Astronauts could live in a 3D-printed ‘village’ on the surface of the moon in as little as 15 years under plans put forward by the European Space Agency.
Officials from around the world recently discussed proposals for the first permanent base on the moon designed to replace the International Space Station.
They proposed using 3D printing technology to create a series of permanent structures using the lunar soil, known as regolith, which could used to house astronauts by 2030.
This lunar village could be used as a settlement for the first humans to live in a permanent base on the moon, while also supporting new types of scientific research. The base could also serve as a staging point to launch future missions to other planets, such as Mars. Esa has begun to take a lead role in the push to establish a base on the moon after Nasa said it does not intend to be the lead in future manned missions on the lunar surface. Instead, the American space agency is focusing on sending humans to an asteroid and then on to the surface of Mars. However, Jan Woerner, who took over as director general of Esa in July, has said he is keen to send humans back to the moon. Speaking to Le Temps he said: ‘Abandoned by man for 43 years, it remains the only planet attainable by human missions with current technology, but remains poorly understood.
‘For scientists, if the Earth has changed massively since its formation due to vegetation and animals, the moon constitutes a silent archive of the solar system.’
He said he wanted to see a lunar base becoming the replacement to the International Space Station, which is currently orbiting the Earth. He described a vision to establish a ‘village’ on the moon with multiple countries from around the world that could serve as a base for scientific, space tourism and even mining activities on the moon. He said: ‘There is the regolith - an ideal material for making concrete. We could mould structures, such as an astronomical observatory, on the far side.’
Space exploration experts from around the world met in Noorwijk, the Netherlands, last month for the Esa-led international symposium entitled Moon 2020-2030: A New Era of Coordinated Human and Robotic Exploration. They discussed new technologies that could help to support human life on the moon including new space suits, habitats and ways of producing food.