The head of the European Space Agency is set on building a permanent lunar base. The team behind this vision offers a glimpse of Moon Village
By Adrienne Harebottle
It was around half a century ago that the Russians first landed there. Then it was the Americans that first walked there. Reaching the moon was, indeed, a great step for mankind. But how then shall we define the creation of Moon Village? It will be mankind’s first permanent lunar base. The project, of course, has to be achieved first, which will be no lean feat.
A complete overview of this audacious project is not available at present; however, the head of the European Space Agency (ESA) and his team offer some insight into this great vision , which will be the culmination of many nations’ efforts, similarly to International Space Station: a truly global project.
“My intention is to build a permanent base station on the moon. It will be an open station for different member states and different states around the globe. [Realising this project] will be the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese. It will also be the Indians, the Japanese, and even more countries with smaller contributions. The advantage of the idea of Moon Village is that we don’t need a lot of funding in the beginning. This means that we can start with a small landing mission, which many countries are already planning, up to a huge investment for a radio telescope, for example, on the far side of the moon. Moon Village has multiple uses by multiple users but all on a single place,” says Jan Woerner, Director General of ESA.
Such diversity requires huge commitments from a multitude of players, but following in the spirit of the Apollo era and taking advantage of the faster rate that technological developments are now achieved today, the team behind Moon Village believes it’s possible.
“We did this in the 1960s within a decade and today, in terms of technology development, we’re much further ahead. Of course we can do it again,” says Andreas Mogensen, astronaut at ESA. “There is a huge development cycle that has to be started again; from developing the rockets that will take us into orbit, transfer and land us on the moon, and then the bases that we’ll live in on the moon. It’s the entire suite of technology that we need to develop.”
In addition to overcoming the technological challenges, the team also needs to counter the elements that threaten any moon base, with principle threats including solar and cosmic radiation, micro meteorites and extreme temperatures. ESA is currently working on using lunar soil to build protective domes with the help of 3D printers. In order to enable the construction of the base and support the lives of the astronauts living there, the team is looking to use minerals, metals and ice found in the lunar poles, viewing the moon as a great source of resources.
Will mankind achieve this massive dream? Only time will tell, with 2020 looking like an important year. The Chinese are planning a lunar sample return mission, the Russians, with the support of ESA, are developing a robotic lander and NASA’s Orion capsule with an ESA service module should fly around the moon before 2020. That’s not so far away but it sure is far out!