The new head of the European Space Agency (ESA), Johann-Dietrich Woerner, proposed in an interview that we should establish a Moon village on the far side of the Moon. He stressed that it is a stepping stone to further human exploration of the Solar System. By doing so, the plan is to achieve the following, among others:
- Placing a powerful telescope at the far side of the Moon would probe a deeper study of the universe while blocking out the radio-wavelength noise of Earth civilizations.
- Allowing extensive research on how to better cope against the moon dust that is harmful to astronauts’ equipment. This should also prove useful moving forward, e.g. Mars has tons of this powdery material as well.
- Furthering studies to protect inhabitants from radiation shielding and low gravity, that would mean the capacity to stay longer in space.
Comments from a related article suggest various ideas on how to go about it. Future manned missions to the moon is limited by exposure to space radiation, most especially if it will take a longer period of stay. There were studies concluding that Lunar Regolith, particles of dust, tiny rocks and soil found in the moon, can be used as a suitable radiation shield. This should allow a readily, abundant supply of material that we could use to build a working Moon station.
To do so, however, Woerner emphasized the need for a massive global collaboration. He also encourages NASA to test the technology for giant 3D printers on the Moon first before proceeding with their plan to set up a base on Mars. It would also make better practical sense since a lunar community would only be four days away while one on Mars would take six months to get to.
A Colossal Leap
“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” as goes the famous quote from Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong as he planted the first human foot on another world. This American expedition 40 years ago can be considered one of the greatest highlights in human history. What more can we achieve now in the digital age where collaboration around the world is easier, and the flow of information is more accessible to everyone? The advancement of technology, particularly in robotics and communication, combined with the strength of each nation could usher in a brighter future—and indeed a bigger leap for mankind.
I agree with the head of ESA in concentrating all efforts in the far side of the Moon first rather than putting more effort into Mars at this point in time. Mankind will have a better batting average in space exploration and we can use what we learn on more complicated projects moving forward. There are related talks about this, like the Global Lunar Conference in Beijing aiming to put a Lunar Base up by 2050. Meanwhile, Russian scientists are planning for a 12-year-long Moon exploration program (2025-2036), which will be composed of an initial phase of an orbital station on a near-moon orbit before construction of a permanent base at the lunar surface.
Soon, space colonization
The news article reminded me of the usual scenarios in Gundam storylines where the humans live in space due to an excess in population. People who live outside Earth for too long become Newtypes, developing some sort of psychic talent that allows them to be more aware of their surroundings. I always wonder if stories like this could be a possible reality in our lifetime but space colonization, I believe, is mankind’s natural progression.
Photo credits on the top of page/featured photo: Moon Base, painting by Phil Smith.