The Moon has been a source of great curiosity to humanity for millennia, for years we have looked to the sky at this glowing rock wondering what it was. For a long time, all it was to us was a natural light, a sense of direction, or even a point of worship for some. However, now we know it to be so much more, an astronomical body 3474km in diameter that is orbiting our own planet. It is hypothesised that around 4.5 billion years ago the Moon was created by an object about the size of Mars which collided with the Earth and in the debris of the collision the Moon formed and began orbiting the Earth with very little spin and no significant atmosphere .
Since discovering what the Moon was, the question became ‘how can we get there?’ It was a difficult task, one which would not be solved until 1959 when the Soviet Union landed the first man made object on the Moon, a small rocket called Luna 2. Given the current political climate between Russia and the other side of the world, America were having none of this and quickly announced the Apollo missions which aimed to send the first man to the Moon, after about 10 years and way too much funding, this goal was achieved in 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the surface and Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first men to walk on the Moon ever. Quite the achievement, probably still could not get an internship. We went back a few times over the next few years, however the funding was drying up and interest in space travel was slowly dying in the world, so unfortunately in 1972 the last man to walk on the Moon was Gene Cernan of Apollo 17 .
However, very recently, NASA announced the new ARTEMIS missions which aim to send humans back to the Moon within the current decade . So why now? As cool as the Moon is, there must be some extra motivation to gain enough funding. Well in truth, to see the benefits of this move we need not think about the short-term issues this causes, but rather the long term benefits, as the Moon is the key to our survival in the long term; it could act as an outpost for all future inter-solar system space travel, it could provide more space for our ever-growing population, but most importantly, the Moon could hold the key to the human energy crisis as it has an abundance of Helium-3 on its surface which is a critical ingredient in artificial fusion but is a very sparce resource on Earth .
Colonizing the Moon is essential, not only to gain access to all the above benefits but also as a ‘practise run’ for future endeavours such as Mars. However, even though we could very easily go to the Moon within a couple months and set up a small base, actually building a colony would be a little trickier and take a lot more time. In order to get to this stage, we must take this journey one step at a time and plan it out carefully; I believe a 3-phase plan could be put in place to act as a guide for progress over the next 100 years.
Phase 1 has already begun and involves the exploration already completed, where we proved the Moon could be visited and we have studied its geology and general composition with countless rovers, probes and satellites. It simply aims to give us the information we need to see if it is viable to progress to the next phase.
Phase 2 would involve sending a small number of just scientists and engineers to set up a small inflatable base on the Moon, likely at the pole there is almost perpetual daylight in those regions and there are known craters which can act as shields to any potential asteroid hit. These inflatable bases would likely be connected by tubes to get around and be slightly buried underground to minimise the amount of radiation exposure the astronauts would have to endure. This stage would likely take about a decade to complete, as their main aims will be the following: to set up a mechanism to extract the water beneath the Moon’s surface, this water can be used to sustain life such as plants but also separated into Oxygen and Hydrogen, AKA rocket fuel, making longer stays on the Moon possible and the idea of an outpost for further space travel possible . Finally, setting up solar panels would be essential for generating electricity and laying the groundwork for all future activities on surface.
In order for our base to be a true colony, it must become self-sufficient, at this point it is not. This is because without funding none of phase 2 can continue; so, this is where phase 3 comes in. This phase brings in the idea of capitalism, you cannot keep funding these missions forever, so what needs to happen is there needs to be an incentive for people and markets to be interested in the Moon, and there are plenty incentives, impact craters on the surface are known to contain many precious rare metals, and as mentioned earlier is the mining of Helium-3 which has the potential to power the future of humanity, furthermore, the composition of the lunar surface is very similar to that used in 3D printing, making it viable to produce mass amounts of tools, machinery and structures without having to bring them from Earth. As big business comes in to take advantage of all this, it is natural that they set up their own bases and bring their own people, external to government approved missions, to regulate the progress. As the population grows the nature of the populations will also change, from primarily researchers and engineers to contractors and representatives .
We cannot say for sure when this will become a self-sustainable model, however we do know that is how humanity has spread across the world in the past. However, we do need to ask ourselves to look back at our past and ask if we are proud of it, as even though we made all this progress, what was the cost? Did we have the right to do what we did? Do we have the right to do it again but this time to the Moon?
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