What is needed to live on the Moon for a period of five years?

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belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The two most important aspects of living on the Moon are air and protection from solar radiation. Air is obvious, and requires an entire infrastructure of pressurized habitats, suits, and methods of recycling the air so you don't run out. Future technology may be able to convert other elements into oxygen, but for now, air must be captured after exhalation, scrubbed of excess carbon dioxide, and reused. This requires a huge expenditure of technology and time, all of which need to be in place before the first permanent colonists arrive.

Solar radiation is the other major problem in living on the Moon; because there is no atmosphere, all the radiation from the Sun reaches the surface unobstructed. This can be dangerous for people on the surface, as they can contract radiation sickness from solar flares. Habitats built under the Lunar soil (regolith) are the best method of living without worrying about this radiation.

After those essentials are met, there still remains the problem of food and water, which must either be shipped from Earth, or created on-site; hydroponic agriculture, water recycling, and (potential) ice inside the Moon are key here. After that, the only thing to worry about is bone density; the low gravity of the Moon causes bones to become weaker and can lead to other health problems. A five-year colony would likely become permanent because returning to Earth's gravity well could kill them. Living on the Moon is a major undertaking, and requires planning.

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academy633's profile pic

academy633 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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Air is needed.  The moon's atmosphere is very thin, because the moon has only about 1/6th of the earths mass.  As the moon's mass is so much less, the gravitational pull on gaseous molecules is much less, so there is a much thinner atmosphere.  You would need a sealed compartment (space suit, inflatable building, or something similar) to provide you with breathable and pressurized air (primarily oxygen).

Protection against space objects.  Every day, thousands of particles (some of which are as big as a truck) burn up in the earth's atmosphere.  But since the moon's atmosphere is all but nonexistent, these objects are able to reach the moon's surface at speeds of thousands of miles per hour.  Don't take my word for it!  Just look at the craters on the surface of the moon!  You would need to protect yourself (and your air supply) from being struck by any of these fast-moving objects.  You might want to consider building a shelter under the surafce, so you would need construction and excavation tools. And protection from solar radiation would be needed, too, as there is no ozone layer.

Food and water.  You would probably find it difficult to grow anything (no rain and a long day-night cycle), so you would need food and water to sustain yourself for the entire stay.  You might be able to grow vegetables if you took enough soil and water.  No Mickey D's either!

A way to communicate.  Again, the earth's atmosphere is dense enough to transmit sound waves.  Not so on the moon.  Radios for communication with your companions on the moon (and those back on earth) would be needed.

A source of heat.  No atmosphere means no weather (you wouldn't need an umbrella), no wind, no clouds, and no way to retain heat.  It could get cold when the two-week long night came (as the same side of the moon always faces the earth, so it would face away from the sun for half of every month).

Entertainment.  Reading material would be needed, so you wouldn't get too bored.  With no atmosphere, a telesope would give you magnificent views of the heavens, and just think how far you could hit a baseball with the reduced gravity on the moon. Or how high you could jump!

These are the basics.  You might also want a moon vehicle like the lunar excursion module (LEM) the atronauts used, so you could explore the surface of the moon more thoroughly.  And some science experiments might be interesting (what do chemicals, plants, insects, animals, etc. experience under prolonged exposure to reduced gravity?).

Have a great trip!

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