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Lunar Outpost

NASA announces plans for moon base

By Jeffrey Rambo | December 5 , 2006
An artist's illustration of a lander for the moon base. (Photo: NASA/John Frassanito and Associates)
An artist's illustration of a lander for the moon base. (Photo: NASA/John Frassanito and Associates)

On Monday, NASA announced big plans to the world. The space agency is planning to return people to the moon—and not just for a quick visit. NASA wants to set up camp.

"We're going for a base on the moon," said Scott Horowitz, NASA's associate administrator for exploration. "It's a very, very big decision."

NASA's goal is to have astronauts return to the moon by around 2020. Four-person crews will start by making short trips to establish the moon base. Each crew will stay for only one week at a time.

Once the outpost begins to take shape, astronauts will stay for up to 180 days. The target date for humans staying permanently on the moon base is 2024. NASA officials said that astronauts will be able to explore the surface of the moon in a lunar vehicle, traveling far from the outpost.

The moon base will probably be built at one of the moon's poles. There is almost always sunlight in these areas—perfect for solar power. NASA is considering the south pole of the moon for its minerals and other useful materials.

"Conditions at the south pole appear to be more moderate and safer," said NASA deputy administrator Shana Dale.

Return to the Moon

In 2004, President George W. Bush announced a new plan for space exploration—to return humans to the moon and, later, send them to Mars.

Bush's plan called for retiring the space-shuttle fleet and bringing U.S. involvement with the International Space Station to a close. Ending these projects will help finance the moon base. Once the base is established, it will be used to prepare for a piloted voyage to Mars.

NASA plans on asking other countries' space agencies to participate. The new space project will return humans to the moon for the first time since 1972.


Critical Thinking Question

Read today's news story, and then answer the following question.

Lunar Outpost

Why do you think a base on the moon is useful to astronauts?

Join a discussion of this question on our bulletin board.


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