European Space Agency plans for village on the Moon

It could replace the International Space Station in a couple of decades...

The head of the European Space Agency has claimed that the next step in space exploration is to build a village on the moon.

Johann-Dietrich Woerner spoke about the permanent lunar base serving "science, business, tourism and even mining purposes" and forecast that it would eventually replace the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS will be decommissioned in 2024, while the technology for a moon village could be 20 years away.

Woerner, however, has said that one of the key benefits of his proposal is that "we don't need a big amount of funding at the beginning... We can start with a small landing mission, which many countries are already planning".

The hope is that the project is a global one, combining "the capabilities of different space-faring nations, be it robotic or be it human".

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty states that no country can claim ownership of the Moon.

The Moon's own natural resources could be mined to build the village, with 3D printing playing a big part and other materials being brought from Earth.

While the ISS has continuously hosted human life since 2000, living on the Moon would bring problems such as cosmic radiation, extreme temperatures and impacts from micrometeorites.

Counterintuitively, Woerner said the dark side of the Moon could be a preferred location:

"If we go into the shadow on the moon, we'd have places where we don't have the radiation...at the south pole, which has permanent darkness, where we can find water".

Thus far, only the United States has visited the Moon, with the last manned trip to the heavenly body taking place over 43 years ago.