The idea of a permanent moon base is a familiar trope in science fiction, but the closest thing to such an outpost in reality is the International Space Station. European Space Agency (ESA) director general Jan Woerner discussed his plans for a moon village with Euronews Friday. While ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen is optimistic about accomplishing such a feat, Europe's space agency recognizes the many technical hurdles of creating the first-ever permanent presence on the moon.
The moon village would serve as a conceptual successor to the space station as space agencies such as NASA and ESA set their sights on deep space exploration and journeys to Mars and beyond. Much like the space station, Woerner wants the moon base to be the embodiment of international cooperation.
“My intention is to build up a permanent base station on the moon. Meaning that it’s an open station, for different member states, for different states around the globe,” Woerner said to Euronews. In the interview, Woerner mentions the United States, Russia, China, India, Japan and additional countries who could potentially contribute to the lunar village. The moon itself offers resources that could play a pivotal role in establishing a permanent base. ESA's concept could include the use of metal, materials and frozen water on the moon's surface for construction or life support.
Extreme fluctuations in temperature, where it could be as cold as -279 degrees Fahrenheit, would be another obstacle facing a potential moon base, according to the BBC. At the equator, night lasts for 14 days, with shorter nights around the lunar poles. Space radiation and micrometeorites are also potential threats facing lunar residents.
To combat radiation and meteorites, ESA is exploring a 3D-printed solution using lunar dust. Rovers could deploy inflatable structures on the moon followed by the layering of lunar soil around the building. It would take approximately three months for a rover to 3D-print such a structure, according to ESA.
During a meeting of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Thursday outlining the potential future of NASA, former NASA administrator Mike Griffin discussed a plan that would use a lunar base as a training station for journeys to Mars. “I have been clear in the past and hope to be clear now — to me the most logical step beyond the ISS is an international partnership, led by the United States, to return to the Moon, this time to stay,” Griffin said.