Posted on 23/11/2016 by Jan Woerner
Moon Village: A vision for global cooperation and Space 4.0
Editor's note: This is a cross-post from the ESA Ministerial Council 2016 minisite.
From the earliest astronomy to the space race, humankind has witnessed a constant evolution in the exploration and use of space. Now, with the International Space Station (ISS), an unparalleled level of cooperation has been achieved which has continued largely unaffected by any crises that may be occurring on Earth: many nations all pulling together, demonstrating day in, day out, just how important it is to invest in research and technology.
The paradigm shift that we see today in space activities is best encapsulated by the term ‘Space 4.0’, and the ‘Moon Village’ concept seeks to transform this paradigm shift into a set of concrete actions and create an environment where both international cooperation and the commercialisation of space can thrive.
The Moon Village concept was developed through a process of thorough analysis but it is vital to understand that what we are describing is neither a project nor a programme. By ‘Moon Village’ we do not mean a development planned around houses, some shops and a community centre. Rather, the term ‘village’ in this context refers this: a community created when groups join forces without first sorting out every detail, instead simply coming together with a view to sharing interests and capabilities.
The Moon Village is open to any and all interested parties and nations. There are no stipulations as to the form their participation might take: robotic and astronaut activities are equally sought after. You might see not only scientific and technological activities, but also activities based on exploiting resources or even tourism. It is precisely the open nature of the concept that would allow many nationalities to go to the Moon and take part while leaving behind them on Earth any differences of opinion.
From a scientific perspective, the Moon is truly fascinating, firstly as an archive of Earth's early history, but also because you could site a radio telescope on the far side of the Moon and stare deep into the Universe without any interference from human made signals. For future space missions, you could develop and test methods based on new technologies, such as additive manufacturing, that could potentially make use of locally available resources.
Moon Village is not a single project, nor a fixed plan with a defined time table. It’s a vision for an open architecture and an international community initiative.
It is clear that in the future, humans will take part in crewed flights farther into the Solar System, so the Moon Village could also act as the perfect springboard and testing ground with that objective in mind.
The Moon Village concept has the potential, by providing fascination and inspiration in equal measure, to awaken renewed interest in STEM subjects, with benefits being felt well beyond the world of space. Now we must bring interested parties together so as to achieve at least some degree of coordination and exploitation of potential synergies.