No, America Did Not Build a Secret Moon BaseBy MUFON Admin
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.
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 calls, “The Tyranny of the Rocket Equation.” 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:
- is the initial total mass, including propellant
- is the final total mass without propellant, also known as dry mass
- is the effective exhaust velocity
- is delta-v, the maximum change of velocity of the vehicle (with no external forces acting)
- 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. 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. Of this, 2.5 million kilograms (5.6 million pounds) was propellant. Doing the math reveals that the propellent accounted for about 89% of the Saturn V’s total mass.
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. Of this, about 13,696 cubic feet are habitable. 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).
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. 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. 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.
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, 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.
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.
 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
 Tsiolkovsky Rocket Equation. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsiolkovsky_rocket_equation
 Propellant Mass Fraction. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propellant_mass_fraction
 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
 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
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 Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU) Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://nasa-usa.de/exploration/analogs/hdu1_pemfacts.html
 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