It is a long way from our planet to Mars. NASA has been looking for ways to increase the success rate for its future missions and a permanent base on the Moon may be provide the right answer.
The space agency has some time ago contracted NextGen Space to look into the matter, and the results are quite promising. The company has found that establishing a human-inhabited base on Earth’s satellite is feasible.
Their findings estimate that four-astronauts could be manning this new installation within the next decade. The costs of running such a settlement will be obviously very high, but they remain with NASA’s approved budget. In the long run, it would actually help the agency save money.
The base could be used as an interim stop for longer missions. Spacecraft could be fuelled and even repaired if necessary. Water from the Moon may be harvested in order to help producing fuel. The fuel can be then sent into the satellite’s orbit where it could be easily accessed by orbiting shuttles.
The study estimated that this could save NASA up to $10-billion per year. The project will only be financially feasible if NASA joins forces with companies such as SpaceX that can provide the necessary rockets to carry the parts into space.
The vital issue is whether lunar water can be easily accessed or not. If the answer is no then the idea would lose its financial practicality. The current plan is to send robots ahead to scout around the Moon for a suitable spot for the base. Robots could also be the ones that will construct the actual facility, though a decision has yet to be reached on this point.
If the projects receives approval humans may be returning to the Moon by 2023. One of the first potential projects to benefit from such an accomplishment would be the mission to Mars. Two commercial partners will be required in order to actually bring the astronauts to the satellite, with NASA currently looking at SpaceX and Boeing.
In order to boost the officials trust in NASA, the formation of an International Lunar Authority has been proposed by the research. It will work similar to the European Space Agency, making sure that no one single organization takes all the decisions in this very costly project.
Tom Moser, the first program director of the International Space Station is confident in the idea. However, he stresses that the public must be educated of the benefits such an endeavor would bring for the entire world in order to gain the average man’s support.
Image Source: www.nasa.gov