NASA’s Next Mission to the Moon

moonThe buzz about NASA is that the human race is once again going to the moon, and planning to stay there! According to space policy expert John Logsdon, there are plans to establish a manned base on the dark side of the moon under the Obama administration. He further indicated that with the election pending, this news has been kept under wraps. But with Obama now secure in a second term, it is expected that there will be an announcement soon.

“NASA has been evolving its thinking, and its latest charts have inserted a new element of cislunar/lunar gateway/Earth-moon L2 sort of stuff into the plan,” said Logsdon in a recent interview with SPACE.com. “They’ve been holding off announcing that until after the election, noting that NASA’s mission, direction, and budget could have been revised under a Romney administration.”

For those who have been following the Obama administration’s plans for space, this should not come as a surprise. In 2010, the president signed the NASA 2010 Authorization Act into law, a bill which freed up $60 billion for NASA through 2013. This move was intended to reignite space exploration at a time when the US found itself lagging behind Russia, China, the European Union and India in terms of bold new space projects.

These project include a planned asteroid visit by 2025 and a manned mission to Mars in 2030. A manned outpost at the Earth-moon L2 “gateway” (shown in the diagram below) could serve as an important stepping stone to the outer solar system. But right now, NASA’s eyes are firmly fixed on Mars itself, since a manned mission is the next logical step in their research of the Red Planet.

NASA_moon“There are many options – and many routes – being discussed on our way to the Red Planet. In addition to the moon and an asteroid, other options may be considered as we look for ways to buy down risk – and make it easier – to get to Mars.” At a conference held this past September, NASA deputy chief Lori Garver went even further to outline NASA’s goals for the coming years:

“We just recently delivered a comprehensive report to Congress outlining our destinations which makes clear that SLS  – NASA’s new heavy-lift “Space Launch System” – will go way beyond low-Earth orbit to explore the expansive space around the Earth-moon system, near-Earth asteroids, the moon, and ultimately, Mars. Let me say that again, we’re going back to the moon, attempting a first-ever mission to send humans to an asteroid and actively developing a plan to take Americans to Mars.”

Suffice it to say, NASA is happy the election turned out the way it did. With their budget secure, the course of future space exploration has been set and remains in effect. Who’s to say where it will take us beyond Mars? To the Jovian satellites of Europa, Ganymede and Io? The Saturnalian moons of Titan, Rhea, Dione and Enceladus? I call Gliese 581 after that. I want to know for sure if the fourth planet (the setting of our story Yuva) is inhabitable or not already!

These are exciting times we live in, aren’t they?

Source: IO9, Space.com

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