Monday, May 2, 2016

Colonizing the Moon

The closest astronomical body to Earth that people can one day colonize is the moon. For instance, the European Space Agency wants to establish a space village on the moon. Johann­-Dietrich W├Ârner specifically said a permanent moonbase would be appropriate at the 32nd Space Foundation’s National Space Symposium. He wanted the base to be located on the far side of the moon to further space research. For instance, the far side of the moon does not get affected by radiation from the Earth, so radio telescopes will be able to survey the skies with very little background noise.

Another useful thing about a moon base is that one can use it as a take­-off point to Mars. Because the moon has virtually no atmosphere and has very little gravity, it is much easier to take off from the moon. Also, by mining substances on the Moon, we can potentially make rocket fuel or the materials necessary to build a moon base. The materials mined from the moon can also help begin to build the station. By using materials from the moon, the cost of a base would drop significantly because countries would not need to bring everything from Earth.

A couple of things need to be considered when choosing a location for a moon base. The first thing people think of is sunlight. Scientists think that putting the base at the poles to maximize sunlight is one of the best options. However, even at the poles, there will be large temperature variations due to shadowing. One could avoid the effects of shadows by building the base high, but then it would be exposed to cosmic radiation. The solution then is to bury thebase, since the moon's surface has strong thermal insulation properties and it would protect the base from radiation. However, problems arise when scientists try to determine how to build it underground. The only way would be to use remotely controlled construction machines, or to crash the moon base into the moon. Given the potential for disaster if we try to crash a base into the moon, burying it would be the best option. So burying it would still be the best option. However, the base would run into a problem with the amount of solar power it can generate. So an alternate source of power would be needed. One possibility is thermoelectric generators. These would only be able to be used at night and have low efficiency, but they would be easy to maintain due to their simplicity. Another possibility is using a radioisotope thermal generator, a nuclear reactor, which offers greater efficiency and a compact fuel source. However, supplying these generators with radioactive power generators always pose a danger. A more creative idea is to transmit power from the international space station to the moonbase by microwave or laser. The International Space Station has 3,300 square meters of solar panels and it could make a huge contribution to the amount of power the moonbase needs.

The moon is one of the most viable places to colonize, and unlike other places like Mars, the moon can be traveled to within four days by a spacecraft. However, after saying all the facts, colonizing the moon is not an easy feat. Accomplishing this task would take a large amount of money, energy, and resources. Furthermore, the technology to make it cheap enough does not even exist yet. Until scientists find a way to transport people and materials, and build the space station, this idea will only be something people think about.

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- Tommy Sha