Colonizing The Moon
A bigger leap for mankind
We humans have come so far in space exploration, building rockets, building probes, satellites and finally, setting foot on the moon. But now, instead of just visiting the moon for a short amount of time, we are developing moon bases that can hold astronauts for up to 6 months at a time. Here's all you need to know about it.
THE SPACE RACE
The space race was a 20-century competition between the
United States and the Soviet Union, now Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
The Space Race officially began on August 2nd, 1955 by the Soviet Union declaring they would also launch a satellite "in the near future". The Soviet Union achieved the first successful launch on October 4, 1957, orbiting of Sputnik 1, and sent the first human to space with the orbital flight of Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961.
But the legendary moments of the space race was still the manned moon landing. The USA was tired of losing so many parts of the race to Soviets. After many trials and tests of the rocket Saturn V, on July 20, 1969, the rocket bringing American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin set course for the moon. After they landed, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon, followed by the famous words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
The Moon is an astronomical body orbiting the Earth. The Moon is the fifth-largest moon in the solar system, the first being one of Jupiter's moons, Ganymede.
The Moon has a diameter of 3,474.2 km, which is about one-quarter the size of Earth. The moon's mass is 7.35 x 1022 kg, about 1.2 percent of Earth's mass. Put another way, Earth weighs 81 times more than the moon. The moon's density is 3.34 grams per cubic centimeter (3.34 g/cm3).
The Moon is thought to have formed about 4.51 billion years ago, not long after Earth was formed. It is widely accepted that the Moon formed by the debris left over after a giant impact between Earth and a hypothetical Mars-sized body called Theia. New studies found out that the Moon might be older than previously thought, but it does not deny the impact hypothesis.
The Moon's crust is made out of mostly oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, and aluminum. There are also trace elements like titanium, uranium, thorium, potassium and hydrogen.
Like the Earth, the Moon has layers. The innermost layer is the lunar core. It only accounts for about 20% of the diameter of the Moon. Scientists think that the lunar core is made of metallic iron, with small amounts of sulfur and nickel. Astronomers know that the core of the Moon is probably at least partly molten.
The Moon was first reached by the Soviet Union's Luna 2, an unmanned spacecraft. This accomplishment was followed by the landing on the Moon by Luna 9 in 1966. The United States' NASA Apollo program achieved the only manned lunar missions to date, beginning with the first manned orbital mission by Apollo 8 in 1968, and six manned landings between 1969 and 1972, with the first being Apollo 11 in July 1969. These missions returned lunar rocks which have been used to develop a geological understanding of the Moon's origin, internal structure, and the Moon's later history. Since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission, the Moon has been visited only by unmanned spacecraft.
So first we have to clearly know what is meant by a lunar base. When I say lunar base, I don't mean some futuristic city or a whole civilisation of human beings living there. We have to face reality - a whole civilisation of human beings living on other planets is going to take decades, or maybe even centuries. The lunar base might only be a small outpost or lab where scientists and astronauts and live for an extended period of time.
Setting up a lunar base might be the key to future space travels, acting as a rest stop to refuel, to pick up astronauts, scientists and so on. Also, we can study impact craters and geology to understand more about our solar system, we also can set up radio telescopes away from Earth's electromagnetic interference to let us understand the big bang better. Finally, we can use a lunar base to gain data about astronauts living in outer space for long periods of time.
Last but not least, the cost of lunar bases. Even going to space is expensive, how about going to space bringing people and a multi-billion dollar transport? The cost is astronomical. Sorry. Bad Pun. So back to topic, the costs of going to space and transporting humans and the base is around 10-15 billion dollars. After that, the lunar base and lunar base related equipment will cost around 40-50 billion. So the total is 50 billion dollars to 65 billion dollars, though this can vary.
An alternative for the billions to turn into millions: 3-D Printing
The 3D printing using material already available on the Moon could be a practical way of establishing
an outpost on Earth's closest neighbour, saids the result of a study by the European Space Agency ( ESA).
The hypothesis of the ESA was that a robotic moon mission could do most of the work before astronauts would ever set foot on the lunar surface.
The 3-D printing software would be ran independently by a computer. The robot would use a mixture of lunar dirt and dust, called regolith, to cover an inflatable dome with layers of the robust material.
By using the moon's indigenous material, space agencies can save money on the cost of flying pricey missions to and from the moon's surface. This could actually save space agencies up to 20 billion dollars!
Plentiful local resources on the moon include solar power, oxygen and metals. Other less common resources/elements that can be found on the moon include hydrogen, silicon, iron, magnesium, calcium, aluminum, manganese and finally titanium.
Solar Power: Daylight on the Moon lasts approximately two weeks,then
comes approximately two weeks of night, while both lunar poles are illuminated most of the time. The lunar south pole has a region with crater rims exposed to near constant solar illumination, yet the interior of the craters are permanently shaded from sunlight, and have quite a lot of water ice in their interior. If we made a lunar resource processing facility near the lunar south pole, solar-generated electrical power would allow for nearly constant operation close to water ice sources.
Oxygen: You might think: "Oxygen? On the moon? You've gotta be kidding me!" There actually is , but probably not in the way you think. The oxygen content in the regolith is estimated at 45% by weight. Oxygen is often found in iron-rich lunar minerals and glasses as iron oxide. Although there are at least 20 different ways to extract oxygen from the regolith, they all require a high energy input.
Water: Again, this might seem unbelievable, but it is real, although not in the way you think. Lunar water is water that is present on the Moon. Liquid water cannot persist at the Moon's surface, and water vapor is decomposed by sunlight, with hydrogen quickly lost to outer space. However, scientists have found out that water ice could survive in cold, permanently shadowed craters at the Moon's poles. In total, there are about 31,000km squared of these cold, permanently shadowed craters. This is quite optimistic for future lunar settlers, or maybe even us. In addition water molecules were also detected in the thin layer of gases above the lunar surface.
To Infinity and Beyond
To Infinity and Beyond. The famous words spoken by Buzz Lightyear in the toy story films. But maybe one day we could do that too! Here's how a moon base can help us bring space exploration to another level.
With the production of spacecraft or other technologies that can enter and remain in the area between Earth and the Moon (called Cislunar space), scientist can take advantage of this area in the form of staging and fuelling grounds for missions to Mars and beyond.
If missions were to begin to move into deep space, they would need to be self-contained, said Marco Caporicci, special adviser to the director of the ESA's Human Space Flight Operations for Transportation and Exploration. The moon base could function as a good proxy for these kinds of missions by monitoring how an autonomous habitat on another celestial body functions.
Engineers might be able to manufacture propellant for deep-space travel using the natural resources the moon has to offer.
When the propellant is created, it can be sent to cislunar space to help fuel spaceships ready to depart for other areas of the solar system and beyond.