How NASA’s Planned Moon Presence Will Practice Living in Space
First, unlike in the 1960s — we now know that the moon has water.
Water is not only key to sustaining human life, but its component parts — hydrogen and oxygen — can be used as rocket propellant, making the moon a gas station in space. That could be critical for long-duration missions, allowing spacecraft to refuel on the moon instead of lugging all the fuel from Earth. And since the moon’s gravity is one-sixth of Earth’s, it is a relatively easy springboard to other points of the solar system.
NASA is also considering building a nuclear reactor on the moon:
It’s one of several initiatives NASA has begun under its Artemis program, designed to help astronauts stay for extended periods when they’ll need power, transportation and the ability to use the moon’s resources…. The effort is still very much in its nascent stages, and the funding NASA would need for the long term has not materialized in full…. A sustainable presence, despite the rosy predictions coming from the top echelons of the agency, is still years away, and the technical challenges are immense.
But NASA has begun developing the technologies that would be needed to sustain astronauts on the surface for extended periods. In June of last year, the agency and the Energy Department awarded contracts, worth $5 million each, to three companies to develop nuclear power systems that could be ready to launch by the end of the decade for a test on the moon. The systems would generate 40 kilowatts of power, enough energy to power six or seven American households, and last about 10 years….
NASA is also looking to build solar farms, using arrays that point vertically and catch the angle of the sun over the horizon. And it’s exploring how best to exploit what are called “in situ resources” — meaning those that already exist, such as the regolith.
The article even broaches the idea of “a lunar economy that would help sustain a permanent presence.”
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