There’s been a lot of hype in the last couple of years about colonizing Mars and building a permanent scientific research base there that could bring humankind one step closer to becoming a multi-planetary civilization. But as most experts would agree, we’re still a long way away from achieving that goal, and perhaps the best place to begin learning is right here in Earth’s backyard; or more explicitly, the Moon.
Image Credit: NASA
NASA had put astronauts on the Moon’s surface before, specifically during the Apollo missions that transpired several decades ago, but those landings shouldn’t represent the be-all and end-all of lunar exploration. After all, those missions were relatively short-lived, and scientists still have many questions about our Moon that remain unanswered today. With that in mind, it makes sense to return the Moon because it would push science forward.
As it would seem, NASA concurs:
“We will go to the Moon in the next decade in a way we have never gone before,” said NASA’s acting administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We will go with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than was ever thought possible. This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap - sending astronauts to Mars.”
In correspondence with this vision, NASA published a detailed outline on Tuesday regarding its plans to bring the Moon into focus throughout the next decade. The aforementioned outline encompasses each of the following proposed dates and goals:
NASA draws much of its inspiration to revisit the Moon from the original Apollo missions, but the execution will be different this time around. The American space agency will utilize a reusable and sustainable architecture and summon the help of several acclaimed commercial partners to advance technology and scientific exploration more quickly than ever before. But perhaps most importantly, NASA wants to utilize the Moon’s resources to pave the way for permanent lunar settlement and apply everything we learn to similar missions that are being planned for Mars.
Assuming NASA can meet all the deadlines mentioned above, humankind might get the chance to inhabit more than one space rock at a time. The new initiative will deploy and demonstrate all sorts of new technologies, including advanced new power systems, autonomous rovers and robotics, and the manufacturing of necessities from the resources available on the Moon.
Indeed, things look bright for the future of space research, and so it ought to be interesting to see how things play out.