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04   Building a Lunar Settlement

About this Activity
In this activity you'll learn what is needed sustain human life on the moon. Many of the things that we take for granted are unavailable in the harsh lunar environment. You and your family will build a model lunar settlement that provides all the necessities for healthy and happy human inhabitants.

Moon base illustration
An artists depiction of a possible future lunar settlement.

 What You'll Need
1 piece of posterboard or thin plywood, about 1 to 1 1/2-foot square (30 x 50 centimeters)

A variety of building supplies:
scrap wood, cardboard, posterboard, construction paper, straws, cardboard tubes, pins, nails, corks, tape, glue, plastic cups, paper cups, Styrofoam cups, plastic wrap, plastic bags, wire, Styrofoam balls, Styrofoam packing blocks, and anything else you can think of.
A variety of tools:
hand saws, hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, clamps, utility knives, diagonal cutters, scissors, sandpaper, etc.

Note: You may want to modify tools and materials for younger family members. Use the necessary caution when using any of the tools listed.


Facts You'll Need to Know About the Moon

Water: In the form of ice (found by NASA's Prospector mission in 1998)

Diameter: 2,159 miles (3,476 kilometers)
Distance from Earth: 238,606 miles (384,000 kilometers)

Atmosphere: None

Mean surface temperature in the day: 224° Fahrenheit (107° Celsius)

Mean surface temperature at night: -243° Fahrenheit (-153° Celsius)

Gravity: 15% of that on Earth. A person who weights 110 pounds (50 kilograms) on Earth would weigh 16.5 pounds (7.5 kilograms) on the Moon.

Rotational period or lunar day: 27.3 Earth days



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What to Do
1 Gather all your supplies and tools. The posterboard or plywood represents the lunar surface. All the other building materials will be used to construct your model settlement.
2 Begin to build a model moon settlement. Have family members pretend that they are going to live on the moon for at least a year. Encourage a discussion of what would be needed in your model settlement to provide happy living and survival for an extended period of time. Label and discuss the purpose of each structure in your lunar base. For example, label "oxygen tanks" or the "recreation area" accordingly. Review the "What You'll Need to Know About the Moon" section and make sure that your settlement takes into account all aspects of the lunar environment.


What's Going On
This activity helps illustrate the differences between our environment and that of the Moon. Many of the things that are required to sustain life such as an Earthlike atmosphere, climate, and gravity need to be recreated on the Moon. This activity demonstrates some of the challenges that will need to be overcome if we ever decide to build a permanent settlement on the Moon.

Related Websites

Scientific American: Home Sweet Home: The discovery of water on the moon may speed plans
to build permanent lunar bases and colonies

NASA's Lunar Prospector Homepage

Apollo Lunar Surface Journal

Building a Lunar Settlement Adapted from "Building a Lunar Colony" from PASS (Planetarium Activities for Student Success), Volume 7:"Moons of Jupiter," © 1995 UC Regents, produced by the Astronomy Education Program of the Lawrence Hall of Science.

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