Hold on, before you get too excited, these reports of NASA building a moon base are slightly premature.
While Space.com has generated international headlines, the website isn’t exactly getting it right, others suggest.
According to an article titled “NASA may unveil new manned moon missions soon,” now that a science-friendly President Obama has won his second term, NASA will soon announce its long-range projects.
Parts of those goals are returning to the moon (or close by), sending astronauts to Mars and landing on an asteroid.
Building a moon base appears to be getting the most attention, perhaps because failed Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich invited a loud chorus of jeers for similar statements.
The plan actually involves finding the Earth-moon liberation point 40,000 miles beyond the moon where conditions are ideal to “float” around using very little power.
It would be cheaper than building anything on the moon, too, and you could use the liberation point to conduct further research.
Space.com’s article hinged on comments from George Washington University professor John Logson.
“NASA has been evolving its thinking, and its latest charts have inserted a new element of cislunar/lunar gateway/Earth-moon L2 sort of stuff into the plan,” he said, meaning the liberation point ... and stuff.
“They’ve been holding off announcing that until after the election.”
To the rest of us, that sounds like something of a GOP attack ad: "Obama’s grand space plan for galactic domination lies dormant until after the election."
However, many elements Space.com are reporting have already been announced, or people are missing the real point, Wired Magazine said.
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Author David Portree said the liberation point beyond the moon might actually preclude NASA from sending people to the moon’s surface.
“The L2 outpost might for some years after its establishment serve as a base for astronaut tele-operation of robot geologists on the lunar surface,” he writes.
“Landing and remotely driving robots would be far cheaper and much less risky than landing astronauts. … Just as likely, they would make a human return to the moon’s surface unnecessary.”
He also suggests many of the plans are variations or additions to previous requests from past presidents dating all the way to Ronald Regan in 1984.
Interesting, interesting. So no moon men then?
Well, not so fast, ex-astronaut Leroy Chiao told CNN. Once commander of the International Space Station, Chiao said hanging out in space, beyond the moon, is more dangerous than you might expect (well, I actually expect it's quite dangerous).
Deep space offers you less protection against radiation and solar flares (and Klingons or Decepticons).
“If you build a crew-tended base on the moon, you could also test other operational things. You could test your hardware, your habitats, your space suits, your rovers, operations concepts,” Chiao told CNN’s “Early Start.”
So … moon bases are good. I need someone to spell this out for me. Let's bring NASA deputy chief Lori Garver in to help.
"Let me say that again: We're going back to the moon, attempting a first-ever mission to send humans to an asteroid and actively developing a plan to take Americans to Mars."
Alright, now that's something to get excited about.
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