WASHINGTON, DC — April 6, 2020: The National Space Society commends NASA for its updated Artemis mission plan for returning humans to the Moon. The new roadmap, called “NASA’s Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development,” was released on April 2. This bold vision combines the best of government, commercial and international capabilities to accomplish long-term activities on the Moon efficiently and affordably, while establishing a foothold for journeys onward to Mars and beyond. It also provides an opportunity to leverage resources found on the Moon to further affordable and sustainable development of space.
The plan leverages commercial space operators via programs such as NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) to bring scientific packages and cargo to the lunar surface as well as to the Lunar Gateway. The Gateway, a lunar orbiting outpost which was reaffirmed in the updated plan, will assist NASA in its goal to establish a permanent station at the lunar south pole called Artemis Base Camp.
Alfred Anzaldúa, Executive Vice President for NSS, said, “SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy will now deliver equipment and supplies to Gateway via its expanded cargo carrier, Dragon XL, which will remain docked to expand the Gateway’s capacity. The Dragon XL also adds flexibility at low Earth orbit and the International Space Station in various roles.”
Dale Skran, the Chair of the NSS’s Executive Committee added, “NASA’s updated plan for the Artemis Base Camp includes developing lunar resources, new lunar power systems, excavation and construction techniques, and the mitigation of lunar dust and extreme environments. This kind of open-ended and evolvable planning will provide U.S. leadership toward a sustainable human presence on the Moon and ultimately beyond.”
Notably, the extraction and refining of water from ice on the Moon allows for the manufacture of breathable air, drinkable water, and rocket fuel. Since it currently costs a minimum of about $1000 per pound launched to low Earth orbit, in the long term this capability will allow for much more affordable and sustained development of space. The same holds true for metals extracted from lunar soil, which can be made into a variety of useful items.
Read the full 13-page report: “NASA’s Plan for Sustained Lunar Exploration and Development.”
We space hopefuls hang onto every affirmation of sustained presence in space. A Moon base can accomplish many in situ advances. Support of the Dragon XL is a first step towards establishing a space based delivery network of orbital transfer vehicles for expanding orbital trade, as mining of the Moon becomes reality.
I have been waiting a long time for humans to return to the Moon. Glad to see this.