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How to Colonize the Moon?

Welcome to our Solar System Colonization Series! Today we look at what is closest to our heavenly neighbors on Earth. That's right, we're looking at the moon!

It is likely that we have all heard about this more than once in our lives and even have some thoughts of our own on the subject. But for space agencies around the world, futurists and private aerospace companies, the idea of ​​colonizing the moon is not a matter of "if" but "when" and "how." For some, establishing a permanent human presence on the moon is a matter of fate, while for others it is a matter of survival.

Not surprisingly, plans to establish a human settlement preceded both the moon landing and the space race. Over the last few decades, many of these plans have been eliminated and updated thanks to plans for a renewed lunar exploration era. So, what would be needed to establish a permanent human presence on the moon, when it could happen and we are facing this challenge?

Even before proposals were made for lunar colonies, the idea of ​​humanity living on the moon was widely explored in fiction, with examples going back a century. In addition, at the beginning of the 20th century, there was considerable speculation that the moon may already have been inhabited by indigenous life-forms (similar to what is believed in Mars).

Examples of Fiction:

Between the 1940s and the 1960s, Science Fiction author Robert A. Heinlein wrote in detail about the first voyages and the eventual colonization of the moon. They include many short stories from the 1940s that describe what life would be like in the settlements of the Moon (the name used by Heinlein to describe the colonized moon.

Cover of the 1st edition (1966). Credit: Wikipedia Commons / GP The Sons of Putnam

In 1966, Heinlein released the Hugo-winning novel The Moon is a Cruel Mistress that tells the story of the descendants of a lunar penal colony fighting for independence from Earth. history has received wide appreciation for the way it combines political commentary with question marks axes such as space exploration, sustainability and artificial intelligence, and in this work Heinlein introduced the term "TANSTAAFL" – abbreviation for "There is no such thing as A Free Lunch."

In 1985, Heinlein released Through the Walls, where much of the book takes place on the Free Moon after winning its fight for independence and includes som e characters from his previous works.

Lunar colonization was also explored in the fiction by the late and great Arthur K. Clark. This includes the brief story Earth Light (1955), where a moon settlement finds itself caught in the middle of a war between Earth and an alliance between Mars and Venus. This was followed by The Fall of Mondust (1961), which has a moon ship full of tourists sinking into the sea of ​​Mondust. [19689012] 1968 Original Cover Credit: Wikipedia Commons / Hutchinson (UK) / New American Library (US)

In 1968, Clark collaborated with director Stanley Kubrick to create a science fiction film 2001: The Space Odyssey where part of the plot takes place in an American lunar colony that is quarantined after an extraterrestrial object is found nearby. Clark explained this in detail in the version of the novel that came out that year. The lunar colony is also mentioned in Clark Nebula and in the novel won by the Hugo Prize Meeting with Rama (1973).

The Great Science Fiction Ursula K. Le Guin also includes a moon colony in her 1971 novel. The Incredible Lathe which won the Locus Award for Best Novel in 1972 and adapted twice in the film (1980 and 2002). In an alternate reality, the moon bases are established in 2002 and then attacked by a hostile alien species from Aldebaran (which is otherwise benign).

In 1973, the late and great Isaac Azimov released the novel The Gods of Himself, where the third section took place in a lunar settlement at the beginning of the 22nd century. The Lunatics (1988) by Kim Stanley Robinson (author of the trilogy Red Mars 2312 and Aurora ) concentrates on a group of enslaved miners, below the lunar surface, a rebellion begins.

The 2017 novel by Artemis by Andy Weir. Credit: Amazon / Crown Publication

The 1995 short story by Alastair Reynolds's Byrd Land Six mentions a colony of the moon with an economy centered on helium-3 production. In 1998, Ben Bova released Moonrise and Moonwar two novels focused on a lunar base created by an American corporation that eventually rebelled against Earth. These are part of his Grand Tour series, which collectively deals with the colonization of the solar system.

In 2017, Andy Weir (author of The Martian ) released an Artemis novel created in a lunar city whose economy is built around lunar tourism. Considerable attention is paid to the details of the daily life of the moon, which includes descriptions of a nuclear power plant, an aluminum plant, and an oxygen production facility.


The earliest recorded example of people living on the moon was made in the 17th century by Bishop John Wilkins. In his Discourse on a New World and Another Planet (1638) he predicted that people would one day learn to master a flight and create a moon colony. However, detailed and scientifically sound proposals will only come in the 20th century.

In 1901, HG Wells wrote The First People of the Moon which tells the story of the local lunar inhabitants (Selenites) and includes elements of real science. In 1920, Konstantin Tsiolkovski (hailed by many as the "father of space and rocketry") wrote the novel Outside the Earth . This novel tells the story of humans colonizing the solar system and describes in detail what life in space would be like.

Since the beginning of the space race in the 1950s, a number of concepts and designs have been proposed by scientists, engineers and architects. In 1954, Arthur K. Clark proposed the creation of a lunar base consisting of inflatable modules covered with lunar dust for insulation. Communications would be maintained with 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, nuclear power reactor, and electromagnetic weapons to launch cargo and fuel for ships in space. Clark will explore this proposal further with his brief history of 1955. Earth Light.

In 1959, the US Army launched a survey known as Project Horizon, a plan to build a moon fortification by 1967. The plan envisions the first landing made by two "astronaut soldiers" in 1965. followed by construction workers and cargo delivered using iterations of the rocket Saturn I 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 "[float] be in a fixed ocean of dust." This was in response to the then popular theory that there were regolith oceans 1.5 km deep on the moon.

This concept is outlined in Rinehart's study, "Basic criteria for the construction of the moon", in the journal of the British Interplanetary Society where he describes a "floating basis" consisting of a half-cylinder half-cylinder in both ends and a micrometeroid shield on top.

Lunar base, as NASA imagined it in the 1970s. Credit: NASA

In 1961, the same year that President Kennedy announced the Apollo Program, the United States Air Force released a secret report based on a previous evaluation of a lunar military base by the US Army. Known as the Lunex Project, the plan envisions a moon landing for the crew that would eventually lead to the Moon's ground-based air base by 1968.

In 1962, John Denijk (NASA's Advanced Programs Program Manager) and Stanley Zan (Lunar Basing Studies Technical Director at Martin Space Company) published a study called Lunar Basing. Their concept calls for a rooftop base located in the Sea of ​​Peace, the future landing place of the mission Apollo 11 .

Like Clark's proposal, this base will rely on nuclear power reactors and an algae-based air filtration system. The base will consist of 30 habitat modules, divided between seven living areas, eight operational areas and 15 logistics areas. the total base will be 1300 m² (14,000 feet²), which can hold 21 crew members.

In the 1960s, NASA produced numerous studies that supported the creation of habitats inspired by the missionary architecture of the Apollo program (notably the Saturn V rocket and its derivatives). These plans provided for space station modules to be placed on the moon's surface and to use existing designs and technologies to reduce costs and ensure reliability.

Building a lunar base may be easier if astronauts can gather local materials for construction and overall life support. Credit: NASA / Pat Ralings

In 1963, during the 13th work of the Moon and Planet Colloquium, William Sims produced a study entitled "Lunar Base Architecture". Its design calls for a habitat to be built beneath the wall of an impact crater with a landing space nearby for spacecraft. The habitat would be three stories with the level up (19459030) p er providing a view of the surface through windows.

These windows would also allow light to enter the habitat and would be insulated with water tanks for radiation protection. Power was to be provided by nuclear reactors, while parts of the habitat would be designed to provide office space, workshops, laboratories, residential areas and a farm to produce as much of the crew's food as possible.

But perhaps the most influential design of the Apollo era is the two-volume "Lunar Base Synthesis Study", completed in 1971 by the aerospace company North American Rockwell. The study produces a preliminary design for a series of lunar surface bases (LSBs) that are derived from a related orbital lunar station study.

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

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

In August 2014, NASA representatives met with industry leaders to discuss cost-effective ways to build a lunar base in the polar regions by 2022. In 2015, NASA outlined a concept for lunar settlement this will rely on robotic workers (known as Transformers) and heliostats to create a lunar settlement around the south polar region of the moon.

In 2016, ESA chief Johan-Dietrich Wörner proposed the creation of an international moon village as the successor to the international space station. The creation of this village would rely on the same interagency partnerships as the ISS, as well as partnerships between governments and private interests.


Of course, creating a lunar colony would be a massive commitment in terms of time, resources and energy. While the development of reusable missiles and other measures reduce the cost of individual launches, sending payloads to the moon is still a very expensive endeavor – especially where multiple heavy launches would be required.

There is also the matter of the many natural dangers that come from living on a body like the moon. These include extreme temperatures where the sun side is at a high temperature of 117 ° C (242 ° F), while the dark side is at low levels of -43 ° C (-46 ° F). Most of the moon's surface is also exposed to meteoroids and micrometeoroids.

Artist's impression of a moon blast – caused by meteorite impact. Credit: NASA / Jennifer Harbaugh

The moon also has an atmosphere that is weak, practically vacuum. This is part of the reason that the moon goes through such extreme temperatures and why the surface is marked by impacts (ie no meteor burning atmosphere). This also means that all settlements will have to be sealed, pressurized and insulated against the outside environment.

The lack of atmosphere (as well as the magnetosphere) also means that the surface is exposed to much more radiation than what we are used to here on Earth. This includes solar radiation, which worsens much during a solar event, and cosmic rays.

Possible methods:

Since the beginning of the space age, numerous suggestions have been made as to how and where a lunar colony could be built, where it is of particular importance, since each locality must provide a degree of protection from the elements. That being said, the three most important real estate considerations are: "location, location and location."

For this reason, many proposals have been made over the years to build lunar habitats in places that would allow natural protection and / or restriction. Currently, the most popular of these is the South Pole Aitken Basin, a massive impact zone around the south polar region of the moon that is heavily mottled.

  Moon elevation data indicating 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 attractions of this region is the fact that it is constantly shaded, which means that it experiences much more stable temperatures. In addition, numerous missions confirm the availability of water ice in the region, which can be mined to do everything from hydrogen (or hydrazine ) fuel and oxygen to drinking and irrigation water.

Beyond that, any attempt to colonize the moon will have to use technologies such as additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing), worker robots, and telepresence. The base (or bases) must also be produced and delivered as much as possible using local resources, a method known as on-site resource utilization (ISRU).

NASA and ESA have been studying the concept for many years, and they have both developed their own methods of converting lunar regolith and other resources into usable materials. For example, since 2013, ESA has worked with the architectural design firm Foster + Partners to design its international Moon Village.

Their proposed method of constructing this foundation consists in placing inflatable frames on the surface, which are then coated with moon shaped regolith, magnesium oxide and binder salt. NASA has proposed a similar method that calls for robotic workers using "sintered" regolith to 3D printing bases. This consists of melting the regolith by microwave bombardment, after which it is imprinted as molten ceramics.

Other ideas include the construction of habitats in the ground and the placement of an upper level that provides access to the surface and allows natural light. There is even a proposal to build lunar settlements inside stable lava tubes, which would not only provide protection against the vacuum of space and impacts, but could be pressured with greater ease.

There is even a proposal for a solenoid lunar base to provide its own radiation protection. This concept was introduced by civil engineer Marco Peroni during the AIAA Space and Space Forum 2017 and Exposition and consists of transparent domes enclosed by high voltage cable manure. This torus would provide active magnetic shielding against radiation and allow settlements to be built all over the surface.

The abundance of ice around the polar regions will provide settlers with a constant source of water for drinking, irrigation and can even be processed for the production of fuel and breathing oxygen. Ще е необходим строг режим на рециклиране, за да се гарантира, че отпадъците се свеждат до минимум а тоалетните за компостиране най-вероятно ще се използват вместо тоалетни за промиване.

Тези тоалетни за компостиране могат да бъдат комбинирани с лунен regolith за създаване растяща почва, която след това би могла да се напоява с помощта на местно добита вода. Това би било от съществено значение, тъй като лунните колонисти трябва да отглеждат голяма част от собствената си храна, за да намалят броя на пратките, които трябва редовно да се изпращат от Земята.

Лунната вода може да се използва и като източник на мощност, ако колониите са оборудвани с батерии за електролиза (където молекулите на водата се разделят на водород и кислород и водородът се изгаря). Други източници на енергия могат да включват слънчеви масиви, които могат да бъдат изградени около джантите на кратерите и да насочват захранването към селищата в тях.

Космическата слънчева енергия също ще бъде в състояние да осигури изобилна енергия на населени места по целия лунен пейзаж. Ядрените реактори са друга възможност, както и синтезните (токамакови) реактори. Този последен вариант е особено привлекателен предвид изобилието на хелий-3 (източник на енергия за термоядрени реактори) върху лунната повърхност.

Потенциални ползи:

За да бъдем справедливи, създаването на колония на някое от небесните тела в нашата Слънчева система има някои сериозни потенциални ползи. Но наличието на колония на най-близкото небесно тяло до Земята би било особено полезно. Не само бихме могли да провеждаме изследвания, да извличаме ресурси и да извлечем ползите от новите технологии, наличието на база на Луната би улеснило мисиите и усилията за колонизация на други планети и луни.

По-просто казано, колония на Луната може да действа като стъпка към Марс, Венера, Астероидния пояс и отвъд него. Като имаме инфраструктура на повърхността на Луната и в орбита – която би могла да зарежда и ремонтира космически кораби, насочващи се по-далеч към Слънчевата система – бихме могли да обръснем милиарди от разходите за дълбок космически мисии.

Това е една от причините НАСА да планира създаването на космическа станция в орбита на Луната – Лунната орбитална платформа-шлюз (LOP-G), ака. Лунният портал, известен по-рано като Глубоката космическа порта. Това е и една от причините ESA да изгради своето Moon Village с международни партньори. Китай и Русия също обмислят своята собствена повърхностна или орбитална застава по тази точна причина.

Лунните изследвания също биха били много доходоносни. Изучавайки ефектите на ниската гравитация върху човешкото тяло, астронавтите ще бъдат по-добре подготвени да се справят с ефектите на продължителните космически пътувания, мисии до Марс и други тела, където ниското ниво на g е реалност. Тези изследвания също могат да помогнат да се проправи път към създаването на колонии на тези тела.

Далечната страна на Луната също предлага сериозни възможности за всякакъв вид астрономия. Тъй като е обърната далеч от Земята, далечната страна на Луната е свободна от радиосмущения, което я прави отлично място за радио телескопи. Тъй като Луната няма атмосфера, оптичните телескопни решетки – като много големия телескоп на ESO в Чили – също биха били без смущения.

И тогава имате интерферометри – като LIGO и телескопа на хоризонта на събитията (EHT), които биха могли да търсят гравитационни вълни и да изобразяват черни дупки с по-голяма ефективност. Могат да бъдат проведени и геоложки проучвания, които биха разкрили много повече за Луната и за образуването на системата Земя-Луна.

Впечатление на художниците за Лунна база Алфа, предвидената от SpaceX лунна застава, снабдена със Звездния кораб (известен още като BFR ). Кредит: SpaceX

Изобилието от ресурси на Луната, като хелий-3 и различни скъпоценни и рядкоземни метали, също може да даде възможност за експортна икономика. Това би било подпомогнато от факта, че Луната има много по-ниска скорост на бягство от Земята – 2.38 km / s (1.5 mps ) в сравнение с 11.186 km / s (6.95 mps ). Това се дължи на това, че Луната има част от земната гравитация (0.1654 g ), което означава, че изстрелването на полезни товари в космоса би било много по-евтино.

Но разбира се, никоя лунна икономика не би била пълна без лунна туризъм. Колония на повърхността, плюс инфраструктура в орбита, биха направили редовни посещения на Луната както рентабилни, така и дори печеливши. Не е трудно да си представим, че това може да доведе до създаването на всякакъв вид развлекателни дейности – от курорти и казина до музеи и експедиции по цялата повърхност.

С правилния вид ангажимент по отношение на ресурси, пари и труд. – да не говорим за някои сериозно приключенски души! – може да има такова нещо като Селенците някой ден (или както ги нарича Хайнлайн, „Луни“).

Ние написахме много статии за лунната колонизация тук, във Вселената днес. Ето плана на Пол Спудис за устойчива и достъпна лунна база, защо първо да колонизираме Луната? Стабилната тръба от лава може да осигури потенциално човешко местообитание на Луната и ЕКА планира да изгради международно село … на Луната!

За повече информация вижте нашата серия от четири части, „Изграждане на лунна база“:

За поглед върху това какъв е животът и работата на Луната, вижте какво е Mining Mining ?, и това е важно! Студентите измислят как да направят бира на Луната.

Астрономията в ролите също има няколко прекрасни епизода по темата. Ето епизод 115: Луната, част 3: Връщане към Луната.


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