Wednesday, December 6, 2006

NASA's Lunar Plans

What better topic for my first post than NASA's announcement of their plans for exploration of and a permanent outpost on the moon? Yesterday, NASA announced that it plans to land humans on the moon by 2020 and establish a permanent settlement at the lunar south pole by 2024.

While very little in their announcement constitutes news, this is, nevertheless, an exciting day. NASA gave details of their moon landers, which can be either piloted or remotely controlled and can carry crews or cargo to and from the moon's surface. Also, parts of the landers will remain behind (much like on Apollo) when the crew leaves, thus accumulating structures that will form the permanent outpost.

Most exciting to me, I think, was the suggestion by NASA associate deputy administrator Doug Cooke that part of the reason they chose their outpost site was because of the presence of of resources nearby that can be mined. The gathering of resources on the moon will be necessary to eventually make any type of permanent settlement self-sustaining. Two birds could be killed with one stone... the settlement(s) could become financially self-sufficient, and resources shipped back from the moon could buttress scarcities here on Earth.

Also of interest was the statement by NASA exploration chief Scott Horowitz that supplying oxygen to the lunar outpost could be turned over to a commercial supplier.

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