Now that we’ve gotten the robots to achieve the rough set up for a lunar foothold, and a crewed mission or two to really fine-tune everything, it would then be time for building a home. Or at the very least, begin trying the site on for size and ironing out the surprises of daily living on the Lunar surface. Now we would be path-finding our way, in a phase called Short Term Lunar Outpost (OPS.9)
Of course, the first question many people will ask is “What is the difference between Short-Term and Long-Term Outposts?”
In this case, short-term means that the missions are not meant to support continual habitation of the Moon. We would bring all our critical supplies with us there, and not rely on in-situ methods to provision ourselves. Food, water, furnishings, and other things would be cargo on missions headed to the outpost. By definition, those resources would be limited, and would mean that resupply activities are required to keep the system going.
Now of course, this doesn’t mean that in-situ activities won’t be pursued. On the contrary, the primary mission of the short-term crew teams will be to operate many different live-off-the-land programs during their stay. In fact, the results of those operations would be technological studies of their own meant to vet what ideas work, and what doesn’t. Growing food? They’ll be Lunar farmers. Generating/Regenerating life support? Hardware will be in place to work out the details. More surface construction and improvement of outpost infrastructure? The crews will serve as the pioneering “city managers” to bring the little burg into its own.
When the tenure of these crews is at an end, a new crew would be sent up to relieve them. The work going on at that time would be continued or closed out as appropriate, and new ideas to be evaluated would be delivered with this new crew. The previous crew would return home, with new tasks on Earth to build on what they learned on the Moon. This cycle would continue until milestones are met showing that Lunar living at the outpost is passably safe and real work beyond development of the site can be pursued with gusto.