What Are the Actual Benefits of Building a Permanent Moon Base?

Which country will be first to establish a Moon base? Will international treaties still be relevant on Earth's only natural satellite?
moon base

What would be the advantages for a country owning a moon base? There would be many potential advantages for a country owning a moon base, including:

  • Launchpad for future missions to Mars and other parts of the solar system.
  • Research station for studies in astronomy, geology, and other sciences.
  • Military outpost, giving a country a strategic advantage in space.
  • Tourist destinations give a country a new source of revenue.

UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) has done a preliminary investigation into which caves on the Moon may make a suitable moon base. Not everywhere on the Moon is ideal for settlements. The Moon’s surface can reach 260°F (127°C) during the day and 280°F (138°C) below zero at night.

The Artemis mission is the first step towards a Moon settlement

NASA’s first step toward making a lunar outpost is the upcoming Artemis mission. If the Artemis program is successful, it will reestablish a human presence on the Moon for the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. 


The Artemis program’s main components include:

  • The Space Launch System (SLS).
  • Orion spacecraft.
  • Commercial Human Landing Systems.
  • Starship HLS.
  • The Lunar Gateway space station.

The Lunar Gateway space station, or simply Gateway, is a proposed orbital small space station that will serve as a solar-powered communication hub, science laboratory, short-term habitation module for government astronauts, and storage area for rovers and other robots. It is an international collaboration project involving four International Space Station partner agencies: NASA, ESA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). It is intended to be the first space station beyond low Earth orbit as well as the first to orbit the Moon.

GATEWAY Moon Space Station

However, unlike Russian and Chinese plans for the Moon, the Luna Gateway will only be orbiting the Moon. Russia and China have stated that the planning phase is well underway for the construction of structures on the Moon slated to start in 2026, for completion of a crewed and operational Moonbase by 2036. If all goes according to plan, the Russian and Chinese stations will feature a lunar orbiter, a large, multi-level habitat to enable surface-based activities, and play host to several lunar rovers.


Interest in space is no longer just for geeks

People should stop viewing space exploration and colonization as a nerdy fanatical academic exercise with random probes to Titan and Jupiter. Space exploration is no longer just a drain on the government’s tax dollars. NASA, major corporations, and the world’s militaries are all calculating how much supremacy in space is worth. The global space industry earned approximately $370 billion in 2020, the majority of which came from the production of rockets, satellites, and the hardware and software that goes with them. According to Morgan Stanley, a US investment bank, the space industry could generate $1 trillion in less than 20 years.

Morgan Stanley’s growth predictions are based on what we already know about the growth numbers concerning economic activity in Earth’s orbit and what it might take to get set up on the Moon. The US military’s new Space Command branch is a significant driver in economic forecasts about the space industry’s growth. Economic predictions so far don’t yet show how quickly the Moon could become a central financial hub. Companies like Lonestar are already testing the concept of placing data centers on the Moon. On Earth, the data center industry has an estimated market growth worth of 615.96 billion over the next four years.

What would a future moon base be like?

Bill Gourgey writing for popsci.com, makes the following points. Recently, everyone has been looking at the Moon. NASA is planning to try to launch the highly anticipated uncrewed Artemis 1 mission to orbit Earth’s satellite again this month. This is one of the first steps toward setting up a base on the Moon’s surface. Gourgey describes in his article how people and science fiction writers have dreamed of a moon base for a long time, one that would be a part of deep space travel in the future. 

Moon Base by NASA/SAIC/Pat Rawlings

Gourgey quotes the writings of Arthur C. Clarke, the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society. He wrote an article in the April 1952 issue of Popular Science about what he thought a settlement on the Moon might look like. This was about five years before Sputnik and 17 years before the Apollo missions. Clarke, who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, imagined new systems off Earth, such as spacesuits that looked like armor, hydroponic farms with glass domes, water mining and oxygen extraction for fuel, igloo-shaped huts, and even railroads.

Gourgey writes no one knows what will happen next. There’s no doubt that the tech moguls behind private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are putting a lot of money into space right now.

International conflicts

Unfortunately, we live in an era where space exploration isn’t driven for the greater good and scientific collaboration. Vande Hei, a retired military officer who lived on the ISS with Russian cosmonauts when Russia invaded Ukraine, is worried about international conflicts stopping space programs.


He explains that exploring space or building a moon base won’t be our top priority if there’s a world war in Europe or we’re just trying to stay alive here on Earth. But he also sees the good in it. He thinks that international competition or a race to build a moon base is an excellent way to make people feel like they need to act quickly. The global conflict has perhaps created the catalyst to build a moon base within this generation.

The fact that no major spacefaring nations signed The Moon Treaty, proposed in 1979, regarding responsibilities in the use and development of outer space speaks volumes. Since then, the ownership of the Moon and how businesses can claim it has become a legal grey area.

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Even though a 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty exists where participating countries agree that no country can lay claim to the Moon, not all countries have ratified it. If history has taught us anything, governments can be very forgetful about honoring treaties. The United States has broken treaties with Native American tribes in the past, most notably the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1851 during the gold rush. When competition for resources is at play, governments forget their commitments. There is a race, as it were, to control the Moon’s resources.


What do you think?

Some people believe that establishing a permanent moon base on would be beneficial because it would allow for more moon exploration and research. Others argue that a permanent moon base is unnecessary because there are other ways to explore and research the Moon (such as through robotic missions). Individual nations and space agencies must ultimately decide whether or not to establish a permanent base on the Moon.

Featured image credit: Moon base by Shutterstock.com