After the Lunar Automated missions have scoured landing sites for data and validating the local stability, and the Asteroid missions have built some operational confidence in the ability to travel Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO) and do interesting things, I’d say that there is a good case to send people to the Moon. The first missions would be Apollo-esque in approach, as they would not be meant for settlement, but they would not be flags-and-footprints, either. This phase is Human Lunar Sorties (OPS.8)
Where the robots have left off with settlement site selection and in-situ construction, human explorers take over. The primary tasks of these initial missions would be to do two things:
- Task A: Prepare the site for a settlement operations.
- Task B: Evaluate the construction samples produced via lunar robotic automation.
The efforts for the Task A items are pretty much what you might think it sounds like: Clear the site of debris both natural and human, apply survey techniques to fully map the local terrain, set construction markers, and generally make the future settlement site a place to occupy on a an immediate return mission. This would also include a very important feature: a road!
To preserve the cleanliness of the settlement site, it will be very important not to land and take off right next door. Rocket descent/ascent engines throw a lot of dirt around when doing their thing, and a landing/takeoff pad situated far enough away to minimize this is something a real settlement will need.
To make flying debris mitigation a simpler issue in terms of lunar surface travel, a roadbed would be needed immediately in the early days. This road certainly would be a primitive track in the beginning, but as is the nature of settlements, it will be constantly improved as the settlement endures and expands.
Connected to the future road and other constructs, Task B goals would be the evaluation of the quality of construction materials made by the robotic precursors, and how well they can be used to build basic structures. A robotic system may eventually be more efficient for large-scale civil engineering sort of work, but in the starting era of a Lunar settlement, it will be boon enough to have mass production of bricks and ease in building things with them. The Lunar bricklayer may be one of the most honored professions in the foothold operations of Outbound!