Human settlements in space are closer than we think. Here’s what it will look like

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From vast spaceships orbiting close to Earth to tunnels the size of Los Angeles under the surface of the moon

 European Space Agency’s plan for the Moon Village.

“We already have, or at least understand, the technology needed for a moon base,” says Lewis Dartnell, an astrobiologist from the University of Westminster in London. “The time frame could be in a matter of years,” he adds, “if money were no object and nations around the world were to decide that they needed to build a lunar base together.”

Prof. Dartnell is not alone in his optimism. Many scientists, space engineers and industrialists believe that humanity is on the brink of a breakthrough in settlement. Recent developments could advance the realization of this vision.

For example, a report published last month stated that the radar used by the Chinese spacecraft that was the first to reach the far side of the moon is particularly useful for locating subterranean ice layers. One day, that ice may make it possible for people to remain on the moon for lengthy periods.

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