The race to build a base on the moon

Making the moon home

Source: © Lucinda Rogers @ Heart Agency

Nina Notman talks to scientists helping to return humans to the moon – for good this time

For decades, there was little appetite – or funds – for returning crewed missions to the moon. But we are now in a new era of lunar exploration. Nasa’s Artemis programme aims to land humans on the moon in 2025. And many other government space agencies and commercial companies have information-collecting lander missions currently on their way to the moon or scheduled to launch in the next few years.

Nasa’s goal is to build a semi-permanent crewed lunar base, akin to the Antarctic Research Stations. The European Space Agency (ESA), China and Russia have also announced interest in creating lunar research outposts. Moreover, the moon is being used as a testing ground for technology that will eventually take humans to Mars and beyond.

Keeping astronauts – and their equipment – safe on the moon for extended periods will be an astronomical feat. The longest time humans have spent there so far is three Earth days. The moon is an extremely hostile environment with huge temperature variations, high radiation levels, little atmosphere, constant micrometeorite strikes and huge amounts of abrasive dust.