I’d like to go hey, whoop, NASA have found their balls and are going to start all over again. But they’re not budgeted for this, at least not at the rate NASA likes to burn money — a NASA staffer once told me that “you can’t do anything for $40 billion,” and NASA’s FY 2006 budget was about $16 billion — and there’s no political intent behind it. Like it or not, human spaceflight (and do not tell me that Rutan/Virgin is human spaceflight, or else I will have to shout at you for a very long time) is something that states do. Don’t expect this to pick up any steam until the Chinese go.
NASA has decided to pursue a base on the Moon. The space agency rolled out today a strategy and rationale for robotic and human exploration of the Moonâ€”determining that a lunar outpost is the best approach to achieve a sustained, human presence on the Moon.
The base would be built in incremental steps, starting with four-person crews making several seven-day visits. The first mission would begin by 2020, with the base growing over time, beefed up with more power, mobility rovers and living quarters.
The Moon base would eventually support 180-day lunar stays, a stretch of time seen as the best avenue to establish a permanent presence there, as well as prepare for future human exploration of Mars.
â€œWhat weâ€™re looking at are polar locationsâ€¦both the north pole and south pole,â€ said NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale. One particular area thatâ€™s already receiving high marks by NASAâ€™s lunar architecture team is at the South Poleâ€”a spot on the rim of Shackleton Crater thatâ€™s almost permanently sunlit.
A key technology yet to be defined is a lunar landerâ€”hardware that can be used in piloted or unpiloted mode to develop a capability on the Moon more rapidly. The lander will be designed to touchdown anywhere on the Moonâ€¦likened to a lunar pickup truck…