What does NASA’s drive to return to the moon have to do with worlds of exoplanets and astrobiology that are generally discussed here? The answer is actually quite a lot.
Not so much about the science, although current NASA plans would certainly make possible some very interesting science regarding humans living in deep space, as well as some ways to study the moon, Earth and our sun.
But it seems especially important now to look at what NASA and others have in mind regarding our moon because the current administration has made a top priority of returning landers and humans to there, prospecting for resources on the moon and ultimately setting up a human colony on the moon.
This has been laid out in executive directives and now is being translated into funding for NASA (and commercial) missions and projects.
There are at least two significant NASA projects specific to the moon initiative now planned, developed and in some cases funded. They are the placement of a small space station that would orbit the moon, and simultaneously a series of robotic moon landings — to be conducted by commercial ventures but carrying NASA and other instruments from international and other commercial partners.
The goal is to start small and gradually increase the size of the landers until they are large enough to carry astronauts.
And the same growth line holds for the overall moon mission. The often-stated goal is to establish a colony on the moon that will be a signal expansion of the reach of humanity and possibly a significant step towards sending humans further into space.
A major shift in NASA focus is under way and, most likely in the years ahead, a shift in NASA funding.
Given the potential size and importance of the moon initiative — and its potential consequences for NASA space science — it seems valuable to both learn more about it.
Development work is now under way for what is considered to be the key near-term and moon-specific project. … Read more