efficiency and reliability. The path ahead is the analysis of the site, the detailing of the surface connection, the design of platforms and gondolas, and the creation of a safe and workable area upon the lunar surface.

  This design of the Lunar Space Elevator evolved in form and program through the restrictions of physics, the forces of the site, and potential future needs.  With 1/6th the gravity and over a 500°F change in temperature between light and shadow, the lunar surface requires a delicate and thorough understanding.  The extreme site requires attention to be paid to the play of gravity between the Earth and its Moon, Luna, as well as understand the complications of heat transfer in vacuums.  Cosmic rays and micrometeorites are also concerns, as is the geological and geographical placement of the elevator.  Site analysis is a delicate mix between the forces of benefit and harm, how they exist and interact on and around the area of interest.  The space elevator will stand amidst that ‘area of interest’, along with all of the programmatic elements it requires to function.

figure [4]

  Gravity suggests that the best site for the Lunar Space Elevator is the average closest location to Earth, the intersection of lunar longitude and latitude (Figure 4).  From this intersection, the space elevator’s tether would constantly be the closest to perpendicular to the lunar surface. Perpendicularity is beneficial to tether dynamics, structural requirements, and landing capabilities.  The tether would also pass through the Lagrange-point: L1, a place of balance between Earth and Luna’s gravities, the location of gravitational neutral buoyancy.  The site exists on lunar mare which holds a dense and solid geologic composition that will provide a sturdy and stable connection.  The surface of the mare is relatively flat sprinkled with craters and the location within it is close to a regolith creep rim, proximity and variety are beneficial for scientific exploration and mining operations.  Though current lunar imaging of this location lacks detail, there is still a high chance of finding a crater with a diameter of approximately 100 yards within the area.  The crater is not completely necessary, but would be greatly beneficial for its defensive and scientific value.  This crater will become the actual site of the Lunar Space Elevator and surrounding habitable area. Looking to the future, a broad multi-phased plan was established to connect the Lunar Space Elevator to key sites extending to the lunar poles via a cable highway.

   There are three major locations on the Lunar Space Elevator: the counterweight, the Lagrange-Point Station, and the surface connection.  The counterweight constantly pulls away from the moon, keeping the tether taut.  It also is the primary retrieval point for all payloads from the lunar surface.  The Lagrange-Point Station is the command center, habitat, science center, zero-gravity construction site, and primary gondola connection. The surface connection is a harpoon and a compilation of stackable structures that secures a solid grip to Luna.  Stacking and interlocking the structural elements increases their depth and therefore their strength.  These three major locations are over 250,000km apart and require a fleet of multiple and different gondolas to move payloads, humans, and equipment. Most of the parts of the Lunar Space Elevator will need to be constructed on Earth and shipped into space.  It is economically best to disassemble all parts and densely package all transport rockets to later assemble the pieces in zero-gravity space.  The counterweight is required to be many tons in order to work efficiently and properly; this mass will be compiled through the collection and compaction of existing space debris.  The shell of the counterweight will be constructed and filled at the International Space Station. Similarly, the Lagrange-Point Station’s primary structure will be built around an assembly cage used to contain all space-based construction.  The assembly cage will hold all gondolas and equipment for safe transport between the International Space Station and Luna’s surface. The harpoon and connection structures will be held at the nose of the compiled craft as it begins its one-time flight to the moon.

   The three major pieces of the Lunar Space Elevator will disconnect before they reach a distance of about half the tether’s entire length.  The tether will be semi-taut as each piece of the elevator moves to its proper place.  The counterweight will be launched back toward Earth so that it can aid in the slowing of the Lagrange-Point Station and the harpoon by altering tether extension speeds throughout the separation.  The Lagrange-Point Station will constantly measure and control all aspects of the launch and connection process as it extends the tether and prepares elements for the multi-stage connection process.  The harpoon will descend to the lunar surface for the establishment of a safe and solid connection. It will slow itself through its calculated pull on the tether and gracefully land upon the desired location.

   The centrifugal force upon the counterweight will be the primary force pulling it away from the moon once full orbit has begun; Earth’s gravity is a secondary bonus stabilizer. At this point in the connection sequence, the tether is still only semi-taut as the counterweight is still moving into position.  Upon the harpoon’s contact with the surface, the tether from the Lagrange-Point Station to the harpoon will be loose while the harpoon begins the initial automated connection sequence.  The Lagrange-Point Station dictates tether extension and provides this opportunity for the harpoon to connect to the surface before full tension is applied (Figure 5).  Immediately upon contact, perimeter drills will extend, level, and bore into the surface of the moon to establish an initial connection.  The harpoon will then unfold to release robotic crawlers that, in turn, unfold to hold photovoltaic panels away from the construction zone. During this process, the main drill will begin its bore into the surface; it is supported by the perimeter drill ring.  The perimeter drills holds the harpoon to the surface as well as provide stabilization against the rotational forces of the main drill.  Once a depth of three or more meters is reached, the main drill will extend anchor spikes and expand to solidify a strong hold to the lunar mare.

figure [5]

  After the harpoon is secured to the surface, the counterweight will approach its proper distance and the tether will gradually tighten to the preferred levels of tension as the entire systems sets into place.  Multiple stackable structures will descend individually and interlock with each other as well as the harpoon to create a strong landing pad and staging area for the gondolas.  An initial construction team will accompany the stackable structures via the use of the service gondolas.  They will secure all connections between the harpoon, the stackable structures, and the lunar surface.  The final stackable structure holds a 75’x100’ level bay and two ramps of 50’x150’.  It will be lowered by the use of the heavy gondola and will unfold into place, providing easy access for man and machine between the surface and the gondolas on the space elevator.

   There are three types of gondolas on the space elevator.  The heavy gondola is 50’x50’ open bay that is hung by a truss structure which allows large objects, such as mining equipment, easy passage to and from the lunar surface.  There are two service gondolas that each holds up to four humans, supplies, and equipment with a pressurized livable environment.  A plethora of payload gondolas exist, all holding a modular tank that can change function depending on what it is transporting.  Every gondola will connect to the tether with a mechanized crawler.  These crawlers will have the ability to expand and climb over or under each other. This makes sure that any gondola can ascend or descend the tether without interfering with other gondola movements.  Gondola geometry is designed in such a way that all gondolas freely pass by one another.  The only exception is the small payload gondolas which all go up on one side of the tether and all go down on the other.  By dividing payloads into smaller modules, energy is saved in transport and the amount of time between shipments is drastically reduced.  This ensures that mined goods are constantly being supplied to the counterweight for pickup.

   Modified BA-330 modules (or similar) will be lowered by the heavy gondola and set into place using different machines.  These modules will contain the systems, refineries, and factories that will aid in the robotic construction of the dome shield and habitat ring (Figure 6).  The purpose of the dome is to protect against the invasion of micrometeorites, cosmic radiation, and solar rays.  The dome and its structure will be robotically built out of modular lunar-alloy pieces manufactured at the base of the Lunar Space Elevator.  These pieces will be infilled with mining waste to provide a dense layer of protection against the elements.  Photovoltaic cells will cover the exterior of the dome; they will be replaced and repaired robotically.  The dome will connect into the crater rim, which will house the habitat ring.  The crater rim will be excavated and mined from within.  This process will create voids that will be structurally fit and then filled with habitable modular balloon spaces that give options to a broad range of programs.  The depth of the crater rim will provide protection and ensure safety of the habitat ring nested within.

figure [6]

  Earth’s magnetic field provides a safe zone for incoming solar radiation.  Every month the moon passes through this magnetic field and is shielded a certain percentage based on location.  Because the direction of solar radiation is a constant, specific angles can be identified that correspond to the percentage of solar radiation striking the surface.  When the moon is unshielded by any portion of the magnetic field, it receives solar radiation constantly, unless blocked by itself.  At approximately 45° off of solar constant, the moon passes into the bow-shock of the magnetic field and the percentage of solar radiation fluctuates between 100% and 25%.  Around 58°, the moon moves into the magnetosheath which filters solar radiation levels from 25% to 0%.  At 72°, the moon enters the magnetosphere and receives 0% total solar radiation.  These angles were used in the design of the oval oculus at the top of the dome that allows the gondolas passage and gives opening to natural light.  The oculus is bound by super-beams infilled with mining waste that protect from all angles of solar radiation and reflect light down into the dome’s void.  The radiation-free zone produced by the dome shield will provide a staging area for proceedings such as science experiments, mining operations, and even recreational activities.

figure [7]

  The Lunar Space Elevator is to be our efficient and economic celestial highway and energy supply train (Figure 7). It will be the spawning point of a lunar colony. It will breed a new economy.  It will provide Earth with clean and efficient energy.  It will alter technology and construction.  It could become the greatest achievement of our kind to date.  It was an awesome design project to pursue and an incredible program to explore.  I can’t thank the good people at LiftPort enough for their help and support through development of this and other extreme environment projects.  Thank you for reading; I hope you have enjoyed this deign-adventure of a Lunar Space Elevator.

spring semester [2013] project 3 [ARC402] University of Arizona [college of architecture]

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© 2013 by Canaan Skye Martin

this work was
as 2 articles in
LiftPort - getLF8d
april 2013 &
may 2013
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