For a while, the European Space Agency has been talking about the possibility of creating a base on the moon, using 3D printing for a large part of its construction. So far it’s been a lot of speculation, but this month the ESA reaffirmed that they are very serious about the plan – they intend to have a lunar base by the 2030s. At a recent symposium entitled “Moon 2020-2030: A New Era of Coordinated and Robotic Exploration,” the agency laid out plans for a series of missions, starting in the early 2020s, that will hopefully culminate in a human-occupied moon base.
The two-day symposium brought together more than 200 scientists and space officials from 28 countries to discuss what the ESA is calling a “comeback to the moon.” The plan is for a series of missions, beginning in the 2020s, that will start by sending robots to the moon, where they will communicate with astronauts back on Earth. The data gathered from these robotic missions will pave the way for humans to follow. Ultimately, the ESA sees a moon colony as a stopping point in the mission to get humans to Mars and to further explore the rest of the solar system.
What most of the symposium’s attendees seemed to agree upon was that such a mission will require collaboration from multiple agencies, countries and disciplines. We’ve been following NASA‘s efforts to get humans to Mars, and, according to NASA’s Kathy Laurini, the European and American space agencies can greatly benefit from supporting each other in what ultimately are common goals.
“The ESA space-exploration strategy sets the moon as a priority destination for humans on the way to Mars, and the recent talk of a ‘Moon Village’ certainly has generated a lot of positive energy in Europe … [of] Europe playing a role in a global human exploration scenario,” Laurini said. “The timing is right to get started on the capabilities which allow Europe to meet its exploration objectives and ensure Europe remains a strong partner as humans begin to explore the solar system.”
Other Americans agree that collaboration between Europe and America will be the most effective way to expedite such missions. Earlier this month, a Federal Aviation Administration committee unanimously voted that the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation should begin talking to the ESA about getting American companies involved in the construction of the moon colony. The ESA appears to be open to the involvement of private companies, and they will certainly welcome help from any interested nations.
“We should have international cooperation, without any limitations, with any countries of the world,” said Johann-Dietrich Woerner, Director General of the ESA. “We have enough Earthly problems between different nations – space can bridge these Earthly problems and the Moon seems to be to be a good proposal. Isolating a country is not the right way, a much better solution is to find ways to cooperate in space to strengthen ties between humans on Earth.”
It sounds like a science fiction concept – finding peace in space where we can’t on Earth – but it’s a valid point. American and European aerospace agencies have shown themselves to not only share common goals, but to share the same ideas on the best ways to reach those goals. And a lot of those ways include using 3D printing: to construct the moon village, to build the engines needed to get us there, and more. Not to collaborate, at this point, just seems silly. Discuss this article in the 3D Printed Moon Base forum on 3DPB.com.