A Lunar Outpost For A Journey To Mars

A Lunar Outpost For A Journey To Mars
By James W Smith

In the year 2004, American President, George W. Bush, outlined goals for NASA after the completion of the International Space Station in 2010. Bush stated that " our... goal is to develop and test a new spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle, by 2008, and to conduct the first manned mission no later than 2014. The Crew Exploration Vehicle will be capable of ferrying astronauts and scientists to the Space Station after the shuttle is retired. But the main purpose of this spacecraft will be to carry astronauts beyond our orbit to other worlds. This will be the first spacecraft of its kind since the Apollo Command Module".

Bush continued: "Our next goal is to return to the Moon by 2020, as the launching point for missions beyond. Beginning no later than 2008, we will send a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface to research and prepare for future human exploration. Using the Crew Exploration Vehicle, we will undertake extended human missions to the Moon as early as 2015, with the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods".

The planning by NASA for the lunar mission outlined in that 2004 speech by President Bush is well underway. In fact, the plan encourages participation by other nations of the world. In addition, NASA also envisions participation by non-governmental organizations and commercial groups. NASA is interested in international participation in the project similar to the International Space Station mission.

The name of the program to return astronauts to the Moon is "Constellation". Constellation is developing new spacecraft and is expected to be fully operational by 2016. The Constellation program requires the development of launchers called Ares rockets. These Ares launchers are named for the Greek god associated with Mars. These launchers will return humans to the Moon and later take them to Mars and other destinations.

NASA's Orion spacecraft (now in development) is America's first new manned spacecraft since the space shuttle 30 years ago. Orion will be capable of carrying crew and cargo to the International Space Station after 2010. Orion will be the Earth entry vehicle for lunar and Mars returns. Orion's design will borrow its shape from the capsules of the past, but it will take advantage of modern technology in computers, electronics, life support, propulsion, and heat protection systems.

The U.S. Space Agency plans to create a solar powered, manned outpost on the Moon. The final decision concerning the location of that outpost will be made after NASA's robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) begins to survey the Moon in 2008. In fact, the scheduled launch event in October of 2008 of this robotic probe (with its laser altimeter and other instruments) is a mission designed to produce an accurate global map of the Moon for all upcoming expeditions there.

However, it may be that NASA scientists already have a potential spot for a manned outpost in mind. An area that is already receiving attention by NASA's lunar architecture team is at the South Pole in a spot on the rim of Shackleton Crater. The area is almost always sunlit, but it is also adjacent to a permanently dark location. Wherever it is located, the outpost on the Moon would be built in incremental steps, starting with four person crews making several seven day visits.

It is projected that the first mission to develop the lunar outpost would begin by 2020. The base would grow over time into a lunar town, beefed up with more power, mobility rovers, and living quarters. The Moon base would eventually support 180 day lunar stays. This stretch of time is seen as the best way to establish a permanent presence there. By going to the Moon for extended periods of time, astronauts will search for resources and learn how to work safely in a harsh environment to prepare for a future human exploration of Mars.

Thirty-five years ago this week, Astronauts Gene Cernan, Ron Evans, and Jack Schmitt were early explorers on the surface of the Moon. Today, NASA is planning not only for a visit, but also for a permanent base on the surface of the Moon by astronauts in the year 2020.

The long term goal of future space exploration for NASA was outlined by President George Bush in his speech in 2004. Several years later, the planning, development and logistics of this mission are on schedule. The Constellation program has taken the initial steps to make a manned lunar outpost for a journey to Mars a future reality.

James William Smith has worked in Senior management positions for some of the largest Financial Services firms in the United States for the last twenty five years. He has also provided business consulting support for insurance organizations and start up businesses. He has always been interested in writing and listening to different viewpoints on interesting topics.

Visit his website at http://www.eworldvu.com

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