Back to the moon?

NASA announced yesterday an ambitious new plan for lunar exploration and ‘colonization,’ with crews of 4 astronouts making weeklong missions to the Moon starting in 2020. Eventually, these missions will grow to 180 days, and a permanent base will be set up by 2024. Officials say that by 2027, a preussurized rover will being to take astronouts on expeditions far from the base. The eventual 180-day mission length is a crucial step towards Martian exploration, as that is the estimated length of an expedition to the red planet.

Unlike the Apollo missions of the past which landed on the moon’s equatorial region, this future lunar esite will likely be located near the Shackleton crater by the south pole. With sunlight 50-70% of the time, it is a prime location for taking advantage of solar power. Another reason for choosing the south pole is that scientists suspect it has valuable resources such as hydrogen, ice and other materials.

The website SpaceDaily writes:

"With such an outpost, NASA can learn to use the moon’s natural resources to live off the land, make preparations for a journey to Mars, conduct a wide range of scientific investigations and encourage international participation… As currently envisioned, an incremental buildup would begin with four-person crews making several seven-day visits to the moon until their power supplies, rovers and living quarters are operational. The first mission would begin by 2020. These would be followed by 180-day missions to prepare for journeys to Mars."

Critics claim that this new Lunar project will not be as helpful in regards to future Mars missions as NASA claims, relying too heavily on technology from the Apollo missions as a way to reduce costs and not focusing enough on Mars itself. NASA expert Howard Kurtz told the NYTimes that he was concerned that the technology for lunar exploration a€oewon’t get us beyond the Moona€A and on to Mars.

a€oeThe fear is that the Moon, which is now viewed as a means to get beyond the Moon, will become its own destination, for hundreds of years,a€A he said. a€oeThe easy way to go to the Moon is the hard way to go to Mars.a€A

Regardless, this plan is pretty cool. NASA even has stated that this could open the moon to commercialization, although there could of course be some downsides to that (but lunar vacations would be ill!)

via NYTimes and Space Daily

learn more at NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration


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Posted: December 5th, 2006
at 11:39am by Pheezatron

Categories: robots,fo' real?

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