In 2016, the head of the ESA elaborated on plans to build a village on the moon, designed by London firm Foster + Partners.
‘The future of space travel needs a new vision,’ said Jan Woerner.
The concept is a base for lunar exploration by humans and robots, which would act as a stopover for spacecraft, and become a ‘village’ with mining and even tourism.
Multi-dome lunar base being constructed, based on the 3D printing concept. Once assembled, the inflated domes are covered with a layer of 3D-printed lunar regolith by robots to help protect the occupants against space radiation and micrometeoroids
‘Right now we have the Space Station as a common international project, but it won’t last forever,’ said Woerner.
‘If I say Moon Village, it does not mean single houses, a church, a town hall and so on. No, that would be misleading.
‘My idea only deals with the core of the concept of a village: people working and living together in the same place.
‘And this place would be on the moon.
‘In the Moon Village we would like to combine the capabilities of different spacefaring nations, with the help of robots and astronauts.
Structures for a lunar base could be built by robots sent ahead of human astronauts. Experts said 3D printing technology can currently construct an entire building in around a week
‘The participants can work in different fields, perhaps they will conduct pure science and perhaps there will even be business ventures like mining or tourism.’
Woerner said the village could even help man get to Mars.
‘The Moon Village would also act as a ‘pit stop’ for the further exploration of the Universe,’ he said.
‘Esa is eager to fly to Mars as well.
For ESA’s 3D-printed lunar base concept, Foster+Partners devised a weight-bearing ‘catenary’ dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a pressurised inflatable to shelter astronauts
‘For more than a decade, we have had a very successful spacecraft orbiting there. And now, with ExoMars, two unmanned missions are aiming at martian orbit and the surface.
‘Yes, the Americans want to send astronauts to Mars one day, but today’s technology isn’t prepared for this trip yet.
‘For example, we must develop countermeasures against the cosmic radiation that endangers the health of humans on long space trips. And we have to learn how to endure longer periods of time in space, not only in low orbit as on the Space Station.
‘This is where our Moon comes into play – it is the perfect stepping stone to Mars.’
The space agency has been touting the permanent lunar colony as a replacement for the orbiting International Space Station, which is due to be decommissioned in 2024