International Space Station Upgrade
The European Space Agency says it plans to build an outpost between the Earth and the Moon, one which would serve as a base of operations for astronauts and facilitate missions to the Moon (and anywhere else in the Solar System).
They claim that this “human outpost” could become a successor to the International Space Station (ISS), which is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2024.And, perhaps most notably, the ESA thinks this new space outpost could be ready within a decade.
"Let me take you on a thought experiment about 10 years into the future," David Parker, the ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration, said. "After 25 years of service, the International Space Station is coming to the end of its life, but now 1,000 times further out in space a new star has risen," he added. "A human outpost in deep space, located far out, where Earth and [the] Moon's gravity balance, a kind of crossroads in space."
Parker says that the proposed location of the base gives it better advantage over the ISS, allowing new forms of scientific study in space and better access to the Moon.
"This is our deep space habitat, a new place to live and learn how to work in space, a kind of base camp for exploring the Solar System and reaching back down to the surface of the Moon," he said. "[Astronauts] can look down on a Moon untroubled by humans in more than 50 years. We want to go back there, we've barely scratched the surface."
ESA says they will hold a conference on the ambitious plan later this year, in Lucerne Switzerland.
UK, In or Out?
British astronaut Tim Peake, who recently just got back from a six-month space journey, supports the idea and thinks that the UK should be involved. However, the role that the UK will play (if any) is not suspect, as yesterday, the UK decided to no longer be a part of the European Union.
"We're at a stage now [where] we're ready for the next missions beyond the space station. Absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt. We've made enormous progress," Peake said.
"It's extremely important that the UK is involved in all of that. We need to give our industry a chance to develop what they need to support human spaceflight. If we're not involved now then we are simply going to miss the boat."