Moon Settlements. How and when will we be able to build them?

Moon, Space, SpaceX -

Moon Settlements. How and when will we be able to build them?

Space exploration and colonization of other planets are two increasingly popular topics. The establishment of settlements on other planets has always thrilled the human imagination. From the days of Apollo missions and even earlier. The recent news on the subject largely revolves around Elon Musk’s SpaceX, with some topics detailing Jeff Bezos’s Blue Moon presentation and his plans for establishing an off-world facility. However, there are other projects contributing to the space race. Most prominently, those that come from NASA and related private contractors and the ones from India and China. And even though the biggest excitement is around Mars right now, there is another planet in far closer proximity that can and should be colonized. Our natural satellite — Moon would become a great staging ground for all of the technologies that would be used in the future spacefaring and even act as a staging ground for future deep-space missions. This is largely due to the low gravity that the Moon has, compared to our home planet. On top of that, there are abundant precious minerals and metals that can be found on the Moon. Those include, but are not limited to titanium, iron, silicon and the more exotic hydrogen-3. The last one can be used as the best-imaginable fuel for the fusion reactors that should be coming up soon. Moreover, if we dedicate enough effort and resources we can build entire cities under the surface of the Moon. Those will be able to house thousands of people and have their production facilities exporting the precious substances found on the Moon back to Earth.

First of all, let us take a brief overview of what was achieved by now and what are the current advancements in technologies. The last instance of humans visiting our satellite was Apollo 17. Gener Cernan and Harrison Schmitt successfully lifted off the Moon’s surface through a lunar module on December 14th, 1972. Unfortunately, due to cuts in NASA’s budget US hasn’t had an ability to launch humans to the International Space Station (ISS) and to low Earth orbit since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Russian Soyuz rocket has been the only way to reach the ISS since that. At the time, the space shuttles were reusable, but due to an extremely high cost, they weren’t the best option. This is when Elon Musk came in. Initially, he tried to buy the rockets from the Russians. However, he quickly realized that it would be better to build his own carriers instead. Following that, he has decided to build a rocket company that became known as Space X. A company that would be able to produce and operate reusable cost-effective space crafts.

Another major factor was the signing of the Space Policy Directive 1 on December 11th, 2017: “The directive I’m signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” President Trump said during the ceremony. “It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.”[1] This has formally directed NASA to focus on returning to the Moon.

How do we get to the Moon? Current spaceship programs.

Currently, SpaceX is making humongous progress in developing reusable spaceships that would consist of both rocket carriers and the passenger/cargo modules. Even though they are mainly designed for Mars they look like a very viable option for moving cargo and astronauts to the Moon. Most importantly, the cost of transportation should reduce as its development progresses.

So far the development of the SpaceX program is progressing rapidly and successfully. Even though Starhopper, the initial Starship prototype, had a glitch that caused its thrusters to malfunction, crashing it, the company managed to make a successful launch and landing on the 27th of August. The prototype took off, reaching the height of a small skyscraper before landing back on Earth. It demonstrated the vehicle’s ability to take off and land in a controlled manner. Starhopper is a 60-foot-tall (18 meters) spaceship, a rough-looking prototype of the Mars launch system — Starship. It is located at the SpaceX site near Boca Chica Beach. It is powered by a single Raptor engine. However, after the initial successful test, the company will move on to bigger, more practical prototypes until it will eventually create the Starship with 6 engines. It will be capable of sending both cargo and people to Moon and Mars.

Being 180 feet (55 meters) tall it will be launched from Earth on a carrier named ‘Super Heavy’. It will land bottom-first on the surface of other planets, similarly to SpaceX’s Falcon 9. More importantly, it will be able to take off those planets and easily to return to Earth. This final design will have six Raptor engines. Making a huge increase from Starhopper’s single-engine. Three of those will work best in our planet’s atmosphere, while the other three are designed for the vacuum of space.

Right now SpaceX is working on the Starship MK1 prototype in Texas that will use three Raptor rocket engines and a similar prototype (Starship MK2) in Florida. They will also have grid fins for better steering and landing. Tasked with performing a series of hop tests, reaching up to 12 miles (20 kilometers) in the following months. Eventually, there will be prototypes reaching the orbit, powered by the additional super-heavy boosters. Super Heavy is also being designed for full reusability. This is all meant to reduce the cost of space travel, and as mentioned previously, the further the development goes, the cheaper it will become.

Falcon 9 (Super Heavy in the future) first stage serves only to boost the second stage to about 65 to 75 km in altitude and between the speed of 6000 and 8300 km/h. Before removing itself and performing the re-entry. Thus, the Starhopper can expect to enter into the Martian atmosphere at speeds up to 21000 km/h and go through temperatures of up to 1700 degrees. These are above the temperatures of both aluminum and stainless steel. However, it can be overcome using a Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator. Being extremely light, with low thermal conductivity, it can resist extreme temperatures of up to 1930 degrees. On the side note, it is important to mention that for the Moon the atmosphere entry will not be an issue.

The rocket will have to enter the Martian atmosphere at an extremely sharp angle in order for the thin Martian atmosphere to sap away speed through drag for an extended period. Such drag would come with heat. Even though stainless steel might be heavy it will require significantly less heat shielding than aluminum and carbon fiber composites (that were previously used but abandoned by SpaceX). The rear side of the Starhopper will require no heat shielding at all.

Elon Musk plans to use liquid methane that would be pumped between two steel panels of the exterior. Where it will gain heat, vaporize and evaporate through small holes in the surface of the rocket. It will be used to fuel the new Raptor engines. This will reduce the equipment needed for the rocket. Making it significantly lighter. And the needed equipment can be reused, making it dual-purpose. This can be done by mining water and extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and by running a chemical reaction to produce methane and oxygen. Current prototypes most likely are testing the manufacturing techniques required to build the actual space hopper.

‘Super Heavy’ is meant to supersede the current Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. As well as being fully reusable and cheaper than its predecessors. To illustrate this there has already been a considerable price reduction: “about $60 million to about $50 million for a reflown booster,” and expects “to see a steady reduction in prices”[2]. I will be 63 meters tall and will look much like the current Falcon 9.

The rocket will produce a minimum of ~70,000 kN (15.7M lbf) of thrust at full throttle. Given that each engine will produce 200 kN. Additionally, rumored simplified Raptor engines will have minimum throttling of upwards to ~2500 kN (550,000 lbf) of thrust. ‘Super Heavy booster with 30 uprated Raptors could produce upwards of 85,000 kN (19.1M lbf) of thrust at launch. In no uncertain terms, a Super Heavy booster anywhere inside those rough bounds (70 MN to 85 MN) would be packing double the thrust of NASA’s Saturn V rocket and double the thrust of NASA’s in-development SLS rocket in its higher-thrust variants.’[3] The energy of it is so high that it is likely to destroy any of the currently existing launch pads. Thus, requiring SpaceX to produce their own Pad 39A.

Overall it will have 35 next-generation raptor engines. Making it 41 together with Starship’s 6 engines. Both SpaceX’s Super Heavy booster and Starship upper stage are designed to launch 20 metric tons to geostationary transfer orbit and more than 100 tons to low Earth orbit. With nine-meter payload fairing, its purpose is to carry crew and resources to Moon and Mars.

There was an interesting recent interview with Elon Musk, highlighting the development speed of SpaceX and its readiness to fly the crewed missions: ‘Well, this is both a NASA and a SpaceX readiness thing. So from a SpaceX readiness standpoint, my guess is we’re about six months. But whatever the schedule currently looks like, it’s a bit like Zeno’s paradox. You’re sort of halfway there at any given point in time. And then somehow you get there. So if our schedule currently says about four months, then probably about eight months is correct.’[4]

Dragon is a new capsule from SpaceX that was initially launched on March 2nd, 2019 and successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on March 3rd. The first US spacecraft to autonomously dock ISS. It is the only capsule that will be able to deliver significant amounts of cargo back to Earth. ‘The Dragon spacecraft is capable of carrying up to 7 passengers to and from Earth orbit, and beyond. The pressurized section of the capsule is designed to carry both people and environmentally sensitive cargo. Towards the base of the capsule and contained within the nose cone are the Draco thrusters, which allow for orbital maneuvering. Dragon’s trunk not only carries unpressurized cargo but also supports the spacecraft during ascent. The trunk remains attached to Dragon until shortly before reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.’[5]

Moreover, SpaceX will be ready for the lunar missions soon: ‘Well, this is gonna sound pretty crazy, but I think we could land on the moon in less than two years. Certainly, with an uncrewed vehicle, I believe we could land on the moon in two years. So then maybe within a year or two of that, we could be sending a crew. I would say four years at the outside.’[6]

He added: ‘We really wanna have a vehicle capable of sending enough payload to the Moon or Mars, such that we could have a full lunar base. A permanently occupied lunar base would be incredible. Like we’ve got a permanently occupied base in Antarctica. And it’d be absolutely way cooler to have a science base on the Moon. So that’s why we’re trying to build it as fast as possible. You know, I think it’s generally a good idea for a company that is building technology to try to make its own products redundant as quickly as possible. It’s slightly discomforting because we’ve put so much work into Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy and Dragon. But actually the thing we should aspire to do is to render them redundant as quickly as possible. And we’ll put them in the museum.’[7]

BlueOrigin — Blue moon lunar lander

A company started by Jeff Bezos. It can support the human return to the moon in 2024 and it will be able to land 3.6 metric tons of cargo on the lunar surface and 6.5 metric tons with a ‘stretch tank’ version. It features a deck on top for hosting payloads and a davit/crane to lower them on the lunar surface.

The lander employs liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, instead of storable hypergolics. “It’s very high performance,” Jeff Bezos said during his presentation on May 9th in Washington of the choice of propellants. “Ultimately, we’re going to be able to get hydrogen from that water on the moon and be able to refuel these vehicles on the surface of the moon,”[8] 

It will also have hydrogen fuel cells instead of conventional solar cells to provide a stable power supply 24/7. BE-7 engine that will power the spacecraft, producing 1000 pounds-force and being deeply throttlable. The plans for the initial mission to the Moon are for 2023 and it should preposition some cargo for the later human missions. The long-term vision of Bezos involves millions of people working and living on the surface of the Moon.

New Shepard is also a vertical-takeoff and vertical-landing reusable suborbital rocket, designed to take astronauts past the Karman line — the internationally recognized boundary of space. It is currently being designed for suborbital space tourism, but it should be usable for manned missions to other planets. Together with New Glenn, a powerful orbital rocket, and a booster called New Armstrong.

NASA’s Artemis

Artemis is the current NASA’s space program that aims to land on the moon in 2024 and create sustainable ongoing missions by 2028. It will use the new NASA’s rocket — Space Launch System (SLS). The most powerful rocket that was ever built by NASA. This rocket will be able to launch crews of up to four astronauts and will be further developed and improved as the number of space missions increase. It is designed for deep space missions and will send Orion (main spacecraft module) and other cargo to the Moon. It employs a core stage with four RS-25 engines.

The first iteration will be able to send more than 26 metric tons or 57000 pounds to orbits beyond the Moon. Powered by twin five-segment solid rocket boosters and four RS-25 liquid-propellant engines. In the next stage, Block 1B crew vehicle will use a more powerful Exploration Upper Stage (EUS). Being able to function as a deep space habitat module and carrying 37 tons, including Orion and its crew. Block 2 will be able to lift 45 tons and is designed to be a workhorse for all of the space missions. Including Moon and Mars.

Orion — a prime spacecraft designed for space exploration. It will provide an emergency abort capability, sustain astronauts during their missions and provide space re-entry in addition to carrying the crew. The capsule will start being used in the early 2020s missions, beginning with the unmanned ones.

The space program will initially send the cargos with scientific instruments before sending the manned missions. It will also fly two missions around the Moon to test its deep space exploration systems.

Artemis 1 will be launched in 2020, an uncrewed flight to test the initial SLS and Orion spacecraft.

Artemis 2, being the first crewed mission of the program, will be launched in 2022

Artemis 3 will actually land on the Moon in 2024

One of the main goals would be to explore the entire surface of the Moon with human and robotic explorers. It will also send astronauts to new locations, such as the Moon’s South Pole. This exploration will aim at finding and utilizing water and other resources necessary for maintaining a permanent lunar presence. The mission will also be able to put to the practical test all of the space exploration and colonization technologies that will pave the way to developing sustainable colonies on the Moon, Mars and possibly other planets. Here is the point at which we should discuss the next stage of lunar missions — the establishment of an orbital station.

Orbital station — first step in a Moon colonization

Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway — an orbital station under development by NASA that will be able to perform scientific experiments autonomously, even without a crew. “Last year, NASA began to work with American innovators to design [the Lunar] Gateway’s unique electrical propulsion system. We’re working with the Congress to provide an unprecedented $500 million to move the Lunar Orbital Platform from proposal to production,” said Mike Pence on August 23rd, 2018 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We’re only a few short years away from launching the Gateway’s first building blocks into space, turning science fiction into science fact. And our administration’s working tirelessly to put an American crew aboard the Lunar Orbital Platform before the end of 2024.”[9] The cost of this Gateway will be less than Apollo missions in the 1960s.

“The area of space near the moon offers a true deep space environment to gain experience for human missions that push farther into the solar system, access the lunar surface for robotic missions but with the ability to return to Earth if needed in days rather than weeks or months.”[10] Said NASA in an article published on its website in March 2017. The Deep Space Gateway would actually serve as a way station for astronauts on their path to Mars and possibly other planets.

It was renamed the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in February 2018 and NASA made a budget request for it in 2019. The same document suggested that the International Space Station should conclude operations in 2024 to make room for the gateway. It will be a 55 metric tons outpost. With a first piece — Power Propulsion element (PPE) scheduled to lift off in 2022. Followed by a robotic arm, a crew habitat module, and an airlock. It should be ready to accommodate astronauts in the mid-2020s. However, it will only have 55 cubic meters of habitable volume, compared to 388 cubic meters on the ISS.

The space station will support a maximum of four crew members at a time. Working for 30 to 90 day stints. With all likelihood, it will be uninhabited for most of the year. This is largely due to SLS-Orion missions being very costly. Nevertheless, as seen in the previously mentioned examples, they are not the only ones that will be able to reach the space station in the future. Thus, it is more than likely that traveling costs will go down. “It doesn’t have to be U.S. crew. We’re trying to use interoperability standards for both the docking, power, avionics, a lot of other systems,” John Guidi, deputy director of the Advanced Exploration Systems Division of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said in June during a presentation with the space agency’s Future In-Space Operations (FISO) working group.

“The attempt there is to open up the ability for other nations, other companies, to dock,” Guidi added. “They would have to bring their own resources. We won’t have food, water, etc. available for everybody. We’re just planning enough for our missions. But that is a capability we want to have in this Gateway.”[11] The Gateway will serve as the main hub for lunar research. More importantly, it will be possible to control all of the Moon rovers directly from it, with no commanding latency at all (unlike previous missions that had to be conducted from Earth). And it will, obviously, speed up all of the manned surface missions greatly. Even though it is unlikely to be a constant use it will still be able to host and support a research team for the whole year. A variety of scientific devices will be affixed to both its interior and exterior with a large number of them gathering data autonomously.

It will be assembled in highly elliptical ‘near-rectilinear halo orbit,’ bringing the outpost within 930 miles (1500 km) of the lunar surface. Which will be 43000 (70000 km) away from Earth. The six-day orbit will keep the Gateway out of the moon’s shadow at all times, permitting constant communication with Earth. With that orbit, it will be able to serve as a jumping-off point for both lunar landers and for vehicles venturing into the deeper space. “We eventually want to go to Mars, and the systems that are going to take crew to Mars and back are going to be fairly large — very large,”[12] Guidi said. This will ease the transportation to Mars, since departing from the lunar station won’t require overcoming the Earth’s gravity. They will be able to adjust the orbit of the Gateway in order to effectively accommodate Mars missions in the future. The main plan as it is would rely on the use of SLS-Orion for transportation from and to Earth.

The design and planning part has already started for the project. Five different companies are scheduled to deliver the ground prototypes — Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corp. In addition, Human Landing System — will be used to transport astronauts from Gateway to the lunar surface. Being an essential part of the lunar colonization.

First moon bases

NASA is negotiating with sixth potential contractors for the lunar base. They are working hard in order to create practical solutions to inhabiting the Moon.

A recent 3-D Printed Mars Habitats contest has yielded some practical results. With competitors being able to fully construct the inhabitable Marsian protective shelter. The contest’s purpose was to challenge teams of technical experts to construct a practical solution to Mars habitats. However, the approaches demonstrated there can just as well be used for the lunar colonies. The winner of the Challenge was a SEArch+/Apis Cor team. They have managed to build a practical, working habitat design that can be continuously reinforced with 3D printing as the environment may demand it. 

The second place went to Team Zopherus with a 3D printer roving design. And the third place went to Team Mars Incubator with pieces of it made of hexagons of 3D plates of polyethylene, fibers and the regolith that can be found on the Moon and Mars.

In addition to this, there are existent projects that are mainly focused on Mars but can be easily repurposed for the Moon. Since it has similar environmental threats and requirements. Probably one the most fascinating designs that exists for the colonies was done by a company called Hassell. It employs lightweight inflatable pods, pre-fabricated on Earth and capable of mitigating the atmospheric pressure on Mars. The project started with Hassell being contacted by NASA for their expanding demands in space colonization. Their designs will allow not just for the research mission to land on the surface of other planets but will enable the construction of habitats that are fully equipped with everything necessary for comfortable living. “Designing for space exploration is typically very functional. It focuses on achieving maximum performance and maximum efficiency for technology and machines — but not for people.”[13] Xavier de Kestellier (Head of Design Technology and Innovation at HASSELL) said.

Eckersley O’Callaghan (EOC), who collaborate with Hassell will be responsible for building the external shell for the habitat. The purpose of it is to protect the internal modules from high radiation and dust storms “We used highly sophisticated parametric design techniques to achieve a structure that provides maximum protection while minimizing the quantity of materials required and the amount of time the robots would need to build it.”[14] Says Ben Lewis, Head of EOC’s Digital Design Team.

That shell can be 3D printed using regolith (planet’s surface dust) by autonomous robots. Those will be sent to the planet in advance, several years before the first people will arrive. They will be able to fill multiple functions and reconfigure themselves to fill all of the construction purposes. Being equipped with multiple cameras and sensors for navigation each robot unit can autonomously reconfigure itself. They will be able to fully complete the entire shelter construction process without any human assistance. Doing everything from scouting for resources and gathering the regolith to processing, melting it and building with it layer by layer.

Once the construction is completed, several compact modules will be brought in together with the astronauts. Those modules are then inflated and connected together to form the interior habitat. The entire structure will comprise of several living quarters modules and will be integrated with life-support systems. Those will be responsible for delivering power, water, data and oxygen to all of the habitation units. On top of that, astronauts will have access to a 3D module where they will be able to print all of the parts and tools that they might require. Going as far as being able to print furniture and shoes from the recycled plastic and clothes from parachute material that was used to land the supplies.

The modules will also have several movable racks inside that can be used for a variety of purposes: “The racks serve different purposes depending on their location. In the working pod, they would store experiments, samples, and materials. The racks in the living space would contain kitchen components, bathroom facilities, and even gym equipment,” Xavier said. Thus, the astronauts will have all that is necessary for their wellbeing. This would include a sustainable greenhouse, equipment workshop, and even a gym. As well as the living quarters with all of the needed amenities. All that is necessary for a fruitful long-term stay.

Developing the initial lunar base. Creating lunar cities.

In order to have any long-term plans for a lunar colony, we have got to have a good understanding of how a sustainable, self-sufficient presence can be built on the Moon. In order to determine it, it is important to understand the environmental factors to the greatest possible extent. First of all, the Moon’s surface gravity is only one-sixth of the Earth’s. Thus, it has a far smaller escape velocity than Earth. Which, as mentioned above, is good for sending the spacecraft back to Earth, and more importantly, sending space missions into the deep space. On the other hand, the Moon cannot maintain a significant atmosphere, making the surface directly exposed to the vacuum of space. Without that atmospheric buffer, the Moon has a surface temperature that goes up and down by several hundred degrees Celsius during the course of a lunar day/night cycle. With a complete lunar day (full rotation around its axis) requiring around 27,33 terrestrial days. This means that there will be huge temperature shifts every month.

The Moon is geologically inactive if we compare it to Earth. Volcanism and internally generated seismic activity are almost non-existent. In addition, water and all of the atmospheric processes, in general, are unknown on the Moon. ‘Other than igneous differentiation, which occurred early in lunar history, the main geological process that has acted on the Moon is impact cratering.’[15] Meteorites throughout most of its early existence have bombarded the Moon. Gradually decreasing their frequency about 3.8 billion years ago. This has pulverized the lunar surface into dust and small fragments of rock, known as lunar ‘regolith’. Most of the lunar surface is made up of the heavily cratered terrain, rich in the mineral — ‘plagioclase feldspar’ and known as the lunar ‘highlands’. The uncompacted pockets of regolith go as deep as 10–20 feet and can easily be dug up in the same place to create lunar shelter fast.

The smaller portion of the lunar surface consists of basaltic lava flows and is better known as the lunar ‘maria’. It is mainly on the Earth-facing side. This portion is geologically younger and has been cratered far less. The regolith is much shallower here, with only 4 to 5 meters depth. The meteoroids hitting the lunar surface are probably the greatest colonization hazard. Those can even form large craters periodically. This would be the greatest threat to any lunar colony. There is also a splash from those impacts that can be damaging as well.

On top of that, there are three types of radiation on the lunar surface: first two being the solar wind and solar flares, the third one is known as galactic cosmic rays and originates outside our solar system. ‘The Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere provide significant protection, lacking on the Moon. The cosmic ray flux per square centimeter of lunar surface per year (during minimum solar activity) contains 1.29 x 108 protons plus 1.24 x 107 helium nuclei plus 1.39 x 106 heavier ions for a total of 1.4279 x 108 particles per cm2 per year. Fortunately, as the energy of the radiation increases from the solar wind to cosmic rays, the frequency of encountering that radiation decreases.’[16]

Another primary concern would be the search for water. Even with the water as ice under the lunar surface, there is an abundance of chemical components, such as oxygen and hydrogen that are found on the surface. Oxygen is the most abundant (45% by weight) in the lunar soils, from which it may be extracted by a variety of processes. Hydrogen, however, is found in a far lower density. However, the total quantity of it is still great, since the lunar surface has been bathed for billions of years in the solar wind. The ions from it have embedded themselves in the lunar soil. Meteorites, unimpeded by an atmosphere, continually plow under the old solar-wind-rich grains and expose new grains. ‘In this way, large amounts of hydrogen have become buried in the soil, enough to produce (if combined with lunar oxygen) about 1 million gallons (3.8 million liters) of water per square mile (2.6 km2) of soil to a depth of 2 yards (1.8 m). This hydrogen can be extracted by heating the soil to about 700 degrees Celsius (1292 Fahrenheit). Supplying the Lunar Water Works is a matter of technology and economics, but not a matter of availability of oxygen and hydrogen on the Moon.’[17]

The next important point would be the food. This is a big component of long extraterrestrial habitation. It is important to have all of the necessary nutrients available in their organic form for the crew if there is any chance of staying on the planet for the long term. Fortunately, there is already a prior experience of growing plants on the International Space Station under extreme conditions in space. This should serve as the initial basis for future plant growth. The first step would be sending plants, namely seedlings. Those seedlings can be as sensitive as humans to the environmental conditions, even more at times. Their genetic material can be damaged by radiation, as much as a human body can. However, due to this, they can actually test the lunar environment to determine how habitable it can be for humans.

Currently, there has been a successful attempt to grow the cotton seeds on China’s Chang’e 4 Moon lander. The mission became the first touch down on the surface of the far side of the Moon on January 2019. Designed to study the lunar surface and geology of the Von Karman crater. Together with the scientific instruments, the lander carried a sealed container with a biosphere experiment. This experiment contained soil and cotton, rapeseed, Arabidopsis and potato seeds. This was the first time that biological matter was grown on the Moon. Growing inside a seven-inch tall canister on the lander that supplies the organisms with enough air, water, nutrients, and controlled temperature and humidity, allowing them to grow. As previously mentioned, one of the main challenges for both habitation and plant growth is the constantly changing temperature of the Moon. Those go as low as -173 (-279.4 Fahrenheit) and as high as +212 (413.6 Fahrenheit) degrees Celsius.

It should be possible to obtain all of the necessary nutrients required for the plant life from the lunar soil. Hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen will be extractable by heating it. Once the necessary conditions are created, the plants should be able to adapt and grow in the lunar ground.

It will also be possible to extract the necessary rocket fuel components from the lunar soil. Forty tones of hydrogen is the likely amount required for all transportation from the low Earth orbit over an annual period. It can be obtained from merely a 0,3 km2 patch of soil, mined from a depth of 1 meter. In addition, there is abundant iron, aluminum and silicon that can be used for transportation purposes.

There are other uses for the minerals that are abundant in the lunar soil. Iron and aluminum can be melted into metal beams. Molten lunar soil can be cast into silicate sheets or spun into fiberglass. Those may even be stronger than similar products constructed on Earth due to the lack of water to interfere with their polymer bonds. Partially distilled in a solar furnace the soil residue may take on the composition of a good cement. Which, once combined with the locally produced water can be turned into concrete. In addition, as mentioned before, the processed regolith can be turned into protective shelters that will shield against the temperature fluctuations and the dangerous radiation hazards.

The initial energy demands on the Moon will be satisfied with a nuclear power plant, with all likelihood. While it will be possible to produce the solar panels from the silicon and other elements that are abundant in the lunar soil. More interestingly, there is a unique element that can be found on the Moon — helium-3 and it has been already proposed as a potential fuel source for the fusion power plants. Being far superior to tritium since it is not radioactive.

It is important to also remember that the lack of atmosphere and the extreme temperature range demand the use of thermally sealed enclosures. Being the first line of defense against environmental factors. Those include both individual space suits and buildings. Another layer of defense should protect from both meteoroids and radiation.

In 1971, an extensive Rockwell Lunar Base Synthesis Study investigated several strategies for dealing with meteoroids. Those included both portable shielding for the short-term outdoor voyages and activities as well as more permanent fixed shielding. The most effective option that Rockwell has created from that experiment was the lightweight aluminum foil or nylon tent-like structure. With several layers of material and lunar regolith filling the gaps the penetration risk would be less than one chance in 10 000 over 2 to 5 year stay.

Another considerable threat would be the radiation: ‘The fundamental unit of radiation transfer is the rad; 1 rad represents the deposition of 100 ergs of energy in 1 gram of mass. The characteristics of the deposition mechanisms vary and additional factors must be considered. One conversion factor is the quality factor, Q, which is conservatively based on the experimentally determined relative biological effectiveness, RBE. When Q is multiplied by the rad exposure, the result is a unit of dosage corrected for the type of radiation; this resulting dosage is measured in a unit known as the rem.’[18] A permissible limit for a radiation worker is 5 rem/year and for the general public, it is 0.5 rem/year. However, the astronauts should realize that in all likelihood they would be exposed to even higher radiation than that of a radiation worker. On top of that, younger people are more sensitive to cancer-inducing effects of radiation and females are more sensitive than males due to induction to the breast and thyroid. On top of cancer risks, there are also cataracts, genetic damage, and even death that are all related to high and prolonged radiation exposure. In addition, it is important to note that radiation exposure is cumulative over an individual’s lifetime.

‘Solar flares and cosmic rays are the most dangerous radiation events that lunar pioneers will be exposed to. The cosmic ray dosage at the lunar surface is about 30 rem/year and, over an 11 year solar cycle, solar flare particles with energies greater than 30 MeV can deliver 1000 rem (Silberberg et al. 1985). Solar flares deliver most of their energy periodically during only a few days out of an 11-year cycle; whereas, the cosmic ray flux is constant.’[19]

It is definitely possible to alleviate the radiation danger with shielding and the long-term settlement is only possible when colonists are protected from continuous exposure to surface radiation. This is where the regolith would play its main role. With it, the yearly exposure of colonists can be held to five rem if they spend no more than 20 percent of each of Earth’s month on the surface.

‘For the sake of completeness, it should be pointed out that some lunar regoliths contain a naturally radioactive component material known as KREEP. KREEP, probably a product of volcanism, contains radioactive potassium, uranium, and thorium. Material containing a high concentration of KREEP should not be used for shielding, and care should be taken to avoid concentrating it as shielding is prepared. The concentration of KREEP in most regolith material would add an amount of radioactivity no more than that in the granite used in buildings here on Earth. If the small contribution by KREEP to radiation dose is considered when exposures are calculated, it should not pose any significant health problem by itself.’[20]

Cosmic rays produce secondary particles (neutrons for example) upon collision with the matter, which would only add to the radiation level. As previously mentioned, the optimal structure for a lunar station would be built from the modified, portable space station modules. Those would be covered with regolith to provide shielding. Structurally and logistically, bulk regolith should be a very convenient solution. It will reduce any need to transport materials from Earth and greatly cut the costs of setting up a Moon colony. As it was previously pointed out, locally produced metals, glass, and bulk regolith can be used to produce additional facilities. The resources that are abundant on the lunar surface.

The previously used Moon space suits (from Apollo 14 mission for example) will likely need improvements and refinement. The main problem with them would not be just the bulkiness and the astronaut’s fatigue from wearing them over a long period of time, nor would it be the time it takes to dress and undress. It would be their insufficient meteoroid and radiation protection. Thus, the development of pressurized surface vehicles equipped with external tools should be preferred. At least until better suits with higher radiation protection are created. They should be similar to specialized submarines, meaning that they should be protected, sealed and provide the operators with a safe environment for a prolonged stay. It would be important for them to provide sufficient protection to keep the radiation exposure to 50 rem/year limit. “Another way to reduce radiation exposure problems might be to permit only older personnel (volunteers over 35 and people who have already had children) to spend much time on the surface and keep the younger personnel underground. This idea is based on the premise that delayed reactions to irradiation, like cancer, take long enough to develop that older people who are exposed may die of natural causes before the reaction occurs. However, this seems to be a solution of minimal merit. Every colonist will require an individual radiation dosimetry record and a 11 weather forecast concerning the solar flare hazard whenever he or she leaves the habitat.”[21]

A more satisfactory solution to solve this problem would be teleoperated robots. Remotely controlled, they should be able to operate for the longest time period of all. On top of that, those can be easily operated from the orbital space station that was mentioned above. Alternatively, they can be operated from the underground lunar cities that may come in the future. Those are one of two viable options for a long-term stay on the Moon. The first option is creating extensive underground colonies and the second is terraforming the Moon. With all likelihood, the first option would be more viable in the short-term with the second gaining meaning in the long-term. However, first, we should know what resources we can use for the lunar colonies. More on it below.

Precious Metals and valuable substance found on the Moon

Researchers had drawn considerable information from the two major sources for their studies of lunar geology. First, are the samples from the lunar missions and the second are the meteorites of the lunar origins that have fallen on Earth. The samples amount to 382 kilograms (842 pounds), comprising of 2196 samples. Those were brought back by 6 American missions of the Apollo programs between 1969 and 1972. From those 97 000 cataloged samples were prepared by the Johnson Space Center facilities for study and analysis. Even today, scientists from 60 laboratories all over the world continue their studies using those samples. Here is the list of main lunar minerals that were found in them:

Silicates

Pyroxenes (source of lithium, also used in ceramics and as gemstones) — one of the most abundant groups of minerals in the lunar crust.

Plagioclases feldspars (used in ceramics and gemstones) — major constituents of rocks in the lunar crust. Lunar plagioclases have a lower sodium content and are closer to the pole anorthite than those found on Earth. More plagioclases that are sodic were found in geological formations in lunar highlands. In potassium enriched rock, Rare Earth and in Phosphorus (commonly known as KREEP, that was previously mentioned).

Olivines (that might be useful in our effort to reverse the global warming) — another major constituent of rocks in the lunar crust. They have compositions with a forsterite (magnesian pole of olivines) from 30 to 80 percent. Crystals of pure fayalite were also found — the most recent basalts of the lunar mare that are richer in iron. The olivines main impurities are calcium, manganese, chromium (being more abundant in lunar than terrestrial olivines) and aluminum.

Minerals of the silica group — those come in the form of quartz, tridymite or cristobalite (much rarer in lunar than terrestrial crust).

Other silicates

Zircon (used as a refractory material in many foundry and casting applications and ceramics) — lunar zircons proved to be extremely significant to date lunar samples, particularly in the oldest rocks, constituting the lunar mountains. The main source being the lunar granites, together with high silica content (being rather rare). Additionally, they are found in single grains in the lunar soils and breccias.

Pyroxferroite — a ferrous lunar equivalent of our terrestrial pyroxmangite. The difference is that pyroxmangite never contains more than 25% iron. Pyroxferroite is richer in iron and was found in lunar basalts, particularly in lunar mare basalts. It contains useful silicon and oxygen as well.

Tranquillityite — deriving its name from the Sea of Tranquillity — Apollo 11th landing site. It was found in basalts from the lunar mare. Often associated with apatite and above-mentioned pyroxferroit. “Tranquilityite is translucent and non- pleochroic. It seems to result from an assembly of thin blades and appears with deep red color in transmitted light. This colour seems related to the strong titanium content of the mineral.”[22] Contains zirconium, titanium, and iron.

Oxides — the presudobrookite group/armalcolite group gathers minerals with a general formula X2YO5.

Ilmenite

Spinels

Armalcolite

Other oxides (chromite, etc.)

Sulphides

Troilite

Other sulphides

Native metals

Native iron

Other native metals

Phosphates

Apatite

Whitlockite

Meteoritic minerals of origin

Schreibersite

Cohenite

Niningérite

Lawrencite

Another important substance is the fabled Helium-3: “In 1986, scientists at the Institute of Fusion Technology at the University of Wisconsin estimated that the lunar “soil”, called the regolith, contains one million tons of helium-3 (3He), a material that could be used as fuel to produce energy by nuclear fusion.”[23] Mining it would be a very profitable undertaking. The energy produced by it is 250 times greater than that required to extract it from the Moon (including the back to Earth transportation costs). On top of it, the lunar reserves of it can supply humanity with cheap energy for centuries to come.

The resource would be worth billions of dollars for those who would control its extraction. The Helium-3 fusion with deuterium is more efficient than deuterium-tritium and releases protons instead of neutrons easily contained thanks to their positive charge. On top of that, the energy from it can be captured directly, without the need for water heating and turbines.

Moon has accumulated incredible amounts of this material in its surface layer due to the constant solar winds. The difficulty comes in heating it up to 600 degrees Celsius and bringing it back to Earth. Another obstacle is that it would require much higher melting temperatures than current fusion reactors can produce. “The challenge is managing the amount of tritium that stays in the plasma from those side reactions to minimise deuterium-tritium neutron production,”[24] writes fusion physicist John Weight of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Gerald Kulcinski, director of the Institute of Fusion Technology at the University of Wisconsin has been developing fusion with helium-3 for decades. His small reactor manages to overcome the known obstacles, minimizing the production of neutrons and reducing their energy. “Even more promising” adds Kulcinski, “is the helium-3-helium-3 fusion, more complicated but totally neutron-free. That would be truly a game-changer, but I’m not sure I’ll see that in my lifetime,” he concludes. For analyst Thomas Simko of RMIT University in Australia, “helium fusion reactors probably won’t be developed until mid-century at the earliest.”[25]

Another precious resource that is abundant on the Moon is titanium. With a new map of the Moon showing areas rich in this precious ore. Some rocks harboring 10 times more titanium that can be found in terrestrial deposits. “Looking up at the moon, its surface appears painted with shades of grey — at least to the human eye,” Mark Robinson, of Arizona State University, said in a statement. “The maria appear reddish in some places and blue in others. Although subtle, these color variations tell us important things about the chemistry and evolution of the lunar surface. They indicate the titanium and iron abundance, as well as the maturity of a lunar soil.”[26]

The Nasa’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has made photos in seven different wavelengths at different resolutions. They were able to give a clearer picture of the Moon’s surface. A big image was put together from 4000 photos. The researchers have scanned the lunar surface and compared the brightness in the range of wavelengths from ultraviolet to visible light, effectively determining the areas rich in titanium. Using this map, they could determine that unlike the Earth deposits that have 1 percent or less titanium Moon rocks have from 1 to 10 percent. “We still don’t really understand why we find much higher abundances of titanium on the moon compared to similar types of rocks on Earth,” Mark Robinson of Arizona State University said. “What the lunar titanium-richness does tell us is something about the conditions inside the moon shortly after it formed, knowledge that geochemists value for understanding the evolution of the moon.”[27] The ilmenite mineral compound where titanium is found also contains iron and oxygen. Not to mention that titanium-rich minerals are more efficient at retaining solar wind particles, helium and hydrogen. Those resources would be extremely useful for any future colonists.

National Space Agencies, as well as various private companies already have their sights on the lunar mining. A good example of such would be the Moon Express Company. Their program comprises of three expeditions/stages. With ‘Lunar Scout’ being the first commercial voyage to the Moon. The second expedition will be the ‘Lunar Outpost’, enabling the first commercial presence and exploration of the resource-rich lunar South Pole. The goal would be to set up the first lunar research outpost in order to prospect for water and useful minerals. This will be followed by a third expedition (scheduled for 2020) which will include the first commercial sample return mission and will be the beginning of the lunar resource prospecting.

Founded in 2010, Moon Express was a former Google Lunar X Prize competitor who has developed commercial lunar landers. They have their own launch site, formerly Launch Complex (LC) 17 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a former Delta 2 launch site that they are leasing from the Air Force and retrofitting for their needs. They aim for July 2020 as a starting date for their first mission.

Selenopolis

It is Christmas in Selenopolis and the year is 2031. From the grand entrance, we can see the Hall of the Astronauts, dedicated to brave men and women that paved the way for this glorious space megapolis. An elevated monorail is arching over the entire city, providing free and fast transport to every citizen. On the back, we can notice an ice skating rink with an entire snowy winter section. From here we can also see a huge glistering dome that provides storage for supplies and houses, life support and climatizing equipment. Another transparent dome in the center rear is the entrance to the tropical habitat sector of Selenopolis that is constantly teeming with life.

For the space visionary — Krafft Ehricke space was not just a series of missions, nor mere line items in budgets. For him it represented the next step in the natural evolution of human species. The goal of his program was not just a lunar outpost or base, but the building of a city on the Moon — Selenopolis. It is meant to embody the culture and accomplishments of human civilization. Accommodating millions and facilitating scientific research, exploration, and even recreation. Coupled with having the industry and agriculture to guarantee its self-sufficiency. Along with an ability to fruitfully conduct interplanetary trade and commerce.

The reason for mankind to move into space would be the same reason that life moved through the past evolutionary stages — to grow and develop new capabilities. ‘I must emphasize that technology is not the solution to our shortcomings. The solution is that we must grow and mature. But technology can make that easier. By contrast, a no-growth philosophy, which asks humans to live with less of everything, can regress us to the Middle Ages, because a dog-eat-dog fight is bound to break out under such conditions.’[29] Kraft Ehricke adds: ‘Expanding into space needs to be understood and approached as world development, as a positive, peaceful, growth-oriented, macrosociological project whose goal is to ultimately release humanity from its present parasitic, embryonic bondage in the biospheric womb of one planet. This will demand immense human creativity, courage, and maturity. ‘[30]

There is definitely no shortage of money to fund space programs. We can look at the colossal amounts that are spent on the stock exchange and go to a diverse number of projects some of which turn out to be hardly profitable at all. However, in this case, the investments would go directly into the development of humanity, serving a higher purpose. The real shortage is in scientists, teachers, research laboratories and the technology required to achieve it.

Ehricke developed his concept of the Extraterrestrial Imperative. Concluding that after the initial exploration, there should be 3 phases of our expansion into space:

  • Space industrialization: the capability of productive existence in the new environment
  • Space urbanization: the capability of establishing large-scale settlements and extraterrestrial civilization, to the extent to which it can be underwritten by industrial and biotechnical productivity
  • Extraterrestrialization: a prolonged process of socio-psychological development and anthropological divergence, based on the integration and further evolution of the first two phases, manifesting itself in physiological, anatomical, immunological, esthetic, and general cultural sectors. That is the establishment of an entirely new civilization, which may bear more or less resemblance to the one that begat it.

Such an established colony should then maximize investment returns and minimize the return times. This would keep the investment sizes manageable for the sake of increasing the investments in the project. The goal of it would be to create a nearly self-sufficient lunar economy. The primary areas of investment should include nuclear energy (fusion in the future) for the power supply and industrial processing, reduction of the use of terrestrial propellant through the production of lunar oxygen and extensive use of lunar materials for construction, shielding, growth of food and other purposes. ‘Maximum value generation capability and flexibility should be achieved with minimum initial expenditures and lead time. Only on this basis can lunar industry be developed early, effectively, and in a financially responsible manner. And only rising productivity and sustained economic growth can sustain an ever-increasing lunar population and the development of high Selenian living standards. ‘[31]

There will be mining and manufacturing facilities on the Moon that will produce semi-finished and finished products from the obtained iron, titanium, magnesium, sodium, silicon and other materials that are found in abundance on the Moon. From those materials sheet metal, bars, wires, glasses, ceramics, silicon chips and many more goods can be created. Those will be used to create solar cells, heat shields, insulation materials, radiation shielding materials and propellant containers for the entire station and all of its facilities.

As the lunar operations progress they will be able to move into a total industrial system, minimizing the necessary imports from the Earth. As they move further towards self-sufficiency, they will be able to support orbiting and terrestrial industries with oxygen for transportation and an increasing variety of materials, products, and services. “Each of the five lunar development stages include three main sectors: (a) the technosphere (research, technology, industry); (b) the biosphere (plant/animal, life, food production, general plant growth, selen-biosphere); and © the sociosphere (habitats, living and working spaces, society, economy, politics, and culture).”[32]

The first stage would involve synoptic prospecting of the Moon to detect metallogenic or mineralogenic provinces and obtain further advanced information needed for the industrial site selection. The simplified Surveyor-style landers, which were used in the 1960s unmanned Apollo precursor missions, could be used with at least one lunar polar orbiter. The first stage could include the development and deployment of a Lunetta reflector orbiter/space mirror to illuminate the dark places and Polar Regions to permit photography, cartography, and the possible identification of the polar ice deposits.

Stage 2 would involve base site selection, operations, and personnel training prior to the lunar base establishment. A Circumlunar Space Station (CLSS) would be established in around a 100km equatorial lunar orbit and would use a Moon Ferry for the limited initial manned missions to the surface of the Moon. It would be a habitat, operations and training center, together with a laboratory for engineering, biological and medical purposes. This facility would be able to deal with far larger quantities of lunar materials than those that could be delivered back to Earth. At this stage, there should be an establishment of the automated laboratories and pilot facilities on the surface. The lunar station modules that would be sent from Earth would be moved to the selected base sites and the personnel would be able to descend from the orbital station. Gradually extending the time length of a human stay on the surface.

Stage 3 would be the beginning of the operation of the lunar industry. In his work Ehricke proposed a first-generation nuclear-powered Central Lunar Processing Complex (CLPC), named “Cynthia” to be established in a region with favorable conditions for transportation and raw materials extraction. Its first purpose would be the large-scale production of oxygen with other materials following that. That is where all of the previous experience in construction from the prior stages would be applied. That is the stage where the initial regolith-covered habitats would be created, to protect the habitable modules inside them. The CLPC will be able to run the production of oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, glasses and all other materials required. Additionally, it would be able to produce solar cells, computer parts, space habitat structures, communication platform structures, antennae, service satellite parts and much more. This would be the stage for a permanent lunar base establishment.

Stage 4 is where the established facility would move to creating finished products and assemblies. This is also when it will be important to make it credit-worthy in order to encourage investments and facilitate further development. The lunar presence would be expanded with the establishment of the Feeder Stations to bring in additional raw materials. Those can be even remotely controlled. Operated from a central complex by laser communication link via a novel series of communication relays. “Materials collected at the Feeder Stations can be transported to Cynthia by various methods, depending on distance. Relatively close Feeder Stations, say 120 miles away, can send cargo by electric cars. The most important Feeder Stations can eventually deliver goods via high-speed electromagnetic trains. Meanwhile, distant Feeder Stations can hurl cargo ballistically to receiver craters near Cynthia with great accuracy, thanks to low lunar gravity and high vacuum.”[33]

This stage would also include the installation of the fusion power plants and a solar reflector swarm, named “Soletta”. That would reach the size of 46332 square miles (120 000 sq. km), providing light for 77220 square miles (200 000 sq. km) during the lunar night. “For economy, and because of the long lunar night, fusion energy is as fundamental and as indispensable to the Selenosphere as the Sun’s energy is for the terrestrial biosphere.”[34]

This would create a biosphere — Novaterra, suitable for agricultural and biospheric purposes. Pillars upon which the future Selenopolis would rest. On top of that, it would be important to develop new transportation vehicles and techniques better suited for the lunar and cislunar environments. As the payload requirements will inevitably change with the colony’s development, so would the transportation system have to change.

Stage 5 is when the first lunar city — Selenopolis would be established. With a large population and a previously established lunar industry. For this stage, additional resources from Earth would be required. As well as development of food and energy sufficiency. Primarily through fusion reactors. It will have Earth-simulated climates, including continental, dry subtropical and semi-arid. With other sectors having climates that are adjusted to the specific agricultural needs in order to maximize plant growth. This will be primarily reached through CO2 enrichment, coupled with temperature, humidity, and suitable solar irradiation cycles.

Selenopolis will be completely suitable for human life. With a snowy winter section, subsurface lake, “sunbelt” with “lunar desert”, clubhouse with its own golf course, and even a rotating swimming pool. The interiors will be illuminated by the natural sunlight, reflected through the ceiling by a mirror system. With some of the mirrors colored to provide the same time changes and sky colors experienced on Earth, since a lunar day would be 14 Earth days long.

“With the establishment of Selenopolis, the development of lunar habitation reaches its conclusion, in the sense that a new environmental niche — a lunar biosphere honeycombed with ecological niches — has been created. But Selenopolis is open-ended, growing with its population and advancing technologies. In principle, the overall complex could eventually house many hundred million people. Such a large complex is never completed, just as development of a continent is never completed.”[35]

India and China

There have been considerable space exploration developments in other countries as well. Let us look at the Indian space program first, with its recent Chandrayaan-2 mission. Being a follow-up from the Chandrayaan-1, it is meant to confirm the presence of water/hydroxyl on the Moon. The mission consisted of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. The orbiter’s purpose was to perform a mapping from an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers), while the lander was supposed to make a soft landing on the surface and send out the rover for further research. “The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice,”[36] ISRO said on its website. The 20-kilogram (44 lbs), six-wheeled rover to the surface had to examine the lunar regolith’s composition. It would carry two science instruments to examine it: the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscope (LIBS) and the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS).

The lander and rover were targeted for a location of about 600 kilometers (375 miles) from the South Pole. Making it the first mission that would touch down so far from the equator. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) plans to use the obtained experience to send more missions (that are more challenging) to Mars and even a spacecraft to Venus. The lander was expected to last a single lunar day or 14 Earth-days. With measurements of moonquakes to provide more data than the previous Apollo missions. The terrain that the rover had to explore is composed of 4 billion years old rocks, likely composed of ancient magma.

However, on September 2nd, right after the Vikram lander separated and began to make descent all communications were lost with it, 2 km away from its goal. It is likely that the lander has damaged its communications equipment when it hit the lunar surface. However, Chandryaan 2 that remained in the orbit, was able to spot it with its high-resolution camera. Thus, if oriented properly Vikram could still manage to power itself up. ISRO will keep trying to power it up for the following two weeks.

Even though there was the above issue with the Vikram lander, the mission should be considered a success. First, it would provide the necessary data for the future missions. Second, Chandryaan 2 will still be able to make the photos of the lunar surface and conduct all of the non-Vikram related operations. Third, it is an important milestone for the Indian space program. It has started only around the time of Apollo 11 mission and made considerable progress over the years.

Another large space program is conducted by China. The most recent and interesting part of it is a Chang’e 4 space mission that is a part of the second phase of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. It has achieved a first-ever soft landing on the far side of the Moon on January 3rd, 2019. The mission has managed to overcome the inherit communication difficulty to the far side of the moon through sending a satellite to it — Queqiao, in advance, before the rover launch.

It has been active for five month already. Its aim is to explore the Von Karman Crater, a 115-mile-wide (186 kilometers) lunar feature that could reveal clues about the Moon’s interior and history. Located on the moon’s South Pole-Aitken basin, a region whose formation might have been affected by the compositional and thermal evolution of the Moon’s far side. The mission’s Yuyu-2 rover has already driven about 626 feet (191 meters) and gathered some interesting data. “Potential evidence of excavated deep mafic material, which could reveal the mineralogy of the lunar mantle.”[37]State the scientists involved in the correspondence with the mission. Below is the map that the rover will have to navigate throughout its entire course:

It should be noted that it has made discoveries about the lunar temperature. It managed to measure the temperatures at night that were reaching as low as minus 190 degrees Celsius (-310 degrees Fahrenheit). Those came from the first lunar night observations. Thay could indicate the difference in geology: “probably due to the difference in lunar soil composition between the two sides of the moon,”[38] Zhang He, executive director of the Chang’e-4 mission, told the Xinhua news agency.

It has also managed to find minerals beneath the surface of the Moon. Namely, in the pieces of rock that could be from beneath the surface of the Moon. The minerals that Yutu-2 found are not found in the crust of the Moon and may be from the upper mantle (the layer beneath the surface rock). “According to data from the lander’s spectrometer, the material looked like it contained low-calcium pyroxene and olivine, which match what is believed to exist in the mantle. If the lander has indeed located mantle rock, this could be an invaluable source of information about the moon’s interior and could give clues to how the moon formed and why it developed in the way that it did.”[39] However, the scientists have yet to determine that it is definitely a mantle rock. There is a slight possibility it can also be the material left over from the initial impact that created the basin.

Curiously, the Yutu-2 rover has also found an unexpected gel-like substance. It stood out from the rest of the Moon’s surface due to its color and texture. ‘Researchers have suggested that the substance could be “melt glass,” formed from meteorites crashing into the lunar surface’[40]

To conclude, we can see that there have been significant strides from the time of Apollo missions. It is fairly obvious that Elon Musk has, directly and indirectly, ignited a lot of the recent progress and the fame that he has is well-deserved. He was also able to bring the stagnant and underfunded NASA back into life by attracting more public interest to space exploration. Right now, several companies have big goals as well as technological and financial resources to make all of humanity’s space exploration aspirations possible. On top of that, NASA itself is driving a lot of progress in lunar exploration. Altogether, this would definitely bring feasible results in 2020s. The further it goes and the more successful it becomes the more investors it will attract and the faster the development speed will become.

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[1] https://www.space.com/39050-trump-directs-nasa-humans-to-moon.html

[2] https://spacenews.com/spacex-targeting-24-hour-turnaround-in-2019-full-reusability-still-in-the-works/

[3] https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-elon-musk-starship-super-heavy-41-raptors/

[4] https://time.com/5628572/elon-musk-moon-landing/

[5] https://www.spacex.com/dragon

[6] https://time.com/5628572/elon-musk-moon-landing/

[7] https://time.com/5628572/elon-musk-moon-landing/

[8] https://spacenews.com/blue-origin-unveils-lunar-lander/

[9] https://www.space.com/41600-nasa-lunar-platform-by-2024-pence-speech.html

[10] https://www.space.com/43018-lunar-orbital-platform-gateway.html

[11] https://www.space.com/41763-nasa-lunar-orbiting-platform-gateway-basics.html

[12] https://www.space.com/41763-nasa-lunar-orbiting-platform-gateway-basics.html

[13] https://www.hassellstudio.com/en/cms-news/hassell-release-final-designs-for-first-human-habitation-on-mars

[14] https://www.hassellstudio.com/en/cms-news/hassell-release-final-designs-for-first-human-habitation-on-mars

[15] https://space.nss.org/settlement/nasa/spaceresvol4/human.html

[16] https://space.nss.org/settlement/nasa/spaceresvol4/human.html

[17] https://space.nss.org/settlement/nasa/spaceresvol4/human.html

[18] https://space.nss.org/settlement/nasa/spaceresvol4/human.html

[19] https://space.nss.org/settlement/nasa/spaceresvol4/human.html

[20] https://space.nss.org/settlement/nasa/spaceresvol4/human.html

[21] https://space.nss.org/settlement/nasa/spaceresvol4/human.html

[22] http://euromin.w3sites.net/Nouveau_site/gisements/extra/GISEXTe.htm

[23] https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/science/physics/helium-3-lunar-gold-fever/

[24] https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/science/physics/helium-3-lunar-gold-fever/

[25] https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/science/physics/helium-3-lunar-gold-fever/

[26] https://www.space.com/13247-moon-map-lunar-titanium.html

[27] https://www.space.com/13247-moon-map-lunar-titanium.html

[28] 21st Century Science & Technology. Gurwitsch’s Non-reductionist Biology — “Life on the Moon”: http://wlym.com/archive/fusion/tcs/1998Summer-TCS.pdf

[29] 21st Century Science & Technology. Gurwitsch’s Non-reductionist Biology — “Life on the Moon”: http://wlym.com/archive/fusion/tcs/1998Summer-TCS.pdf

[30] 21st Century Science & Technology. Gurwitsch’s Non-reductionist Biology — “Life on the Moon”: http://wlym.com/archive/fusion/tcs/1998Summer-TCS.pdf

[31] 21st Century Science & Technology. Gurwitsch’s Non-reductionist Biology — “Life on the Moon”: http://wlym.com/archive/fusion/tcs/1998Summer-TCS.pdf

[32] 21st Century Science & Technology. Gurwitsch’s Non-reductionist Biology — “Life on the Moon”: http://wlym.com/archive/fusion/tcs/1998Summer-TCS.pdf

[33] 21st Century Science & Technology. Gurwitsch’s Non-reductionist Biology — “Life on the Moon”: http://wlym.com/archive/fusion/tcs/1998Summer-TCS.pdf

[34] 21st Century Science & Technology. Gurwitsch’s Non-reductionist Biology — “Life on the Moon”: http://wlym.com/archive/fusion/tcs/1998Summer-TCS.pdf

[35] 21st Century Science & Technology. Gurwitsch’s Non-reductionist Biology — “Life on the Moon”: http://wlym.com/archive/fusion/tcs/1998Summer-TCS.pdf

[36] https://www.space.com/40136-chandrayaan-2.html

[37] http://www.planetary.org/blogs/guest-blogs/2019/change-4-updates-day-4.html

[38] https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/change4-lunar-nights-temperature/

[39] https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/change-4-mineral-mantle/

[40] https://www.insider.com/china-rover-change-found-mysterious-gel-like-substance-on-moon-2019-9

 

 


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