Experts from the European Space Agency have released reports that point toward an optimistic future among the stars — if politics don’t stop the idea in its tracks first. The ESA announced an ambitious plan today that plots out a course toward a “human outpost” in space, where astronauts might live between missions to outer reaches. The International Space Station will end its service in 2024 after 26 years of operation, and the plan after that for innovators like SpaceX’s Elon Musk is to send manned missions to Mars within the same year. The ESA suggests a stop along the way, and according to them, it’ll only take ten years to complete.
With the intention of providing something of a “crossroads” in space, the ESA’s version of a space truck stop has been suggested in place of the ISS, situating itself between the Earth and the Moon. Think of it as something of a final stop before heading out into the reaches of space. “After 25 years of service, the International Space Station is coming to the end of its life, but now 1,000 times further out in space a new star has risen,” said David Parker, the ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration. “A human outpost in deep space, located far out, where Earth and [the] Moon’s gravity balance, a kind of crossroads in space.”
Along with serving as an outpost for space travelers, the proposed new base could also serve when it comes to studying the Moon, getting us close to its surface and providing places within where research can be conducted. “We want to go back there, we’ve barely scratched the surface,” Parker told the media during a press conference last week. “This is our deep space habitat, a new place to live and learn how to work in space, a kind of base camp for exploring the Solar System and reaching back down to the surface of the Moon.”
The ESA will be holding a conference in Switzerland later this year to further the discussions, but tomorrow’s Brexit vote in the UK could seriously affect the future of the idea. Regardless, the proposal is just one of many when it comes to replacing the ISS, and discussions around the idea are still in their earliest stages among other agencies like NASA, as well as countries interested in space travel, such as Russia.