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Is NASA about to unveil plans for manned moon mission?

Illustration for article titled Is NASA about to unveil plans for manned moon mission?

Suit up, people — word is we're heading back to the Moon.

According to space policy expert John Logsdon, there's a decent chance NASA has already cleared plans to establish a manned base on the far side of the Moon with the Obama administration. Thing is, they've probably been keeping it under wraps in the event that Romney had won Tuesday's election. Now that Obama has secured a second term, Logsdon says an accouncement from the Agency could be forthcoming.


"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," said Logsdon in an interview with's Mike Wall.

"They've been holding off announcing that until after the election," Logsdon added, noting that NASA's mission, direction, and budget could have been revised under a Romney administration.


An announcement would certainly gel with the Obama administration's ambitious agenda for space. In 2010, the President signed the NASA 2010 Authorization Act into law, freeing up close to $60 billion in NASA spending through 2013. This funding would serve as one of the first sparks in a plan to ignite a resurgence in space exploration, including an asteroid visit by 2025 and and a trip to Mars by the 2030s. A manned outpost at the Earth-moon L2 "gateway" — shown in the diagram below — could serve as an important stepping stone in our path out into the solar system.

Illustration for article titled Is NASA about to unveil plans for manned moon mission?

"NASA is executing President Obama's ambitious space exploration plan that includes missions around the moon, to asteroids, and ultimately putting humans on Mars," the Agency explained in a statement released at the end of September. "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."

At the same time, Wall points out that NASA has been dropping plenty of hints as of late that a major announcement regarding human space exploration could be right on the horizon.


"We just recently delivered a comprehensive report to Congress outlining our destinations which makes clear that SLS [NASA's new heavy-lift "Space Launch System"] will go way beyond low-Earth orbit to explore the expansive space around the Earth-moon system, near-Earth asteroids, the moon, and ultimately, Mars," NASA deputy chief Lori Garver said at a conference in September.


"Let me say that again," she emphasized, "we're going back to the moon, attempting a first-ever mission to send humans to an asteroid and actively developing a plan to take Americans to Mars."

Read more about NASA's plans for sustainable human space exploration in this extensive pamphlet from NASA, released in June of this year.


L1/L2 figure by David A. Kring, LPI-JSC Center for Lunar Science and Exploration

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