Sep 25, 2017 | By Benedict

The European Space Agency (ESA) has come up with a bold prediction regarding the future of the Moon, Earth’s only natural satellite. It says a small number of settlers could start building a 3D printed village there by 2030, adding that there could be 1,000 moon citizens by 2050.

Moon landings are something of a hot-and-cold topic for scientists. While NASA is much more interested in Mars and the possibility of life there, some still believe the Moon to be an incredibly important area of study. Why? They think humans could live there.

You can file the European Space Agency as a firmly pro-Moon organization, because the ESA’s Bernard Foing thinks humans could be settling on the dusty satellite as soon as 2030.

Foing leads the ESA-backed “Moon Village” project, which—as its name suggests—is focused on creating a colony for the Moon. Speaking at a European Planetary Science Congress in Riga this week, the scientist set out a bold vision for the future of the Moon, suggesting human babies could be born there in just a few decades.

Excitingly, Foing thinks 3D printing could have an important role to play in the development of the Moon Village, with additive technology potentially being used to fabricate buildings using local materials. (It’s not the first time that additive manufacturing has been earmarked as the future of space construction, with scientists also advocating 3D printing on Mars.)

Crazy as it sounds, a settlement on the Moon is probably more achievable in the short term than one on Mars, considering the much further distance to the Red Planet.

Accordingly, the Moon Village timeline could be roughly as follows: by 2030, an initial settlement of six to 10 pioneers would be formed. These scientists and engineering experts would lay the groundwork for future settlement, with a further 100-odd humans potentially joining them by 2040. Ten years later, the Moon Village could be hugely populated.

“In 2050, you could have a thousand and then...naturally you could envisage to have family joining crews there,” Foing said.

This would ultimately allow for the possibility of human birth on the Moon, resulting in a whole generation of “lunar babies.” Just imagine their passports being checked at airports!

And it’s not just Foing going out on a limb with these predictions. ESA boss Jan Woerner has argued that a permanent lunar colony could actually replace the International Space Station. The ISS is being decommissioned in 2024, so having a ready-to-go human settlement on the Moon in 2030 would offer a viable alternative to the orbiting man-made structure. (That station, of course, has an in-space 3D printer called the Additive Manufacturing Facility.)

Unfortunately, there’s a big obstacle in the way of an international lunar base: politics. While businesses are keen to invest in the project, global political tensions appear to be preventing any firm interest from big space nations like the U.S. and Russia. Physicist Vidvuds Beldavs called the situation “highly frustrating.”

But if the project is eventually given the green light, the ESA thinks the benefits could be huge. For example, the Moon could be used to launch satellites into orbit—something that is much easier to do than it is from Earth, which is burdened with large gravitational forces.

The Moon could even be mined for helium-3, an isotope that is rarely found on Earth but is common on the Moon, and which could theoretically be used to generate safe nuclear energy.

Foing himself is so excited by the idea of the Moon Village, 3D printed houses and all, that he even envisages going there himself. He hopes to visit by 2040, and may even consider bringing his family.

He admits, however, that bringing the other Foings “will depend on the price,” with tickets to the Moon currently costing around 100 million euros ($119 million).

 

 

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