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How Do We Colonize the Moon?



Welcome to our series on Colonizing the Solar System! Today, we look at the closest of neighbors to the Earth. That's right, we're looking at the Moon!

Occasionally, we have all heard about this more than once in our lives and even had our own thoughts on the subject. But for global space agencies, futurists, and private aerospace companies, the idea of ​​colonizing the Moon is not a question of "if", but "when" and "how". For some, establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon is a matter of luck while for others, it is a matter of salvation.

Not surprisingly, plans for establishing a human settlement predetermined both the Moon Landing and the Space Race. In the last few decades, many of these plans have been dusted and updated thanks to plans for a renewed lunar exploration period. So what will it take to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon, when will it happen, and do we meet that challenge? widely explored in fiction, with examples dating back a century. In addition, there was a great deal of speculation in the late 20th century that the Moon may already be living in indigenous life forms (such as what is believed about Mars).

Fiction Examples:

Between 1

940 and 1960,. science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein wrote extensively about the early journeys and final colonization of the Moon. It includes many short stories from the 1940s that describe what life would be like in the "Luna" settlement (the name Heinlein commonly used to describe a colonized Moon.

1st edition cover (1966). : Wikipedia Commons / GP Putnam's Sons

In 1966, Heinlein released the Hugo Award-winning novel, The Moon is a Daring Mistress telling the story of descendants a month-long penal colony fighting for freedom from the Earth. received widespread publicity for the way political commentary has been combined with issues such as space exploration, sustainability, and artificial intelligence. It also includes this work. that Heinlein coined the term "TANSTAAFL" – an acronym for "No Need to Do Nothing Like Free Lunch".

In 1985, Heinlein released Ca t Who Walks through Walls, where most of the book took place in a Free Space after it won a fight for freedom and included characters from the som e of his previous works.

Lunar colonization has also been explored in the fiction of the late and great Arthur C. Clarke. It includes the short story Earthlight (1955), in which a settlement on the Moon finds itself caught in the middle of a war between Earth and an alliance between Mars and Venus. This was followed by A Fall of Moondust (1961), which featured a lunar ship full of tourists sinking into a sea of ​​Moondust.

Original 1968 cover. Credit: Wikipedia Commons / Hutchinson (UK) / New American Library (US)

In 1968, Clarke teamed up with director Stanley Kubrick to create a science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey in which part of a plot took place in an American lunar colony quarantined after something of a foreign origin was located nearby. Clarke explained this in the version of the novel that was released that same year. A lunar colony is also mentioned in Clarke's Nebula and Hugo Award-winning novel Rendezvous with Rama (1973).

fellow sci-fi great Ursula K. Le Guin also includes a lunar colony in his 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven which won the Locus Award for Best Novel in 1972 and adapted to film twice (1980 and 2002). In an alternate reality, the lunar bases were established in 2002 and then attacked by a hostile alien species from Aldebaran (which is in other words benign).

In 1973, the late and great Isaac Asimov released the novel The Gods themselves, in which the third section took place in a lunar settlement in the early 22nd century. The Lunatics (1988) by Kim Stanley Robinson (author of the Red Mars trilogy, 2312 and Aurora ) centers on a a group of enslaved miners forced to work under the lunar surface is launching a rebellion.

Andy Weir's 2017 novel Artemis. Credit: Amazon / Crown publishing

Alastair Reynolds's "Byrd Land Six" short story mentions a Moon colony with an economy centered around helium-3 mining. In 1998, Ben Bova released Moonrise and Moonwar two novels centered on a lunar base established by an American corporation and later revolted against the Earth. It is part of his "Grand Tour" series that collectively deals with the colonization of the Solar System.

In 2017, Andy Weir (author of The Martian ) released Artemis a novel set in a lunar city whose economy was built around the lunar tourism. Great attention is given to the details of daily life on the Moon, which include descriptions of a nuclear power plant, an aluminum smelter, and an oxygen-producing facility.

Proposals:

The earliest recorded example of people living on the Moon was made in the 17th century by Bishop John Wilkins. In his A Discourse About a New World and Another Planet (1638), he predicted that people would one day learn to baptize and establish a lunar colony. However, detailed and scientifically based proposals will not come until the 20th century.

In 1901, HG Wells wrote The First Men in the Moon which tells the story of indigenous lunar residents (Selenites) and includes elements of true science. In 1920, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (widely hated to be the "father of astronautics and rocketry") wrote the novel Outside the World . This novel tells the story of people colonizing the Solar System and describes in detail what life will be like in space.

At the inception of the Space Race in the 1950s, many concepts and designs were proposed by scientists, engineers, and architects. In 1954, Arthur C. Clarke proposed the creation of a lunar base consisting of inflatable modules covered with lunar dust for insulation. Communication will be maintained by astronauts in the field using an inflatable radio mast.

Over time, a larger, permanent dome will be built that relies on an algae-based air purifier, a nuclear reactor for power, and electromagnetic cannons to launch cargo and fuel into space vessels . Clarke will further examine this proposal in his brief 1955 Earthlight.

In 1959, the US Army launched a study known as Project Horizon, a plan to establish a fort on the Moon in 1967. The plan reflects an initial landing undertaken by two "soldier-astronauts" in 1965, followed by construction and cargo workers delivered using the Saturn I rocket departures shortly thereafter.

In 1959, John S. Rinehart – then director of the Mining Research Laboratory at the Colorado School of Mines – proposed a lunar structure that could be "[float] in a restrained ocean of dust". This is in response to the popular theory that there are regolit oceans up to 1.5 km (one mile) deep in the Moon.

This concept was presented in Rinehart's study, "Basic Standards for the Month of the Moon," in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society in which he described a "floating base" consisting of a half-cylinder with half -domes at both ends and a micrometeoroid shield placed above.

A lunar base, as thought by NASA in the 1970s. Credit: NASA

In 1961, the same year President Kennedy announced the Apollo Program, the US Air Force released a secret report based on a previous analysis of a lunar military base made by the US Army. Known as the Lunex Project, the plan called for a lunar landing that would eventually lead to an underground Air Force base in the Moon in 1968.

In 1962, John DeNike (the Program Manager for Advanced Programs of NASA) and Stanley Zahn (Technical Director of Lunar Basing Studies in the Martin Division of the Space Company) published a study entitled "Lunar Basing". Their concept called for a sub-surface base located at the Tranquility Sea, the upcoming landing site of the Apollo 11 mission.

As Clarke proposes, this base relies on nuclear reactors for strength and an air algae-based filtration system. The base consisted of 30 habitat modules divided between seven living areas, eight operating areas, and 15 logistics areas. the general base will measure 1300 m² (14,000 ft²) in size that can accommodate 21 staff.

In the 1960s, NASA made numerous studies that helped create habitats inspired by the Apollo Program's mission architecture (specifically, the Saturn V rocket and its derivatives). The plans described the space station modules being rolled out on the lunar surface and utilizing existing designs and technologies to cut costs and ensure reliability.

Developing a lunar base could be easier if astronauts could harvest local materials for construction, and for life support in general. Credit: NASA / Pat Rawlings

In 1963, the 13th Proceedings of the Lunar and Planetary Exploration Colloquium, William Sims designed a study entitled "Architecture of the Lunar Base ". His design called for a dwelling to be built beneath the wall of an impact on a crater with a landing area near the spacecraft. The dwelling will be three stories high above the p er level which provides a view of the surface through the windows.

These windows will allow light to enter the home and be insulated with water tanks for radiation protection. Power will be provided by nuclear reactors as residential sections are assigned to provide office spaces, workshops, labs, living areas, and a farm to produce more food for the crew as it & # 39; You can't.

But perhaps the most influential design of the Apollo era was the two-volume "Lunar Base Synthesis Study", completed in 1971 by aerospace firm North American Rockwell. The study developed a conceptual framework for a series of Lunar Surface Bases (LSB) derived from a related study for a large lunar station.

In recent years, many space agencies have drafted proposals for building colonies on the Moon. In 2006, Japan announced plans for a base of the moon by 2030. Russia made a similar proposal in 2007, which would be built between 2027-32. In 2007, Jim Burke of the International Space University in France proposed creating a Lunar Noah 's Ark to ensure that human civilization would survive a cataclysmic event.

Artist's impression of a 3D printed lunar base. Credit: ESA / Foster + Partners

In August of 2014, representatives from NASA met with industry leaders to discuss effective ways to build a Lunar base in polar regions in 2022. In 2015 , NASA devised a concept for lunar settlement that relied on robotic workers (known as Trans-Formers) and heliostats to create a lunar settlement around the southern polar region of the Moon.

In 2016, ESA chief Johann-Dietrich Wörner proposed the creation of an international village on the Moon as the successor to the international railway station. The creation of this village relies on similar interactions between agencies as the ISS, as well as cooperation between governments and private interests.

Challenges:

It goes without saying that creating a lunar colony would be a huge commitment in terms of time, resources and energy. While developing available rockets and other measures reduces the costs of individual launches, sending payloads to the Moon is a costly venture – especially where many heavy launches will be called.

There is also the matter of many natural dangers that come from living in a body like the Moon. These include extreme temperatures, where the Sun is experiencing a high of 117 ° C (242 ° F), while the dark side is experiencing -43 ° C (-46 ° F). Most lunar surfaces are also exposed to meteoroid and micrometeoroid effects.

An artists' impression of the lunar explosion – caused by the impact of a meteorite. Credit: NASA / Jennifer Harbaugh

The Moon also has an environment that is weak, practically vacuumed. This is part of the reason why the Moon goes through extreme temperatures and why the surface has pocketed effects (no. There is no environment for meteorites to burn). This also means that any settlements need to be airtight, pressure and insulated against the external environment.

The lack of an atmosphere (as well as a magnetosera) also means that the surface is exposed to more radiation than we are. previously here on Earth. This includes solar radiation, which is further aggravated by a solar event, and cosmic rays.

Possible Methods:

Since the beginning of the Space Age, many proposals have been made for how and where a lunar colony could be built. . Which is of particular importance because any settlement will provide a degree of protection from the elements. As the saying goes, the three most important considerations in real estate are: "location, location, and location."

For this reason, several proposals have been made in recent years to develop lunar habitats in locations that allow for natural protection and / or provision. At present, the most popular of these is the South-Pole Aitken Basin, a massive regional impact on the heavily-cratered southern polar region of the Moon.

  Moon rising data showing the South Pole-Aitken Basin. Credit: NASA / GSFC / University of Arizona
Moon elevation data showing the South Pole-Aitken Basin. Credit: NASA / GSFC / University of Arizona

One of the major drawings of this region is the fact that it is a permanent shade, which means it experiences more stable temperatures. In addition, several missions confirm the presence of ice water in the region, which can be harvested to make everything from hydrogen (or hydrazene ) gasoline and oxygen gas to drinking and irrigation water .

any attempt to colonize the Moon had to use technologies such as additive manufacturing (aka. 3D printing), robot workers, and telepresence. The basis (or fundamentals) will also need to be developed and provided as opposed to using local resources, a technique known as in-situ resource use (ISRU).

NASA and the ESA have been exploring the concept for many years and have both developed their own methods for producing lunar regoliths and other resources on available materials. For example, since 2013, ESA has been working with Foster + Partners' design architecture to design their International Moon Village.

Their proposed method for constructing this base consisted of placing inflatable frameworks on the surface which were then covered by a form of concrete made from lunar regolith, magnesium oxide, and a binding salty. NASA proposes a similar scheme that calls on robotic workers to use a "sintered" regolith on a 3D print base. It is made up of soluble regolit by pumping it into microports, then printing it as a molten ceramic.

Other ideas involved developing dwellings on the ground and having an upper level that provided access to the surface and allowed natural light inside. There is the suggestion for the formation of lunar settlements within solid pipes, which does not only provide protection against vacuum of space and effects but can be pressed with greater ease.

There is the proposal for a Solenoid Moon-base that will provide its own radiation shield. This concept was presented by civil engineer Marco Peroni at the 2017 AIAA Space and Astronautics Forum and Exposition and consisted of transparent domes enclosed by a torus of high-voltage cables. This turret will provide active magnetic shielding against radiation and allow settlements to be built anywhere on the surface. processed to produce fuel and breathe oxygen. A strict recycling regimen is required to ensure that waste is kept to a minimum and composting toilets are likely to be used instead of flush toilets.

These composting toilets can be combined with the lunar regolith to create growing soil, which can then be irrigated using local drinking water. It is important to see how lunar colonists need to grow their own food in order to reduce the number of shipments that need to be shipped from Earth on a regular basis.

The lunar water could also be used as a source of power if the colonies were equipped with electrolysis batteries (where water molecules split into hydrogen and oxygen and burned hydrogen). Other sources of power may include solar arrays, which can be built around the rim of craters and channel canals with repairs within them.

Solar-based solar power can also provide abundant energy to communities throughout the lunar landscape. Nuclear reactors are another option, such as fusion (tokamak) reactors. This latest option is especially attractive given the abundance of Helium-3 (a source of power for fusion reactions) on the lunar surface.

Potential Benefits:

To be fair, establishing a colony on any of the celestial bodies in our Solar System has some serious potential benefits. But having a colony in the nearest skyline on Earth would be especially helpful. Not only will we be able to conduct research, acquire resources, and reap the benefits of new technologies, having a Moon base will facilitate colonization missions and efforts on other planets and moons.

To put it simply, a colony on the Moon could act as a stepping stone to Mars, Venus, the Asteroid Belt, and beyond. By having infrastructure over the Moon and in orbit – which can refuel and organize spacecraft into the Solar System – we can shave billions off the costs of deep missions that space.

This is one of the reasons why NASA plans to establish a space station in the Moon's orbit – the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G), aka. the Lunar Gateway, formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway. This is also one of the reasons why ESA wants to build the Moon Village with international partners. China and Russia are also considering their own surface orbital outpost for this exact reason.

lunar research would also be useful. By studying the effects of low-gravity on the human body, astronauts better prepare to deal with the effects of space travel, long-range missions to Mars, and other bodies where low-g is a fact. These studies will also help pave the way toward establishing colonies in these bodies.

The far side of the Moon also presents serious opportunities for all types of astronomy. Because it faces Earth, the far reaches of the Moon are free of radio interference, making it a prime location for radio telescopes. Because the Moon has no environment, coming optical telescopes – such as the ESO's massive Telescope (VLT) in Chile – will also be free from interference.

And then you have an interferometer – like LIGO and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) that can search for gravitational waves and image black holes with better effectiveness. Geological studies can also be conducted that will reveal more about the Moon and the development of the Earth-Moon system.

Artists' impression of Moon Base Alpha, described by SpaceX by the lunar outpost provided by Starship (aka. BFR). Credit: SpaceX

The abundance of resources on the Moon, such as helium-3 and other expensive and rare-earth metals, can also allow an export economy. This is helped by the fact that the Moon has a lower escape velocity than Earth – 2.38 km / s (1.5 mps ) compared to 11.186 km / s (6.95 mps ). This is due to the Moon having a small fraction of the Earth's gravity (0.1654 g ), which means launching cargo into space will be cheaper.

But of course, no lunar economy would be complete without lunar tourism. A surface colony, with orbit infrastructure, will make regular visits to the Moon both effective and useful. It's not hard to imagine that this could lead to the establishment of all kinds of leisure activities – from resorts and casinos to museums and expeditions across the globe.

With the right kind of commitment in terms of resources, money, and labor – not to mention some seriously amazing souls! – there could be something like the Selenians one day (or if Heinlein called them, "Loony").

Many articles we have written about colonial rule here in the Universe Today. Here's Paul Spudis' Plan for a Sustainable and Affordable Lunar Base, Why Colonize the Moon First? Stable Lava Tube Can Provide A Potential People Of The Month, And The ESA Plan To Build An International Village … On The Moon !.

For more information, check out our four-part series, "Developing a Month of the Moon":

For a glimpse of what life and work on the Moon will look like, see what Mining Month is ?, and It's important! Students Know How to Make Beer on the Month.

Astronomy Cast also has some great episodes on the topic. Here is Episode 115: The Moon, Part 3: Back to the Moon.

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