NASA to set up base camp at polar outpost
NASA announced it will establish an international base camp on one of the moon's poles.Updated: Dec 05, 2006 05:52 IST
NASA announced it will establish an international base camp on one of the moon's poles, permanently staffing it by 2024, four years after astronauts return to the moon.
It is a sweeping departure from the Apollo moon missions of the 1960s and represents a new phase of space exploration after space shuttles are retired in 2010.
After consulting more than 1,000 experts from 14 different countries, NASA decided on what deputy NASA chief Shana Dale called a "fundamental lunar approach" that is sharply different from its previous moon missions in nearly everything but the shape of the ship going there.
NASA chose a "lunar outpost" over the short expeditions of the '60s. Apollo flights were all around the centre of the moon, but NASA decided to go to the moon's poles because they are best for longer-term settlements. And this time NASA is welcoming other nations on its journey.
The more likely of the two lunar destinations is the moon's South Pole because it's sunlit for three-quarters of the time, making solar power easier, and has possible resources to mine in dark areas nearby, associate deputy administrator Doug Cooke said on Monday.
To get to the moon, NASA envisions an all-purpose lunar lander that could touch down anywhere and can be the first part of a base camp, said exploration chief Scott Horowitz.
"The nickname I use for the lander is, it's a pickup truck," Horowitz said in a news conference from Houston. "You can put whatever you want in the back. You can take it to wherever you want. So you can deliver cargo, crew, do it robotically, do it with humans on board.
First Published: Dec 05, 2006 05:52 IST