06 December 2006
NASA plans Moon base
I know this has been extensively reported and extensively blogged but the story that NASA has plans to set up a permanent human settlement on the moon by 2024 is could not be passed by.
The chosen site will be at or near one of the moon's poles, probably the South Pole, because of the long periods of sunlight those regions enjoy. That would permit solar power generation, and the production of electricity, in keeping with NASA’s aim of "living off the land". The South Pole has a special attraction: the suspected nearby presence of key elements, most notably helium-3, a lighter form of the gas that can be used for nuclear power. There have also been some signs that deep craters could contain ice, which would provide water and fuel.
The rockets and landing capsules - the Ares I and Orion programmes will be exclusively American, but the agency wants to bring in other countries. The key question, unanswered by NASA officials this week, is how much the base might cost. Unofficial estimates put the price tag at around $100bn (£50.8bn), compared with NASA’s present annual budget of $18bn.
NASA claims the end of the Shuttle programme in 2010, and the winding-down of the space station, mean that the lunar base can be funded within existing budget ceilings. But critics dispute that, arguing that less high-profile but highly valuable scientific programmes will have to be scaled back, if the agency is to avoid going cap in hand to Congress for extra money.
The programme appears to have broad support on Capitol Hill, even with Democrats in charge from next month. The hope is that the public interest in space will be rekindled by the prospect of men actually living on the moon.
I know it is expensive but I would dearly love to see the plan become a reality. I only hope that NASA does not look back to Space 1999 for ideas.
NASA Moon base