Researchers are studying lava tunnels in order to have humans colonize the moon by 2030.
At the 2017 European Planetary Science Congress in Riga, Latvia, researchers laid out a plan for what life on the moon could look like. Moon Village representative Bernard Foing spoke of families leaving Earth to live on the moon, and even of human children being born there in the future, the Daily Mail reported.
Foing commented that the plan was more practical than running the International Space Station, since materials native to the moon would be used to sustain the functioning of life and society rather than materials needing to be constantly built and transported from Earth.
Researchers think tunnels below the moon’s surface can support a colonization plan such as this. The tunnels are from volcanoes. Lava tunnels also exist on Earth. Lava pushes a tunnel through the Earth, and then drains away. But researchers think that the moon’s low gravity resulted in much wider tunnels more practical to building a society.
According to the Daily Mail, moon tunnels would provide protection from cosmic radiation and asteroid strikes. The plan is supposed to allow the European Space Agency to set up a base on the moon by 2030. By 2050 scientists hope the base will grow into a colony of thousands of people.
First scientists want to develop a spacecraft that can locate the tube networks on the moon and on Mars. A team at the University of Trento is working on a radar system that can be used for just that purpose.
The International Space Station has only until 2024 until it is decommissioned. Scientists know they will have to find a different outpost if they are going to continue the type of low gravity research projects that take place there. The Moon has been a hot option for the European Space Agency even though astronauts haven’t been there since 1972.
Researcher are also looking at how the Moon can be a launching pad for future space missions, and how certain elements on the Moon could be used for rocket fuel, how water can be extracted from ice on the Moon, and other possibilities.
“To go into Earth orbit… it is 40 times cheaper to go from the Moon than from Earth, because the Earth has such high gravity that you have to fight against it,” said Foing, via AFP.
But there are still many obstacles to those that seek a lunar civilization.
“It is highly frustrating… We still don’t have the top leaders interested,” said physicist Vidvuds Beldavs, who runs the International Lunar Decade.
And money is a big issue, as well. National space agencies don’t always have the funds, and even attracting private investment could be difficult in a project of this scale. There is also the practical aspect of living on the Moon itself, and if that is even tolerable for would-be colonizers.
Physicist Christiane Heinicke spent a year in a mock environment set up in Hawaii to emulate life on Mars.
“Being either inside the habitat or inside a suit means that you’re never able to actually FEEL the moon/planet you’re on. You can’t feel the wind (if there is any, like on Mars), you don’t feel the Sun on your skin, and whatever you touch feels like the inside of your gloves,” she said, via AFP.