Credit: NASA

NASA has begun shaping its return to the Moon strategy – a Lunar Discovery and Exploration program. Among key elements of the plan is to stage sample return missions, as well as dot the Moon with mobile rovers and stationary landers.

Viewing the Moon as a resource-rich, readily accessible target for future United States efforts, space agency planners want to encourage industry participation to expand the economic sphere to cis-lunar space, as well as leverage investments in commercial lunar landers.

NASA’s evolving lunar ambitions were outlined during last week’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee Meeting, held February 21-23 at the space agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Credit: NASA

Robust but credible capability

From a scientific view three important new concepts are being eyed as part of a new phase of lunar exploration. These are:

  • The Lunar Volatile Cycle
  • The Origin of the Moon
  • Lunar Tectonism and Seismicity

The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) has been central in formulating a Moon manifesto of sorts. LEAG was established in 2004 to support NASA in providing analysis of scientific, technical, commercial, and operational issues in support of lunar exploration objectives and of their implications for lunar architecture planning and activity prioritization.

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

To address new and a myriad of other questions regarding the Moon requires a robust lunar exploration program, LEAG points out, a credible capability that takes advantages of new technologies and commercial paradigms to produce a regular cadence of landed missions – and profound new discoveries.

Private sector Moon rover.
Credit: Carnegie Mellon/Mark Maxwell

Cis-lunar gateway

As part of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning to build the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in the 2020s. The power and propulsion element is the initial component of the gateway, and is targeted to launch in 2022.

Under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, five companies are completing four-month studies on affordable ways to develop the power and propulsion element.

Early concept of Deep Space Gateway, now called the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway 
Credit: NASA

“The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will give us a strategic presence in cislunar space. It will drive our activity with commercial and international partners and help us explore the Moon and its resources,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We will ultimately translate that experience toward human missions to Mars,” he explained in a recent NASA statement on the rationale behind the gateway.

2 Responses to “NASA’s Back to the Moon Manifesto”

  • Don Murphy says:

    Hi with these rovers scouting all over the moon, are these rovers also (if possible) going to explore on the dark side of moon. Has the moon got water deep inside ?? Thanks. Don Murphy

  • Barbara Pealey says:

    Dont trust NASA. They lost transmission photographs disappeared USA takes control over all profits And control on thanks. Pretty scary who watches you.

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