European Space Agency's head Jan Woerner released the vision outline for the Moon Village, which could replace the International Space Station as early as 2030. The lunar village will be composed of structures created by 3D printers and robots using Moon dusts as raw materials.

Woerner became the ESA head in July 2015 and made the Moon mission the space agency's central project. Woerner added that this lunar project is a crucial step towards the future flight to Mars.

"I looked into the requirements I see for a project after ISS. As of today, I see the Moon Village as the ideal successor of the International Space Station for [space] exploration," said Woerner.

The Moon Village project could be a collaboration of several nations and space exploration groups including Russia, China, NASA and ESA. Experts around the world could contribute advanced technology, knowledge and even manpower (astronauts) for the Mars mission preparations. The same can be done for the ongoing biology and physics explorations that are currently being conducted onboard the ISS.

In 2014, the U.S. announced they intend to keep the ISS in operation until 2024, which pushed back the station's retirement by at least four years. Several European nations raised concerns over the extended operation's perceived costs, challenging if the extension would be worthwhile. On the other hand, Russia is considering the option of building its own space station.

The ISS is a joint venture of the U.S., Europe, Russia, Canada and Japan. All members agreed to continue the ISS' operations until 2024 at the very least, except the European Union whose commitment is only until 2020. Woerner maintained that the ISS has "has its value" and hoped that the European Union will continue its project involvement in the ISS.

ESA's statement seemed to carry a desire to combine global efforts for space exploration, especially after Russia's announcement. Woerner added that the Moon Village will have multiple users and uses.

"Maybe one country is more interested in science, another may be a private company interested in mining ... and another may be interested to use the Moon as a stepping stone for further exploration," explained Woerner.

The proposed Moon Village will not require a "formal decision" from involved countries, added Woerner. Once the best spot on the Moon is identified, countries and space exploration groups will then decide how they want to be involved in the Moon Village project. Woerner noted that both Russia and China have some Moon mission planned and it would be a good idea to make them part of the proposed Moon Village plan.

Photo: Takuma Kimura | Flickr

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