It is the dawn of a new era of space exploration. As we make plans for deep space exploration and Mars landings, it seems as though the next natural step would be to return to the Moon using our natural satellites as launch pads so as to further our interplanetary travel experience. Well, it looks as though the European Space Agency plans to do much more than simply go back. They have presented a plan for the construction of a “Moon Village.” Such a habitat is said to be 3D printed directly onto the Moon using lunar soil. It would be assembled by robots.
The colony concept by ESA was confirmed just last month at a two day conference in the Netherlands called “Moon 2020-2030 – A New Era of Coordinated Human and Robotic Exploration.” It had 200 scientists and experts come together in order to collaborate and discuss the planning of projects, technologies and missions for the next ten years.
This lunar structure was designed by Foster + Partners, part of the consortium established by ESA to look into the potential of a moon base. Their plan is to send a cylindrical structure to the Moon. After landing, a weight bearing dome would inflate from the cylinder as the dome is the central structure within the system.
Lunar soil will be utilized to devise a protective shell surrounding the dome that will shield astronauts from hazardous background radiation. The consortium demonstrated back in 2013 that the lunar regolith could possibly print such a 3D structure using simulated lunar soil that was made from basaltic rock from an Italian volcano. They were able to build a 1.65 tons block.
Kathy Laurini of NASA told Space.com after attending the conference that the European plans seemed optimistic. “The ESA space-exploration strategy sets the moon as a priority destination for humans on the way to Mars, and the recent talk of a ‘Moon Village’ certainly has generated a lot of positive energy in Europe. The timing is right to get started on the capabilities which allow Europe to meet its exploration objectives and ensure Europe remains a strong partner as humans begin to explore the Solar System.”
The Moon Village would be constructed at the lunar south pole as there is perpetual sunlight on the horizon. Potential sites will be further explored in the 2020 lander mission from ESA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.
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