A series of American agencies and companies from both the government and the private sector (including Space-X, Blue Origin, NASA, and others) have announced a partnership to begin construction of a rock climbing wall on the surface of the moon.
The wall, which will consist of around two-dozen toprope routes approximately 50 feet in height, is to be built inside a fully-enclosed, pressurized, and oxygenated geodesic dome on the lunar surface, allowing climbers to climb without any additional apparatus.
“When our astronauts head into space, staying in shape always proves difficult,” said a NASA spokesperson. “Sometimes our people are up there for months on end performing research, and in low gravity conditions, we’ve found that their musculature weakens dramatically over time. As a result, we’ve decided on rock climbing as an excellent exercise for our team members to maintain proper conditioning and strength during extended missions in outer space.”
The climbing wall system will reportedly function via a cutting-edge auto belay, where a traditional upward belay is used in addition to a downward pulling strand of webbing to counteract the effects of reduced gravity on the lunar surface. In theory, this combination of upward and downward tension will produce a similar effect to climbing under Earth’s gravity, but it remains to be seen how well this will play out in practice. “It’s not going to be the same experience, but the idea here is that an astronaut can exercise on our lunar wall and experience the same gravitational resistance they’d find when rock climbing in a climbing gym on Earth,” said NASA’s spokesperson.
As a result of this simulated gravity system, no bouldering section will be included. No official press release mentioned the grades of the routes planned. NASA indicated that difficulties will vary but won’t stretch much beyond the moderate range. “The idea here is to maintain physical fitness, not to push the boundaries of the sport,” their spokesperson added.
While construction is not slated to begin until mid-2023, the lunar climbing wall represents just one of a wide series of outdoor lifestyle development projects planned for the surface of the moon, including the construction of a surfing simulator, a BMX track, and a skateboard halfpipe. While initially access to the wall will be restricted to employees of the entities involved, both government and private, a Space-X spokesperson admitted that commercialization is an eventual goal.
“The real idea is for people to be able to book a trip to go climbing on the moon, in the near future.”
Owen Clarke is a writer currently based in Tennessee. He is a Contributing Digital Editor at Rock and Ice and Gym Climber. He enjoys Southern sandstone and fish tacos, and is afraid of heights.
Follow him on Instagram at @opops13.