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Future or Fantasy? Efforts to set up permanent manned colonies on the moon and their plausibility

Ayhan Naiman, Al Ain English Speaking School, UAE

Every little kid has at some point dreamed of the future and all its wonders. Be it flying cars, video phones or (little me’s personal dream) humans living on the moon. In my head, this “Moonbase” would be a home for millions, living as if they were on earth; as if nothing was different. However, despite the dreams of me and millions of other starry-eyed children across the globe, there is still no moonbase. In fact, no human has stepped on the moon since 1972.

So what gives? What happened to the moonbase we imagined?

Transport to the moon is not the issue. Humans have been able to travel to the moon since 1969 and modern technology such as the Orion Spacecraft can make the journey and back in less than a week. In fact the moon could serve as a jumping off point for the rest of the solar system, with a lunar colony making it easier to travel to other planets like mars.

The idea of a moonbase is also economically promising. The moon is filled with extremely valuable metals such as gold, silver, platinum and the moon is rich with rare earth elements, which are extremely useful and valuable for technological production. The moon also contains a lot of Helium-3, which can be used for Nuclear Fusion, a technology which could revolutionize energy production.

But then the question remains; Why didn’t we build a Lunar Colony?

To start, the gravity on the moon is only 1/6th the strength of that on earth; due to this, any humans living on the moon would suffer decreased bone density and muscle atrophy. The moon also has no atmosphere, meaning that there is no air for humans to breathe or for plants to photosynthesize. This makes it much more difficult for any life to sustain itself on the moon.

Additionally, colonization of the moon would be extremely expensive. Building any permanent and necessary-for-human-survival infrastructure on the moon would require massive amounts of resources to be transported, costing a massive amount of money.

So what can be done?

With the main issue regarding lunar colonization being sustaining human survival; it is unlikely that humanity will be able to set up any permanent manned colonies on the moon. Despite this, the idea of a lunar colony still seems to be valuable. A better way of sustaining expansion on the moon could be to have this colonization be unmanned and to have human bases on the moon be entirely occupied by robots designed to automatically perform tasks.

Artificial robots could be a much better way to sustain operations on the moon instead of humans. Unlike humans, who need food, water and air to survive. A robot only needs sufficient energy, energy which can be stored in large enough quantities to supply the robot. Robots are also able to perform tasks such as mining operations much easier and more quickly than humans, making them much more efficient to extract benefit from any base on the moon.

It might not be the sprawling lunar utopia we imagined, or even a second home for humanity. But it is a start in humanity’s efforts to reach beyond our little blue marble, and if executed right, an unmanned lunar colony could be humanity’s first step into the stars.

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