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article imageNASA's return to the moon

By Nancy Houser     Sep 6, 2011 in Science
When NASA and 14 space agencies formed the "Global Exploration Strategy and Lunar Architecture," returning to the Moon became a reality. Using important data from the Mars expeditions, future colonization is now more than a possibility.
A planned milestone in NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration was to colonize mysterious Mars, the unfathomable red planet. However, common sense is now saying to return to the Moon least, according to NASA and 1,000 scientists, space advocates, engineers, commercial entrepreneurs and the public.
Over the past year, NASA sent out two questionnaires regarding a return to the Moon. One was entitled “Why should we return to the moon?” and the second was “What do we hope to accomplish through lunar exploration?” NASA reports that the questionnaire responses have led to the development of Global Exploration Strategy and Lunar Architecture---with NASA and 14 global space agencies participating in its venture.
According to NASA’s Science News, plans were made six years ago for a return to the Moon even as Mars was being actively studied. However, both planets have much in common:
• The Moon has no atmosphere – the atmosphere of Mars is relatively thin.
• Mars has only one-third of the Earth’s gravity while the Moon has one-sixth of the Earth’s gravity.
• Both the Moon and Mars are cold: the Moon can be -240 degrees in the shadows while Mars varies from -20 degrees to -100 degrees.
• Both the Moon and Mars are covered with loose “regolith” dust that covers solid rock, with both worlds having layers of regolith 10+ meters deep.
• The Moon and Mars have the full attention of NASA as prospective colony sites.
"The Moon is a natural first step," explains Philip Metzger, a physicist at NASA Kennedy Space Center. "It's nearby. We can practice living, working and doing science there before taking longer and riskier trips to Mars." (Universe Today)
As the questionnaires began to return, NASA found that the development of the Global Exploration Strategy and Lunar Architecture has developed into six themes for returning to the moon: (1) having a human presence on the Moon; (2) extending sustained human presence; (3) using the Moon as a unique laboratory; (4) economic advancement and technological innovation; (5) preparing for both human and robotic missions to not only Mars but other solar destinations; and (6) the pursuit of a vibrant space exploration program that would inspire, educate and bring hope to people of all ages.
Today, returning to the Moon has become a work in progress, with possibilities being examined that have the flexibility to go anywhere on the moon…a high-level requirement using the resources available.
More about NASA, Return, Moon, Mars
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