The European Space Agency has a brand new head. Johann-Dietrich Woerner took over the agency two weeks ago and he just dropped a major new proposition: Let’s build a village on the moon.

In an interview with the BBC, Woerner first made mention of the proposal:

We should look to the future beyond the International Space Station. 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.

A village on the Moon, you say? Tell me more:

A Moon village shouldn’t just mean some houses, a church and a town hall. This Moon village should mean partners from all over the world contributing to this community with robotic and astronaut missions and support communication satellites.

Okay! So far, so good (although please note that we are firmly behind any efforts to build an old-timey town hall on the Moon or any other galactic surface).

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But, before we get too excited about his moon village, Woerner goes on to explain that this theoretical lunar village would come at a cost: our Mars plans. Instead of NASA’s aim to reach Mars, Woerner says they should be focusing, along with the ESA and other international space agencies on experimenting with longer lunar stays. Only after we’ve run our trials there should we be looking further out into the solar system:

The Americans are looking to go to Mars very soon – and I don’t see how we can do that – before going to Mars we should test what we could do on Mars on the Moon.

Hmm.

Of course, so far the lunar city proposal is just that—a proposal. The funding, the tech, and, perhaps most important of all, the timeline have yet to be filled in. Still, it’s a suggestion of just where we might expect ESA space colonization research to focus next.

Top image: Artist’s Concept of space colonization (1970), NASA