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Thread: How long until we colonize the moon

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    Question How long until we colonize the moon

    The moon is our nearest neighbor but other then visiting it 40 years ago we still do not have humans living there. China has a active rover on the moon and Russia has plans to further explore the moon. Will China or Russia be the first to have a permanent base there, or will there be an international based team living there? How long before that happens?

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    The moon is our nearest neighbor but other then visiting it 40 years ago we still do not have humans living there. China has a active rover on the moon and Russia has plans to further explore the moon. Will China or Russia be the first to have a permanent base there, or will there be an international based team living there? How long before that happens?
    We may never actually colonize the Moon (that is, establish a permanent multi-generational society) due to gravity related issues, but it's possible someone may establish a base there. At present there are long-term proposals to land a manned mission on the Moon, but not specific plans for missions yet and only question marks beyond that.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2014-Jan-09 at 09:13 AM.
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    Ask this: How long before we colonise Antarctica? It's far nearer, and friendlier, but still to harsh for colonies. What it does have is 1000 to 4000 people living there in research bases, a few of which are comparable in size to small towns, most of which are more like a village or hamlet. The bases are very dependant on the outside world, and folk go home eventually, but some are there for months at a time. At some point we may see something analogous on the Moon - one day, maybe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    The moon is our nearest neighbor but other then visiting it 40 years ago we still do not have humans living there. China has a active rover on the moon and Russia has plans to further explore the moon. Will China or Russia be the first to have a permanent base there, or will there be an international based team living there? How long before that happens?
    I doubt any time soon, perhaps sixty years from now, may be a hundred.

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    Antarctica

    Quote Originally Posted by marsbug View Post
    Ask this: How long before we colonise Antarctica? It's far nearer, and friendlier, but still to harsh for colonies. What it does have is 1000 to 4000 people living there in research bases, a few of which are comparable in size to small towns, most of which are more like a village or hamlet. The bases are very dependant on the outside world, and folk go home eventually, but some are there for months at a time. At some point we may see something analogous on the Moon - one day, maybe.
    It's illegal to exploit or to colonize Antarctica.

    Marcel

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    Quote Originally Posted by newpapyrus View Post
    It's illegal to exploit or to colonize Antarctica.

    Marcel
    International law is more like an agreement between crime bosses than something coming out of a legislature.
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    Most here seem pessimistic about a base on the moon. I will give it another 15 to 20 years before the first base is established.

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    Interestingly, there is a couple Antarctic 'colonies', international law be darned.
    To answer the OP question, I'd say about 20-30 years after we decide to do it sounds about right. How long that takes is another question.
    The question is not technology, including that that can conceivably be developed. but the will to do so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ravens_cry View Post
    To answer the OP question, I'd say about 20-30 years after we decide to do it sounds about right.
    By "it" I assume you mean a manned landing, not full colonization.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    By "it" I assume you mean a manned landing, not full colonization.
    We* did a manned landing in ten from a much smaller starting point technology wise. Now, admittedly, that was a crash program with limited goals, but, assuming we give it full funding, I do indeed think think we could have something that can be described as a 'colony' in that time. By colony, I mean something that can provide basic needs like most food, water, and oxygen with some limited self-repair capabilities.
    *We the human race

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    The one question is "why?" and no one ever gives a satisfactory answer. Historically, colonies need to fill some role, like make money, or allow an ideological group to isolate themselves from larger society (nearly all have had a population of indigenes to exploit, too).
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2015-Feb-13 at 02:22 PM. Reason: spelling correction: indigents should have been indigenes. Thank you, NoCleverName
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    (nearly all have had a population of indigents to exploit, too).
    Indigents means the poor. I suspect you mean indigenous? (Although the arrival of colonizers usually meant them becoming indigent)

    As for why the Moon specifically? I don't know. But people tend to expand to fill the available space.*

    EDIT: *Yes, Antarctica, but don't forget it's been only a century since people first set foot on Antarctica.
    Last edited by Noclevername; 2014-Jan-10 at 11:14 AM. Reason: oops!
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    Quote Originally Posted by ravens_cry View Post
    Interestingly, there is a couple Antarctic 'colonies', international law be darned.
    To answer the OP question, I'd say about 20-30 years after we decide to do it sounds about right. How long that takes is another question.
    The question is not technology, including that that can conceivably be developed. but the will to do so.
    Holy cow! I did not know about that, thank you very much RC

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    After a bit more thought on this I have to agree with RC: The object is not technology but the will to do so. As the number of volunteers for mars 1 shows, there is no shortage of people who'd like to try living in such an isolated way. But a lunar colony would have significant set up and recurring costs, and so it would need to justify its existance with science, prestige, cheap energy or something else. And the desire to get these things through a lunar colony does not seem to have outweighed the expense in any country or corporations mind so far.

    Edit: reading a bit on the Chilean Antartica, it seems that the settlments mainly exists to support a Chilean terratorial claim - yes there's stuff like science and tourism, but it's also a matter of national pride! Perhaps then, when we're looking for motivations for a Lunar colony, we're wrong to think of what might be a rational, material, gain from a manned base/settlement. After all, the original landings were motivated as much by national pride as science, so who has something to prove in space at the moment?
    Last edited by marsbug; 2014-Jan-10 at 01:06 PM.

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    Again most answers seem to be through a US prism. Next person to land on the moon will be either a Chinese or Russian as they already have plans to do that. What I am looking forward to is a base on the moon. As what they could do there can be covered by exploration, scientific research, exploiting the mineral resources etc. etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marsbug View Post
    Holy cow! I did not know about that, thank you very much RC
    *salutes* Glad to be of service.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ravens_cry View Post
    Interestingly, there is a couple Antarctic 'colonies', international law be darned.
    Grandfathered in. They existed before the Antarctic treaty.

    Although; I don't see anything in there that restricts colonization. Just a restriction on military use and a statement of being used for peaceful purposes with add-ons that are meant to preserve the environment.

    The outer space treaty is very similar (not surprising).

    The tricky part is going to be when the definition of "peaceful purposes" and "benefit to mankind" starts to get tested.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ravens_cry View Post
    We* did a manned landing in ten from a much smaller starting point technology wise. Now, admittedly, that was a crash program with limited goals, but, assuming we give it full funding, I do indeed think think we could have something that can be described as a 'colony' in that time. By colony, I mean something that can provide basic needs like most food, water, and oxygen with some limited self-repair capabilities.
    *We the human race
    Funny you should put it that way(the bolded), because I was going to add that one of the things that slows down any program is the amount of testing and verifications for safety. Back then, they were willing to take a lot more risks.

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    As a thought experiment: The Moons relatively deep gravity well makes it a more expensive place to get to than LEO. If there was a one to ten km sort of sized second moon, with the same concentration of volatiles as the lunar poles etc (in other words the lunar pole without the gravity) would the easier acces make it a more inviting target for base builders and colonists?

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    Quote Originally Posted by marsbug View Post
    As a thought experiment: The Moons relatively deep gravity well makes it a more expensive place to get to than LEO. If there was a one to ten km sort of sized second moon, with the same concentration of volatiles as the lunar poles etc (in other words the lunar pole without the gravity) would the easier acces make it a more inviting target for base builders and colonists?
    Probably not for a base, but perhaps for space habitats.

    There's already commercial interests talking about asteroid mining.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NEOWatcher View Post
    Funny you should put it that way(the bolded), because I was going to add that one of the things that slows down any program is the amount of testing and verifications for safety. Back then, they were willing to take a lot more risks.
    They were, and three men paid their lives for it. Maybe 30 years is too short, but I don't think it'd take 30 years to just get to the moon either.
    Last edited by ravens_cry; 2014-Jan-10 at 02:07 PM.

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    In my mind Apollo was a double edged sword: On the one hand it showed - undeniably - what was possible for a space program with appropriate funding and a consistent political backing. On the other, yes, it took a lot of risks that might not really have been as justified as they seemed at the time, and which definitely wouldn't be seen as justified today. It set an unrealistically high set of expectations for the future, which in some ways has acted against the interests of space exploration (but only in some - in others that high bar has been and still is to aim for). Worst of all it meant that for forty years our attitude towards the Moon was 'been there done that' when we'd barely scratched the surface.

    I would not see another Apollo. My hopes for MSF in the 21st century are for sustained and sustainable growth. Having said that: if there is to be a 'next Antarctica in space' I suspect it will be the region between LEO and GEO, especially if a few small chunks of space debris with useable volatiles are eventually shepherded into stable orbits there. Possibility for well heeled tourism, room for nationalistic cod swinging, and lots of great science (especially in things like Earth observation, microgravity research and plasma science) to tag along. The Moon may become our next LEO, with a few government sponsored outposts, but if there is to be colonisation of it I think that will be the 22nd centuries adventure.

    Of course I could be very wrong, and if I am I hope it's because I'm being much too pessimistic!

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    As was mentioned several times, the biggest problem is the commitment to a very expensive program. One of the big reasons is that we've become really good at robotic missions. A huge percentage of the cost of the Apollo program was devoted to keeping the astronauts alive and bringing them back to Earth. If you take the cost of a manned lunar mission and spent it on robotic missions, the amount of research and exploration that could be done with the same amount of money is staggering. There are some things that are better done with a manned mission, but in total, you get a much better return on your investment with an unmanned mission. In short, we're a victim of our success. China is trying to do a manned mission for national pride and for political reasons ( which is the same reason that the US did the apollo program). I also wonder if some multi-billionare (or maybe several) will some day bankroll a manned lunar mission. I think that the recent development of using private rocket companies is a good one that will eventually reduce the cost of leaving LEO. How that would play out remains to be seen. I think that it will be some combination of assembly line economies of scale, reusable rocket parts, and even mining the Moon to manufacture ( perhaps with a 3D printer) the fuel and/or vehicle to return to Earth along with improvements to the efficiencies and/or types of engines used to power the rockets.

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    That's true, but the sad fact is that if we shut down government funded MSF the money would likely not go into UMSF but instead get torn into a thousand shreds by various parties uninterested in exploration.

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    I also think that having people in space, even if it's just LEO laboratories or hotels, can be good for space exploration overall as it puts human faces and empathisable human experiences in the mix. Basically it's better PR, and its more inspiring.

    For myself, I see extending human presence into space as a worthy goal for it's own sake. But I can respect the opposite view, as I'm happy to admit my position is not entirely rational.

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    I've always wondered if the Moon wouldn't make the best place for a fuel production facility, assuming there's enough water. Most of the weight for missions is fuel, so it seems we could accomplish more if we had an off-planet source.

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    If we ever perfect Aluminium Oxygen rockets, the moon would be practically made of fuel. Not the best ISP, but the sheer availability has advantages. Raw regolith or slag could be used as radiation shielding.

  28. 2014-Jan-11, 01:09 AM
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Indigents means the poor. I suspect you mean indigenous?
    Yes, I meant indigenes. I was tired.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ravens_cry View Post
    If we ever perfect Aluminium Oxygen rockets, the moon would be practically made of fuel. Not the best ISP, but the sheer availability has advantages.
    Separating them would IIRC require much more energy than cracking H2O. For that kind of energy cost, we could probably find much better ways to propel our spacecraft.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Between all the flat land that gets 2 weeks of nonstop sunlight, and all the Thorium, the Moon is not short of potential energy sources.

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