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What If You Were Born On The Moon?

VO: Ashley Bowman WRITTEN BY: Craig Butler
Human beings have travelled to the moon, Neil Armstrong famously took 'one small step for mankind' there, but we haven't yet set up the Moon colonies that some were expecting. That's still the stuff of science fiction! But what would life be like if you were actually born on the moon? How would your life experience differ from everyone else's?

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What If You Were Born on the Moon?

According to the original “Lost in Space” TV series, America should have been sending families into space since 1997. In “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the Moon had already been colonized. But somehow, in spite of the great technological advances we have enjoyed in recent decades, we humans still lag behind when it comes to relocating anywhere other than Earth. Despite what decades of science fiction authorities have promised us, we’re still a long way from answering some basic but burning questions. Like, what would happen if you were born on the Moon?

It’s a simple query, but not one that’s easily answered. And there are a few factors that have to be considered first. Namely, before a person can be born they obviously have to be conceived – and conception on the Moon (or anywhere in space) raises some important variables as well.

Such as, and not to put too fine a point on it, but what if a couple can’t actually do the deed while on the Moon? As we all know, the Moon’s gravity is much weaker than the Earth’s – being about one-sixth as strong. But lower gravity decreases blood pressure, and without a good rush of blood to the male reproductive organ, sex could prove difficult. And even if a couple does achieve a successful ‘rendezvous-and-docking’ procedure, the decreased gravity makes it slightly more tricky for the sperm to travel to the egg. Then there’s the radiation problem, as traveling in space or on the Moon exposes a person to much more cosmic radiation – and that’s bad news for sperm counts, and potentially for egg fertility too!

But let’s assume that the scientists at NASA have done their homework and found ways around these potential problems, and – voila! – conception has happened. There are still possible (and significant) hurdles to consider, like whether the lower gravity would keep the baby from turning and developing as it should. Or whether the gravity shift might also affect a mother’s ability to push during labor. All in, it’d be an extremely unethical experiment to undertake - with unknown risks at every corner - but if humans really are headed for the stars, then a space pregnancy is inevitable in the future.

So again, let’s stay positive and assume that the world’s space experts can solve these seismic challenges. What if you actually were successfully born on the Moon? Just as the Moon’s weaker gravity plays such an important role in making a baby, it also plays a big part in how that baby grows and develops.

Back here, the kid would be first choice pick on any school basketball team because they’d be taller than they would have been on Earth. When astronauts travel in weightless space for an extended period of time, they tend to grow a couple of inches as their spinal chords expand. Exactly how much taller a person would be if they were born and raised on the Moon is hard to estimate, but the chances are it would be noticeable. Plus, for as long as they stay on the Moon, they’d be able to jump higher and further – because there’s less gravity to pull them down.

However, while they might have increased height, they wouldn’t necessarily have effective coordination. Experiments have already shown that mice born in space have trouble with balance and orientation, so our hypothetical Moon-based basketball player might actually suck at passing, dribbling and shooting.

Plus, their skeletons would likely be significantly less resilient, as bones can quickly waste away or disfigure in space without appropriate exercise. This isn’t usually a problem for specifically trained astronauts, but it would prove incredibly problematic throughout a child’s development. So, it’s probable that a Moon baby’s bones would be considerably weaker – although it may not be a particular issue until they travel back to somewhere like Earth, where the gravity is more substantial.

Sticking with the gravity problem – it might also have an effect on a Moon baby’s appearance. While, they’re definitely not going to turn into a little green man or any other ET-style stereotype, our bodies are full of fluids - and that’s where the changes might happen. On Earth, the higher gravity pulls the fluids further down into our bodies. But on the Moon, our faces and limbs might appear noticeably puffier than we’re otherwise accustomed to - because there’s less force on those fluids.

Of course, the strength of gravity isn’t the only difference between life on Earth and on the Moon. There’s also the small matter of food and water. Food doesn’t really exist on the Moon, and while there is evidence of naturally-occurring Lunar water, it’s frozen and extremely difficult to access. So, a Moon baby isn’t going to last very long - unless they’re born as part of a premeditated mission from Earth, in which case you’d hope mission control will have rationed appropriately.

Someday, a process might be developed to grow food on the Moon, but the high-tech greenhouses seen in science fiction are still quite a long way off. Instead, a Moon baby would have to make do with the same kind of appetising food that astronauts eat – tubes of pureed nutrients or freeze-dried specialties like thermos-stabilized turkey and gravy. So, the menu is pretty limited! And Moon babies aren’t likely to list ‘gourmet chef’ as one of their career options.

Then there’s the everyday challenge of water. To import drinking water from Earth is A) difficult and B) hugely expensive, at around $400,000 per gallon. And that’s not even for the sparkling kind! Throughout their childhood and life in space, Moon babies would have to survive on the bare minimum for water, and their culinary choices would be low – which would likely all add up to serious and unprecedented health and nutrition deficiencies.

And that’s before we’ve even factored in that days on the Moon are really long. One lunar day equals either 27.3 or 29.5 Earth days – depending on whether you subscribe to the Sidereal or Synodic definitions of a ‘day’. But in either case, it’s a lot longer than the day/night cycle down here. And since humans usually find that simply switching to and from daylight savings time wreaks havoc on their circadian rhythms, it’s likely that growing up with almost month-long days would be a strain. And if a Moon baby’s sleep needs are similar to ours on Earth, it would also mean going to bed often when the sun’s high overhead and eating breakfast in pitch darkness – you gotta love that dehydrated bacon!

Finally, the sun. Anyone born on the Moon might be able to bask in sunlight for days on end – but with a vastly different atmosphere, they wouldn’t get the benefits that we do on Earth, and the risks would dramatically increase. For one, they’d be way more exposed to those cosmic rays we mentioned earlier, the ones which might adversely affect a prospective father’s sperm count, which could bring about wide-reaching health problems - including the development of cancers, Alzheimer’s Disease and long-term effects for the Central Nervous System.

To try and avoid damage, you’d need to live somewhere where the rays were least likely to cause trouble – perhaps near the poles, where the temperature wouldn’t fluctuate as much as elsewhere on the surface. But there’s really no escaping the massive health risks, unless human invention has counteracted the problems by the time a Moon baby is born.

And all of this before we’ve even breached the probably immense psychological impact of being born and raised on the Moon – especially if you’re the first, or one of the first, Moon babies in existence. Because that kid will likely only ever interact with its own parents or a very small, space-based community. A Moon baby’s development of social skills would become a source of research and experiment in itself, given the uniqueness of their situation. They’d also grow up without experiencing the diversity of animal and wildlife that we enjoy. So, if they ever did travel back to Earth, they’d likely feel as lost and out of place as most of us would feel if we travelled to the Moon.

And even if some kind of future Moon colony had access to some form of future Earth internet, with YouTube or whatever the future equivalent may be, Moon babies would miss out on all the Earthly cultural touchstones of their generation - although they’d also be an Earth icon themselves, because of the scientific advancement that they’d symbolise. So, say a Moon baby returned to Earth – if the change in gravity doesn’t crush them, then the endless cultural barriers could make everyday life all but impossible.

But then again, us regular Earthlings don’t know what it’s like to bounce ten feet into the air with every step we take, without even breaking a sweat. So, it’s all a matter of perspective.

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