The director general of the European Space Agency, Jan Wörner, wants to build a permanent base station on the moon. With robots, 3D printing, and space dust.
This station would be a collaborative effort project, on par with the International Space Station’s construction, and would therefore be open, Wörner says, to “different states around the globe.”
The understandable first reaction might be to call such an idea fantastical. But Wörner and his team are dead serious. Together, they believe that the initial costs would be surmountable and the potential for further research and development high.
But there’s a pretty serious list of “side effects,” if you will, with enduring the conditions on the moon. For starters, there’s solar and cosmic radiation, unfathomable temperatures — from about 250º F in the heat of the sun to a chilly -250º F after sunset. Plus, there are those pesky high-velocity space rocks, commonly known as meteorites. Unperturbed, the team is working to overcome such potential devastations. They want to use the lunar soil itself to have robots 3D-print protective domes. By laying down and sintering layer upon layer of moon dust around a nascent protective bubble, they hope to construct a solid, livable dome.
The team is encouraged by the usable resources already on the moon, which would keep initial costs relatively low. The metals, minerals, and water ice up there, these dreamers say, could aid in both the construction of the base and astronaut subsistence. And the establishment of such a base would open up opportunities down the line, such as a radio telescope on the moon’s far side.
Tests are underway here on Earth, and, though it “could be 20 years before the technology is ready,” this at least is a leading proposal for what moon bases will look like.