Catacombs Moonbase Alpha Operational Guide


Moonbase Alpha was built and is operated by the World Space Commission, largely through its subsidiary body the International Lunar Finance Commission.

The World Space Commission is an international body that seeks to promote interest and coordinate activity in the exploration of space. It is headed by a committee of members from all the nations or nation groups who contribute to it. The chairmanship is rotated between the four executive members, the representatives of the USA, the USSR, Japan and the EU.

The WSC has established a number of subsidiary bodies that are concerned with more specific areas. The WSC oversees their activities and ratifies important decisions they make. These organisations generate income for the WSC by commercial activities and patents on the concepts, techniques and products that are derived from research using WSC facilities.

International Lunar Finance Commission:

concerned with the exploitation of space. The ILFC is responsible for the funding of most major space operations, and is most directly responsible for maintaining Moonbase Alpha and the Centuri space station.

Earth Orbit Authority:

regulates the use of Earth orbital satellites; maintains important satellites of its own for communications, weather and Earth resource survey (includes the four Pegasus satellite platforms that provide transit stations between space traffic and Earth launch/reentry shuttles). It operates a large commercial section selling these services.

Lunar Space Research Organisation:

concerned with space technological research; the LSRO is involved in the technical issues of most major space operations.

International Astronomical Committee:

funding body for research in astronomy; the IAC publishes the influential 'Journal Of Astronomical Research'.

Medical Authority:

concerned with health care for space crews and medical research; also maintains the pharmaceutical laboratories and factories on Moonbase Alpha and Pegasus 3.

A number of other organisations have personnel or facilities on Moonbase Alpha, or fund Moonbase Alpha operations. The most important of the latter is the disposal of nuclear waste, carried out on behalf of seven nations. In addition to those staff on secondment to the World Space Commission, many national space and scientific organisations send staff to do specific research. These organisations include the space programmes of the USA (NASA), the Soviet Union (Glavkosmos), Japan (NASDA) and the EU (ESA). Private companies also have an important contribution to Moonbase Alpha in equipment, staff and funding.

Operational control of Moonbase Alpha is by a Commander resident on the base. His role is to supervise the efficient operation of Moonbase Alpha and the Nuclear Waste Disposal Areas. Specific responsibilities range from day to day administration to directing major space projects. The Commander has executive authority and privileges, though routine decisions would be expected to be made in consultation. His appointment is proposed by the ILFC and approved by the World Space Commission, and he reports to the chairman of the ILFC.

To date, there have been nine commanders of Moonbase Alpha. These have been:

1 Andrei Vasayova 1989-1990
2 Steven Maddox 1990-1991
3 Ryo Takanashi 1991-1993
4 Giovanni Pietra 1993-1995
5 Anton Gorski 1995-1997
6 Anatoly Grodno 1997-1998
7 Hiroshi Nakamura 1998-1999
8 Anton Gorski 1999-1999
9 John Koenig 1999-Present

All Moonbase personnel, apart from the Commander and short term visitors, are assigned to one of six sections. The section heads are next in the command hierarchy, the head of Main Mission section being the formal second in command. Periodic Command Conferences are held between the Commander and the heads of the five main sections (Security is not usually represented). These Conferences review important operational matters and are a formal consultative process for approving decisions.

The six sections are:

Main Mission
Responsible for overall administration, coordination and monitoring of Moonbase operations.
Technical & Engineering division responsible for construction and maintenance of Moonbase installations and spacecraft; Research division responsible for scientific research.
Responsible for development and operation of environmental instrumentation and installations, including internal Moonbase/ spacecraft environment and space sensory apparatus.
Responsible for spacecraft operations, including astronautics training and flight support of space probes.
Responsible for health of Moonbase personnel and research into space medicine and pharmaceutics.
Responsible for emergency procedures including fire prevention and fire control and rescue operations; policing and security of Moonbase installations, such as the pharmacies and Nuclear Power Station.

The largest section is Technical (100 people on average), followed by Service (80), Reconnaissance (50), Main Mission (30), Medical (25) and Security (15).

Below the level of sections are departments. These are operational units managing specific work and projects. Though departments are regarded as part of a section, most have staff from more than one section. Most varied is Main Mission, the control centre of Moonbase Alpha, which is staffed by more personnel from other sections than from the Main Mission section. The Computer Department has approximately equal numbers from Technical and Service sections, with smaller numbers from other sections, but is regarded as being part of the Technical Section. Technical Section has two divisions, 'Technical & Engineering' and 'Research', under which most of its departments are organised.

Technical, Service and Security sections are further broken down into teams, small units of between five and ten people with specific responsibilities.

Individual and team reviews are held bimonthly or more frequently as required.

Reconnaissance section pilots with military ranks may retain their titles.

Space Commission personnel are assigned staff grades which indicate their seniority and pay structure. A technical grade is awarded for technical and scientific work, and an administrative grade is awarded for management responsibilities.

The average tour of duty is nine months although this varies, particularly for staff engaged on specific project work.

Addendum: Personnel

The population composition on Moonbase Alpha during September 1999 was somewhat unusual. The Meta Probe was nearing launch, with crew and support staff based on Moonbase Alpha. Many other projects had been suspended during this activity, with few researchers not directly engaged with the Meta Probe. The expertise on the base was in applied space technology and astronautics, with fewer industrial and medical specialists than normal. As the Probe was largely American financed, the composition of the crew was predominantly American. The Russian and Japanese presence was particularly diminished, reflecting the lack of confidence on the part of those governments in prestigious, and expensive, deep space missions. The age and sex profile was also less mixed than usual, with most personnel being male and in their late 20s or 30s.

After the breakaway on September 13th 1999, 311 personnel had survived. Most casualties had been in the Reconnaissance section, with 22 pilots being lost. Flight crew employed by the Meta Probe ensured qualified pilots were available. During the first year in deep space there were 35 fatalities, plus 2 crew leaving to settle the planet Arkadia, and 8 crew to settle the planet Pyxidea. 19 babies were born during the year, the first being Jackie Crawford, and the Psychon Maya joined the crew in August 2000. Through the next six years, from 2000 until 2006 there were just 8 births, mostly second children, and 4 fatalities. In early 2006 there were 9 fatalities, with the population dropping to 290.

Because of the limited capacity and reliability of the Moonbase life support systems, a population of 300 was determined to be the maximum that could be sustained in deep space. Extensive new areas of the catacombs under Moonbase Alpha have been drained and excavated over the last five years, and in 2006 these began to be opened for food production and as new living areas. These should ensure that the population can rise to the pre-breakaway capacity of 340.

The birth of children on the base caused many problems. There was very limited experience among the Medical staff of obstetrics and gynaecology, and even less of paediatrics. The Medical Library lacked specialist texts, and there were no specialised equipment or pharmaceuticals. Initially there was even a limited supply of contraceptives, which may have contributed to the high birth rate in the first year. Dr Bob Mathias, himself one of the earlier parents, founded the maternity and child health department to solve these problems. His wife, Elizabeth Mathias, runs the educational programme and is one of 3 full time teachers.

The needs of the base surviving in deep space are different from the functions of research, planning space missions and waste disposal before the breakaway. Many staff have had to be reassigned to other sections and retrained for new duties. To cope with specific skill shortages some personnel have two or more jobs, while others work full time in education.

© Martin Willey