It's been nearly 50 years since astronauts first landed on the moon. Now the head of the European Space Agency wants to build a permanent international village on the lunar surface.
Johann-Dietrich Woerner, director general of the European Space Agency, said in a recent video interview that he's hoping that countries from around the globe will work together, share expertise and resources and build what he's calling a moon village.
A permanent moon base would house astronauts from around the world while they conduct scientific experiments. However, Woerner also sees it as a base for business, tourism and even mining.
This, said Woerner, will be the next giant leap for humankind.
While the director general did not give a specific timeline on making this lunar village happen, he did say it might be 20 years before the necessary technology was available for such a mission.
"We have more than 60 space-faring nations around our world, and the Americans are now saying [they want to] journey to Mars and I totally agree it is right," Woerner said. "Humans will go to Mars one day, but it is a little bit far away in the future. And also the Americans are interested in the moon. So it will be the Americans. It will be the Russians. It will be the Chinese, the Indians, the Japanese and even more countries with smaller contributions. My hope is that we will really have a global exploration scheme on the moon."
The ESA is space research and technology organization with 22 member states, including France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain.
The agency's director general said he's hoping global organizations would work together to devise a way to use the moon's resources – such as water ice, minerals and metals – along with 3D printing, to make the materials a moon village would need right there instead of transporting it from Earth.
Woerner also envisions using 3D printing technology to build a telescope on the far side of the moon using the moon's resources.
Such a telescope "could open new possibilities to look deep into our universe," he said.
But there are also potential hazards for setting up a moon base, including solar and cosmic radiation, micro-meteorites and extreme temperatures.
"The idea is that we don't need a big amount of funding at the beginning," Woerner said. "The idea is that the different players worldwide look at their special capabilities and interests and bring just their part to the idea. We could start with a small landing mission, which many countries are already planning."