Sunday, May 3, 2009

No Moon Base?

NASA is saying that they might abandon their plans for a moon base in favor of other manned missions.

NASA will probably not build an outpost on the moon as originally planned, the agency's acting administrator, Chris Scolese, told lawmakers on Wednesday. His comments also hinted that the agency is open to putting more emphasis on human missions to destinations like Mars or a near-Earth asteroid.

NASA has been working towards returning astronauts to the moon by 2020 and building a permanent base there. But some space analysts and advocacy groups like the Planetary Society have urged the agency to cancel plans for a permanent moon base, carry out shorter moon missions instead, and focus on getting astronauts to Mars.

As big a proponent as I am of space exploration, I am glad that NASA is dropping the idea of a moon base. It sounds cool, but it's actually not very helpful in exploring space. It's really too far from Earth to serve as a convenient launching point for further missions. What we need are a space elevator to more cheaply and easily move materials into space, a large space station in orbit around our planet that can be spun for artificial gravity, and a plant for manufacturing craft outside of Earth's gravity. Granted, none of these are going to happen in the near term; but NASA or a private contractor should be working on these. Space exploration will increase dramatically once we have these in place.

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