A possible design for the Moon Village.

A possible design for the Moon Village. (Image: Foster & Partners/European Space Agency)

As NASA and Elon Musk plan far-flung missions to Mars, the European Space Agency wants to stick a little closer to home. Over the past few months, the Agency has been wowing the space conference circuit with a new proposal: a 3D-printed Moon Village, where robots and astronauts would live, do research, and bounce around together.

Don’t be fooled by the name, says Johann-Dietrich Woerner, Director-General of the ESA and the plan’s mastermind: “A Moon Village shouldn’t just mean some houses, a church and a town hall.” His vision is more like an Olympic-style village, where “partners from all over the world [contribute] missions and support communications satellites.”

The moon town would be made up of huts 3D-printed from lunar regolith, a.k.a. moon dirt, The Science Times reports. (Terrestrial tests have “produced entire structures” out of this dirt at a rate of about one building per printer per week, says project manager Laurent Pambaguian.) Like the International Space Station, the Moon Village would house astronauts from cooperating countries, and could also provide infrastructure for lunar mining and space tourism. Plans also call for a lot of helpful robots.

Like AirBnB, but with less air.

Like AirBnB, but with less air. (Image: Foster & Partners/European Space Agency)

There are many reasons to hang out on the moon, Woerner says. For one thing, even though we’ve been there already, the moon “remains poorly understood”—we’re still not even sure where it came from. Installing telescopes on the far side of the moon would allow us to look deep into the universe without interference from Earthly transmissions. Plus, testing things out on the moon would let us know if we were really ready for Mars before sending Matt Damon.

A moon-bird's-eye view of the proposed Moon Village.

A moon-bird’s-eye view of the proposed Moon Village. (Image: Foster & Partners/European Space Agency)

SpaceNews points out that Woerner’s dreams and plans have not yet received funding or approval from ESA’s member states, meaning that right now, the Moon Village is a literal shot at the moon. But isn’t that what that big hunk of rock is for?

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