Lunar Outpost Plans Taking Shape

Oct 01, 2007
Lunar Outpost Plans Taking Shape
Concept of one potential design for a future lunar rover. Spacesuits would be attached to the exterior of the rover. Credit: NASA

NASA's blueprints for an outpost on the moon are shaping up. The agency's Lunar Architecture Team has been hard at work, looking at concepts for habitation, rovers, and space suits.

NASA will return astronauts to the moon by 2020, using the Ares and Orion spacecraft already under development. Astronauts will set up a lunar outpost – possibly near a south pole site called Shackleton Crater – where they’ll conduct scientific research, as well as test technologies and techniques for possible exploration of Mars and other destinations.

Even though Shackleton Crater entices NASA scientists and engineers, they don’t want to limit their options. To provide for maximum flexibility, NASA is designing hardware that would work at any number of sites on the moon. Data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, a moon-mapping mission set to launch in October 2008, might suggest that another lunar site would be best suited for the outpost.

First, astronauts on the moon will need someplace to live. NASA officials had been looking at having future moonwalkers bring smaller elements to the moon and assemble them on site. But the Lunar Architecture Team found that sending larger modules ahead of time on a cargo lander would help the outpost get up and running more quickly. The team is also discussing the possibility of a mobile habitat module that would allow one module of the outpost to relocate to other lunar destinations as mission needs dictate.

NASA is also considering small, pressurized rovers that could be key to productive operations on the moon’s surface. Engineers envision rovers that would travel in pairs – two astronauts in each rover – and could be driven nearly 125 miles away from the outpost to conduct science or other activities. If one rover had mechanical problems, the astronauts could ride home in the other.

Astronauts inside the rovers wouldn't need special clothing because the pressurized rovers would have what's called a "shirt-sleeve environment." Spacesuits would be attached to the exterior of the rover (see images). NASA's lunar architects are calling them "step in" spacesuits because astronauts could crawl directly from the rovers into the suits to begin a moonwalk.

NASA is also looking to industry for proposals for a next-generation spacesuit. The agency hopes to have a contractor on board by mid-2008.

NASA will spend the next several months communicating the work of the Lunar Architecture Team to potential partners -- the aerospace community, industry, and international space agencies -- to get valuable feedback that will help NASA further refine plans for the moon outpost. The agency's goal is to have finalized plans by 2012 to get "boots on the moon" by 2020.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Ceres bright spots sharpen but questions remain

Related Stories

NSA winds down once-secret phone-records collection program

3 hours ago

The National Security Agency has begun winding down its collection and storage of American phone records after the Senate failed to agree on a path forward to change or extend the once-secret program ahead of its expiration ...

Pipeline that leaked wasn't equipped with auto shut-off

3 hours ago

The pipeline that leaked thousands of gallons of oil on the California coast was the only pipe of its kind in the county not required to have an automatic shut-off valve because of a court fight nearly three ...

Uber drivers fined in Hungary

4 hours ago

The Hungarian tax authority fined Uber drivers in its first probe against the ride-sharing service which the economy ministry said Saturday "ignores passenger safety" and must be made to follow regulations.

Recommended for you

Watching worms will help humans age more gracefully

10 hours ago

The plot of many a science fiction TV series or movie revolves around the premise that people traveling long distances in space age more slowly than their counterparts on Earth. Now, tiny worms who spent ...

New project aims to establish a human colony on Mars

17 hours ago

MarsPolar, a newly started international venture is setting its sights on the Red Planet. The project consisting of specialists from Russia, United Arab Emirates, Poland, U.S. and Ukraine has come up with a bol ...

Ceres bright spots sharpen but questions remain

May 25, 2015

The latest views of Ceres' enigmatic white spots are sharper and clearer, but it's obvious that Dawn will have to descend much lower before we'll see crucial details hidden in this overexposed splatter of ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.