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NASA announces lunar base plan

Dec. 4, 2006
Courtesy NASA
and World Science staff

NASA an­nounced plans today to build a per­ma­nent base on the moon by 2024.

“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,” the agen­cy said in a state­ment.

Artist's concept of a lunar base. (Courtesy NASA)


The agen­cy an­nounced the plan as it un­veiled el­e­ments of an in­ter­na­tion­al proj­ect to re­turn hu­mans to the moon, known as the Glob­al Ex­plo­ra­tion Strat­e­gy.

“This strat­e­gy will en­a­ble in­terested na­tions to lev­er­age their ca­pa­bil­i­ties and fi­nan­cial and tech­ni­cal con­tri­bu­tions,” said NASA Dep­u­ty Ad­min­is­tra­tor Shana Dale, who is guid­ing the ef­fort among 14 space agen­cies.

NASA be­gan de­vel­op­ing the strat­e­gy last April in or­der to meet a con­gres­sion­al man­date, as well as to ac­com­plish goals out­lined in its stra­te­gic plan.

The strat­e­gy is evolv­ing from a di­a­logue among more than 1,000 ex­perts, in­clud­ing space agen­cy per­son­nel, non-governmental or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­mer­cial in­terests, ac­cord­ing to NASA of­fi­cials.

NASA plan­ners used the in­ter­na­tion­al group’s de­lib­er­a­tions as well as in­put from ac­a­dem­ia, pri­vate sec­tor and pri­vate cit­i­zens as the ba­sis for sketch­ing a U.S. blue­print for a re­turn to the moon. 

This “has re­sulted in an un­der­stand­ing of what is re­quired to im­ple­ment and en­a­ble crit­i­cal ex­plo­ra­tion ob­jec­tives,” said Doug Cooke, dep­u­ty as­so­ci­ate ad­min­is­tra­tor of NASA’s Ex­plo­ra­tion Sys­tems Di­rec­to­rate. 

“This is all im­por­tant as we con­tin­ue the pro­cess we have be­gun and bet­ter de­fine the ar­chi­tec­ture and our var­i­ous ex­plo­ra­tion roles in what is a very ex­cit­ing fu­ture for the Unit­ed States and the world.” 

As cur­rent­ly en­vi­sioned, an in­cre­men­tal build­up of the base would beg­in with four-person crews mak­ing sev­er­al seven-day vis­its to the moon un­til their pow­er sup­plies, rovers and liv­ing quar­ters are op­er­a­tional, Cooke said. The first mis­sion would beg­in by 2020, to be fol­lowed by 180-day mis­sions to pre­pare for jour­neys to Mars.

The pro­posed “lu­nar ar­chi­tec­ture” calls for robotic pre­cur­sor mis­sions de­signed to sup­port the hu­man mis­sion, he added. Both the Glob­al Ex­plo­ra­tion Strat­e­gy and the moon base will be dis­cussed at a Space Ex­plo­ra­tion Con­fer­ence to be held this week at the George R. Brown Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Hous­ton.


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NASA announced plans on Monday to build a permanent lunar base by 2024. “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 invest igations and encourage inter national participation,” the agency said in a statement. The agency announced the plan as it unveiled elements of an inter national project to return humans to the moon, known as the Global Exploration Strategy. “This strategy will enable interested nations to leverage their capabilities and financial and technical contributions,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale, who is guiding the effort among 14 of the world’s space agencies. NASA began developing the strategy last April in order to meet a congressional mandate, as well as to accomplish goals outlined in its strategic plan. The strategy is evolving from a dialogue among more than 1,000 individuals, including experts from NASA and 13 other space agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations and commercial interests, according to agency officials. NASA planners used the inter national group’s deliberations as well as input from academia, private sector and private citizens as the basis for sketching a U.S. blueprint for a return to the moon. The work “has resulted in an understanding of what is required to implement and enable critical exploration objectives,” said Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator of NASA’s Exploration Systems Directorate. “This is all important as we continue the process we have begun and better define the architecture and our various exploration roles in what is a very exciting future for the United States and the world.” As currently envisioned, an incremental buildup of the base would begin with four-person crews making several seven-day visits to the moon until their power supplies, rovers and living quarters are operational, Cooke said. The first mission would begin by 2020, to be followed by 180-day missions to prepare for journeys to Mars. The proposed “lunar architecture” calls for robotic precursor missions designed to support the human mission, he added. Both the Global Exploration Strategy and the lunar architecture will be discussed at a Space Exploration Conference to be held this week at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.