Speaking to Mirror Online ahead of his appearance at the Brain Bar Budapest festival, Hadfield said that space stations like the ISS will one day be used to set up “permanent habitation” on the moon, opening up the doors to further space travel.
Chris Hadfield, the celebrated Canadian astronaut who famously recorded a cover version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity on the International Space Station, thinks that building a moon base is the “natural” next step in space exploration.
“For me it’s a natural, slow evolutionary process of exploration,” he said.
“From the surface of the world, to a space station, to the Moon, to Mars and beyond – it’s just a natural progression, like the one that took us all the way from the Rift Valley of Africa right to the tip of Tasmania and Antarctica, and now into lower orbit.
“It’s all just part of the same continuum.”
While companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin – as well as experts from NASA and the European Space Agency – are already looking into taking humans to Mars, Hadfield said it was important to think about why.
“You can do it as a stunt, as a one-off, just to show that we can. But that’s not sustainable,” he said.
“If you do it as a race, as soon as the first person crosses the finish line and the tape breaks across their chest, you’re done. You’ve accomplished why you went. And that’s OK if that’s why you’re going – if your intent is to plant a flag and show that you can.
“But that’s not colonisation, that’s just proof of ability. We’ve already proven our ability to go to the moon. Now the hard part is actually colonising it.”
Chris Hadfield famously recorded a version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity on board the ISS
He added that, while billionaire entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are inspiring people by talking about their long-term ambitions for colonising Mars, there will be a lot of problems to solve along the way.
At the moment, space travel is still prohibitively expensive, and it will be up to commercial companies to bring down the costs if they hope to have any chance of launching a manned mission to Mars.
Both SpaceX and Blue Origin have already made some strides in this direction, by building and testing reusable rocket launchers , which could dramatically reduce the cost of space travel.
“That is one of the necessary inventions that we need in order to do the the things that we’re pursuing,” said Hadfield.
“Elon Musk may decide it’s worth his while and worth his investment as a demonstrator to send a small group of people to Mars and back, just to show that you can – that’s maybe part of the process, but that’s not colonisation.
“It would be much harder and more expensive to colonise. Eventually it’s bound to happen. Exploration isn’t just suddenly going to stop. That would be an unrealistic observation of humanity to think that’s going to happen.”
The European Space Agency has already unveiled plans to build a lunar base on the moon within the next 20 years.
The futuristic settlement would most likely be located on the rim of Shackleton, a large crater at the moon’s south pole which would provide almost limitless solar power
The location would also protect the structure from the extreme heat and cold found on the rest of the satellite.
Beginning in the 2020s, the plans would see robots first sent to the moon to gather data that would pave the way for a human colony.
The establishing of a lunar base on the moon would be a key step to the ultimate aim of putting humans on Mars, according to the ESA.