Why is there no space station on the moon?

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 20, 2022
Updated 2022/01/20 at 6:32 PM

Admittedly, given the technical difficulties, it is entirely understandable that man has not yet set foot on Mars. But that we don’t have any space station on the moon built, does not make sense, at least at first. While there are missions coming up in the near future, the facts show that a trip to the moon should not be underestimated.

Space station and moon: Heavier than expected

the moon is near More precisely, our satellite is so close to our planet at a distance of 384,400 kilometers that it took the Apollo 11 mission only 76 to land on its surface. From 1969 to 1972, astronauts then regularly visited the nearby celestial body.

And yet, in 2022, we still haven’t set up a lunar base. On the one hand, this can be explained historically, but on the other hand, it is also related to the harsh conditions on the surface of the moon. All factors together result in a mosaic that provides a good picture of why the space station on the moon is still denied to us today.

#1: Mission accomplished

Thousands of scientists worked on the moon landing. While Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the moon was a major step for mankind, in historical context the United States of America had achieved its goal: to be on the moon before Russia.

In the simulation games of the Cold War, the moon landing was seen primarily as a tactical victory over an ideological opponent. Just a few years later, the great powers invested the money in upgrading their armies rather than in space travel. The idea of ​​a future space station on the surface of the moon is pure fantasy.

As Quarks writes, the US had invested eleven billion dollars every year during the Apollo missions. After the symbolic victory, NASA’s budget was cut further and further. Today, the national space agency has an annual budget of just $2 billion. That’s not enough for any moon base.

The Saturn V rocket, as seen here at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, was the only rocket capable of putting humans on the moon. Today it is an exhibit. Credit: imago images / motivio

#2: No suitable rocket

It’s hard to believe, but despite all the advances in space travel, we still don’t have a rocket. The Saturn V was the only rocket specifically designed for a lunar landing mission. Today it is no longer built, the technology is outdated and it too could only bring astronauts to the moon, but not the components for a space station.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently announced the age of new, powerful rockets. Starship is the largest rocket ever built. With this, astronauts could fly to the moon again. It is already planned as a launch vehicle for NASA’s Artemis mission, with which the space agency wants to fly to the satellite in 2025.

#3: A space station on the moon is not the ISS

As tempting as it may sound to build a lunar base with the rockets available in the future, an outpost on our satellite is something unprecedented. With the International Space Station ISS, we have already succeeded in carrying parts for a space station into the orbit of our planet.

The big difference: while the ISS orbits the earth at a distance of 400 kilometers, the moon is 384,400 kilometers away. Astronauts would therefore have to deposit components from Earth to another celestial body over a much greater distance.

As Space.com explains, in addition to the logistical problems, there would also be ecological difficulties between us and the moon. For a space station that far away, we would have to launch a multitude of rockets into space, each of which releases additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

#4: The base would have to be built on site

Even with the largest rockets, building a space station on the moon would be a logistical feat. Therefore, scientists are looking for ways in which buildings could be built with the materials on our Trabant. “Mooncrete” is a common term for a combination of moondust and sulfur.

Both occur on the surface and can be easily produced on site and as a composite material are said to have high strength. There are also ideas how a very specific mushroom could support the construction of items on site.

Lunar Rover Vehicle and Astronaut
The Apollo 17 mission brought the largest piece of equipment to date to the moon in 1972: the Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV) Credit: imago images / Stock Trek Images

#5: Lunar Base Supply

If astronauts or machines had built an infrastructure, a new problem would arise: basic supplies for the base, i.e. electricity, water and food. In the beginning, everything would have to be brought in by rockets.

If people wanted to live and work there permanently, there would have to be an air bridge between the space station on the moon and the earth. The largest object man has ever maneuvered on the moon was the Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV) in December 1972.

The power supply would be a big problem here. In contrast to the earth, the moon revolves around itself every 28 days. A day, like the night, has 14 days. Solar energy can only work in such cycles if a module stores the energy in sufficient quantities.

However, it would make more sense to set up a space station at the poles of the moon. Here the sunlight would fall permanently on the solar modules.

#6: And the astronauts?

And finally, the astronauts have to be fine. Because the moon has neither an atmosphere nor a magnetic field, humans would be vulnerable to solar winds. Even in surface dwellings, the radiation exposure would be enormous.

In addition, the low gravity plays a major role. Astronauts would have to exercise every day to counteract permanent muscle loss. Due to the low gravity, muscles have to carry much less weight and muscle mass decreases steadily.

Space station on the moon: it might be worth the effort

But despite so many adversities facing most, the first moon base seems only a matter of time. Contemplating whether humans could set up an outpost on the moon is akin to contemplating whether it could ever land on the moon. As early as 1969, the Apollo 11 mission provided evidence that it was possible.

NASA’s planned Artemis mission could open a new chapter in space history in the coming years, one that will hopefully last longer than Apollo. Finally, scientists believe a lunar base could be the ideal launching pad for future trips to Mars.

Sources: own research, Space.com, Quarks

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