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There's a great book called "Welcome to Moonbase" by Ben Bova (1987) written from the perspective of an established colony on the moon providing an information handbook for someone recently relocated to live and work there. A lot of ground is covered, from governance, technology, buildings, recreation, mining, food, farming. I have fond memories of reading this book, and this article reminded me of it. I think about that book often, it was, like this article, very inspiring. It's interesting to see how the ideas about moon habitation have, and have not, changed over the past 30 years. The mention of "3d printing" the building structures in this piece, for example.

I would expect tunneling to take the place of printing buildings, for a couple of reasons. First, you can process the tunnel machine tailings for resources like water ice, which you can then use for air and fuel and biology. Second, you can live in the tunnels, which would give you as many meters of regolith as radiation shielding as you wanted. And, interesting side fact, the Boring Company TBM will fit inside a BFR.



TBMs are heavy. While the Boring Company TBM can fit inside a BFR, the BFR does not have enough payload capacity to lift it. The TBM weighs around 1100 metric tons[0], while BFR's payload capacity is 100 metric tons. Water ice has only been confirmed to exist in permanently shadowed craters. We know it's there, we aren't sure what form it's in. Printing could be used to directly do processing. In the printing processes they outlined, regolith is heated up and melted. This is enough to drive out any volatiles including water from the regolith all one has to do is provide a means for capturing them. This might involve printing in a bubble or having a cold trap near where the regolith is melted. Of course the big question is how much benefit there is to printing structures on the moon vs. shipping up structures from earth. A promising approach is to bury structures launched from earth. Where we send up as lightweight a habitat as possible and use the regolith for radiation shielding. One very interesting means of burying structures on the Moon is to make a rover that goes around mining regolith and when it's full, uses a catapult to throw the regolith on top of the habitat[1]. Because gravity is low and there's no atmosphere, regolith can be transported quite far ballisticaly. [0]https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42143.140 [1]https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/199300...

Interesting. I just finished The God's Themselves by Asimov and the moon colony was all underground in that book.

It was also underground in the Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Heinlein)

20th century science fiction should always be taken as a how to guide for space colonisation. Now about that FTL transport.

The links you posted show that 1/2m of slightly compacted regolith provide adequate protection from most radiation. It might be that 3d printing some components and burying them in regolith is much easier than large-scale excavation, at least during the first years of a hypothetical colony.

> the Boring Company TBM will fit inside a BFR.

Interesting. So far, there has been a lot of synergy between Musk's companies. But I failed to understand where the Boring Company fit (other than the obvious and boring 'tunnels for cars' angle).

IIRC Musk even talked about underground transports on Mars.

> Furthermore, shallow moonquakes lasted a remarkably long time. Once they got going, all continued more than 10 minutes. "The moon was ringing like a bell," Neal says.

> The moon, however, is dry, cool and mostly rigid, like a chunk of stone or iron. So moonquakes set it vibrating like a tuning fork. Even if a moonquake isn't intense, "it just keeps going and going," Neal says. And for a lunar habitat, that persistence could be more significant than a moonquake's magnitude.

The dryness of the Moon presents an interesting challenge to tunnel boring machines that I don't often see addressed.

[1] https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/home/15mar_moonquakes.html

Do moonquakes imply a hot core and shifting tectonic plates?

Definitely no tectonic plates. Yes, there's a hot core.


I wonder if there's a power generation opportunity there.

Quell quakes and generate electricity at the same time.

Are you thinking massively scaled up piezoelectrics?

There is a massive network of existing moon tunnels. Big enough to support a city of millions. Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic plans to explore them.

Many tubes are big enough for regulation-sized moonball courts. Together with moon dune dirtbiking, the moon might have a promising sports economy.



Not to mention the added benefit of doing some valuable underground research during the process.

Wouldn't it be game changing if we found fossils really deep inside the moon as we did this? If the impact that hit Earth to form the cluster of rocks that eventually settled into what is now our Moon, I wouldn't expect it to pulverize earth into dust but rather into large pieces. Imagine of some fossils were encased in some of the larger rocks, which later settled deep inside the lunar core.

The impact of the body that created the moon is meant to have taken place in the early Hadean, long before the Earths surface cooled enough to support life.

You're right of course. Your comment lead to me reading about Hadean and Archean which has been quite interesting.

Alas I doubt the colliding bodies were solid and cooled enough for non vapor water yet, so fossils if any, would be limited to things like volcanic vent single cell organisms or virus.

The problem is, burning those fossil fuels takes oxygen. Oxygen on the moon would probably be too precious to use that way.

Pretty sure they're talking about paleontology, not fuel.

Not entirely true. Burning things requires an oxidizer, not necessarily oxygen. Other oxidizers include chlorine, fluorine, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide.

Oxygen is pretty abundant in lunar regolith. I'm not sure about how much energy it will take to extract it.

Why tunnel when there are already lava tubes?

It might interest you that NASA has already been offering prizes for developing the tech for 3D printing lunar structures - https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-awards-400000-to-top...

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