Science 6 min read

Mars Plans from NASA, Russia, and China Include a Lunar Base

Pavel Chagochkin |

Pavel Chagochkin |

Both private and public agencies in the U.S., as well as official programs in Russia and China, have actual plans for a lunar base. Here are the latest moon colony updates from all three countries.

3D printing technology is making it possible to churn out complete structures, tools, clothes, and more – both on Earth and in space.

While using 3D printers for interstellar development and expansion might seem farfetched, rest assured – professors of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California, like Behrokh Khoshnevis, can attest to its potential.

In a report a few weeks ago by Forbes, Khoshnevis, argued that we’ll need to “use whatever is on the moon and whatever is on Mars and build with those. And I demonstrated that that can be done. We built pretty strong structures with the material that is up there. We made some kind of concrete without using water.”

In fact, as EdgyLabs recently reported, the European Space Agency (ESA) is already exploring this path and testing the feasibility of 3D printing for efficient construction of lunar bases from local materials.

Moreover, MIT’s Digital Construction Platform (DCP) prototype (designed by the Mediated Matter Group) that was featured in April’s issue of Science Robotics offers such a flexible and autonomous construction system that building a lunar base is becoming a fast, relatively inexpensive, and safe process.

What are NASA’s Plans for Interstellar Development?

NASA recently funded an ongoing eight-month study to simulate living conditions on Mars. The remote, volcanic location in Hawaii includes a geodesic dome, but NASA has also experimented with inflatable habitats.

NASA’s (known) plans for space exploration consist of a “two-phase plan” to send humans to Mars.

Greg Williams of NASA explained that “the first phase includes four manned flights to cislunar space in order to deliver a crew habitat, a science research module, a power source and an airlock for visiting vehicles.”

The first flights are scheduled to take place “between 2018 and 2026”.

Astronauts Lucie Poulet (right) and Annie Caraccio (left) must wear their suits at all times when outside of the 1,200-square-foot habitat and experience 20-minute communication delays to simulate lunar base conditions | Ross Lockwood, the University of Hawaii via AP

Williams also claims that phase 2 will begin in 2027 with the launch of “a Deep Space Transport vehicle to cislunar space”. 

Following this success, a crew will follow the transport vehicle and “live in the habitat for a year”.

Non-NASA Lunar Base Plans

NASA is outsourcing more to private couriers to get to the International Space Station (ISS) and even Mars.

But, moon details are still, for the most part, absent from Mars plans from private couriers like SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin.

The Engadget team also reports that “Buzz Aldrin believes that to be able to go forward with the plan, NASA should hand over its ISS activities to the private sector ASAP, since it ‘simply cannot afford $3.5 billion a year of that cost'”.

Late last year, NASA announced plans to do just that. And, NASA has previously asked six private corporations to design space vehicles for it as part of the NextSTEP program.

One of those corporations (Boeing) has constructed designs for both a transport vehicle and a habitat.

According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, the new specifications make the Falcon 9’s carrying capacity a whopping 50,265 pounds (22,800 kilograms) to low Earth orbit (LEO) and 18,300 pounds (8,300 kilograms) to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO).

Rivaling SpaceX’s reusable rocket’s Jeff Bezos has boasted that the newest Blue Origin rocket will not only be reusable but also ready to launch in less than 3 years.  

Dubbed the New Glenn in honor of legendary astronaut John Glenn, the rocket is anticipated to be able to be used 100 times and to launch in 2020.

Russia’s Lunar Recruitment Drive

Although the first person in space was Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, Russia has historically been a hotbed of political intrigue and sabotage among independent rocket teams.

However, with improvements in infrastructure and technology, the USSR successfully produced the “most powerful and fuel efficient engine of that size in the world”.

The design was so efficient that elements were incorporated in the larger RD-180 engine that still powers the Atlas V rocket.

Russia’s space agency (Roscosmos) announced a recruitment drive for six to eight cosmonauts who will operate a new-generation spaceship (now in development) and “will become the first Russians to fly to the Moon” by 2031.

In fact, Roscosmos plans to have a lunar base (if not a colony) by 2045.

China’s Lunar (Palace) Plan

Edgy Labs recently reported on the first Chinese cargo spacecraft to automatically dock just a few weeks ago following their space lab orbit launch last September. 

China is undoubtedly continuing to work toward a moon base, hoping to have the Lunar Palace crewed outpost operational by 2022. 

While the People’s Republic is already a generation ahead in automation development and deployment, they are working to catch up to the U.S. and Europe in space exploration.

With that goal in mind, it’s not surprising that China is already in diplomatic talks with the EU on a lunar base.

China is known for its high military spending comparable with that of the U.S. but how much of that is going to space exploration?


Inner Mongolia Museum exhibit displays People’s Republic of China spacesuit and flag. In 2003, China became the third nation to reach “Space Power” status. Katoosha |


AFP notes that the country is pouring billions into its military-run space program.

Second, the South China Morning Post reports that “Chinese students will live in a laboratory simulating a lunar-like environment for up to 200 days as Beijing prepares for its long-term goal of putting humans on the moon.”

Their last successful trial was conducted in 2014 over a period of 105 days.

Who Will Govern the Moon?

With a lunar base in the very near future, Edgy Labs will be covering what colonization of the moon might look like.

Competition and mutually assured destruction got humanity first into space (via Russia) and then to the moon (via the U.S.). But, collaboration and pooling resources might be what helps humanity stay.

This isn’t a race anymore; it’s a marathon. The moon isn’t the finish line anymore, either–it’s one more hurdle on the sprint to Mars.

Will the Moon be a test case for Mars? How do you do you think it should be governed?

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