Moon Settlers May Be "Ski" Racers, Helium Miners, TV Stars

Richard A. Lovett in San Francisco, California
for National Geographic News
February 19, 2007

Last year NASA announced plans to establish a permanent base on the moon by 2024. But what exactly would lunar living be like?

On Saturday astronomers, NASA scientists, and a former astronaut gave a hint of the challenges and opportunities awaiting the moon's first residents.

Astronauts living on the moon will have to build a variety of new skills to make their mission successful, from learning how to walk to producing an extraterrestrial version of reality TV, scientists say.

Simply walking on the moon is difficult but delightful, said Harrison Schmitt, who visited the moon in 1972 with the U.S. space agency's Apollo 17 mission.

"It's like a giant trampoline," he said at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.

Future astronauts will have better luck getting around if they train in cross-country skiing, Schmitt suggested.

The astronaut said he used a push-and-glide motion similar to cross-country skiing when he was on the moon. This allowed him to move comfortably at 6 to 7 miles (10 to 12 kilometers) an hour, a pace that makes him the fastest human in lunar history.

Learning to move quickly is about more than just having fun, he added.

Explorers are going to have to perform many vital tasks in short order, from building self-contained space habitats to obtaining precious water and oxygen from the lunar soil.

Mastering such tasks is among the first steps toward a successful moon base, which could become a launching point for more ambitious space missions.

"Settlement of the moon is the first step in settling the solar system," said G. Jeffrey Taylor, of the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology.

Moon Base Planned by 2024

Continued on Next Page >>




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