Moon Express: How close are humans to living in space?

Monday, August 08, 2016 by

After the arguably mixed success that we humans have had with running our home planet (top marks for inventiveness but less success with not killing each other), we have taken an important step towards colonising space, as the US government has given a Florida-based company permission to conduct the first ever private mission to the moon.

(Article by Kashmira Gander)

The space entrepreneurs of Moon Express aim to send the MX-1 – a craft the size of a washing machine dubbed a “hot rod of space” – to the natural satellite by late 2017. Moon Express is set to unveil the rover in September. In a mission statement that emphasises the moon’s unclear, and potentially corporate, future, Moon Express said their plans for the near future involve mining resources to send back to Earth and burying people’s ashes – including those of co-founder Dr Bob Richards’s father – on its surface.

“We are now free to set sail as explorers to Earth’s eighth continent, the Moon, seeking new knowledge and resources to expand Earth’s economic sphere for the benefit of all humanity,” Dr Richards announced in an appropriately lofty statement in response to the US government’s verdict.


The Bernal sphere, a type of space habitat first proposed in 1929 by John Desmond Bernal. Such a settlement would hold 10,000 people and orbit the Earth (Nasa/National Space Society)

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A huge amount of international cooperation is required for humanity to take any of these brave steps. John Bridges, professor of planetary science at Leicester University’s Space Research Centre, believes that such missions have the potential to unite world powers.

“If we can do it for the International Space Station, why not large space missions like to the Moon and Mars? However, it will require a high degree of co-operation. Perhaps it will act to help unite the aims of countries,” he says.

Dr Macdonald cautions that we should learn from our behaviour on Earth as we look to explore the universe. We don’t have another choice.

“Humans have a habit of being rather quarrelsome with each other. We have a habit of overusing resources. It would be good to work with the environment rather than work against it. If we were leaving Earth we’d be faced with very hostile environments.”

We have no choice but to venture into space – but we should proceed with uncharacteristic caution.

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