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NASA Airs Its Plan for a Moon Base by 2024

NASA announces plans to build a moon base that would house a new generation of lunar explorers. The plan calls for a return to the moon by 2020, with a rudimentary base camp established by 2024. But the ambitious plan faces some stiff technical and political challenges.

Two years ago, President Bush announced a new vision for NASA. As soon as the agency finished building the international space station, he said, it should return to the moon. To do that, NASA has been designing rockets that it calls "Apollo on steroids."

But the goal of this moon shot will be different than Apollo.


Scott Horowitz, NASA's head of exploration, says "a lunar base will be the central theme, for going back to the moon in preparation to go to Mars and beyond."

NASA decided it needed a moon base after it spent months studying how to best explore the lunar surface. Horowitz called it a "very, very big decision."

The space agency doesn't have a design for the outpost yet. But the best bet is that a lunar base would look something like a dusty trailer park in Anarctica during winter. It would need to have a landing pad, and possibly a parking lot for a rover.

A spot next to a crater would be prime real estate, because the crater's cold, shadowy interior might hide water in the form of ice. And planners are looking at the moon's north and south poles, where there is lots of sunlight: The outpost will run on solar power.

NASA won't select a building site until robotic missions provide better maps of the lunar surface. One mapping mission is planned for 2008. But the goal is that 20 years from now, people will be living on the moon for months at a time.


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