NASA is set to unveil today details of its new space architecture, a “how-to” response to President George W. Bush’s Moon, Mars and beyond vision speech made in January 2004. Last week SPACE.com and Space News reported that NASA will announce today plans to send four astronauts to Moon in 2018.
On the list: A re-usable vehicle that’s safer than the shuttle; technology for extracting fuel from the destination; and an airbag landing upon return to Earth. Plans were also detailed for sending robotic scouts first.
Aspects are somewhat vintage Apollo in approach, but with numerous technical twists. For example, a four-person lunar expedition crew would make use of a Crew Exploration Vehicle that is outfitted with solar panels. The astronauts would rendezvous in Earth orbit with a pre-launched Earth Departure Stage, and then make the outbound voyage to the Moon. Once in lunar orbit, all four crewmembers would ride down to the Moon in a lander. They would depart the Crew Exploration Vehicle, putting it in autopilot mode as they spend seven days on the lunar surface.
Each team of Moon explorers would leave behind essential components for later use, as well as equipment that could constitute a lunar station. That base could well mirror the type of encampment now situated in Antarctica…
…from others more senior, “yawn of a new era” seemed to rustle through the audience. “It looks to me like the Alzheimer’s programâ€¦for those that don’t remember Apollo,” said one participant.