from the regolith-monolith dept.
On July 1, Johann-Dietrich Wörner will become the new general director of the European Space Agency. SPIEGEL speaks with him about his dream of building a colony on the moon and the difficulties of traveling to Mars.
SPIEGEL: Which celestial body would you like to travel to most of all?
Wörner: My dream would be to fly to the moon and build permanent structures, using the raw materials available there. For instance, regolith, or moon dust, could be used to make a form of concrete. Using 3-D printers, we could build all kinds of things with that moon concrete -- houses, streets and observatories, for example.
SPIEGEL: The only question is how you intend to transport European astronauts into space in the future. Currently, you are completely dependent on Russian Soyuz capsules. If relations with Russia continue to worsen, it could jeopardize joint flights.
Wörner: Russia is and remains an extremely reliable partner for us. Even in the Cold War, space travel helped ease political tensions. Just think of the famous rendezvous maneuver in the summer of 1975, when an American Apollo spaceship and a Soviet Soyuz spaceship docked while orbiting the earth. And today, we space travellers can once again help overcome the current period of crisis.
[...] SPIEGEL: Shouldn't we Europeans be capable of taking people into space without outside help?
Wörner: Unfortunately, we missed a number of opportunities. For instance, it would have been possible to convert the ATV cargo spacecraft into a manned spaceship. We should have done more with that.
SPIEGEL: What caused the project to fail?
Wörner: Money, as is so often the case in life. Every nation wants to shoot astronauts into space and toot its own horn for doing so. However, there is only limited enthusiasm among the ESA member states to pay for manned space travel. But perhaps there will be new opportunities at some point. I'm not giving up hope that we Europeans will create our own manned access to orbit.
Can we make it to the stars without national prestige being the goal?
The European Space Agency plans to start mining for water and oxygen on the moon by 2025.
The agency announced Monday it has signed a 1-year contract with European aerospace company ArianeGroup to explore mining regolith, also known as lunar soil or moon dust.
Water and oxygen can be extracted from regolith, potentially making it easier for humans to spend time on the moon in the future, according to ArianeGroup. The research could also make it possible to produce rocket fuel on the moon, enabling future expeditions to go further into space, the aerospace company said.
[...] The mission would be a collaboration between aerospace scientists and technicians in France, Germany and Belgium. The project is now in the research phase, with scientists hoping to use an Ariane 64 rocket in coming years to send mining equipment to the moon.