Fly me to the Moon: For some, lunar village takes shape

September 22, 2017
The 1969-72 Apollo landings left us with an image of a lunar environment that was hostile and sterile. But scientists today says there is bounty in the Moon that can be unlocked with advanced technology, opening the way to a permanent human colony.

By 2040, a hundred people will live on the Moon, melting ice for water, 3D-printing homes and tools, eating plants grown in lunar soil, and competing in low-gravity, "flying" sports.

To those who mock such talk as science fiction, experts such as Bernard Foing, ambassador of the European Space Agency-driven "Moon Village" scheme, reply the goal is not only reasonable but feasible too.

At a European Planetary Science Congress in Riga this week, Foing spelt out how humanity could gain a permanent foothold on Earth's satellite, and then expand.

He likened it to the growth of the railways, when villages grew around train stations, followed by businesses.

By 2030, there could be an initial lunar settlement of six to 10 pioneers—scientists, technicians and engineers—which could grow to 100 by 2040, he predicted.

"In 2050, you could have a thousand and then... naturally you could envisage to have family" joining crews there, Foing told AFP .

Mere decades from now, "there may be the possibility to have children born on the Moon," he enthused.

ESA boss Jan Woerner has mooted replacing the orbiting International Space Station with a permanent lunar colony, a futuristic idea that was high on the agenda at this week's expert meeting in the Latvian capital.

Building a market

The ISS is due to be decommissioned in 2024—the end of an era of unprecedented cooperation in space after the Cold War rivalry between the United States and Soviet Union.

Forty years after humankind set foot on Earth's satellite as a result of that fierce contest of one-upmanship, Woerner has proposed a village on the long-abandoned Moon as the next phase in space teamwork.

Scientists and commercial prospectors are keen on the concept, but politicians have yet to bite—a reluctance that, for now, cripples the idea.

"It is highly frustrating... We still don't have the top leaders interested," said physicist Vidvuds Beldavs of the University of Latvia, who runs a project called the International Lunar Decade, advocating joint exploration of the Moon.

The missing link? "To demonstrate that industrial activity on the Moon is feasible, that... large markets can emerge."

Potential Moon resources include basalt, a volcanic rock Beldavs said could be used as a raw material for 3D-printing satellites to be deployed from the Moon at a fraction of the cost of a launch from high-gravity Earth.

There is also helium-3, a rare isotope on our planet but common on the Moon, that could theoretically be used to generate cleaner, safer nuclear energy for Earth.

The main target is water, locked up in ice on the Moon's poles.

Water can be separated into hydrogen and oxygen, two gases which explode when mixed—providing rocket fuel.

"To go into Earth orbit... it is 40 times cheaper to go from the Moon than from Earth, because the Earth has such high gravity that you have to fight against it," explained Foing.

'Tough' life

Experts argue that the future lies in collaboration between increasingly cash-strapped national space agencies and the private sector, which can profit from selling resources such as Moon-derived rocket fuel.

Robotic exploration is already underway, with several Moon landers and rovers planned for the coming years.

Woerner told AFP the goal "is to join international efforts and to bridge Earthly borders and crises."

But for those who think the Moon offers an escape from an Earth threatened by climate change and nuclear war, physicist Christiane Heinicke warns it is a "tough" life, and not for everyone.

She had spent a year in a mock Mars environment in Hawaii.

"It is completely devoid of any vegetation, all they see is rocks, regolith (loose rocks and dust), and a sky that is different from ours on Earth," she told AFP by email.

"Being either inside the habitat or inside a suit means that you're never able to actually FEEL the moon/planet you're on. You can't feel the wind (if there is any, like on Mars), you don't feel the Sun on your skin, and whatever you touch feels like the inside of your gloves."

Another problem: "You can never escape your crew mates," she said.

But Foing, who himself spent some time in one of the many earthly modules preparing aspirant Moon or Mars explorers, is undeterred.

He hopes to visit the village by 2040.

As for his family, "that will depend on the price... The price of the ticket is in the order of 100 million euros. That's now, but in 20 years, the price of the ticket could be 100 times less."

This will depend largely on advances made by commercial Moon explorers developing new technologies, boosting demand for lunar resources, or tourism, and driving prices down.

Elon Musk's SpaceX, for example, hopes to send two humans on a trip around the Moon in the next few years, and Blue Origin of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has plans to deliver five tonnes of cargo to Earth's satellite.

Explore further: Gallium in lunar samples explains loss of moon's easily vaporized elements

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rrrander
1 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2017
None of this is going to happen without resurrecting Project Orion. It can take 5,000 TONS of supplies to the moon in one mission, that's enough to fully-build and equip a small base. Whereas it would take 1000 Saturn V or greater rockets to do the same job, at an untenable cost.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (3) Sep 22, 2017
None of this is going to happen without resurrecting Project Orion. It can take 5,000 TONS of supplies to the moon in one mission, that's enough to fully-build and equip a small base. Whereas it would take 1000 Saturn V or greater rockets to do the same job, at an untenable cost.


You dont need 5000 tons to set up a small base. Also, we are hopefully entering the age of reusable rockets. A mature reusable rocket system should be capable of very high launch rates and putting thousands of tons into low orbit every year, and do it for very low price per kg. Enough for building and supplying a large moonbase. Project Orion is cool and all but is not needed for a mere moonbase.
physman
1.3 / 5 (3) Sep 22, 2017
I think the timeline is too optimisitc, we should look at the history of colonisation of the Americas as a guide:

1492: Colombus lands in North America
1607: Jamestown is established as the first settlement in North America

So that's 115 years to go from setting foot to a settlement, by my (rough) calculations:

1969: Apollo Lands on Moon
2084?: First settlement on Moon
michbaskett
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 22, 2017
One thing that is glazed over is the myriad physiological problems associated with living on the moon. Bone desnity degeneration, the need to take manufactured vitamin D, etc. Through it all is the feeling that the whole thing is being backed by the same sort of people who believe we can conquer nature, not to mention the incredible pollution generated by the numerous rockets needed to get even as little as 100 people to the moon. And we have no idea at all about the problems associated with being born and raised on the moon. This isn't the sort of thing that can be gleaned by some study. You have to have someone willing to sacrifice their own offspring as the guinea pigs. It may look good on papere to some people, but I see the potential for real problems. Problems the backers and dreamers probably won't have to deal with themselves to a large degree.
jbucher32
3 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2017
If you look at the night sky you see a lot of rocks burn up as they hit our atmosphere. You don't see that on the moon. You just see craters. I'd have too see what kind of structures they plan on building, but what I am imagining doesn't sound too appealing.
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (3) Sep 22, 2017
At first they would have to build underground perhaps but there are not that many meteors hitting now anyway, look at ISS, 13 years up and no hits. Apollo men on the moon were never hit which admittedly was a short stay each time but still it is not like being in a shooting gallery.
skellmeyer
4.3 / 5 (6) Sep 22, 2017
Physman, Jamestown was NOT the first settlement in North America.
That honor goes to St. Augustine, Florida, settled in 1565.

But Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, is even older, having been established in 1498 and is the oldest continuously inhabited European established settlement in the Americas.

Americans tend to focus on English colonies, but the English were actually the LAST Europeans to make it to the North American continent. The only reason they beat out the French, Spanish and Russians is, they brought entire FAMILIES over, whereas all the other "settlers" sent primarily men. No women. Thus, the English won the demographics race by having ten to 20 times the population within a century of settlement.

If you don't ship entire FAMILIES to the Moon or Mars, then you haven't settled it, you just have an outpost.

rrwillsj
1.4 / 5 (11) Sep 22, 2017
Oh Hooray! Onto the Final Frontier as described by comicbooks and hollybollyhonglywood movies and telebuffoonery.

I might find some small interest in the proposals by pioneering propagandists?
If, their fat, white, male asses were at stake. How courageously generous of them to 'volunteer' entire families sentenced to life (short & miserable!) imprisonment in the Lunar Gulag.

I also might be more conciliatory if they made any physical effort at resolving the problems killing this planet. Beside flapping their gums about sacrificing others on the altar of Mammon.

Furthermore, it would ease my disdain of their heroic verbiage if, on this world the female of the species received anywhere near the honors, the accolades and the rewards inundating professional celebrities for putting a ball in a hole.

What a joke of a society we have. When those women who sacrifice themselves producing and nurturing the future are basically treated with dismissive contempt.
Solon
1 / 5 (12) Sep 22, 2017
"and a sky that is different from ours on Earth," she told AFP by email."

Will these first colonists be able to see the stars? If not, why not? No, civilians will never be allowed outside of low Earth orbit, wait and see.
slrlw2017
4.8 / 5 (4) Sep 22, 2017
Oh Hooray! Onto the Final Frontier as described by comicbooks and hollybollyhonglywood movies and telebuffoonery.

...

What a joke of a society we have. When those women who sacrifice themselves producing and nurturing the future are basically treated with dismissive contempt.


Your attitude is equally as damaging and dangerous to our future as the very real issues you bring up. I don't know where you come from or what you've experienced, but I'd just like you to know that there are people in the world that are trying to do better and make a better future for all of our young species and the biosphere as a whole.

I'm no cultural psychologist, but I can't imagine a cynical self loathing culture being a healthy one, and as an individual it simply polarizes opinions and divides individuals.

Colonizing the moon in the near future may be folly and improbable but I'd rather live in a world of naive optimism than one where all dreams are quenched by our flaws.
Dark_Solar
2 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2017
@rrrander: Project Orion is an awesome propulsion system but not really feasible for atmospheric use --soooo much fallout. Although.....maybe if it was used just once to move a crated TBM/nuclear subterrene to the moon....

@ michbaskett: of all the concerns you've raised, you definitely nailed the most important one in the crater issue; bone loss can be circumvented with wearable weights, vitamins can be manufactured, ionizing radiation can be shielded, but those 50K+ mph stone bullets will put a serious crimp in your day. Maybe if we were to dig deep enough with a subterrene?

I see Solon has weighed in on this topic; although I have the option to to show his comment, I set him to 'ignore' for a reason. Just a shot in the dark but I'm guessing he's still trying to run with the 'there's no visible light in space' conjecture or some other such conspiracy-centric foolishness. *sigh*
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (2) Sep 23, 2017
None of this is going to happen without resurrecting Project Orion. It can take 5,000 TONS of supplies to the moon in one mission, that's enough to fully-build and equip a small base. Whereas it would take 1000 Saturn V
Wrong - post refs and quotes, dont make shit up
or greater rockets to do the same job, at an untenable cost.
So can 10 of musks mars rocket
"capable of lofting 300 tons to low-Earth orbit (LEO) — more than two times more than Saturn V could lift. (That's for ITS's reusable version; an expendable variant could launch about 550 tons to LEO, Musk said.)"

-So unless youre trying to lift one 5000 ton object, I dont see the point.
RZ49
1 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2017
To build a sustainable habitat would probably take machinery with single parts weighting several hundred tons or(/and), on the other hand, would need several thousand tons of other stuff - hence its not gonna happen tomorrow so its all fine, no need for mega payload right now as there is no rush tbh.
dfjohnsonphd
1 / 5 (5) Sep 23, 2017
Regardless of the problems of getting there and habitation, It is all a waste of money and effort. This planet is falling apart and they want to colonize barren planets, for what purpose? Do they expect to find platinum, gold and diamond mines on the moon? What possible value would come out of such a waste of resources? You could buy up a lot of disappearing habitat on THIS planet with all the money wasted on a lunar colony. You could buy a big chunk of Africa or Brazilian rain forest for the money spent on a trip to Mars. What a bunch of dopes to waste resources on human exploring when robots are already doing a great job on Mars. Stay home, save habitat and phone up to the robots wherever they might be for data updates!
rrwillsj
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 23, 2017
Dear siriw2017, or should I call you Pangloss? All my life people have told me "Richard! You need to be more positive." My reply is "I am positive that we are failing to comprehend the disaster looming before us."

Accused of being a pessimist, I would deny, proclaiming myself a cynic. "That pessimists invariably are too optimistic when confronted with a life problem."

Then I am warned "That the nail that sticks up will be hammered down!"

What other purpose does a nail have? But to be struck true and hard to build something useful?

However, the pathetic leadership of seven decades of republican-dixiecrat corruption and incompetency has been a total failure as builders of anything but their own personal fortunes.

Now the rats want to desert the very planet they have poisoned. Scurrying off to save their verminous hides. Deluded that by infesting another world they can save their worthless selves. Paying their fare with the lives of all the rest of Humanity.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2017
Niven and Pournelle described an orion earth launch in their book Footfall
https://en.wikipe...Footfall

-spoiler alert
isolate
4 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2017
We don't need Project Orion or other science-fictiony, unbelievably expensive or internationally illegal grandstanding. The work has already been done. Haul that $150+ billion white elephant of a space station into a close lunar orbit and harvest it for metal and spare parts. Or crash it into a nice flat rocky area near the intended construction site and moon-buggy the parts over. A solar furnace will allow structural members to be created. Need more metal? Harvest all America's booster stages and burned-out satellites.

Aim for a deep, huge subsurface main auditorium or gallery with airlocks to begin with. Extract oxygen from regolith (40% of its weight), nitrogen through chemistry, etc. Exhaled CO2 goes to feed the farms. Solar power is abundant. Absolutely need Earth materials and components? Vacuum the lunar surface for He3, worth far more than its weight in platinum.

Follow Nature's law: reuse, recycle, readapt, reorganize.
unrealone1
1 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2017
Sounds like the JSF all over again.
Obama shut down NASA and moved American science towards "weather watching"
Solon
not rated yet Sep 24, 2017
"when robots are already doing a great job on Mars"

It is going to take the rovers for ever to examine just the tiniest part of Mars. I watched the Nat Geo "Mars" TV series, and the colonists were using drones. Not enough atmosphere I thought, but I'm sure the producers must have consulted NASA. That's the way to do it, imagine flying over and then down into Valles Marineris, high res zoomable T/V camera beaming back real time footage. I'd buy a subscription to that service for sure.
ShotmanMaslo
5 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2017
This planet is falling apart and they want to colonize barren planets, for what purpose?


You answered your own question. Space colonization should be considered an integral part of a fight against climate change and other threats to humanity. As Musk says, we should not have all our eggs in one basket. Not to mention that any space colony will have to recycle everything, to there is plenty of advances in sustainable living awaiting in such pursuit, applicable even on Earth.

Also, resources spent on space are vanishingly small in the big picture anyway.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Sep 24, 2017
Musk didnt coin that

"The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in."
Robert Heinlein, speech
luke_w_bradley
not rated yet Sep 24, 2017
This planet is falling apart and they want to colonize barren planets, for what purpose?


You answered your own question. Space colonization should be considered an integral part of a fight against climate change and other threats to humanity.....


Someone critiqued that logic, saying that however messed up Earth gets, it will still always be the easiest planet for us to colonize and I think that's right. But there's still an interesting overlap between sustainable living and space colonization: If you can create completely closed loop bio-systems that support human life in extreme places here, like the poles or Death Valley, you've developed the skills not only to survive an environmental collapse on earth, but also to colonize space. The way things are going, that's probably a good thing to do. I looks like evolution will select next for *Homo Stellarum*, the humans who can survive environmental apocalypse and space.
jloohunret
1 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2017
Build money reason to go their first for rich people to sponsor or gov't. First build real true working helium-3 fusion reactors and other industries that benefit from outer space conditions for manufacturing. Possibly plasubile reason to go is military spying on each other based off fear and psychology.
szore88
1 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2017
We should just take all the money and give to welfare for food stamps for illegal Mexicans instead. What would Obama do?
jonesdave
not rated yet Sep 24, 2017
"and a sky that is different from ours on Earth," she told AFP by email."

Will these first colonists be able to see the stars? If not, why not? No, civilians will never be allowed outside of low Earth orbit, wait and see.


Sir, you are a f*ckw*t
jonesdave
3 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2017
We should just take all the money and give to welfare for food stamps for illegal Mexicans instead. What would Obama do?


Something better than than you, yes? State your IQ. Plus education. Not going to happen is it Holmer? Dear me; Americans!
TrollBane
2.5 / 5 (2) Sep 25, 2017
"1492: Colombus lands in North America
1607: Jamestown is established as the first settlement in North America"
You missed a few things there.
yep
5 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2017
"1492: Colombus lands in North America
1607: Jamestown is established as the first settlement in North America"
You missed a few things there.

For instance when the pilgrims were eating each other in Jamestown you could get a room and a beer in Santa Fe.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Sep 25, 2017
bone loss can be circumvented with wearable weights

Hanging weights on babies is not an option. Even with the type of strenuous excercise the (arguably very fit) astronauts on the ISS have they suffer bone mineral density loss - and that is from comparatively short stays in zero gravity. Less fit people will have a hard time of it.

Note that there is no difference between low (e.g. Moon or even Mars gravity) and zero gravity for BMD loss, as bone remodelling requires a minimum force to activate. It's not a linear progression.

If you can create completely closed loop bio-systems that support human life in extreme places here,

In the long run it'll probably be easier to turn human life into non-human life (i.e. something that is adapted to the local conditions). But we're definitely not there, yet.
antialias_physorg
3 / 5 (2) Sep 25, 2017
That said I think sending some people on a temporary (several years) mission to the moon might be feasible to lay some ground work for a future population shifts - if there is something worthwhile getting. If we're taliking Helium-3 then we should first make sure that we have a viable use for this down here. 2040 seems *way* optimistic, though. The first proto-base should be built by remotes. Too risky to send humans when you don't know if the base will work.

I also think it should not be surface 3-D printed dwellings (however cool that tech is) but underground. We should not risk a settlement on the odd meteorite strike. The ISS can be moved if something is headed its way - a lunar settlement cannot. Radiation protection needs to be considered which makes underground a no-brainer.

3D printing will come in handy for siting surface structures (e.g. solar panels). I hope someone swings the cash to start in on this
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2017
We should just take all the money and give to welfare for food stamps for illegal Mexicans instead. What would Obama do?
Something better than than you, yes? State your IQ. Plus education. Not going to happen is it Holmer? Dear me; Americans!
In order to state his IQ he would actually have to have one?

Oh BTW lots of those americans youre referring to came from mexico. Lets not forget that.
Hanging weights on babies is not an option
Why not? Instead of hanging think weighted fabric and strategic joint restriction.

If they weigh less to begin with then heavy clothes would not be an undue burden. So to speak.
Dark_Solar
1 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2017
@antialias:

Well....what I was going for with the weights suggestion is something similar to bouyancy attenuation(-ish) -i.e. just enough loading to bring gravity-induced strain forces back to or close to 1G. But, obviously, at roughly 1/6G that's quite a bit of extra mass that needs to be worn/moved so yeah, probably not the ideal solution. And of course a weight suit does nothing to address weakening of the heart under low/no-grav conditions...eh, it's a place to start while we try to find the ideal solution. The perfect solution which would cover all the health bases (incl. babies) in one shot would be some sort of giant, horizontal tilt-a-whirl style centrifugal habitat ring --which naturally comes with its own set of obstacles-- on mag-lev rails/bearings and it would need to be underground or at the very least covered with multiple loose tentings of ballistic fabric which would only really be useful against micro-meteors. Totally spit-balling at this point....
Dark_Solar
1 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2017
@antialias: cont.

...but only spit-balling to a point. (I've been grinding on this particular issue for a while) The biggest question we need answered concerns resource availability & logistics; what is there to work with? How easily can it be processed? What machines/supplies need to be sent to do the job?, etc. So far, our samplings have been of limited areas looking for specific things. Soooo....what do we know about the mundane stuff, the nuts-n-bolts materials like copper, iron, silicates, rare earths that will be necessary to build more than just fused flintstonian huts that we can shove balloons in? The answer is "a fair amount", enough it seems to know that copper is in short supply (according to limited sample groups) in the lunar soil and that sucks for us given copper's centricity in our tech. Plenty of aluminum as a work-around, but not a lot of hydrogen or carbon and no chlorine (yet) for vinyls. I'll stop here.

Thoughts? Suggestions?
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (1) Sep 25, 2017
The perfect solution which would cover all the health bases

The ideal situation would be a space station with rotational gravity (and adequate shielding) and only coming down to the surface for labor (which should be limited to repair of robotic mining systems - not the mining itself). Since launch costs from the Moon into lunar orbit are low the flight overhead should not be onerous.
But the station itself (particularly if adequately shielded) would be a tad more expensive than going for a lunar colony. Maybe the shielding could come from lunar regolith printed on top of an initial skeleton structure.

Back in around 2010 I was working alongside a group that actually looked at the BMD issue for the ISS. They were checking whether having vibration fitness machines would be enough to activate bone remodelling. Seems to work, but - again - isn't a viable solution for babies/young children.

rrwillsj
1 / 5 (5) Sep 25, 2017
As you guys are not satisfied with tormenting women and children here on Earth. Now you want to torment them in outer space! Trapped in the isolation of tiny prison barges.

My Heroes! (he said mockingly)

2 ideas: To attempt a realistic possibility (low order) for a habitat which may allow a survivable pioneer settlement.

When any of you mention shielding, you are ignorant of how high-energy radiation works. Instead, invest in some young genius to invent a mirroring energy field. Better if it could actually capture the energy for use.

However, such an investment would overthrow your cartoonish belief-systems and bankrupt your obsolete economies.

Drone robots collecting the materials to assemble a manufacturing for creating degenerate matter in zero-g.

G is a constant of mass. Degenerate Matter, if carefully applied as layers of paint, might be built up to produce a healthy gravity-field. Wherever it is applied, habitat, station, maybe even in a p-suit?.

rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) Sep 25, 2017
Oh, and bye the wayside. If my wild speculations of theorizing about Gravity might be improbably correct?

Sorry but no anti-gravity.

Gravity as a Constant of Mass. Which means that any machine that could reverse the uni-directional Force? Will undoubtedly disassemble the atomic-structure of all the matter of that machine. In one honking, humongous explosion!

We already have a sufficient quantity of weaponry to not only exterminate all Humanity, several times over. But in addition, exterminate this planet's biosphere.

I'm calling it the Matricide.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Sep 26, 2017
The ideal situation would be a space station with rotational gravity (and adequate shielding) and only coming down to the surface for labor (which should be limited to repair of robotic mining systems - not the mining itself)
Funny - everybodys talking about surface and subsurface stations, nobodys talking about orbital rings. So apparently aa is missing something important? 100 people on the surface seems like ridiculous commitment unless real experts thought it was feasible?
Back in around 2010 I was working alongside a group that actually looked at the BMD issue for the ISS
-No I meant real experts. Osmosis is not a valid form of professional achievement.
Dark_Solar
1 / 5 (1) Oct 02, 2017
@GhostofOtto

Yes, antialias and I did kind of wander off into the weeds there; an orbital ring generating centripetal "gravity" might be a good solution if there's an accounting for precession and would probably be a bit easier to maintain (less razor-sharp dust) overall. I'm still sticking with my notion of a sideways ferris wheel for surface/subsurface habitation although admittedly it's a bit boondoggle-ish considering the engineering hurdles and sheer size that would be necessary to allow for a rotational speed capable of generating 1G centripetally while still allowing safe ingress/egress without having to spin down the entire habitat. Ehh...either way, it's a fun thought experiment.
TrollBane
not rated yet Oct 13, 2017
"the colonists were using drones. Not enough atmosphere I thought". Consider that birds can fly over high mountain peaks where the air is thin, and add in the low gravity factor. Drones made from lightweight materials with sufficient wing area should be viable. Birds have been documented flying at more than 8000 m, after all.

https://web.stanf...ast.html

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