Early Thoughts of Colonizing Moon
For space agencies and commercial aerospace companies, the idea of colonizing the Moon is not a question of “if”, but “when” and “how”.
Even before proposals were being made for lunar colonies, the idea of humanity living on the Moon was explored in fiction, with examples going back over a century.
In the past few decades, many of the colonization concepts have been revised thanks to plans for a renewed era of lunar exploration. So what would it take to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon, when could it happen and are we able to consist this challenge?
Since the beginning of the Space Age, multiple proposals have been made for how and where a lunar colony could be built. The most important factor of colonizing the moon is the location.
For this reason, many proposals have been made over the years to construct lunar habitats in locations which are good for natural protection. Currently, the most popular of these is the South-Pole Aitken Basin, a massive impact region around the Moon’s southern polar region that is heavily cratered.
This region is permanently shadowed, which means that there are much more stable temperatures. In addition, multiple missions have confirmed the presence of water ice in the region, which could be used to make everything from hydrogen fuel and oxygen gas to drinking and irrigation water.
Beyond that, we have to use technologies like 3D printing to build the moon bases. The base will also need to be built with as much as possible using local resources, a method known as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).
NASA and the ESA have been exploring the concept for many years and both have produced their own methods for turning lunar regolith and other resources into usable materials. For example, the ESA has been working with the architectural design firm Foster + Partners to design their International Moon Village.
NASA has proposed a similar method which calls for robotic workers using “sintered” regolith to 3D print bases. This consists of melting regolith by bombarding it with microwaves, then printing it out as a molten ceramic.
Other ideas involve building habitats into the ground and having an upper level that provides access to the surface and allows natural light in. There’s even the proposal for building lunar settlements inside stable lava tubes, which would provide protection against meteorites, cosmic rays and the solar wind.
There will be a second part about benefits and challenges of Colonizing the Moon.