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Humanity's Long Road To Colonizing The Moon

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We've only been seriously trying for almost 400 years. We'll figure it out eventually.

1600s: The British Empire Tries to Take to the Stars

1600s: The British Empire Tries to Take to the Stars

John Wilkins, a British inventor in the 1640s, was the first person to attempt to reach the moon with manned flight. Convinced the moon was populated by an alien people he called the Selenites, Wilkins was adamant that Britain reach them in order to open up trade routes.

His plans were more wooden chariot than proper spaceship, consisting of a feathered vessel propelled by gunpowder. Thirty years and several scientific breakthroughs in physics and astronomy later, it was determined Wilkins' ideas were not yet feasible.

Image by John Gara/Buzzfeed

1835: The Great Moon Hoax Revitalizes Desire to Colonize the Moon

1835: The Great Moon Hoax Revitalizes Desire to Colonize the Moon

In the summer of 1835, the New York Sun published the astonishing findings of John Herschel, one of the most famous astronomers of the time. As the story went, Herschel used a cutting-edge piece of technology called a "hydro-oxygen magnifier" to invent a telescope capable of 42,000x zoom and aimed it at the moon. What he saw there was beyond belief…literally.

Massive trees, sandy beaches, majestic waterfalls, and more were projected onto Herschel's wall vis his new telescope. Lunar bison, lunar waterfowl, and lunar goats were living alongside Vespertilio-homo, or the sentient lunar Man-Bat. A race of beautiful, angelic creatures ruled the moon, and some suspiciously humanlike creations populated the middle class. While the hoax was short-lived, it spawned a renewed desire to reach the moon, if only to see these wonders firsthand.

Source: victoriangothic.org

1890s: Father of Astronautics Declares Humanity Must Visit the Stars

1890s: Father of Astronautics Declares Humanity Must Visit the Stars

Konstantin E. Tsiolkovsky was a Russian scientist who is now considered the father of Astronautics and Rocket Dynamics. As early as 1876, he was writing about space travel, albeit in the form of science fiction. He proposed not only traveling beyond Earth, but that it was crucial to humanity's survival as a species, stating, "The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever."

By the 1890s, Tsiolkovsky was well-known as a scientist, having moved from fictional musing to scientific papers on the subject. His visionary ideas included air-pressure locks, guided rockets, space habitats, and theories on how to deal with low or zero gravity. Tsiolkosvsky's formula dealing with the detailed calculations of the theoretical function of rockets in a vacuum are still considered crucial to the field of astronautics. During his life, he wrote over 500 scientific papers about rockets, spaceships, and moon and interstellar colonization.

Image by Fred T. Jane for "Guesses at Futurity" (1894)

1954: Arthur C. Clarke Proposes the First Practical Lunar Base Design

1954: Arthur C. Clarke Proposes the First Practical Lunar Base Design

A year before using his own plans in his novel Earthlight, Arthur C. Clarke announced plans for sustainable human habitation of the moon. Formed of inflatable igloo-shaped habitats covered in moon dust for insulation, colonies could maintain contact with one another with blow-up radio masts when not traveling via electric monorails. Power would come from nuclear reactors, and food would be grown on-site with hydroponic farms. Over time, Clarke proposed permanent domes of stronger material could be constructed, along with algae-based air purifiers and electromagnetic cannons to launch trade goods and fuel to interplanetary vessels orbiting the moon.


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