The European Space Agency (ESA) unveiled its plans to build a colony on the Moon or a “lunar village” as a key step to exploring and living in Mars. ESA chief Johann-Dietrich Wörner stated that this will be made possible through the use of robots and 3D printers, which can incorporate moon dust as construction materials.

Wörner noted that the lunar village would be the ideal successor of the International Space Station‘s (ISS) missions. Additionally, people all over the world, including China and Russia, can join and contribute to the development of this moon colony.

The ESA chief wants to discuss possible projects with the space community and the general public as ISS operations comes to a close. The participants would help prepare for a mission to Mars and continue ongoing physics and biology studies aboard the ISS.

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Wörner notes that while Mars is a nice destination, the moon also offers significant findings that can be added on current research. Apparently, the far side of the moon is protected from satellite broadcasts from Earth and can be used by astronauts to survey the universe through radio telescopes with minute background noise.

NASA chief Charles Bolden said that the space agency cannot lead this mission. The US announced in 2014 that it aims to keep operations running in the ISS until 2024. However, Bolden hopes that at least one astronaut from the agency can go down on the surface on the moon.

The Daily Telegraph reported that ESA’s budget is a total of €5.25 billion (AUD 8.25 billion) for 2016, an increase from the €4.4 billion (AUD 6.92 billion) allotted in 2015. Still, Wörner insisted that space travel is very cheap.

ESA wants the space community around the world to join together and search for activities that will strengthen and boost scientific and space exploration. If this project is achieved, then further breakthroughs in astronomy and fundamental research will be possible.