Here’s what we need to build our first moon base

X Scalper

Half a century after humans first walked on the moon, a number of private companies and nations are planning to build permanent bases on the lunar surface. Despite the technological progress since the Apollo era, this will be extremely challenging. So how should you get started?

The conditions at the lunar surface are extreme. The moon has a 28-day rotation period, resulting in two weeks of continuous sunlight followed by two weeks of darkness at most latitudes. As the moon lacks any significant atmosphere to distribute heat from the sun, temperatures during the day can rise to 130°C. Meanwhile, the coldest nighttime temperatures have been recorded as -247°C.

The lack of a protective atmosphere also means there’s little protection against harmful cosmic radiation. This means moon inhabitants would have to construct buildings with walls sufficiently thick to block radiation from coming in and use cumbersome spacesuits when leaving the facility.

The walls must also be strong enough to withstand the pressure differences between the outside and inside and to cope with the impact of micrometeorites – tiny specks of rock and dust crashing onto the surface at high speeds.

These considerations mean that, when we expand the first bases and start actually building structures on the moon, lunar concrete, which is a mixture of sulphur and aggregate (grains or crushed rock – normal concrete is aggregate, cement and water) would be a good option. That’s because it’s non-porous, strong and doesn’t require water, which is in short supply on the moon.

Another problem is the low gravity on the moon – only a sixth of that at Earth. Over time, this can cause problems such as muscle and bone loss. Any permanent lunar settlement must minimize these risks, for example by making exercise a requirement.

Although few space agencies have released any details about their plans yet, we can probably assume that the first bases on the moon will have to be pre-built and transported to the moon from Earth, so they can be used right away.