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Tuesday, 05 December 2006 05:26

NASA to build permanent moon base

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Almost 40 years after Armstrong's one small step, NASA has announced plans to build a permanent lunar base.

Manned moon flights are scheduled to resume in 2020, at which time construction will begin on a permanent moon base which could serve as a staging point for expeditions to Mars.

"We're going for a base on the moon," Scott "Doc" Horowitz, NASA's associate administrator for exploration, told reporters in a teleconference from Houston's Johnson Space Center.

The base is likely to be situated at the moon's south pole, which is sunlit for three-quarters of the time - making solar power a viable energy option. Scientists also suspect the poles have resources that could be used for life support such as hydrogen and ice. NASA envisions an initial four-person crew staying for only a week at a time, building on this as the base takes shape.

With the aging space shuttles set to be retired in 2010, NASA intends to channel these funds into the moon program rather than increase its $US16 billion annual budget. Unlike the US-only Apollo space program, which last went to the moon in 1972, NASA plans an international effort to colonise the moon. NASA is looking for a range of government and commercial partners and has already met with the European Space Agency and the space agencies of various countries including Australia.


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