Is space travel a joke

A village on the moon? - Future space projects

Jan Wörner, Director General of the European Space Agency ESA, brought the idea of ​​the Moon Village, a settlement on the moon, into circulation. For ESA boss Jan Wörner, the greatest advantage of the moon is its short distance to earth:

The moon is near. You come there and back during the summer vacation.

This is what distinguishes the moon, for example, from Mars, which is up to four hundred million kilometers away. The question is no longer whether the moon will be a travel destination again 50 years after Apollo, but only when that will happen. In early 2019, the Chinese research probe Change4 landed on the far side of the moon. Startled by China's masterpiece, the US government is rushing to significantly accelerate its lunar projects.

NASA and ESA are jointly building the Orion spacecraft

In a good two years there should be a test flight of the NASA spacecraft Orion to the moon with only dolls on board. Around 2023, humans with Orion could at least fly around the moon for the first time. During the flight, the European service module forms a team with the American Orion capsule in which the crew resides.

For the first time, NASA procures indispensable parts of a spaceship abroad. For example, Europe will play a major role in the next flights to the moon, says David Parker, ESA Director for Space Exploration:

We then want to build a kind of base camp for the moon, the Lunar Gateway. It should consist of a few modules that circle around the moon and are an intermediate step for the landing. A capsule is currently being planned to bring people down to the surface.

The moon is also a dream destination for private companies

The hype around the moon has also hit the private sector. Elon Musk from SpaceX is building the Big Falcon Rocket, which is supposed to fly a spaceship with dozens of passengers around the moon - and supposedly as early as 2023.

And Jeff Bezos, billionaire founder of the space company "Blue Origin", recently presented the model of his spaceship "Blue Moon" with a lot of fanfare, which is supposed to leave for the moon one day. But these are vague projects that so far only exist in beautiful animations - technology, financing and schedule are more than open.

Berlin company develops clever lunar vehicles

The Berlin company PTScientists is the only company in Europe to have developed a lunar landing device. They call it Alina. The European Space Agency ESA and the space group ArianeGroup are also involved in the lunar lander. Managing director Robert Böhme and his team see themselves as service providers for the moon flight. Because Alina is supposed to drop two moon rovers on the lunar surface, which PTScientists have also crammed with equipment down to the last centimeter.

We have hardware in there such as a laser that can melt moon rocks. That's pretty cool. Many different experiments are hidden almost everywhere on the spaceship or in the vehicles.

Alina is supposed to pave the way to the moon for private companies

If everything goes well, Alina could revolutionize lunar research. So far, the exploration of the satellite was reserved for large missions costing hundreds of millions of euros. State agencies flew to the moon, but not private companies and certainly not a research institute, such as the laser center in Hanover, which now wants to investigate the composition of the lunar soil with the help of Alina and the moon rover.

In addition, Alina should finally solve the problem with the bad data transmission from the moon to the earth.

We added very large antennas because we developed an LTE solution together with Nokia Bell Labs and Vodafone. When the spaceship has landed, we can set up a base station on the moon. That's no joke. I mean it very seriously. That means, as soon as Alina has landed up there, you could go there with your cell phone, switch it on and call home.

The Alina lunar module is also intended to secure data transmission to earth

Customers who want to take scientific measurements or take photos on the moon then no longer need to worry about the transport of the data. Everything that can be sent on earth via a smartphone can in future also be communicated from the moon.

According to current planning, Alina will set out on the journey with an Ariane-6 in two years. The destination of the first flight will be the Taurus-Littrow region on the moon, where the last Apollo mission landed in 1972.

Alina is supposed to see how the remains of Apollo survived on the moon

To this day it is completely unclear how adhesive tape, plastic parts, aluminum sheets etc. have changed at the Apollo landing site after standing around on the moon for almost half a century. Alina will see how cosmic rays and temperatures fluctuating between plus and minus 150 degrees Celsius affect the material. This is indispensable information for the construction of a lunar village.

The best location for a lunar village would be on one of the lunar poles

Ralf Jaumann has thought about the best place for this satellite settlement on the moon to be built. He heads the department for planetary geology at the German Aerospace Center in Berlin-Adlershof.

The fact that Ralf Jaumann and his colleagues all over the world know so well about the chemistry of the moon is thanks to the Apollo missions of the Americans and the Soviet Luna probes. Material was brought from the moon to earth a total of ten times. A few weeks ago, China brought moon rocks to earth for the first time since 1976 with the Chang'e 5 probe. Its analysis is only just beginning, but the researchers would like a lot more and, above all, different material from particularly interesting places.

Above all, Jaumann has to pay attention to the climatic conditions. Almost everywhere on the moon, two weeks of intense solar radiation are followed by two weeks of bitterly cold night. Only the lunar poles are only grazed by sunlight, which is why they are actually ideal places for a lunar village.

If I have a high mountain there, there is always light on it. It doesn't matter whether I have 14 days day or night. These high mountains exist because there are also the deep impact craters. The craters have edges. These edges are sometimes 3000 to 4000 meters high. The sun always shines there. This is exactly the area where you want to go. All you have to do is sit down and set up solar panels.

On the peaks of “eternal light”, as the researchers call these mountain peaks, the power supply would not be a problem and it would not get too cold - and thanks to the low sun, it would probably not be as hot as usual on the moon. The ideal location for a moon village.

Manuscript for the broadcast

SWR 2019/2021

Broadcast on