The Space Race to the Moon and Beyond

By: March 23, 2023

The First Settlers on the Moon Will Have a Rough Time

NASA is serious about not just going back to the Moon, but putting humans on the surface of it once again. Moreover, the primary aim of the Artemis Program after 2025 will be to establish permanent bases on the Moon.

It may seem trite, but many have compared these future settlers to the first European settlers who landed in Massachusetts Bay back in 1620. Might there be the equivalent of a Plymouth Rock on the Moon? Or will this hypothetical rock and the location where Neil Armstrong first stepped on the lunar surface someday become an UNESCO Lunar Heritage Site?

Neil Armstrong’s first footprint on the Moon. A future UNESCO Lunar Heritage Site? (Source: nasa.gov)

Regardless, be sure that just like it was for the first Pilgrims, life for the first lunar settlers will be rough. In fact, much rougher than the Pilgrims had it for several reasons.

First, there won’t be any Native Americans to greet them or provide advice on how to grow crops. With only a handful of mates and being so far from home, there will be challenging interpersonal dynamics. Virtual reality, lunar WiFi, and a lunar metaverse may become key to keeping settlers from missing their families back on Earth.

NASA is hard at work to one day offer WiFi on the Moon. (Source: datacenterdynamics.com)

While we’re on the topic of farming, it will be critical that lunar settlers find a way to grow their food because relying on supply chains from Earth will simply be too slow and risky, but the soil on the Moon is much different than Earth’s. It lacks nitrogen, which is necessary for most crops we eat.

Researchers are slowly getting their arms around this problem and finding ways to modify the soil to grow plants. However, there are also temperature issues. During the day, the temperatures can reach a toasty 123˚C (253˚F) and then -248˚C (-414˚F) at night. Not only will this temperature exposure be a serious problem for the settlers, but for plants as well.

Clearly, food will need to be grown in special climate-controlled greenhouses and humans will need to spend nearly all their time living in similarly controlled “stations,” like researchers use in Antarctica, or they may well live underground where temperatures are more stable.

Companies like Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) are already building prototypes for Moon moving and mining equipment. Climate control experts like Carrier Corporation (NYSE: CARR) or Rheem will be given opportunities to bid for lunar business as well.

Future settlements on the Moon could resemble these settlements in Antarctica. (Source: shackleton.com)

During the few hours that lunar settlers will leave their stations and enter out, they will be subject to additional dangers that they don’t experience on Earth. First, the Moon’s lack of an atmosphere means that small meteors that burn-up in the Earth’s atmosphere don’t burn up on their way to the Moon and impact the surface.

Not only do these include small meteors that could hit a walking astronaut, but it also includes big meteors that could destroy a lunar base. Be sure that someone’s job will be to use a wave transmission method (like radar) to monitor the lunar skies for such dangers.

Then, there’s the radiation from the Sun and the galaxy. On Earth, this radiation is neutralized by a magnetic shield surrounding the planet, but the Moon doesn’t have similar shielding. Some of this radiation transmits right through metals and glass. Protecting lunar settlers from this danger is a real challenge. One could imagine companies like 3M (NYSE: MMM) becoming prime contractors to NASA for making radiation shielding to protect lunar settlers from X-rays and neutron bombardment.

The Earth has a complex magnetic field surrounding it that protects it from radiation from the sun and from farther out in the Galaxy. (Source: nasa.com)

Staging for Missions to Mars and Beyond

A lot has already been written on how a permanent station on the Moon could be used as a staging site for longer trips into space, including a manned trip to Mars. In the longer term, this will lead to spacecraft manufacturing facilities on the lunar surface.

This new Lunar Industrial Complex will start out as repair facilities to support launch activities and then progress to minor fabrication facilities. With time, the lunar settler will start asking questions like “it’s only a small spacecraft for getting back up to the Gateway, why don’t we just build the whole thing here? We have the fabrication equipment anyway.”  That’s how such things will eventually grow into having full-fledged industry on the Moon.  Companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, Rocketdyne, etc. will certainly be involved.

The Space MegaTrend

Within this article, I have mentioned a fair number of companies that will be involved with colonizing the Moon and supporting ongoing missions to Mars. These companies in the long term will ride the transition from Earth-bound humans to becoming an interplanetary species. If you live long enough and have the patience to keep your money in these companies, be sure there will be immense profits.


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