FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Monday, December 11, 2006

NASA Plans Permanent Moon Base

Last week, NASA announced plans to develop a permanent manned base on the moon, both for scientific purposes and to serve as a launch point for possible manned missions to Mars. Construction will likely begin in 2020, the date that President Bush has targeted for a return of humans to the moon.

The lunar base will be most likely built at one of the moon's poles to take advantage of relatively stable temperatures and steady sunlight for solar power. The project will be funded with money budgeted for the space shuttle after the shuttle program is phased out in 2010, and may be an international effort (particularly since the European Space Agency is considering unmanned lunar landers).

Last August, NASA awarded Lockheed Martin the contract for developing the rocket and lander system that will take astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972. Further details, including a base design and a precise timetable, have yet to be developed.

But beyond serving as a way station for a Mars mission, what scientific or financial benefit is there to a permanent moon base? Good question, writes Gregg Easterbrook of Slate.

Source: BBC