Probably one of the few organizations out there that may live to see their world conquered within “its lifetime,” the Moon Society is proposing that future Lunar (and Martian) transportation might have revisit the same technology that helped America conquer the wild west.
(Moon Society Blog) On the Moon and Mars, we aren’t going to find building materials that we can “throw together” to provide shelter from the cosmic elements. We will need pressurized structures. Pressurized modules made in a first quickly industrializing settlement can be shipped by the railroads to points along the route to provide the nucleus of new settlements. Pressurized modules have to be handled with care. Try to haul them overland on unimproved roads and the stresses of bouncing around are going to compromise seals and maybe open cracks. Rails on the other hand will provide a smooth low-friction ride to a prepared siding complex where they can be dropped off and docked with one another to provide an instant starter outpost. […]
Why take the train when we can fly on Mars? I do believe that we can, but I also think that aviation on Mars will be uncomfortably pushing the envelop and that because of that, it may be risky for some time. […]
Another thing I have never heard a Mars aviation fan (other than myself) concede is that the equivalent of 125,000 feet on Earth only describes the situation in spring and fall when much of the polar carbon dioxide snow over both polar caps is vaporized. As we go into either summer or winter, a significant part of the atmosphere, as much as 30%, will freeze out over one or the other poles. If Mars flight is possible only seasonally, it will not become the backbone of transportation on Mars.
Rails may provide a more “realistic solution” to conquering both the red planet (as well as the Moon), although they will probably have to be enclosed (or underground like a subway) in order to keep Martian and Lunar dust from setting on the rails via static electricity.
While there are many space organizations promoting their “topic of concern,” the Moon Society is one of the few that actively promotes and/or includes ideals from other groups, even when it is not within their total best interest.
Note: Currently the Moon Society is looking for a “few good space geeks” to help them work out the nuts and bolts (no pun intended) of building these off world rails. Interested users can join their Google Group forum in order to submit their ideas.