History of Spelunca
There are a few theories about how Luna, Earth’s moon, first came to be. The theory that is accepted today is that the moon formed was a planet called Theia that impacted with Earth a few billion years ago. Theia was the size of Mars when it struck Earth. The glancing blow formed Luna from pieces of the Earth and remnants of the destroyed Theia.
Luna’s recorded history starts with Apollo 11 on July 20th in 1969 at 20:18 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon’s surface on July 21st. There were five more manned moon landings between 1969 and 1972. In 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart and disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, killing two payload specialists and five NASA astronauts. The Challenger disaster took the life of a civilian schoolteacher. It would be more than twenty years before NASA would risk sending another civilian into space.
Early in the initial phase of Luna’s development remote controlled droids built three landing and launch sites (LLS) for cislunar transit. The first LLS was built in 2025 near the southern pole and named Maena after the mining company that owned it. The second LLS was built in 2035 and near the northern pole and called Selene. Finally, the last LLS was built in 2040 near the equator on the sunny side of the moon, it was named Chang-E. The LLS sites were built and owned by different mining corporations looking for Helium-3, Platinum, and Ilmenite. These three corporations were the primary employers on Luna. Mining engineers were employed in six month shifts on the LSS sites supervising droids and mining equipment.
Luna’s first permanent living settlement was called Spelunca. It was built within an ancient volcanic cavern, part of a system of lava tubes. Spelunca’s lava tube system was discovered during southern mining operations. At the time, human Maena employees were sent to extravehicular exploration of the area was done. The largest cavern of the lava tube was found to be relatively smooth and level, with a skylight entrance to the cavern. The cavern was relatively close and accessible to the Lunar surface, about 160 meters deep, and about four kilometers across. About ten meters of rock covered the cavern and subsequent tests showed it was also sufficient to provide shielding from the dangers of the Lunar surface.
Remote controlled droids were used for most of the construction. Solar panels were installed strategically on the lunar surface to provide continuous power. Solar power was used to provide electricity, heat, and light. One of the early phases of construction included sealing off the main cavern from the surface and the other connecting lava caves. In a nearby crater a line of imported producers or miniature chemical processing plants were installed only a few hundred meters from the skylight of the underground lava tube that would be used for the first city.
After installation, the remote controlled, semi-automatic droids delivered Luna’s natural soil to the chemical producers’ hoppers and the producers separated essential elements from the native soil. The first essential element was silica sand for on-site manufacturing of glass and quartz. Many producers separated out oxygen from the lunar soil. Others separated out nitrogen and hydrogen. Eventually, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen producers would pump air directly into the chamber below to create a breathable space for colonists. Other producers separated out hydrogen and oxygen for water. Eventually, water was also harvested from ice found on the surface in nearby craters. The most abundant elements on the moon were oxygen, silicone, and iron. Much of the construction material for the colony was primarily manufactured from local, Lunar materials. Mobile builder robots capable of 3D printing objects larger than themselves were sent from Earth.
An air lock elevator was built to provide access to the cavern from the surface through the sealed skylight. Sunlight was piped into the underground construction site through clear-sealed, mirrored ducts and fiber optic cables. The fiber-optic cables and mirrors were manufactured on-site by the droids from Luna’s own resources. Large robots the size of very small cars were deployed inside the large caverns to compact and melt down the loose lunar soil prior to the settlement construction to clear, stabilize, and level the ground.
Hydroponic lunar greenhouses and enclosed terrariums were manufactured and installed. At first, droids planted in imported soil. The first foods grown on Luna were a variety of herbs, coffee trees, vegetables like potatoes, radishes, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, and green and red onions. Excess plant waste was added to automatic composting bins. Microorganisms imported from Earth were added to the compost piles. The compost was eventually loaded into automated spreaders which integrated the composted fertilizer with native lunar soil.
After twenty years of construction the first colonists moved into the incomplete city. Life for the first few colonists was very much tethered to the shuttle they had used to arrive on Luna. The droids began stockpiling food for colonists when the arrival of permanent residents became imminent. Mobile builder robots constructed housing through 3D printing of locally manufactured materials such as glass, quartz, fayalite, and iron. Quartz and fayalite were combined with imported resins and polymers to 3D print brownish-green walls, floors, countertops. The first four homes to be built were already partially completed when the colonists arrived.
Colonists arrived on Luna at the beginning of a dayspan period in January 2065. Lunar sunlit days were the equivalent of roughly two weeks on Earth. Rather than a large balloon of air pressure, Activity Space Suits (ASS) relied on mechanical counter pressure. The skintight suits were made up of nickel-titanium metal fibers, spandex-like material, and pressure cords. In those first two weeks colonists were responsible, in their activity suits, for testing the cavern’s atmosphere for breathability and safety. After it was deemed safe, colonists were able to work inside the sealed cavern wearing only thermal compression clothing. Adjustment from Earth’s relatively higher pressures and the low temperatures of the colony took a bit of time. The atmosphere inside the cavern was thin by Earth standards but livable. Among other things, opaque glass doors and windows were 3D printed and waiting to be installed by human hands. Colonists finished construction of the first Lunar homes by the end of the next month’s dayspan.
Three kilometers of land within the cavern were devoted to crop growth. The fields were affected by the introduction of colonist’s waste. Post-colonist waste management included dry urine diverting toilets so the urine could be used as a resource. The addition of human urine, very rich in nitrogen, diluted with water was essential to future crop yields. Human feces was put into a deoxygenation chamber where solar concentrators began a thermochemical decomposition process at about 600 degrees Celsius, converting human waste into carbonized odorless, smokeless fire-bricks. Fire-bricks could be ground up and combined with compostable waste or used as a smokeless source of fuel.
Pioneers were sent from Earth in groups of eight at a time, every six to twelve months as progress on the colony allowed.
Luna’s first city was officially completed forty years after construction began, twenty years after the first permanent residents arrived. When the first city was finally completed the residents totaled one hundred sixty people, all mining employees and their families.
Before exiting the elevator’s airlock to Luna all employees put on tight, mechanically pressurized space suits, as well as gas filled gloves, boots, and helmets.
Lunar Laser Communication Ltd delivers up to half a gigabit to Luna via laser-based long distance internet. Luna residents can expect up to one megabit speeds from Earth. Inter-Luna transmissions are up to a gigabit. A small data center was established in Spelunca to facilitate information transfer to Luna’s residents and temporary workers at the northern and equatorial LLS.