NASA’s manned lunar exploration plans now include a permanently-occupied base near one of the lunar poles–which might just come to fruition before the 60th anniversary of humans setting foot on the satellite, if all goes according to plan:
An international team of astronauts will be living and working at a permanent moon base to be built at one of the resource-rich lunar poles within two decades, NASA announced Monday.
Earth’s first off-world colonists will cruise the surface in a new generation lunar lander that will function like a low-gravity pickup truck, possibly journeying to the dark side to build the most ambitious collection of observatories ever constructed, NASA said.
The announcement of NASA’s vision to build a permanent scientific research station on the moon represents the space agency’s first outline of its plans once it reaches the moon, scheduled no later than 2020.
“We will begin with short missions. Then we will build up to the point where we are staying 180 days, and then we will have a permanent presence,” Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems, said at a news conference at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The permanent base could be operational as early as 2024, officials said.
If the government sticks to the pace proposed here, NASA will probably be moving in next door to Richard Branson’s lunar Virgin Megastore.