Take a Step on Another World

I have a new piece up at Air & Space on what it will be like to live and work on the Moon.  Comments welcome.

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11 Responses to Take a Step on Another World

  1. Bob Goddard says:

    This is a well researched, well reasoned and balanced assessment of what life on the Moon will be like. Thankfully, it also confirms many of the conclusions I reached before publishing ‘Mother Moon’ in 2015, a novel describing in detail day-to-day life in a colony at the Moon’s south pole.

  2. Warren Platts says:

    Interesting article Paul. I was wondering if you have seen Andy Weir’s new novel Artemis. I thought it was a compelling picture of what a future settlement might look like. Albeit it was set nextdoor to the Apollo 11 landing site, rather than the poles.

  3. nova9 says:

    I have a question Dr. Spudis.

    How deep do you suspect the regolith is at the lunar poles before bedrock is reached? And do you think regolith depths will be significantly different in the Moon’s polar regions than on the rest of the lunar surface?


    • Paul Spudis says:


      Both poles are in highlands terrain and the regolith in the highlands is quite thick, on the order of tens of meters. The depths to bedrock at the poles will be similar to other highland sites, but its physical properties might be different. We have some evidence that the mean density of polar regolith is lower than the rest of the Moon, for reasons that are not entirely clear. We need robotic probes to the surface of the poles to examine and characterize the deposits here.

      • nova9 says:

        Thanks for your prompt response:-)

        I won’t be happy until NASA and the rest of the world, finally, starts to seriously and extensively explore the surface of the lunar poles. The robotic exploration of the Moon’s polar regions should be the– top priority– of NASA’s unmanned space program, IMO.


  4. Gary Church says:

    I have to insist that nobody is going to live on the Moon permanently simply because of the gravity issue. A centrifuge arrangement with some kind of circular train might be feasible for special applications but not for any large population. In my view the Moon is going to be a giant factory complex and workers will spend a certain amount of time, perhaps a few months, under the lunar surface and then go up to 1G space stations for rehabilitation. After a tour of at most three or four years the worker will go back to Earth and will want to go back. They may elect to do future tours but they will not stay in space, they will be like mariners in the age of sail who left home for years at a time. Eventually there will be fleets of true spaceships, constructed in lunar factories, that will leave on multi-year voyages to the outer planets.

    Perhaps in the next century, if lunar industry succeeds, the first of thousands of artificial moons will be fabricated and beam propelled single stage to orbit transports will enable large scale migration to begin. In two hundred years it may happen the Earth will be largely depopulated and considered a nature park to visit. Tens of billions of human beings will live in countless cities in space.

    But first we have to begin with going to the Moon and staying.

    • nova9 says:

      Well, we really don’t know if the low gravity of the Moon or Mars will be significantly deleterious to human life and reproduction. Most mammals on Earth, because of their much smaller sizes relative to humans, live in Moon-like environments (they are substantially stronger and lighter relative to their weights).

      Even though microgravity is inherently deleterious to human health, I’m still surprised how well the human body is able to adapt to that harsh environment– especially when astronauts routinely exercise.

      It may turn out that living under the low gravity of the Moon may be less deleterious to human health (especially if Lunarians routinely exercise) than the current obesity crisis that is currently negatively effecting the health of a substantial portion of the population in the US and the world.

      But these are things we could have (and should have) found out in the 20th century, right after the end of the Apollo program in the early 1970s.


  5. Gary Church says:

    Human beings are not as smart as they think they are. They have several outstanding flaws and among them is “the optimism bias” (Optimism bias is a cognitive bias that causes a person to believe that they are at a lesser risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others. Optimism bias is quite common and transcends gender, race, nationality and age.[1]).

    We believe nothing will suddenly destroy us as a species. That we will keep going on and on, or at the very least we will never see the end of this world in our own lifetime. This is not very intelligent behavior for supposedly the most intelligent creatures on Earth. In my view there are several threats but there is a short list I call “the big three.”

    The first is an asteroid or comet impact. This is invariably explained away as being statistically highly unlikely for a zillion years or so. The truth is it happened, will happen again, and could happen tomorrow.

    The second is an engineered 100% lethal pathogen. A modest lab and some creative genetic engineering and this could happen tomorrow. Plenty of crazy people would love to end it all.

    The third is a super-volcanic epic. This has happened before and could happen tomorrow.

    Carried to their extreme any one of the three could extinguish the human race. A lesser impact or plague or volcanic epic could send us back to the stone age and leave a few million of us left. Space colonization removes all three threats. Spaceships could deflect an impact. A self-sufficient Moon colony with a few hundred women and a sperm bank means we possibly could go on despite a plague or cindered world. A population in the tens of billions living in tens of thousands of Bernal spheres means we would certainly go on.

  6. Philip Backman says:

    Hi Paul,
    Thank you for the article. Keep on writing. Your comment on shadows and scattering has me curious. I suspect that shadows cast by certain structures, such as Pico Mons in Mare Imbrium, would actually be very dark because of its isolation on a relatively smooth plain. In this case the sources of scattered light would be minimal. Your thoughts?

    • Paul Spudis says:

      True enough, shadowed areas on the Moon vary in their “shadow intensity.” The place you describe would be subject to little back-lighting from the surrounding terrain and would be darker than most lunar shadows. However, even pitch dark areas are lit by starlight and all are illuminated in the UV by Lyman-alpha, which is how the LAMP experiment on LRO imaged the floors of craters near the poles.

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