Constructics - Autonomous Robotic Construction
The Human Element
Large scale repetitive lunar and planetary construction activity is conducive to robotic constructors. Until robotic constructors are sufficiently and autonomously dexterous, adaptable, and mobile, humans must team up with their machines in some way to build facilities in remote places. Such synthetic, non-biologically based robots are feasible now, but the team-up approach will not likely be fully replaced any time soon.
Most aerospace workers have not performed significant construction labor and most construction workers are not familiar with aerospace work. Lunar and planetary facilities and robotic constructor designs will be created by humans with a solid grasp of both perspectives.
Unique construction methods were implemented to construct the International Space Station (ISS). The human element was essential. The astronauts who built the ISS are now experienced 'in space' construction workers. Their experience and perspective combined with the experience and perspective of Earth based construction workers will go a long way toward successful construction of lunar and planetary facilities.
The key element for successful lunar and planetary construction is an aerospace construction culture - the merging of aerospace quality, excellence, and safety with construction processes. The aerospace industry has much to learn from the latter from a practical perspective.
NASA had to learn to raise the production quality and safety bar. Then they successfully completed programs such as Apollo early on; programs such as ISS have benefited ever since. The aerospace industry typically invests significant resources for research and development and then puts these new technologies to work for long term profitability, quality of workmanship, and safety. The construction industry culture is more tuned towards immediate profitability. However, there is much that works well in the construction industry from a practical viewpoint that aerospace should consider prior to embarking on lunar and planetary construction.
Where will excellence in lunar and planetary construction company ownership and management come from? You will find them where innovation, integrity, and success converge under one roof. They exist today in any industry and country albeit some environments are more conducive for them to operate. If you take a moment, you can probably think of a handful of them - there isn't a shortage.
The following is a sample project: For this project, NASA, JAXA, ESA, and other space agencies along with a collaboration of nations tag up to build a globally owned and operated solar power station on the Moon. It is sized to supply all of Earth’s electric power needs indefinitely. The 'innovative, high integrity, and success under one roof' owners and managers integrate into the effort, as well.
Lunar and planetary construction workers will likely be of this ilk: They will be skilled and unskilled workers who are intrinsically motivated to be there. They will be relatively intelligent, trained individuals who complete work with excellence. Each learns the details required of them and they meet every spec during construction without fail. The latter is paramount - there will be no tolerance for anyone who can not - or will not - do this.
Robotics would play a massive role to build the example project. However, unless we are building things for the benefit of robots, we must always assure that the results will be sustainable and healthy for life that it serves. Individuals tend to mold into a culture and it is the cultures that drive each business and each industry. A new lunar and planetary engineering and construction industry will merge and evolve from aerospace engineering, civil engineering, and the construction industry. Its own culture will evolve. That evolved culture will turn back to Earth where the old way of doing things in their respective industries will be easy pickings to replace. They will raise the bar of innovation, integrity, and success on Earth.
Sounds good anyway :-)