NASA’s plan to return to the moon in 2024 could be jeopardized by the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, the space agency has presented plans for how to build a base on the lunar surface.
As part of its Artemis program, the US space agency has released a report on how it will build a base on Earth’s sky satellite. The 13-page report states that astronauts could spend between seven and 45 days on the lunar surface through a mobile habitat that could support up to four astronauts.
“After 20 years of uninterrupted orbital life, we are now ready for the next big challenge in space exploration – developing a sustained presence on and around the moon,”
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In mid-March, Bridenstine announced that the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility and Stennis Space Center would move to Level 4. Due to the corona virus pandemic, this guideline put work on the space launch system and the Orion hardware system used to bring an astronaut back to the surface of the moon.
It is unclear whether the coronavirus pandemic would also turn NASA’s other 2020 plans, including the launch of the Perseverance rover, scheduled to travel to Mars in July 2020.
A lunar base will allow travel to be extended, including those necessary to travel to Mars, NASA added in the report. “This approach will also enable NASA to test risk mitigation approaches for long-term mission crew and elementary system risks required for two-year Mars class missions.”
“Once these parts of the Moon-Mars campaign are delivered and ready for use, longer and longer annual human missions will improve exploration and sustainable development of the lunar surface,” NASA wrote in the report.
The work the astronauts are doing on the lunar surface could test advanced robotics and work on a “wide range of new technologies”.
“The further development of these technologies could enable the production of fuel, water and / or oxygen from local materials and enable sustainable surface operation with a decreasing supply requirement from the earth,” the statement said.
The report makes it clear that the United States is a leader in space exploration, and that a base on the moon and further exploration are critical to America’s success in space.
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“The United States is still the only nation that has successfully landed people on the moon and spacecraft on the surface of Mars,” the report said. “As other nations move into space, the American leadership is now challenged to lead the next phase of humanity’s striving to open the future to endless discoveries and growth.”
NASA announced its plans to return to the moon in July 2019 for the first time through the Artemis program, the successor to the Apollo program. Artemis will also make history by landing the first woman on the moon.
After Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin entered the moon on July 20, 1969, only 10 more men, all Americans, went to the surface of the moon. The last was Apollo 17 Mission Commander Gene Cernan, who went to the surface on December 14, 1972.
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Fox News’ James Rogers contributed to this story.