European space boss has Moon Village plan

January 15, 2016
This is a composite image of the lunar nearside taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter in June 2009, note the presence of dark areas of maria on this side of the moon. Credit: NASA

The European Space Agency's new boss elaborated Friday on his vision for a multinational research village on the Moon—a leading contender for a project to succeed the International Space Station.

For now, it is just an idea—called "crazy" by some—but one that Jan Woerner said was being widely discussed as the end of the ISS looms large.

The broad concept is a base for by humans and robots, potentially a stopover for spacecraft and possibly even a mining site.

"It's not to build some small houses over there and then to have a city hall and a church and whatever," said Woerner, who took over as ESA director general last July.

The Moon Village would have "multiple uses and multiple users", he told journalists in Paris.

"Maybe one country is more interested in science, another may be a private company interested in mining... and another may be interested to use the Moon as a stepping stone for further exploration," he explained.

"This is the overall scheme, and we are now discussing of course worldwide whether there is enough interest in that to go ahead with it," said Woerner.

The timing, he added, would be "post-ISS".

The orbiting science station is a joint project of Europe, Canada, the United States, Japan and Russia.

All members but the European Union have agreed to operate and finance the ISS to at least 2024.

Liking 'crazy'

Woerner insisted Friday the ISS "has its value" and said he hoped to convince member states that "ESA should continue" its involvement in the project.

Europe is currently committed until 2020.

As for the future, "I see the Moon Village as the ideal successor of the International Space Station for... exploration," said Woerner.

"So far, there is no competitive proposal on the table."

Unlike the ISS, he explained, a lunar village required no "formal decision" among countries.

"It is more an understanding of many nations to go together to the Moon."

What is important, however, is a discussion on the best location to settle. "Is it the far side? Is it the near side? Is it the poles?"

Once a spot is chosen, said Woerner, individual countries or agencies will decide how they want to take part in the project.

Who would take part?

"Russia has some lunar missions planned, so why not have them as part of the Moon Village?" asked Woerner, noting also that "the Chinese are planning some lunar missions."

He also said he did not mind that some think his idea hare-brained.

"The word 'crazy' is exactly something I would like," he said. "We have to think out of the box. That means new ideas."

Woerner said he had mooted his idea at two space gatherings last year, in the United States and in Israel, and "I've had several organisations worldwide saying to me: 'How can we participate?'."

The scheme will come up in talks with the space agencies of the US, Japan, Canada and Russia in the coming weeks, on the future of the ISS.

"And we will have discussions with other countries and states worldwide," said Woerner.

"We need an idea of where to go and what to do."

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14 comments

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Osiris1
5 / 5 (1) Jan 15, 2016
This sounds like that old computer game: "Outpost" Many buildings connected by roads and/or sealed tubes allowing protected, pressurized passage between modules. Cheaper than blasting artificial caves out of solid rocky cliffs, but less durable and more exposed, not to mention heating and cooling costs. All takes energy, so need local source of He-3 and fusion reactors to utilize it. Chinese have high interest in this, so chances are the Chinese will run these facilities until and unless western interests TAKE and interest in our Moon.
Solon
5 / 5 (1) Jan 15, 2016
"All takes energy, so need local source of He-3 and fusion reactors to utilize it."
And whats wrong with solar panels, solar concentrators? The polar regions can have almost continuous sunlight, only one dark day per month. Melt the water in those polar craters with reflectors and concentrators, melt the surface materials to make glass/ceramics. Get on with it!
Tuxford
2.1 / 5 (9) Jan 15, 2016
You won't hear such a plan proposed officially by NASA. They know we are not welcome, since the moon is occupied. That is why Apollo was cut short, and we have never been back.
EarthlingX
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 15, 2016
Before talking about Moon village, perhaps he could persuade ESA member states to independently fly people into space. I read DLR is discussing options with SNC, perhaps something flies out of it, but most likely just talk, like always.
To everyone hyping about He3 based fusion on the Moon, show me a reactor that actually uses it commercially.
Project which i would support would be orbital outpost with spin based artificial gravity and enough radiation protection to be able to move around the Solar system. Then it could be placed into orbit around place of interest and use telepresence robots to do whatever is needed on the surface. ISS is quite near the closed environment support system, so perhaps help with that a bit more.
I'm glad to see something like orbital outpost in the initial ESA Moon plan, but for the Moon base i just don't see where the money would come from. I also don't have much hope for that outpost, based on ESA technology investment history.
Good luck !
Solon
4 / 5 (4) Jan 15, 2016
"i just don't see where the money would come from"

How about a small percentage of what the USA alone spends on it's military budget?
MR166
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 15, 2016
I just love it. The very same people who think that a 2 degree change in earth's temperature will kill all life forms here have no problems with setting up colonies on the moon.
classicplastic
1.9 / 5 (9) Jan 15, 2016
I just love it. The very same people who think that a 2 degree change in earth's temperature will kill all life forms here have no problems with setting up colonies on the moon.

How much do they pay you to be a corporate tool?
Osiris1
3.5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2016
Solar collectors are fine, but you need a LOT of them to run a whole colony. Granted they as space collectors will neither get dusty, wet, corroded, nor vandalized; and they will put out like a southern english teacher to her town's football team

However, we WILL need a plant there to process He-3, a prototype fusion reactor running on the stuff, and a production facility to produce lightweight He-3 reactors for space propulsion for in-system mining operations. We will need the solar badly, initially, to get the fusion works off the ground. After that, the solar works can provide base power for living needs, and to agricultural domes, etc, while the heavy manufacturing needs can increasingly be derived from the fusion. Such will also train operators to use the fusion machines and become chief engineers on the ships. Ships could be built either on the lunar surface from local materials indigenous to the moon, or in space in lunaro-synchronous orbit above the lunar base.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Jan 16, 2016
Fusion would be nice but is not entirely necessary for a moon base. Fission or plutonium driven thermoelectric generators would do nicely as there is no problem with potential contamination of the environment (I.e. you can plonk down a basically unshielded reactor somewhere in a crater and just declare it off limits for moon walks).

but you need a LOT of them to run a whole colony.

We're not talking colony. we're talking a base with the population of maybe a few times the ISS. Space based solar (cells or concentrators) are viable as there is no weather issues to contend with when transmitting power. Look at the size of the solar panels on the ISS. Getting a few times that to the Moon - given todays reduced weight in high efficiency cells - should be possible.
If there were a manufacturing method to make them in situ then even very crude/low efficiency cells would be OK. Building-space is ample. Doesn't have to be the full "Lunar Ring" the Japanese envison.
Graeme
5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2016
Humans do not yet have a technology that can make useful power from He-3. Solar-electric, or solar-thermal could be useful technologies to use instead. Using a natural larva tube cave could be a way to escape radiation and heat issues.
Solon
5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2016
"Solar collectors are fine, but you need a LOT of them to run a whole colony."

With concentrators you could use reflective mylar film and Kevlar monofilament line to produce very large, very light 'farms'. For creating very pure materials, solar concentrators are used on Earth, as there is no contamination from the heat source. I'm surprised that solar concentrators have played no part so far, or even been mentioned as part of future solar energy harvesting plans. Think simple, I say.
Old_C_Code
1.4 / 5 (9) Jan 17, 2016
How much do they pay you to be a corporate tool?


Global warming? lol. The sad thing is... there's no mention of setting up a Moon base to detect and deflect killer asteroids, which are the only real certain danger Earth has in the next thousand years. A much better way to spend the money; avoiding legitimate inevitable mass destruction, not fairy tales from bogus climate models.
Steve 200mph Cruiz
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 17, 2016
Old_c_code,
Asteroid impact theories are just computer models too, what's the difference between using computers to model the solar system vs an atmosphere?

Also climate change is orders of magnitude more pressing than asteroids and frankly is a harder challenge because money is involved
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (7) Jan 18, 2016
Old_C_Code ignorant uneducated blurt
Global warming? lol
Learn Physics please !

Old_C_Code went on embarrassing himself on a Science agglomeration/report site
A much better way to spend the money; avoiding legitimate inevitable mass destruction, not fairy tales from bogus climate models
You should be far more careful spouting unscientific ignorant claims when you have NIL education in radiative heat transfer !

Climate models are based on the Physics of heat exchange, which is well proven for > 100yrs, the details of the precision of that movement is only between regions of large specific heat disparity ie Oceans to Atmosphere

Physics of gases re radiative transfer well known, never refuted !
https://en.wikipe...transfer
which leads to
https://en.wikipe..._forcing
well illustrated here
http://cbc.arizon.../sim/gh/

Good thing about an education in Physics is you become immune to dumb propaganda, try it !

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