The Apollo 11 mission, which took place in 1969, fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s commitment made in September 1962 to land a man on the Moon before the decade was up. NASA has said that it intends to create a permanent human settlement on the Moon within the next ten years. This is after more than 50 years after the first lunar landing. Even with such a high objective, the idea of long-term lunar colonization is full of challenges.
Where to settle is the first issue. The best location is probably close to one of the poles because of the Moon’s prolonged day-night cycle. Two particular locations have been proposed: Mount Malapert and the rim of the Peary crater. With a wide, smooth landing area and sections of persistent shadow, Mount Malapert is believed to be saturated with implanted hydrogen and helium. Four mountainous regions dubbed the “peaks of eternal light” encircle the Peary crater with a broad, flat topography. This area offers a steady temperature and access to solar power.
The accommodation problem arises after the place has been selected. There are two options: surface-based biodomes or subterranean lava tubes. The former offers better defense against meteorite collisions and solar radiation, which is around 200 times stronger on the Moon than on Earth. The latter gives more convenient access and transportation in addition to the psychological advantages of being outside. The most likely future combines the two. With this combination, regolith will serve as the main building material, and lunar structures being built with a combination of 3D printing and regolith.
The lunar settlement needs food and energy as every other Earth city does. Water has been split into hydrogen and oxygen to create fuel for propulsion, and solar energy is a potential energy source. Food will initially need to be brought from Earth. However, artificial food production and hydroponic crops will continue to be issues. The inclusion of several space agencies and people, including wealthy ones like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, will necessitate careful legal and practical considerations.
At present, the Moon is regulated by the Outer Space Treaty of 1966. This treaty forbids national possession of space and deems it open to exploration and usage by all governments. The treaty will need to be renegotiated and expanded. This will take into account the many national and cultural interests. In addition, it must consider the legal consequences of people possessing the riches and power of whole nations.
The difficulties of surviving under a gravity of one-sixth and 250,000 miles from Earth must also be addressed physically and psychologically. The International Space Station has housed astronauts for almost a year, but the Moon poses new difficulties. It is unclear, for instance, how our cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems would adjust to the significantly reduced gravity. Psychologists express concern about loneliness, astrophobia, and the fear of space itself.