In Moon Luck by Scott Harral, he explores the initial stages of what lunar habitation might look like while still presenting a compelling sci-fi thriller.
Living on the moon has always been a cultural aspiration for the whole of humanity, with mentions of men on the moon and lunar rabbits dating back at least a thousand years. There have been plenty of modern stories about moon habitation, like Moon Luck by Harral and Artemis by Weir.
Who doesn’t want to live on the moon? Out there in space, looking at the great blackness of the universe around the planet Earth. And jumping really, really, really high because the gravity’s so much lower there as compared to here.
Doesn’t that just sound like a wonderful future?
Almost everyone from every corner of the world has thought of the idea–of what it would be like living on the surface of the moon. And the hold of the idea on humanity’s collective unconscious hasn’t waned, especially since the moon landings and especially now that NASA has announced its intentions to create a permanent moon base by 2030. Perhaps living on the moon won’t be so far-fetched soon.
What Needs to Be Answered for Successful Lunar Habitation?
But before you get to packing and googling for tickets, what are the issues with building a base on the moon?
Remember, the conditions on the moon are entirely different from living on Earth. There’s no arable land, no obvious source of water, no animals, no atmosphere, etc., just to name a few.
Here are the main issues with living on the moon:
What Powers Everything?
For any society to function, there needs to be power. When humans first established the earliest civilizations, power was limited only to pure labor, the energy of hard work, and domesticated animals. When civilization progressed, and technology grew more sophisticated, the rushing waters of rivers were used to power mills; then, it was steam to power the earliest engines. When oil and natural gas were discovered, they powered better engines and generated electricity. Now, there are machines that can harvest the power of the sun, the wind, the waves, and more. Without power, a civilization stagnates.
On the moon, there are few sources of power that do not include what the settlers already brought with them. The only consistent source of energy would be that which comes from the sun: solar power.
Perhaps the lack of an atmosphere will make it easier for settlers to capture solar energy, but there are still issues with storage and other minutiae. Although nothing concrete has been determined, just the discovery of a solution is highly beneficial for any future planned settlement on the moon.
Where is the Living Space?
Another important requirement for a successful civilization is the territory, the space where the people will live, work, etc. Although the moon has large tracts of unclaimed land, it is not the best, to say the least. Because of an absence of water and vegetation, most of the moon’s surface is covered in rock and dust, which made the Apollo 17 astronauts’ eyes water and throats sore after contact. The absence of an atmosphere also makes the moon quite vulnerable to meteorites and radiation.
If there is to be habitable space on the moon, it would mean relying on sealed housing that allows for protection against radiation and the recycling of breathable air.
The establishment of a moon base would require taking advantage of prefabricated structures and modular systems for quick and easy installation. This is without considering the difficulty in laying out plumbing and water systems (although there might be further achievements waiting in the future).
How to Grow Food?
The most important aspect of maintaining civilization is food. You might have power, and you might have land, but without food, all of that crumbles into nothing the minute everyone starves. From a specific reductionist point of view, the progress of civilization can be seen as a journey toward increased food productivity. Nations can only prosper with a growing population of workers, you see, and the only way to facilitate that growth is through adequate food production and distribution.
Remember the earlier point about the power needed for civilizations to function? Human beings need the power to function, too, and, as far as anyone can see, that power comes from eating food.
Luckily for any potential lunar base, there have been strides to establish methods of growing food in space and conditions similar to the surface of the moon.
Every year, there are discoveries and efforts in science and technology that make habitation on the surface of the moon ever closer to reality.