In 20 years from now, it may be possible to go on vacation to the Moon thanks to an ambitious plan recently announced by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Johann-Dietrich Woerner, head of the ESA, has revealed a vision of an international lunar base dubbed Moon Village, which could become a reality as early as by 2030. In a recent video by ESA, Woerner says that the establishment of a permanent settlement on the Moon, which would require a joint effort of all spacefaring nations, would be humanity’s next big step in space exploration. The Moon Village could be used for various purposes, including business, science and even tourism.
The lunar settlement would be built at the poles or on the far side of the Moon, in the areas with continuous daylight. At the same time, the South Pole, which has constant darkness and numerous craters with vast reserves of water ice, could be used to access the water and produce hydrogen and oxygen. In the Moon’s shadow, settlers would be safe from solar and cosmic radiation and would be at a lower risk of micrometeorite impacts.
Since 2013, the ESA has been working with private construction companies on developing and testing different technologies that could be exploited to build a lunar base. As a result, it was determined that the best solution would be to use natural resources found on the surface of the Moon, such as metals, minerals and water ice. It could be done with the help of a rover that would 3D-print building elements and structures out of these materials. Then, the rover would land on the surface and inflate a dome, after which a building would be constructed around it.
“First, we needed to mix the simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. This turns it into ‘paper’ we can print with,” said Enrico Dini of the UK-based manufacturing company Monolite. “Then for our structural ‘ink’, we apply a binding salt which converts material to a stone-like solid. Our current printer builds at a rate of around 2 meters per hour while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 meters per hour, completing an entire building in a week.”
Woerner says that the Moon Village could open up lots of possibilities not only for space exploration but also for business, mining and even tourism. However, to make this project a reality, the collaboration of all spacefaring nations would be necessary so that each country can contribute with technology and knowledge. The Moon Village would engage space agencies from countries such as USA, Russia, China, India and Japan, as well as other countries.
It is estimated that it will take about 20 years to build the technology necessary for the implementation of the plan. With all these exciting developments and projects we have seen in the last few years, including the Moon Village and the upcoming manned missions to Mars, it becomes clear that humanity is on the verge of a new era in space exploration.
Learn more about the Moon Village in the video below:
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Image credit: ESA