Jim Bridenstine, the 13th Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Association wrote in his column that the space agency plans to return to the moon, this time with the goal of staying there
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Space Exploration has once again taken the forefront of the American dream, with Jim Bridenstine, the 13th Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Association, announcing that the agency will once again send humans to the moon. He penned a column on the website OZY in which he states that this mission to the Moon will be much different from the previous one, where Neil Armstrong left an imprint of his foot on the moon.
In his post, Bridenstine details that NASA plans to not only send humans to the Moon but to also have them stay. The only specifics given by Bridenstine about the means of achieving this goal is that there will be a Lunar orbiting outpost called the Gateway, from where astronauts will deploy to the surface of the moon and back. “The Gateway will be the home base for the first reusable human lunar lander system. It’s a sustainable approach that creates more commercial opportunities, which is necessary for long-term human space exploration. Crews will use our powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft to travel to the Gateway and return safely home,” said Bridenstine. The mission to have prolonged human presence on the moon is part of NASA’s larger vision for space exploration and the Gateway will be the key to achieving it.
Bridenstine says that NASA has already agreed to work with 9 American companies to send scientific equipment to the surface of the moon. NASA plans to award the first contract for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services missions within this year, with the first mission being launched by 2020. The Space Agency is also in talks with private companies for the development of human lunar landers.
NASA’s goal of prolonged human presence on the moon may not be far-fetched. Using a space station as the base of operations for the lunar expedition makes a lot more sense than setting up bases on the moon. This is mostly so because it avoids any geopolitical uproar regarding one nation’s presence on the moon. While we do have space law which expressly prohibits the establishment of military bases or the placement of nuclear weapons on the moon, it also states that "the placement of personnel, space vehicles, equipment facilities, stations and installations on or below the surface of the moon, including structures connected with its surface or subsurface, shall not create a right of ownership over the surface or the subsurface of the moon or any areas thereof."
It would be the opportunity of a lifetime to witness man go back to the moon once again. However, whether our presence on the moon is a long-standing one or not remains to be seen, given the massive scope within which it needs to occur.
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