No, America Did Not Build a Secret Moon Base

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This post continues to provide context to the episode of Hangar 1 entitled “Far Side of the Moon.” Previously, I discussed evidence contradicting the theory that Apollo 11 astronauts saw and reported alien spacecraft.

The idea of a secret manmade base on the Moon is inherently unrealistic to those with even a rudimentary understanding of spaceflight. Even so, some of those who appeared on “Far Side of the Moon” made such a claim. Thus, it is important to explain why such a notion is outside the bounds of realism.

Space 1999 Title

Life doesn’t always imitate art.
Image © ITC Entertainment Group, Ltd.

When you begin looking into space exploration, one concept comes up time and again. That concept is weight. Weight is the watchword by which space vehicles live and die. Mostly, weight causes the dreams of engineers to perish before the first weld is made.

Why is this? The answer lies in the pesky force of gravity. While it is weak and feeble compared to the other physical forces, gravity still exerts sufficient influence to make launching a single kilogram into space something of a grand exercise. Gravity forces engineers to reduce the mass of launch vehicles in order to save weight. Thus, rocket engineers live under what American chemical engineer and NASA astronaut Don Petit[1] calls, “The Tyranny of the Rocket Equation.”[2] As Pettit says:

Rockets are momentum machines. They spew gas out of a nozzle at high velocity causing the nozzle and the rocket attached to it to move in the opposite direction. Isaac Newton correctly defined the mathematics for this exchange of momentum in 1687. Conservation of momentum applied to a rocket was first done by Russian visionary and scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1903. All our rockets are governed by Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation.

Here is Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation[3]:

\Delta v = V_e ln \frac{m_i}{m_f}

Where:

  • m_i is the initial total mass, including propellant
  • m_f is the final total mass without propellant, also known as dry mass
  • v_\text{e} is the effective exhaust velocity
  • \Delta v is delta-v, the maximum change of velocity of the vehicle (with no external forces acting)
  • \ln refers to the natural logarithm function

Once you have established values for all but one variable, the remaining one becomes, as Pettit says, “cast in stone.” He goes on to note quite pointedly, “Hope, wishing, or tantrums cannot alter this result.” That remaining variable is, in practical terms, the amount of propellant you need to get where you are going. This brings us to the mass fraction of your rocket.

Mass fraction is the portion of a vehicle’s mass which does not reach the destination. It is the ratio between the propellant mass and the initial mass of the vehicle.[4] For example, a mass fraction of .50 means half of the vehicle’s mass is in the form of propellant sitting on the launch pad.

We must build our rocket within this mass fraction or it will not reach its destination. This also applies to existing rockets when new uses are contemplated. There is very little we can do to alter this result. With some clever engineering we might be able to shave a few percentage points off the fraction, but the basic result is set by the gravitational environment of our solar system (choice of where we want to go) and the chemistry of the energetic bonds of our selected chemical components (choice of propellant).

How does this impact your vehicle design?

Real mass fractions from real rockets include the effect of many engineering details. However, these machines at root are the result of the simple application of Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation. The ideal results presented here are not far removed from actual rockets. The Saturn V rocket on the launch pad was 85% propellant by mass.

These numbers represent the best that our engineering can do when working against Earth’s gravity and the energy from chemical bonds.

And there you have the nub: rocketry is a grossly inefficient exercise. The Saturn V, mightiest of all launch vehicles built by humanity, weighed 2.8 million kilograms (6.2 million pounds) on the pad.[5] Of this, 2.5 million kilograms (5.6 million pounds) was propellant.[6] Doing the math reveals that the propellent accounted for about 89% of the Saturn V’s total mass.

Saturn V launch

Saturn V remains the most powerful rocket ever flown.

To bring this back to secret moon bases, we next turn to how much mass a spacecraft can actually deliver to the moon.

Saturn V could launch about 118,000 kilograms (130 tons) into Earth orbit. Impressive, but less so when one considers that it could only send about 43,500 kilograms (50 tons) to the moon.

That is an important number: 43,500 kilograms. Remember it.

So, some on “Far Side of the Moon” asserted that NASA has a secret base on the moon. Well, how big is it? I could find no concrete (if such theories can ever be so) answers to how big the alleged base is. On the program, viewers were treated to a rendering of a small city with tall towers and many buildings.

In examining how realistic a secret manmade moon base is, you have to have some ideas as to the size of the thing. I am going to be charitable here and not go with the lunar metropolis depicted on the program. Instead, I am going to discuss a far, far simpler goal.

Our objective, reader, is to install a base on the moon with the same habitable volume of the International Space Station. I set that objective because if doing so is unrealistic, then the idea of a more substantial moon base (such as we saw on “Far Side of the Moon”) is utterly, utterly unfeasible.

The International Space Station (ISS) has a pressurized volume of about 32,333 cubic feet.[7] Of this, about 13,696 cubic feet are habitable.[8] So our goal is to lift a 13,696 cubic foot base to the Moon.

But how much would such a thing weigh? There is probably no exact analog, I will grant, but NASA has provided us with something to go by. That is the Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU).

Habitat Demonstration Unit

NASA’s Habitat Demonstration Unit. Image source: NASA

The HDU, constructed by NASA’s Lunar Surface Systems team, is a simulated base built to test crew habitability, subsystems, and procedures for lunar missions.[9] HDU is a really cool (technical term) thing. Essentially, it is a self-contained moon base NASA has tested in mock lunar environments. Over the years, NASA has paired it with proposed lunar vehicles as well as other simulated lunar buildings.

HDU has an interior habitable volume of 1,978 cubic feet.[10] It has a maximum static weight of 21,909 kg (48,300 pounds). That works out to about 11.076 kg (24.42 pounds) per habitable cubic foot. Scaling up to ISS-size at that rate gets you 151,701 kg (334,443 pounds).

That is, to put it mildly, a lot of stuff to send to the moon. By comparison, Apollo’s lunar module (LM) massed about 15,196 kg (33,500 pounds). So we must loft something that is nearly ten times as massive as the LM.

Habitat Demonstration Unit

Habitat Demonstration Unit with parked rovers. Image source: NASA

Remember when I said 43,500 kilograms was an important number? Now you see why.

In order to accomplish our goal of putting a measly base with capacity for six astronauts on the moon, we would need the equivalent of three and one-half Saturn V launches! Since half a launch is still a launch, we are talking about sending four Saturn V rockets uphill. Covertly.

Keep in mind that we have thus far only talked about habitable space. No consideration has been given for paltry items like power generation, food[11], surface vehicles, space suits, or clean underwear.

Immediately, the prospect of conducting four Saturn V launches without being spotted appears ridiculous. How do you hide this one time, let alone four times:

In the end, the prospect of secretly putting one ISS-sized base on the moon is nothing more than a fantasy. We cannot accomplish our objective, reader. We have failed.

That failure dooms the prospect of putting a small city on the moon in total secrecy. How much mass would we need to loft in such a scenario? Half a million tons? A million? How many times would we have to covertly launch the showiest rocket in history? Ten times? Fifty? More?

It is not going to happen. It did not happen. There is no secret manmade base on the moon.

In closing, I predict that some will counter these points with the genie in the bottle solution of an unconventional space vehicle. The so-called TR-3B, or something like that. I await such claims along with the evidence to back them up.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of MUFON or MUFON Georgia. Publication of said views and opinions on this website does not constitute an endorsement by either organization.

Footnotes

[1] Donald Pettit. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Pettit

[2] Pettit, D. (2012, May 1). The Tyranny of the Rocket Equation. Retrieved May 14, 2015, from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition30/tryanny.html

[3] Tsiolkovsky Rocket Equation. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsiolkovsky_rocket_equation

[4] Propellant Mass Fraction. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propellant_mass_fraction

[5] Hitt, D. (n.d.). What Was the Saturn V? Retrieved May 14, 2015, from https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/rocketry/home/what-was-the-saturn-v-58.html

[6] Boeing: Historical Snapshot: Saturn V Moon Rocket. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.boeing.com/history/products/saturn-v-moon-rocket.page

[7] Garcia, M. (Ed.). (n.d.). About the Space Station: Facts and Figures. Retrieved May 14, 2015, from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/onthestation/facts_and_figures.html

[8] Id.

[9] Wong, D. (n.d.). Usability Testing and Analysis Facility (UTAF). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20100028251.pdf

[10] Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU) Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://nasa-usa.de/exploration/analogs/hdu1_pemfacts.html

[11] Four tons of food are required to support a crew of three aboard ISS for about six months. Melina, R. (2010, August 3). International Space Station: By the Numbers. Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.space.com/8876-international-space-station-numbers.html

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6 Comments

  1. Colin

    May 16, 2015

    I agree with Britney. Do you really think the USA would use the archaic technology that they have shoved down our throats for all these decades? Or, would they be using Area 51 type ships we know nothing about. I’d be accused of being a kook if I brought up the subject of disinformation by someone planted in the UFO sector, so I won’t go there. Suffice to say, we are being led by Mr. Merta into accepting current KNOWN technology with very probable hidden military technology. Good try, Alec.

  2. Alec Merta

    May 17, 2015

    Britney, you raise a good point. But the problem is the lack of evidence supporting the ‘other technology’ theory. In fact, I recently had pointed out to me by a current NASA engineer one or two things that work against the OT theory. The most significant (and one I’m ashamed of not realizing myself) is that evidence of construction would remain on the moon far longer than on earth. While earthly wind and water would reclaim tracks and scars in the landscape, such features could last millions of years on the moon. Yet there is nothing to be seen.

    Second, the LRO has imaged most of the moon in very fine detail, and neither evidence of construction nor evidence of photo alteration has been found.

    Finally (again courtesy of the engineer), there is the issue of heat. As he put it, any such construct would stand out like a soar thumb. Yet we do no see it. Nor do the Russians, the Europeans, the Japanese, etc.

    The OT theory is interesting, and I am willing to entertain it. But I need evidence. Solid, trustworthy evidence.

    Thank you for reading! And thank you for your comment!

  3. twas brillig

    May 18, 2015

    Hey ALEC! IF, again IF they did build a secret base they were NOT using rocket fuel! They were using alternative technology. Additionally, it is plausible that we use/d existing bases in a joint ET operation.

  4. Britney Scarborough

    May 23, 2015

    Alec, those are most definitely valid points, but Colin and twas brillig both bring up the very reason I STILL think it’s feasible – OT!! Surely, “they” have ways of not having tracks or other signs of construction, as they’d be utilizing technology that no longer leaves behind such evidence. I just know I’ve personally seen too many things that supposedly don’t exist to ever take information at face value.

  5. Britney Scarborough

    May 23, 2015

    BTW, I wanted to come to the meeting, but child care issues kept me from attending. I think it would be fascinating to participate in these discussions!

  6. Soundeditorrrr

    August 30, 2015

    Truthfully, this article almost begs the question of whether you were planted to work at MUFON to discredit the show’s theories. It’s basically completely one-sided. To do that much work to show that based on our “known tech”, or rather tech that is made available to the public, that said mission would be impossible. Just a little strange that’s all, seeing as you’re supposedly part of the same organization who created the episode! See Alec, the other theories are that: We didn’t actually build any base there but SOMEONE or SOMETHING did way before we got there. China has photographed some un-natural structures with their satellites. There are people who have live feeds showing entire fleets of crafts coming and going to the moon at high rates of speed, that we are not (publicly) capable of doing. NASA allegedly secretly sent bombs up to the moon under the cover of another mission in the late 2000’s for why? Some say to cover up proof of structures there, ours or otherwise. Not seeing evidence of construction is definitely not a valid proof of nothing being there, as I believe that if there are base(s) there they are not run entirely by humans. And IF we were doing something sneaky up there, you think we wouldn’t be advising other governments to stay out of the way?

    Very few at NASA are actually “in the loop” of what the military does or can do at the top levels of clearance space-tech wise. “No evidence of photo alteration” anywhere- well then, there must not be any other classified photos of the moon that exist anywhere, hidden from the public. Whenever I hear people say, “I need solid, trustworthy evidence”- it is comical to me- whenever a high-level person discloses anything they are immediately ridiculed, threatened, or worse. Or someone uses disinfo to confuse.

    Honestly, I would’ve expected more from a MUFON correspondent. If you’re really a MUFON investigator, then you would know that said evidence from an “official” source would be impossible to come by. In my opinion the perspective put forth in this article of “if NASA doesn’t tell us or know, then there must not be anything happening”- while accepted by many in the public, is completely farcical to those of us who do our research—! They are the public face of US space exploration and nothing more. And why would a MUFON investigator go to such lengths to debunk their own show. Something is a bit off, that’s all! Thanks for the article.

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