Moon vs Mars – Colonizing the Moon

Metallurgy for the Non-Metallurgists
May 20, 2019
Moon vs Mars – Colonizing Mars
July 22, 2021

Most, if not all, of us at one point or another, looked up into the night sky, and stared at the moon. Thinking about how far away it is and what it must be like up there. Did anyone ever imagine being on the moon staring out at Earth thinking about how far away it is and what it must be like there? This thought may not be as far-fetched as we once may have thought. 52 years ago mankind took its first steps on the moon and fast forward to now we may be sending people to live there as soon as a few years. 

Getting to the moon has proven to be successful but how is humanity supposed to survive on a moon previously thought to be uninhabitable. One of the key steps is establishing a water source. The moon is a very dry place and, as we all know, we can’t survive without water, which is one of the big snag’s we’ve run into. Despite the moon being dry, it is believed there are sources of water and all we need to do is find it and figure out how to tap into it. Professor Darby Dyar explains that some water was formed at the same time that the moon was formed but the water is “locked” in the moon’s minerals in tiny amounts. Another water source is from previous Comets. Comets are made up of ice and when it impacts the moon, it gets hot and melts the ice leaving water preserved in shadowed craters that the sun can’t reach. The moon is also constantly being sprayed with hydrogen ions from solar winds that then bond with microscopic particles on the moon which makes for another way to get water. Water is only half of the equation though, we also need to figure out how we are going to eat. Experimentation on how to farm indoors without sunlight has been going on since the 80’s and 90’s. NASA and researchers at the University of Wisconsin discovered they could use a combination of red and blue LED lights. Red allowed the plant to photosynthesize and blue kept them from growing too large. NASA and a German space agency are beginning to test indoor farming with greenhouses in Antarctica. Space agencies aren’t working toward farming in space to continue to push us to eat our veggies, there are actually other benefits from having space plants. Plants could serve a multipurpose life support system for us such as producing calories and nutrients for us to eat. Lastly, we need to figure out how we’re going to breathe. Sounds like a big challenge, but it may not be as hard as we think it may be. The plants will not only provide us with food but they will produce oxygen as well. The soil on the moon is also 42% oxygen so, using heat and electricity, the oxygen can be harvested by robots. The oxygen extracted could also be used to create water. If regular supply ships brought liquid hydrogen we can mix it with the oxygen to create water. 

All the basic human needs are covered but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re ready to go off and live on the moon. The moon’s climate is very different from our climate down here on Earth. The moon has no atmosphere so it can get up to 260 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and all the way down to -280 degrees Fahrenheit at night. A lunar day is also quite different from an Earth day. One lunar day is the equivalent to 27 Earth days. This means that these drastic temperatures could last for weeks at a time before any relief. Humans would also need some form of a gym or place to work out. The lack of gravity on the moon and combination of long term exposure leads to accelerated bone and muscle loss and leads to cardiovascular issues. There’s also the issue of funding. All the space programs have been racing to find a way to make sure we can survive but have yet to figure out how to fund this endeavour. 

Living in space has been something many of us have only believed was true in science fiction. Due to the endless work of scientists this could soon be a reality. What do you think, will we one day live on the moon or is it just unrealistic optimism?

Works Cited

Alex Schwartz July 16, 2019. (2021, April 26). Why doesn’t anyone live on the moon yet? Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/live-on-the-moon/. 

Republican, T. (2014, January 20). Mount Holyoke professor Darby Dyar says a colony on the moon is no fantasy. masslive. https://www.masslive.com/living/2014/01/mount_holyoke_professor_part_of_massive_study_of_outer_space.html. 

Walkingthedot. (2021, June 21). NASA is learning how to farm on Mars and the moon. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/20/space-agencies-are-learning-how-to-farm-on-mars-and-the-moon.html.

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