Europe's Moon Base Plan Explained

Dec 23, 2016 07:37 AM EST

The time is ripe for space exploration, it seems. Companies and countries are racing against each other to perfect vehicles, rockets and even settlements to be able to reach the deep recesses of space and set the stage for intergalactic conquest.

But we've all got to start somewhere, and Europe plans to start with the Moon.The European Space Agency calls this the Moon Village. According to Popular Mechanics, ESA director Jan Woerner said this can be an international research station where astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts can conduct experiments, gather resources, build infrastructure and study the Earth from afar.

The Moon Village isn't a literal village, but it's a larger concept of what's called a Space 4.0. This is the fourth period of Woerner's version of space history.

The Space 1.0 is where all ancient and classical astronomy is located. Space 2.0 is the space race from Sputnik to the Apollo Mission, while Space 3.0 is the creation of the International Space Staton. The latter currently holds the record for the longest continuous human habitation, of 16 years and counting, and the ISS soars as the shining example of a successful, long-term peacetime international cooperation like no other program in the history of humankind.

According to the ESA, Space 4.0 is the continuation of such a global cooperation, and this represents the entry of private companies, academic institutions and individual citizens into the exploration of space.

But how close are we to build a physical moon base? Very close.The rest of Europe appears to be behind Woerner's idea. According to the ESA, science ministers of each ESA member state have already endorsed Space 4.0. They are even developing its first Lunar Lander.

They are also working on technologies to develop 3D printing methods that would work using lunar soil. This could pave way for constructing tools and even habitats on the moon.

However, this isn't the only time nations have set their eyes to colonize space. India and Japan both have lunar rovers under development that they plan to deploy before 2020. Meanwhile, China has two sample return missions in the works and a plan to land on the far side of the moon for the first time.

Google Lunar XPRIZE is also offering $30 million in prize money to private teams that can land on the moon, have their craft travel 500 meters and transmit high-resolution photos before 2017.

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