This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 9 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019

Could humans ever really relocate to the the moon? We're exploring the likelihood here

From exorbitant costs to extreme conditions, life on the moon would be a tough feat – but will we make it happen?

WHEN WE THINK about “the future”, there are certain things that are always part of the vision – from jetpacks to flying cars, life on the moon to meal pills. But are these ideas realistic?

In a new series, Future Real, we’re partnering with Volkswagen to look at the advances that are traditionally imagined for the future, asking: could these visions ever become a reality?

Each week, we take a new idea, explore the ins and outs, before asking you to rate how likely it is to happen.

This week: living on the moon.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which saw humans walk on the moon for the first time. Since then, the idea of conquering the moon has captivated humans’ imaginations, and the concept of civilians relocating there has long been bandied about as a possibility.

We’re regularly confronted with news in the media of potential commercial flights to the moon, or discoveries of new life-sustaining molecules, making it seem as though it will eventually be a destination we can all add to our bucket lists. 

But how realistic is the idea of humans actually relocating to the moon? Is it something we’ll see in our lifetimes – or is it a total no-go? Let’s find out. 

shutterstock_285636983 Source: Shutterstock/Castleski

Space exploration

Space exploration has been a popular subject since the 1950s and 60s, when the space race between the United States and Russia was in full force. In 1959, a Soviet spacecraft was able to capture photographs of the far side of the moon for the first time, ten years before the Apollo 11 landing. 

For decades since, space exploration has continued, with various launches and space flights setting their sights on learning as much as possible about the world beyond our earth. 

But the last time humans landed on the moon was in 1972 – more than forty years ago. While scientists have made discoveries about water and other life-sustaining molecules on the moon, only twelve people have ever even set foot on the moon. 

Niamh Shaw, an academic and engineer who has studied space travel extensively, explained that the focus of travel to the moon has now shifted:

Everything is about getting to Mars via the moon. That’s what’s happened. There will be more missions to the moon, but not with the same purpose as before.

The European Space Agency and NASA have announced plans to team up on lunar science, with the aim of setting up a permanent lunar base. Walsh says that one focus of this base will be to help service missions to Mars. 

Civilian taking the leap

According to Space.com, almost 600 people have traveled in space, but only seven of those were civilian “paying customers,” in part because the risk to human bodies of flying outside the earth’s orbit is extensive.

Companies like Virgin Galactic are aiming to make it possible for those civilians who can pay the hefty price tag to be able to spend a short time in space. But “in space” and “on the moon” are very different things, and the latter is not currently possible for non-astronauts.

“The typical space tourism flight, at least in the near future, will be a suborbital journey that lasts just minutes,” explains Space.com. 

Setting up house – or pod – on the moon

One of the goals of the proposed ESA/NASA lunar base will be to set up a permanent location for research on the viability of the moon as a human habitat.

However, this base would still require visitors (most likely only astronauts from member states) to have considerable supports in place in order to survive on the moon. 

The ESA has already invented a way of potentially using 3D printed lunar pods for the lunar base, after discovering that the moon itself has resources that would be useful for building these pods and sustaining life there. In fact, Irishman Aidan Cowley researched the possibility of using the lunar soil itself to build domes that would protect astronauts from potentially life-threatening radiation or solar flares. 

But even testing this theory on the moon isn’t yet possible; instead, researchers seek out terrain on Earth that is rocky and dusty for experiments that might one day be used in space. 

The harsh realities of lunar life

The realities of lunar life aren’t as picture perfect as you might imagine. Issues like extreme radiation and solar flares would make life on the moon very different than our existence here on earth. The moon also has much less atmosphere than the earth, which means that it’s not protected from meteorites hurling to its surface.

In fact, Shaw said that because of the lack of atmosphere on the moon, “You cannot go outside without a space suit.”

A single lunar day is almost the length of a month on earth, and the temperatures are quite extreme as well. In daylight, the moon is over 100 degrees Celsius; at night, the temperature is -100 degrees Celsius. 

Even particles of dust are sharper in space, where there isn’t water or gravity to wear down small particles.

Additionally, Shaw explained, “The lack of gravity on the moon could have adverse effects on the human body.” The gravity on the moon is only a sixth of the earth’s, which would mean bone and muscle density could become a problem. 

Billions of euro per person 

One of the primary drawbacks to even setting up a base on the moon is cost. Popular Science reports, “Shipping just a pound of material (even air, which would have to be pressurized in tanks) to the moon would cost more than $1.3 million [€1.2 million].”

According to NASA, even private space exploration companies have estimated the costs of their space taxi rides for wealthy civilians ranging from €250 million to almost €2 billion – per person. 

So with all of the talk about space exploration, is life on the moon the next logical step? We’ve given this one a Future Real rating of 2/10. Now, have your say in with our ratings tool below:

LUNAR LIFE

2Our Rating

Do you think humans could ever live on the moon? (10 being a definite yes)

6

 The future is nearer than you think. The countdown is on to witness the exclusive world premiere of Volkswagen’s all-electric ID.3. Learn more at Volkswagen.ie/ID

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

Sponsored by:

Volkswagen

Read next:

COMMENTS (26)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel