Even though this might seem as the next logical step in our space-faring endeavors, the fact that the ESA shoots for the Moon while NASA aims at Mars might still come as a bit of a surprise for a part of the general public, as well as the scientific community. But this will not be made completely possible until the end of 2030, so people that dreamed to one day follow in Neil Armstrong’s footsteps need to exercise some patience.
Earth’s Moon is not seen as a much more viable goal for space travel by the ESA, with Russia and China having more or less the same idea. But this trip to the moon will not be just a one shot escapade. The first stop will be on board the International Space Station in order to resupply, basically making the ISS a veritable pit stop.
The reason why the ESA, along with China and Russia, want to go to the moon first, besides the fact that it is extremely close to Earth in comparison to Mars, is the amount of resources currently hidden by the lunar shadow. One of the most important resource sought by scientists and geologists are pockets of lunar water ice hidden near the polar regions.
One important thing to keep in mind is that this endeavor is not a competition in any way shape or form. This will be based extensively on cooperation between the three parties, with Research and Development to be conducted in partnership with each other. The main goal, once people will actually reach the moon, will be the construction of the Lunar Village, similar to the Global Village back on Earth.
If a self-sufficient colony will be built on the moon, only after that this alliance will start to consider the possibility of using the moon as a viable launching platform towards other planets. The construction of the colony, as well as the exploration and resource gathering missions, will not be carried out by human explorers only. Robots in the form of rovers and telerobotics will be controlled by astronauts located on the ISS or in Earth’s orbit starting with 2020.
These robots will be used to construct the main lunar base, as well as exploring the moon further into its lunar shadow. Once that process is complete, people will start to land on the surface and help the robots continue the construction and exploration alongside robots until everything is set into place.
Another important thing to note is the fact that President Obama is the one that focused on Mars’s exploration and eventual colonization. If the newly elected president, that brings in tow a new NASA administrator, will choose to go for the moon as well, NASA will more than likely take part in this alliance too. This will be extensively possible if the president will be part of the Republican party which has set its sights on the moon for a couple of years up to this point due to its potentially harnessable resources.
Although the ESA shoots for the Moon while NASA aims at Mars, once this presidential election is over, we might see all of the biggest economic powers on Earth join forces in order to make the idea of a self-sustainable lunar colony come true.