Humans could live on the Moon within 10 years to "help solve Earth's problems", a leading space expert has sensationally claimed.
Astrophysicist and software engineer Jessy Kate Schingler said "there's real reason to think that we could see people starting to live and work on the Moon in the next decade".
In a TED Talk published this week, she added that as many as hundreds of thousands of us could end up on there.
Ms Schingler says: "While estimates vary, scientists think there could be up to a billion metric tons of water ice on the Moon.
"That's greater than the size of Lake Erie, and enough water to support perhaps hundreds of thousands of people living and working on the Moon.
"So although official plans are always evolving, there's real reason to think that we could see people starting to live and work on the Moon in the next decade."
NASA and China are aiming to launch significant missions in the coming years, both of which aim to increase humanity's presence there.
But what excites Ms Schingler most about the missions is the "opportunity to update our democratic institutions and the rule of law to respond to a new era of planetary-scale challenges".
She argues that human life on the Moon could help redefine how our society is even structured.
She says the Moon can be a "petri dish" for governance which isn't built on "the idea of state sovereignty, on the appropriation of land and resources within borders and the autonomy to control free access within those borders".
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Ms Schingler says: "By requiring free access and preventing territorial appropriation, we are required to redesign our most basic institutions, and perhaps in doing so, learn something new we can apply here on Earth."
She adds: "Now, some people think that the lack of rules on the Moon is terrifying. And there are legitimately some terrifying elements of it.
"If there are no rules on the Moon, then won't we end up in a first-come, first-served situation? And we might, if we dismiss this moment. But not if we're willing to be bold and to engage the challenge.
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"As we learned in our communities of self-governance, it's easier to create something new than trying to dismantle the old.
"And where else but the Moon can we prototype new institutions at global scale in a self-contained environment with the exact design constraints needed for our biggest challenges here on Earth?"
This week the UK Space Agency, NASA and other partners signed a historic agreement on principles for space ahead of a future mission to the Moon.
The US worked with the UK, along with other spacefaring nations including Japan, Australia, Canada, Italy and the UAE, to develop the Artemis Accords, a set of principles to ensure a shared understanding of safe operations, use of space resources, minimising space debris and sharing scientific data.
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How humans could live on the Moon in the next decade
NASA's Artemis mission will be the first time any humans have set foot on the lunar surface since the last Apollo lunar mission in 1972.
In 2024, Artemis III will be humanity’s return to the surface of the Moon.
Critical to the Artemis program will be NASA's separate Gateway mission, this will be an outpost orbiting the Moon that provides vital support for a sustainable, long-term human return to the lunar surface, as well as a staging point for deep space exploration.
While NASA has not made a final decision to use the Gateway for Artemis III, Artemis IV and beyond will send crew aboard Orion to dock to the Gateway, where two crew members can stay aboard the spaceship in orbit while two go to the surface.
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Over time, the outpost will evolve, with new modules added by international partners, allowing crew members to conduct increasingly longer lunar missions.
As detailed in the agency’s concept for surface sustainability earlier this year, an incremental buildup of infrastructure on the surface will follow later this decade, allowing for longer surface expeditions with more crew.
That concept calls for an Artemis Base Camp that would include new rovers, power systems, habitats, and more on the surface for long-term exploration of the Moon.
And NASA aren't the only ones hoping to build a colony on the Moon.
In April 2019, China National Space Administration head Zhang Kejian announced the country is planning to land crew on the Moon's south pole "within the next 10 years".
It aims to build a research station there, developed through a number of upcoming robotic Chang’e missions across the 2020s and expanded through the 2030s.
The project, named the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), is now aiming to attract international partners to help achieve a long-term human presence at the lunar south pole.
The mission's objectives include “construction and operation of human(ity)’s first sharing platform in the lunar south pole, supporting long-term, large-scale scientific exploration, technical experiments and development and utilisation of lunar resources", according to a presentation to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) earlier this year.
Both The Russian State Corporation for Space Activities (Roscosmos) and the European Space Agency(ESA) have had discussions with China over contributing to the project.
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