Wonders Of Our Moon? W.O.O.W. 2072 Interlude
Exploring the amazing potential of future infrastructure for the Blog Prize
This post is a submission to the Blog Prize’s 2072 contest. It was written in collaboration with Maximum Progress who wrote a post about the state of SpaceX in 2072, which you can read here.
As we have progressed in the Wonders of Our World series, the contrast between the wonders of the past and the wonders of the present has been a recurring theme. Today, I’d like to explore what it would be like to treat today’s wonders as we do those of the past, and extrapolate from there to put a potential wonder of the future into perspective. To do this I asked myself a question: what would the most amazing piece of infrastructure be in 2072? I was immediately reminded of a dream that has captured the American psyche since 1969. What if we had a base on the moon? With return missions to the moon planned for 2025 by NASA and SpaceX, and Chinese and Russian manned missions planned for 2030 the Lunar exploration space is heating up. So without further ado, let’s take a look at Moonbase 2072!
In 1959, our ideas of what a moonbase might look like were rather recognizable, although some details might seem quaint to inhabitants of the present day.
For instance, the solar panels shown above would likely be included in a lander and on vehicles, but if the station had large power draws, a small nuclear reactor would be much more fitting. The drafting table in the middle room is also anachronistic to 2072, and would be considered a relic. It’s also very unlikely that humans would use any kind of optical astronomy methods at a moonbase, so the observatory shown at the surface would likely be replaced with a telemetry array of some sort. The greenhouse is a good prediction, although with a reactor I think UV lights would be more likely to be used rather than actual sunlight because it would lower the risk of air leaks. Lastly, there is only one robot in this scene! A moonbase in 2072 would likely be majority robots, with a few key humans there to man the non automated parts of the station.
A 2072 moonbase would almost definitely have some underground sections, because the moon gets very hot, at least on the sun-facing side, and given our reliance on computers, which need to be cooled, an underground facility would be a must, in order to have a heat sink for the computers we bring there. Plus, there already exist large hollow caverns on the moon, formed by cooling veins of lava, that could eventually be made airtight and host cities within them, insulating the inhabitants from temperature swings as well as radiation. Based on the material properties of the lunar regolith and igneous bedrock, the arches of these lava tubes are thought to be structurally sound in sizes of 5000m wide with a 500m tall roof. Whether or not a tube this large actually exists under the lunar surface is still unknown, but these structures would provide a good setting in which to shelter the interior parts of a moonbase, such as housing, agricultural facilities, and server rooms.
But what exactly would those underground computers be used for? Whereas now and in the past, interest in the moon has been fueled either by scientific or nationalistic interests respectively, I think that industry and shipping could be big shares of the Lunar activity in 2072. The mining potential for Helium 3 and rare earth metals is huge on the moon, and considering that a moonbase would have to mine the surface anyways in order to attain water in the form of ice, it seems like a natural opportunity for synergy that the water mining infrastructure might be put to other uses eventually. Water mining is also important for shipping and general life support beyond the obvious uses of water, as it can be split via electrolysis into hydrogen fuel and oxygen. Couple this synergy with the functionality of a moonbase as a launchpad and “tool and fuel” station to convert short flight rockets to long haulers for further exploration and settlement of the planetary system, and it becomes very cheap to send some key resources back down the gravity well to earth.
These rare earth metals would be extremely valuable in a world where electronics play an even greater role than today, especially considering the rising tensions between the West and China, who currently controls the majority of R.E.M. deposits on earth. Access to helium 3 might help jump-start the second wave of innovation in nuclear energy, which would have huge impacts. And of course, if made self sufficient and able to act as a port of exit for colony ships to other planets, the moon would significantly decrease ex-risk over the long term.
It’s for these reasons that for this special edition of the Wonders Of Our World series, I declare Moonbase 2072 to be a true marvel of engineering and an impactful piece of infrastructure. I hope you enjoyed this brief interlude in the series! Stay tuned as we continue to count up the list in upcoming posts, and comment below what world wonders you think should make the list.
Also check out my brother Max Tabarrok’s post on a martian colony in 2072!
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