Ever since man landed on the moon nearly 50 years ago, development of a lunar base has been in the back of major space agencies’ minds. Having a pit stop on the moon would allow for a refueling station for spacecraft and a docking station to facilitate longer length space missions. Plans are currently in the works to construct a lunar base, and it may happen sooner than you once thought.
Right now, China’s space agency (CNSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) are both working towards finalizing plans to build a moon base within the next decade. Up until this point, both space agencies have been working individually on the project, but they just announced a joint partnership to work towards colonizing earth’s satellite.
Structures on the moon will be built through a combination of moon rock and materials shipped to the moon from earth. According to the BBC, the ESA have refined a technique that 3D prints moon sand and through a baking process can make bricks suitable for lunar construction. One of the agency’s ambitions with this endeavor is to be able to assemble a 3D printer on the moon that would be able to take moon dusk and create habitable structures with little input from earth.
This video below will give you a good idea of the ESA’s plan.
While the CNSA and the ESA are the major contenders in building a moon base, both Russia and NASA affirm that having a base on the moon could be vital to future missions. NASA has no plans to help with building a moon base at the moment as they are more focused on a mission to an asteroid in the coming years. With that said, they believe that a lunar base could be completed or started in the next 5 years for a cost of only $10 Billion.
One main reason that NASA may be standing back from the moon base project is because it is currently illegal for NASA scientists to work with the CNSA. Besides this, it is likely that China and the ESA will be able to accomplish a moon base in the coming years without help, allowing for American partnership down the road.
A lunar base will likely begin construction in the next 5 years thanks to the CNSA and the ESA partnership. In the meantime, NASA will be racing to land man on an asteroid and currently has no concrete plans to return to Mars. Once a lunar base is established, it could provide a solid platform to springboard missions to Mars in the future.