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HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- NASA's plans for returning people to the moon -- an objective called for by President Bush in 2004 -- includes establishing a permanent outpost that would be used to prepare for a manned trip to Mars.
The moon base would be at either the north or south pole of the moon, NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale said during a news conference Monday at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Increased sunlight at the poles would allow better use of solar energy to power the outpost, she said.
NASA's lunar architecture team decided it would be better to establish a base than to conduct individual missions to the moon, as in the Apollo program of the 1960s and 1970s, she said.
Team scientists believe astronauts could use the moon's natural resources to maintain the outpost, and could use the base to prepare for the trip to Mars, an objective also set forth by Bush.
Sorties to other locations on the moon could also be carried out from the outpost, Dale said.
Deputy Associate Administrator Doug Cooke said one promising location is the Shackleton Crater at the south pole.
In addition to having an area that is almost permanently sunlit, it is adjacent to a permanently dark area that might yield water ice.
NASA Associate Administrator Scott Horowitz said the goal is to conduct the first manned missions to the moon by 2020, starting with short stays by four-person crews that would establish the outpost.
He estimated that perhaps by 2024 there might be a continual presence on the surface, with crews rotating in and out, as is done with the international space station.
Before the manned missions, NASA plans a series of robotic missions. The first of these, using the lunar reconnaissance orbiter, is scheduled for 2008.
The orbiter is designed to create high-resolution maps, look for good landing sites and search for water ice and other resources.
NASA's vision for the moon is more than just American astronauts _ it includes space travelers from other countries and even commercial interests, if possible.
Having other countries sign onto the project would save NASA money, although the United States will design the moon vehicles, NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale said. And while NASA welcomed its current partners on the international space station _ Russia, Europe and Japan.
Originally posted by semperfi221
Too bad there is already a permant base there case in point the whole john lear post we have been there for awile now
Originally posted by Langolier
What exactly is the militaristic advantage to owning a base on the Moon? It is not as if it's a small island somewhere near an enemie's shipping routes or center of government that will allow you to strike him down at a moment's notice should trouble arise. It's the Moon, it's farther away than any location Earth. Think about that. What would a military base on the Moon be used for, what weapons would it possess? ...what would they be fired against, and why?
The scientific benefits however are obvious:
A better place to construct observatories from which to learn about the cosmos.
A testbed for aerospace engineers to develope and perfect the many technologies we will need to survive elsewhere.
Originally posted by infinite8
Too many eyes in the skies these days and with new technology being able to read a book on the moon surface from earth, things might start being discovered.
Originally posted by Flyer
There can be no scientific reasons for this IMO.
Britain could become involved in Nasa plans to send astronauts back to the Moon by 2020, science minister Malcolm Wicks has said.
He met Nasa chief Dr Michael Griffin at the Cabinet War Rooms to discuss the plans for future Moon landings.
It could be the world's biggest science programme and UK businesses and scientists must benefit, said Mr Wicks.
The UK was a world leader in "small affordable satellites" and already had strong links with the US, he said.
The minister, who replaced Lord Sainsbury earlier this month, said it was exciting to discuss how the UK could get involved with lunar exploration.
Originally posted by Scaart
If there was a base on the moon and they look back on earth, would there not be a time difference when you look back at the earth, the further you get away from earth the difference it has on time ?