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NASA plans to address its problem by parking a “deep space” habitat in a location near the Moon, which astronauts could visit and use to become acclimated to life beyond low-Earth orbit. President Obama mentioned deep space habitats earlier this month, when he reiterated his call for NASA to send humans to Mars. “I'm excited to announce that we are working with our commercial partners to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space,” Obama said.
This wasn’t really a new announcement, as NASA has been working on the habitat program for a couple of years. Nevertheless, before the president's mention, this NextSTEP program had received surprisingly little attention given its significance—it might be the most important contract NASA awards for next decade.
As Obama said, NASA has embarked upon a "Journey to Mars." While the plan may change to include lunar landings as a stepping stone to Mars, the space agency does intend to try and venture back into deep space for the first time since the Apollo program. Whatever destination it chooses, NASA's ambitions will begin with the deep space habitat, because it is an affordable first step, costing hundreds of millions or a few billion dollars initially, instead of multiple billions needed for a full-blown expedition to the Moon's surface, Mars or elsewhere in deep space. "This is the right next step," Simon said. "We need to understand how to live in deep space, how to live off of our planet." The first habitat launched in the 2020s won’t be exactly the same as the vehicle NASA eventually sends to Mars. Rather, it will serve as a prototype to help the space agency understand the capabilities, technologies, and systems needed for astronauts to survive for long periods in deep space. Some of those systems can be tested on the ground or the existing space station, but others can only be tested further from Earth.
NextSTEP is a public-private partnership model that seeks commercial development of deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human space flight missions in the Proving Ground around and beyond cislunar space—the space near Earth that extends just beyond the moon.
originally posted by: swanne
a reply to: lostbook
The idea, of course, has pretty strong advantages. Since the Moon's gravitational field is less strong than Earth, then it's easier to launch deep-space probes - or even missions - from the Moon.
However, I suspect there's also an economical motive behind this. Asteroids are sources of precious elements, which many corporations are eager to mine. If NASA is successful, the "gateway" would become a very lucrative space port, enabling corporations to launch cheaper mining missions (saving on fuel and on structural material) in exchange, no doubt, for a small fee which would benefit NASA.
Just speculating, of course.
Good post, S+F!
originally posted by: Tman2135
Mr. Obama should know that man has been on Mars since at least the 1960s, which I'm sure we'll find out if Disclosure occurs anytime soon.
originally posted by: CranialSponge
a reply to: lostbook
I'm interested to see what kind of technology they come up with for artificial gravity... surely that would be a 'must have' for any long-term habitat in space ?
Looking forward to following the progress of this project.
This is bloody awesome news, thanks for sharing !