Our journey to a base on the moon may soon begin.
Bruce Pittman the chief systems engineer at NASA Ames Research Center Space Portal Office, lead of integrative studies Lynn Harper, technical operations manager Mark Newfield, and Daniel Rasky, chief of the Space Portal Office, said for NASA a Lunar base would function as “a clear, achievable, and highly engaging next step.”
They wrote that with current and upcoming technologies it is a mission that is both practical and affordable. “Pursued under the feasibility proof of ISS, using best practices extracted from its build and operation, and combined with the current and emerging capabilities from the traditional and emerging aerospace industry, the Lunar Station is the logical next step in space development.”
They went on to write that the project would reignite and maintain an engaged public in space and continue NASA role as a leader in space exploration, even more so since the agency has plans for Mars. “This next step must serve as an enabling pathway for NASA’s ultimate goal of human missions to Mars and human or robotic exploration and development of asteroids and other planetary bodies. A clear, achievable, and highly engaging near-term next step is also essential for NASA to maintain its relevance to the US public, its leadership in the international community, and its technical cutting edge.”
This would create new markets for space exploration, development, and open up possibilities we have not thought of yet. They estimate the cost of the base to be around $2bn a year and five years to develop. It has been proposed that the station would be developed using habitat modules from Bigelow Areospace and additive manufacturing, which is more commonly known as 3D printing. At the beginning stage robots will be sent in several missions to find suitable sites and gather data and resources. Once a clear site location has been established excavation equipment will be sent and solar power and communication stations will be installed. Bigelow Areospace habitat modules will then be installed and the first crew would leave for the Lunar site and gradually increase.
Steadily they predict lunar tourism to effectively begin after some time. “As transportation to and from the Moon becomes more frequent and cheaper, the lunar tourism mark should begin to emerge and could become a significant source of income in the future.”
They went on to write “Key to this next phase of development is to explore options for developing commerce on the Moon. Some of the possible export options include water from the permanently shadowed craters, precious metals from asteroid impact sites, and even He [helium] that could fuel a pollution-free terrestrial civilization for many centuries.”