Governments should work with private space companies to make lunar colonies a reality in our lifetime

• Chris Hadfield is an astronaut

The history of all species is that our offspring tend to leave home in search of new habitations and locations in which to settle and live. That’s how bumblebees, ants and human populations have spread across the planet. Incremental exploration is followed by settlement. It’s fundamental animal nature: it’s what we do. Yet, on a planetary scale, we’re always somewhat limited both by our ability to improvise and come up with new ways to do it, and how to fund it.

We’ve had a permanent presence in space for the past 18 years, on the International Space Station. And we’re also now, thanks in part to privately funded initiatives such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX or Blue Origin – the space-flight company founded by Jeff Bezos – suddenly beginning to see Mars as we never have before. The growing public interest in these endeavours will encourage the intensification of meaningful space exploration. Look at the popularity of movies such as Gravity, Interstellar or The Martian. A futuristic new TV drama series called The First, from House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, imagines the first human mission to Mars and interplanetary colonisation. There’s a new wave of public interest because the crossover between dreams and technology is enabling us to do things we could only imagine before.

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Read More Life on the moon – it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds | Chris Hadfield

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