Why I think we are going back to the Moon. And, possibly even farther.
First, some history.
I will always remember a television show called Space 1999. It is about a crew of make believe astronauts who built a life sustaining environment on the moon. Their main space station, called Moonbase Alpha, includes living quarters, storage buildings, laboratory pods, spacecraft and all terrain rovers.
The team consists of doctors, engineers, pilots, mechanics and other astronauts with a common goal to contribute to the community. You see them refueling spacecraft, preparing meals and going to their jobs, just to name a few. They would come home each night to spend time with their families. Everything you could imagine from a normal earth-like scenario was happening there.
I also remember watching a real-life event from NASA. They successfully landed real men on the moon. Yes, I mean the first humans to walk on that planet, or any other for that matter. The Apollo 11 mission happened in 1969. I saw astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong safely touched down. You can still review the footage of them setting up experiments, riding in a rover and sticking a flag in the dusty lunar surface.
One of the live transmissions is famous, “That’s one small step for man…One giant leap for mankind”. Since then, humanity has continued to focus on exploring the galaxy, with a desire to expand our reach, perhaps in the form of inhabiting other planets. This would provide an opportunity to sustain our ever-growing population and possibly find a resupply to the diminishing resources we have on earth. So, it makes sense to reach out to new worlds.
Why did it take so long?
Why travel back to the moon now? We did it before, so why haven’t we done it again? Is there a reason to go back? Maybe cost is the answer. It is very expensive to build rockets, lunar landing modules, generate enough fuel to launch this equipment to the moon, then get human astronauts back to earth safely.
We know enough about building a space station, considering the International Space Station (ISS) is celebrating its 20th birthday. The Space Agency is using ISS to conduct experiments in space, so the same can be done elsewhere. Living in space for extended periods has become common knowledge to us, based on the experiences of the many astronauts that live on ISS. And, we are quite adept at conducting resupply missions. In the same context, materials and supplies can be shipped to the moon and even farther.
In fact, NASA is planning to go to the moon by 2020. The mission, called Gateway, would use commercial contracts, in partnership with the Space Agency, to launch astronauts into deep space. With the assistance of a Space Launch System (SLS), we would have rockets large enough to ship heavier payloads.
The goal is to create a smaller space station like craft, called Orion. The plan is to place it in Lunar orbit. It will be a key component of a Lunar Outpost. From there, astronauts can land on the surface and build more permanent structures.
One of the options they are considering is creating a dome enclosure over some of the many large craters on the moon. Once this environment is built, workers can extract ice, which is deposited in certain craters in the North and South poles.
Water is very important for Space Colonization as it could be used for human consumption, plant growth, oxygen and a fuel source. Trials are being conducted now to explore the possibility of using 3D Technology to create sustainable housing solutions. These structures could be used on Earth, the Moon, Mars and beyond.
Having said this, it is feasible that a Moonbase could successfully be completed. If we gain additional experience on the Moon, we could duplicate these efforts in a cookie cutter type fashion elsewhere. A Cookie Cutter approach involves the construction of similar Modules. The idea is to use them for a certain period in one location, then disassembling the modules, before transporting them to a new location. Subsequently increasing the lifespan of any one Module, while saving money in the process.
A Laboratory Pod could be used repeatedly by relocating it to study another area for instance. The same is true for other modules such as Living Quarters, Greenhouses, and Life Support Modules. Essentially, we could utilize these on the moon for a time, then relocate them to Mars for example. Therefore, our reach would be increased in a way that would envision humanity inhabiting thousands of useable planets.
The hatch gently closes – for now.
The idea intrigues me because travelling to the Moon, or even farther, has always peaked my interest. I look forward to hearing about the progress of NASA’s quest to build a Moonbase Alpha, or whatever they intend to call it when it’s done.