“To infinity and beyond!”

Okay…I couldn’t help myself. It’s the first thing I thought of when I started writing this post. In case you’ve been under a rock for the past 20 years, it’s the catchphrase of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear. Though it’s just a line from a popular kids movie, it actually provokes some thought.  

The idea of exploration inhibits our imagination at the earliest of age. As a child, we wonder off to new spaces out of pure curiosity. We look to the stars and imagine ourselves soaring amongst them. This urge to explore is what led our ancestors to find new lands. It’s what put us on the moon so long ago. The idea of “To infinity and beyond” doesn’t die when we grow older. We just get bogged down with adult responsibilities and the curiosity diminishes to small space in the back of our mind. That is, until something comes around to spark it once again.

My curiosity of space exploration was sparked recently when attending AIASA’s presentation on “Mars Habitat: Interplanetary Architecture”.  

The race for colonization on Mars is very real. Little did I know that San Antonio plays a role in this race. The WEX Foundation is a local organization whose purpose is to advance the vision for space exploration. Here is the full description from their About Page:

The WEX Foundation (WEXF) was established to promote, encourage and support the convergence of technology and education as applied to new visions for human space exploration and its long-term implications for the educational development of the nation’s next generation of scientist, engineers, mathematicians and technologists, beginning with K-12 education.

In 2006, The WEX Foundation received a $1.24 million space education grant. In 2019, they were awarded another grant for $750k. So they’re not playing around. This is a legitimate organization that is setting the foundation for interplanetary colonization.

People always think about how cool it would be to live on the moon or another planet. Yet, we never really think about all the complications to build a sustainable habitat on such foreign soil. The WEX Foundation thinks about these kind of things.

Let me give you an example:

What are we going to build interplanetary structures out of? On Earth, we take for granted that anytime we want to build something, there’s an ample amount of material around to create pretty much anything. But if you’re on the moon, there’s no concrete or wood lying around. We can’t really pack up spaceships with all this building material, it would be completely inefficient. For argument’s sake though, let’s say we could. We don’t know how the Earth’s building material will sustain on the moon.

So what do you do? You create new building material out of the moon’s natural resources. This means coming up with a brand new process to create material that will be sustainable for living structures. So now you have to take “moon dirt” and figure out how to make bricks out of it!

This is just one example I learned at the presentation put on by Founder and Board Chair of WEX, Samuel W. Ximenes. His presentation answered so many questions that I didn’t know I had. I could try to explain more, but I’d probably muddy the waters even more. So, here are a couple of videos he showed that were very informative: