A ‘lunar base’ is a phrase previously used mostly by Bond villains, but the Chinese and European space agencies are discussing creating exactly that in a new collaborative effort. The discussions were confirmed by the ESA’s Pal Hvistendahl, speaking to Bloomberg on Wednesday, and involve working together to build a human-occupied “moon village” from which both agencies can potentially launch Mars missions, conduct research, and possibly explore commercial mining and tourism projects.
China’s upcoming projects in space include a mission to collect samples from the moon via an uncrewed craft by the end of this year, and to also launch an exploratory mission to the far side of the moon next year, with the similar aim of returning samples for study. The ESA’s collaboration with China thus far include participating in the study of those returned samples, and potentially sending a European astronaut to the Chinese space station (which is currently unoccupied) at some future date.
These plans aren’t so far along that there’s any anticipated timeline for when a moon outpost may be established and operational, but it’s an interesting new development in the ongoing international space race. Maybe someday soon we’ll be asking ourselves about the relative value of Moon real estate vs. property on Mars, and then we’ll all hop on our flying motorcycles and head down to the zeppelin terminal.