It is a small village, with its houses, collective activity centres, factories, inhabitants and tourists. Although the surrounding landscape is a little deserted, the skies are magnificent, with unbridled romanticism. We are on the Moon in 2030. From there we will be able to go to other galactic horizons, we will be able to do science. This is the dream of Jan Wörner, the Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA).
CJan Wörner has been an ardent supporter of the Lunar Village project for more than a year since he took up his post at ESA. His arguments are simple: the International Space Station (ISS) will end its life around 2028. A permanent installation on the moon would be an excellent alternative. It would host astronauts from all the countries involved in the project. Various activities could be set up there: mining companies to extract resources from the lunar soil, robotics companies, 3D manufacturing companies, laboratories, etc. It could even produce fuel, based on oxygen and hydrogen, which is needed for travel to distant planets. The Moon as a space filling station? But also a back base for the conquest of Mars.
The lunar village will be built on site. It is indeed unthinkable to bring all the materials from our good old Earth. The idea would be to build the structures in 3D printing using regolith, lunar dust agglomerated with magnesium oxide. The architectural team of the firm Foster + Partners associated with an international consortium has already been working on it since 2013. They have already designed a dome-shaped shell whose structure, light and resistant, is composed of cells imitating birds' wings. The 3D printer will be able to construct a building in the Lunar Village in less than a week.
But making the Moon a resort project, is it really still a fashionable idea? There are those within the ESA who doubt it. Many say that it is the Director General's somewhat personal project. And from there to getting all the members of the European agency to agree, there is work to be done.
If the Moon does not excite space scientists too much, it is because the Martian horizon seems to hold more promise.
Mars! We'll be rushing there soon. It'll be the last place in fashion. NASA wants to go there, but billionaire Elon Musk is planning on blowing the lid off. He's announcing urbi et orbi be able to settle on the Red Planet before 2030.
In this race for space, all projects can be combined. This is what the supporters of the Lunar Village project are counting on. Indeed, the idea of a stopover on the Moon before setting off on the great distant journeys is being carefully studied by all the protagonists. In particular, the financiers of the projects see an economic interest in it: by stopping on the Moon to refuel and take advantage of its low gravitational force, we save a lot of weight at launch, and therefore a few tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. And the detour is still worth it...