As space agencies prepare to return humans to the moon, top engineers are racing to design a tunnel-boring machine capable of digging underground colonies for the first lunar inhabitants. "Space is becoming a passion for a lot of people again. There are discussions about going back to the moon, this time to stay," said mining engineer Jamal Rostami at this year's World Tunnel Congress in Naples. The US wants Nasa to put humans back on the moon by 2024, and the agency is also drawing up plans for a "gateway" station to serve as a platform for astronauts. Billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are among those competing for military, civil or commercial launches, with Musk's SpaceX leading the race. But the harsh conditions on the moon mean that, once up there, humans need to be shielded from radiation and freezing temperatures. They also need protection from meteorite strikes. "Imagine something the size of my fist as a piece of rock coming at 10-12km per second; it can hit anything an...

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