Many of us are fans of science fiction at least to a certain degree. While it’s certainly true that not all of us like Asimov or Clarke, or even watch science fiction movies or TV shows, most of us would jump at the occasion to learn more about what the future of space travel will be like.
But despite what we’ve seen over the years in most sci-fi writings or visual media, it will be a long while until we manage to even send humans to other planets. So colonization will most likely take even more than that – as long as we’re bent on colonizing just other planets.
According to a paper by Dr. Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, we’d reach Mars much faster if we’d colonize the moon. Of course, the costs, at first, would exceed the currently allocated funds, but the time and money saved by having a moon base would quickly turn it into a profit.
Despite it sounding very complicated, perhaps like more fiction than science, the scientist has some pretty good explanations and some solid advice on how we’d have a much easier time mounting the first manned expedition to Mars if we first set up a permanent settlement on the moon.
This is completely against the established common wisdom of how to go to Mars, which is a straight shot to Mars, carry everything with you. The Apollo mission was very successful but going to Mars will be much more complex.
Bringing everything from Earth is not sustainable; we need to build a lunar system or interplanetary supply chain network. In practical terms you could harvest oxygen and hydrogen on the Moon and transfer it to a Lagrange Point. On the outbound journey a manned mission could pass by that point and fuel up.
Indeed, water is some of the most difficult to transport resources when it comes to space travel. It is required for a wide range of uses, from drinking it to using it as fuel and even protecting the crew from harmful radiation.
But because it is so heavy to transport, it requires a lot of fuel expenditure only to get a little water into space. According to the doctor’s calculations, a spaceship would be able to launch from Earth and travel to Mars with 68 percent less mass if they were to collect fuel and water from a moon base on the way to the red planet.
Still, regardless of how practical or simply awesome the solution might be, NASA will most likely not go for building a moon base for one simple reason – budget. Sure, it might be very profitable in the long run to build a chain of restaurants, but first, you need the starting investment – which NASA definitely is lacking at this point in history.
Image source: Wikimedia