NASA Moon Base Plan: Manned Outpost Near Moon Likely After Obama Win
A NASA moon base plan is likely to be revealed soon now that Barack Obama has won the presidential election, Space.com reported Friday. NASA wanted to see who would be named president before announcing the ambitious project.
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The plan would have two major components: putting astronauts back on the moon and potentially building an orbiting moon base.
The outpost, called a "gateway spacecraft," would support "a small astronaut crew and function as a staging area for future missions to the moon and Mars," The Orlando Sentinel reported.
If the space station is built, it would be located at a Lagrangian point, a place where the gravitational pull associated with two larger objects - like the Earth and Moon - are at an equilibrium, thus allowing a spacecraft to stay in one permanent spot. There are various Lagrangian points in space - NASA would reportedly put this spacecraft on Earth-Moon L-Point 2, at the far side of the moon.
One of the many reasons for putting the spacecraft in a fixed location like L-Point 2 is that it allows NASA to bring costs down. But according to the Sentinel the price tag would "certainly run into the billions of dollars."
Though NASA has not officially confirmed the plan, which would put the spacecraft approximately 277,000 miles from Earth and 38,000 miles from the Moon's surface, the space administration did release a statement in September to PCMag saying: "NASA is executing President Obama's ambitious space exploration plan that includes missions around the Moon, to asteroids, and ultimately putting humans on Mars."
"There are many options - and many routes - being discussed on our way to the Red Planet. In addition to the Moon and an asteroid, other options may be considered as we look for ways to buy down risk-and make it easier-to get to Mars. We have regular meetings with [the White House Office of Management and Budget], [the White House Office of Science and Technology], Congress, and other stakeholders to keep them appraised of our progress on our deep space exploration destinations."
Space policy expert John Logsdon of George Washington University told Space.com that the project has likely already gotten approval by the Obama administration. "NASA has been evolving its thinking, and its latest charts have inserted a new element of cislunar/lunar gateway/Earth-moon L2 sort of stuff into the plan. They've been holding off announcing that until after the election," Logsdon said, explaining that Romney "had pledged to re-assess and possibly revise NASA's missions and direction."
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