How Many People Could Live on the Moon?

February 14, 2024

Since 1969, only 12 people have ever set foot on the Moon — all astronauts from NASA’s Apollo missions, which took place between 1969 and 1972. But there are big plans to bring back humans to the Moon for a long stay. In fact, one official says it could happen sooner than we think.

That’s not so easy, though. It would take a lot more than just a spacecraft to create a habitat that can support a human colony on the Moon, and there’s no guarantee that a lunar home will be comfortable enough for humans.

First off, there’s the matter of the Moon’s climate. The Moon has a very thin atmosphere and much lower gravity than Earth, so it can be cold and windy. Then there’s the matter of radiation, which can do some pretty nasty things to human physiology. A sheltered underground settlement would help, but it’d also reduce the total amount of living space you could use.

The good news is that the Moon has a lot of water, and it’s not in the form of ice, which requires special machinery to extract it. It’s actually in the soil, in a form called regolith that’s a mixture of dust, larger particles and sand. It’s 42% oxygen, which can be harvested using heat and electricity.

Another source of the gas is in the solar winds that roar across the Moon’s surface. They’re charged with protons, and when they collide with the atoms of the Moon’s surface, they make hydrogen and oxygen. These can be used to make rocket propellant for the trips to and from Earth, as well as to supply the colonies with drinking water and air.

Mission

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