Today’s ‘Galaxy’ Insight: ESA’s Moon Village — “Gateway to the Outer Reaches of the Solar System”

 

 

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Our moon is a laboratory: “An archive of solar system history, the signatures of meteorites, comets and the solar wind are written in the dust. A moon village would give scientists the means to explore the body, a lump of the ancient Earth, much as Antarctic bases have opened up the southern continent.”


The European Space Agency (ESA), under diretor Jan Worner, sees the moon as the obvious next venture after the $150bn International Space Station plunges back to Earth in a fireball above the Pacific Ocean leaving astronauts with nowhere to go. The “village” Worner describes to The Guardian is a diverse community of public and private organisations that work on the moon together. A band of nations might build a telescope on the far side of the moon, where observations are shielded from Earth’s electromagnetic din. A single agency could test whether robots can make radiation-proof habitats from lunar regolith. A tech firm could extract water from polar ice and turn some into hydrogen, oxygen and rocket fuel. Another might break into lunar tourism.

ESA’s vision is of a moon village intended to grow incrementally as an open, international effort. “In time,” Woerner says, “it would build up the vital infrastructure and practical know-how that humans will need to head more safely into the farther reaches of the solar system.”

“The question is what to do after the space station,’ says Ian Crawford, professor of planetary science at Birkbeck, University of London. “Either nothing follows and you shut down human space exploration, or you build another space station – and it’s hard to see the point of that – or you go somewhere else, and I strongly believe the moon is the next place to go.”

Before we head to Mars, or any other faraway body, Crawford says, humans must learn how to thrive in dusty, high radiation environments. “To send people to Mars you have to be very confident in all aspects of the technology,” he says. “Going to the moon is risky too, but the advantage of learning and trialling all this stuff on the moon is that if something goes wrong, you can bring people back. The moon is only three days away. Abort options exist.”

“A lunar base isn’t a distraction from our desire to visit and explore Mars,” says Katherine Joy, a lunar scientist at Manchester University. “What we learned from Apollo is that touch-and-go-style missions are exciting, and scientifically rewarding, but they don’t lead to a sustained human presence on an alien world.”

The Daily Galaxy via  The Guardian: Read more Here

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