Colony on the Moon and Private Space Stations: Futurology Digest No. 29

Colony on the Moon and Private Space Stations: Futurology Digest No. 29

Topic of the week: water found on the visible side of the moon

On October 26, 2020, NASA researchers confirmed that there is water in the craters on the visible side of the Moon. Earlier this was also reported by Russian scientists. The US space agency's findings are based on data from the SOFIA infrared observatory. The equipment was installed on board a Boeing 737 aircraft, which lifted the telescope to a height of 13 thousand meters above the ground. Due to this, water vapor in the lower atmosphere did not interfere with observations.

Potentially, the data from the SOFIA telescope will allow choosing a suitable location for the lunar colony, as well as reducing the weight of the cargo that astronauts will have to take on board the ship. They plan to get oxygen from the water for breathing, as well as rocket fuel. In the future, the Moon can become not only a research station, but also a staging post on the way to distant planets.

However, the concentration of water on the lunar surface is very low: only 100-400 micrograms per gram of soil or ten sips of an adult for every cubic meter. This is 100 times less than in the Sahara Desert. According to NASA experts, water on the visible side of the Moon is formed due to collisions with micrometeorites: the impact energy triggers a chemical reaction during which OH hydroxide ions are converted into water. It consists of individual H2O molecules that are not connected to each other in puddles or ice crystals. To extract water from them, complex technologies will be required, with the help of which the molecules will be converted into steam and filtered several times.

As part of the Artemis mission, astronauts are going to be sent to the moon in 2024. In order to collect as much data as possible about the Earth's satellite by this time, NASA and the European Space Agency will launch the Gateway research station into lunar orbit. Its assembly will begin no later than 2022. In addition, NASA will send a special drill to the moon that will allow scientists to extract ice from craters at the satellite's south pole and study its characteristics. So researchers will understand whether astronauts can use water from the surface of the moon.

Article of the Week: The Era of Private Space Stations

The International Space Station is nearing its end of life: the current agreement for the use of the ISS expires in 2024. Despite the fact that it can be extended until 2028, many countries are already going to launch their own stations. So, in 2021, China is going to put the first module of the Tianhe observatory into low-earth orbit, its construction is planned to be completed by 2023. Roscosmos has also begun designing a new space station. They want to include the Russian ISS module, which can operate autonomously.

Phil McAlister, head of NASA's commercial spaceflight division, believes that the future lies not with government, but with private initiatives. The agency needs funds for the construction of settlements on the moon and missions to Mars, but now it is forced to spend a fifth of its budget on the maintenance of the American module of the ISS. To reduce costs, NASA plans to attract private companies to operate orbital stations and test new equipment on them. This will allow the agency to focus on more complex tasks.

NASA has already embarked on a new strategy and entered into an agreement with the American company Axiom Space. In 2024, it will connect a new living block to the ISS, and by 2028, two more compartments will be launched into space: a laboratory and an observational one, similar to the Kupol module. After the international station stops working, the Axiom Space compartments will become fully autonomous. They are planned to be used for private and public research, as well as space hotels for tourists. By 2050, Axiom Space hopes to build an entire network of private orbital stations with supermarkets, schools and parks. So astronauts can take the whole family into space, and travelers can relax in comfort.

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