Colonizing the Moon — Could Start Today
I have been asked many times in my life “If you could live anywhere where would it be?” Before I would have said Italy or Switzerland but now where I would live will be out of this world. Literally. The moon.
Can you imagine living in 1/5 of the gravity on earth? That would change everything. We would have the chance to start life again and collaborate for solving hard challenges to live with no oxygen or natural water. I find it so exciting that the potential to live on the moon can be so immediate that it could happen tomorrow.
In humanity’s journey to explore space the nearest celestial object makes for a perfect starting point to establishing outposts for human civilization as we have done so on earth in the past.
Why do we colonize?
Humans have wanted to visit and colonize new places for a long time. Curiosity and exploration have been a hallmark of humans. As in the past century civilizations in Europe explored and colonized today’s areas of North America and South America. Humans want to colonize other places because they want to expand their reach as well as access materials from that place to help expand their explorations.
What are the three stages of colonization?
There are three stages to colonizing a new location. The first stage is to first visit that location for the first time and go back to your home to develop on the understandings from those visits. The second stage of colonization is to set up temporary outposts but is still dependent on its home for resources. The last and final stage of colonization is to set up permanent settlement where people can live, adapt and sustain themselves in the new environment.
Cristoforo Columbus first reached North America in 1492 and stayed there for a little bit and went back to his home country of Spain. At this point, he started the first stage of colonization. Then other European explorers came back and set up outposts in North and South America to accumulate resources and be a rest stop for ships. These outposts needed a lot of support from their home country to stay up but they also laid the groundwork for explorers to set up the foundation to expand further. At this point, the second stage was set. After a while, people and companies came back and set up permanent settlements. The later immigrants allowed the colonies to set up good economies and therefore be self-reliant. This is the last stage of setting up a colony.
Why colonize the moon?
Colonizing the moon will help us in so many ways. It could help us develop more technologies and access more resources to help in space exploration. Some resources we can get from the moon are hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), silicon (Si), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), aluminum (Al), manganese (Mn) and titanium (Ti). The moon can act as an outpost to send rockets on their way to other planets and space objects. It is easier to send rockets from the moon than from Earth due to gravitational and atmospheric differences. It can act as a research base for developing and testing new space technologies as well as communication and observation base.
Stage one (visit the place and go back)
The first stage is one of the most important stages to colonize. It is to visit the area to get a first-hand understanding. For the moon, we have already completed stage one. The Apollo missions brought the first astronauts to the moon in 1969 and the following years. After that many other countries are sending their missions to the moon. They are sending astronauts, rovers, and satellites. Currently, NASA is planning to send more humans to explore the moon in 2024.
Stage two (setup temporary outposts)
The second stage in creating a colony is to set up a temporary outpost. The way we will do this is by sending light inflatable outposts, so we can send a lot of them into space to the moon at a time. With the growth in robotics, we will leverage robots of various types to build the outposts. Outposts will be able to host a small number of humans. We will be able to get most of our energy through solar panels or from nuclear energy with fuel sent from Earth. Some of the first group of people will be scientists to test how to turn lunar ice into water for humans and plants.
Stage three (setup permanent self-sustaining colonizes)
The last stage is to create a permanent settlement that brings in more diverse companies to establish a base and start other economic activities like growing food to sustain the scientists and technicians living in the outposts. The companies can mine ores from the moon to support the building of manufacturing capabilities. The companies can establish bases for further development of rockets and launch pads. The moon can be an outpost were rockets can refuel. Lots of other scientific laboratories can be set up as well to research and develop technologies that will be needed for further deep space exploration. Also, permanent outposts can be an attractive market to setup space tourism.
Challenges in colonizing the moon
- A key challenge we will face in building permanent colonies on the moon is that it will cost us over 40 billion dollars and a couple of decades to build. So it requires sustained commitment from governments and private businesses.
- Also, the temperature on the moon can be plus 127 degrees celsius at maximum and minus 173 degrees celsius at a minimum which requires us to develop core sustaining technologies on Earth that we can use on the moon for humans to live and work.
- Another challenge that people will face on the moon is that there is no atmosphere to burn up asteroids and prevent cosmic radiation from reaching the surface. So early warning systems and mitigation technologies for such perils need to be developed ahead of time.
- The colony will need to have good energy storage capabilities like the ones being developed on Earth today because solar panels can not generate electricity in the lunar night. Also, small nuclear-based energy generation may need to be established.
Technologies that can help us colonize the moon
- One technology that can assist us to set up a base on the moon is Freeze dry food. Freeze-dried food is excellent for the initial stages of the moon base since the moon base can not yet develop its food this could serve prime habitats in the moon. Freeze-dried food permits food to be good and not lose its flavor for a longer duration.
- Spacesuits need to be sealed to protect the astronaut from the void of space, which means it can get really hot in the suit. A technology that can assist astronauts with this problem is self-cooling suits. The way that the suit does this is by using liquid cooling and ventilation garments. The suit has 300 feet of tubing along the outside of the suit which runs cold water across the skin, pulling heat away from the astronaut’s body and helping them control their core temperature.
Moon as an accelerator for space exploration
- Humans have already finished the first stage of colonizing the moon by being there in the past and exploring it using satellites. Now is the time to go further in starting to develop a permanent outpost for humanity that can act as a launchpad for deep space exploration.
- A key aspect we should consider is to not over-consume resources on the moon and have negative consequences as we are seeing that on Earth. With unplanned extraction and use of natural resources on Earth, it is leading to climate change and the destruction of natural habitats for other organisms. The consequences of consuming resources from the moon will need to be weighed in the light of sustainable growth that doesn’t impact the moon’s environment.
- There are challenges in colonizing the moon but also great opportunities to develop new space exploration capabilities. As human’s basic need of curiosity drives us from monitoring space objects to sending humans and robots to explore them, the moon can be a key launchpad for our journey to the stars.
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