Europe’s moonwalk

The European Space Agency’s director general would like to see a “village” on the far side of the moon.

BBC Future recently surveyed experts' predictions about the next decade of space exploration. All pointed to the moon as a choice destination. And that's exactly where Johann-Dietrich Woerner, the newly appointed director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), is headed, reports the BBC.

Former chair of the German space agency, Woerner now oversees ESA's 4.4- billion-euro annual budget and heads countless programs, from weather and navigation satellites to astronauts on the International Space Station.

“We should look to the future beyond the International Space Station,” Woerner told the BBC. “We should look for a smaller spacecraft in low-Earth orbit for microgravity research and I propose a moon village on the far side of the moon."

In his vision, Woerner does not portray a sleepy European village with "some houses, a church and a town hall." He wants his moon village to bring together partners from all over the world, who would participate via robotic and astronaut missions and support communication satellites.

While much effort is being deployed to send a manned mission to Mars, Woerner wants to make the moon a first stopover destination. "Before going to Mars, we should test what we could do on Mars on the moon," he says.