Earth’s Moon as seen from the International Space Station taken by ESA British astronaut, Tim Peake.
Credit: NASA/ESA


The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) has issued a “Consensus Meeting Findings” document that outlines multi-year milestones to put U.S. astronauts back on the Moon, encourages private sector lunar efforts, utilizes the Moon’s resources and develops a lunar economy.

Those milestones are required to show progress toward “return[ing] American astronauts to the Moon,” the LEAG document adds, “not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond” by developing a robust lunar economy.

Early concept of Deep Space Gateway
Credit: NASA

Deep space thoughts

LEAG states that “any development of the proposed Deep Space Habitat/Gateway should be specifically designed to support long-term human and robotic presence on the lunar surface. If the decision is made to proceed with the proposed Deep Space Habitat/Gateway, decisions such as the orbit, design, and capabilities of the proposed infrastructure, as well as commercial and international opportunities, should be driven by the strategic direction to return U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface.”

The Moon “remains the cornerstone of planetary science and is an absolutely pivotal destination for science missions impacting our understanding of the entire Solar System,” the LEAG document explains.

The Earth straddling the limb of the Moon, as seen from above Compton crater.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University


Milestones ahead

The LEAG document flags “the paramount strategic objective” of human lunar return that is advocated by the newly re-activated National Space Council, headed by U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence.

LEAG’s document suggests the following milestones to enable the Nation’s “new strategic direction.”

1-2 Years

— Demonstrate NASA’s ability to deliver cargo- and crew-capable infrastructure via NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) to cislunar space.


— Commercial sector demonstrates lunar access capability.

— NASA procures payload opportunities on commercial and international missions (i.e., procures commercial lunar missions services and funds selected science/exploration instruments to ride on them).

— NASA calls for Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and international partnerships for the establishment of infrastructure to enable surface access and navigation.

— Procurement of independent economic studies of the impact of using the Moon’s resources — also called In-situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) — on sustaining a permanent human presence on the Moon and growing the Lunar Economy.

NASA’s Resource Prospector that could be the first robot to navigate in the polar regions of the Moon.
Credit: NASA Ames Research Center


3-5 years

— Commercial sector demonstrates lunar surface access and return to Earth capability.

— ISRU technology validation on the lunar surface.

— Deployment of robotic prospecting explorers to the Moon.

— Develop experiments to use existing samples to promote and develop ISRU technologies.

5-10 years

— Development of ISRU pilot plants and fuel depots.

— Continued missions to the lunar surface for exploration and science.

— Human lunar landings.

Private sector and markets

Credit: Foster+Partners

The LEAG community encourages NASA to include the private sector in developing the architecture requested by the National Space Council for establishing a presence on the lunar surface.

“This could start with LEAG (including its Commercial Advisory Board, or CAB) involvement in NASA studies regarding establishing a robust near-term surface access program for robots and humans, establishing a lunar power and communications-navigation infrastructure, as well as demonstrating the abundance and usefulness of lunar resources (and creating a market for these),” the document explains.

Building bridges

Jointly chartered by the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), LEAG blends members of both communities, building bridges and synergies between science, exploration, and commerce whenever and however possible.

LEAG has a standing Commercial Advisory Board to offer programmatic insights into the capabilities provided by industry.

As a community-based, volunteer-driven, interdisciplinary forum, LEAG membership is open to all members of the lunar exploration community and consists of lunar and planetary scientists, life scientists, engineers, technologists, human system specialists, mission designers, managers, policymakers, and other aerospace professionals from government, academia, and the commercial sector.

The LEAG Consensus Meeting Findings stem from an October 10-12 meeting held at the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) in Columbia, Maryland.

3 Responses to “Document Outlines Milestones for Returning U.S. Boots to the Moon”

  • Donald Barker says:

    Given NASA’s normal engineering timeline you need to add, at a minimum, two years to every date in your timeline. Second, there is absolutely no mention or prof of sustainability at any level. 3. Science will never get humanity to be a multiworld species. Lastly, please stop using the term “boots on the ground” due to its militaristic connotation – we are not invading or attacking the moon.

  • Karen Mermel says:

    Where can the actual document be found?

  • The quest for human presence and pursuing of scientific activities on the Lunar, makes Planetary Science Studies such a fascinating program that stimulates my mind to desire research and innovation in understanding Asteroids, Comets, Meteorites and Origin of the Solar System.
    I am looking for PhD research to offer a PhD in Planetary Science on the Lunar surface and sub-surface) at the graduate school in this area of research area interest: in meteoroid, micrometeoroid, Asteroids, Comets, Meteorites and Origin of the Solar System.
    The study investigates the effects of direct/indirect minor meteor strikes on lunar surface and sub-surface roof tunnels for longterm human habitation.

Leave a Reply