NASA unveils plans for moon base

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

NASA has unveiled plans to set up a self-sustaining settlement at the South Pole of the Moon by 2020.

The plan calls for four-person crews to begin the construction on a rotating basis with week-long stays, advancing toward a permanent presence by 2024. Initial infrastructure would be brought to the Moon from Earth; as work progressed, the settlement would provide hydrogen and oxygen mined from the lunar surface to make water and rocket fuel.

While NASA plans to use American astronauts in the construction and maintenance of the base, plans are underway for a multinational effort. Canada has been asked to provide astronauts for assistance, and NASA has since entered talks with the European Space Agency, Australia, China, France, Germany, England, India, Italy, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine to see how those nations and space agencies may be able to contribute to costs, logistics and other efforts. NASA did not release figures on how much the settlement will cost to build and maintain, but have been searching for both public and private funding from around the globe.

NASA says that the base will serve as part of a mission to learn about the Moon and places beyond. It is also seen as part of a long-range plan to send astronauts to Mars.

This will be the first manned mission to the moon since 1972.