NASA gets cold feet on Moon base plan
2009-06-28 0:00

By David Shiga | NewScientist.com

NASA will probably not build an outpost on the moon as originally planned, the agency's acting administrator, Chris Scolese, told lawmakers on Wednesday. His comments also hinted that the agency is open to putting more emphasis on human missions to destinations like Mars or a near-Earth asteroid.

NASA has been working towards returning astronauts to the moon by 2020 and building a permanent base there. But some space analysts and advocacy groups like the Planetary Society have urged the agency to cancel plans for a permanent moon base, carry out shorter moon missions instead, and focus on getting astronauts to Mars.

Under Scolese's predecessor, Mike Griffin, the agency held firm to its moon base plans. But the comments by Scolese, who will lead NASA until President Barack Obama nominates the next administrator, suggest a shift in the agency's direction. He spoke to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations.

Scolese was asked repeatedly whether NASA could still make it to the moon by 2020 under the proposed 2010 budget, but failed to give a clear yes or no, and his answers suggested the agency's plans were in flux.


Instead of building a permanent lunar base, NASA may send astronauts on short 'sorties' or excursions (Illustration: NASA)


Short trips

"We were looking at an outpost on the moon, as the basis for that [2020] estimate and that one is being revisited," he said. "It will probably be less than an outpost on the moon, but where it fits between sorties, single trips, to the moon to various parts and an outpost is really going to be dependent on the studies that we're going to be doing."

"Recall [that] the Vision [for Space Exploration] was not just to go to the moon as it was in Apollo, it was to utilise space to go on to Mars and to go to other places," he added. "We've demonstrated over the last several years that with multiple flights we can build a very complex system reliably – the space station – involving multiple nations…and we'll need something like that if we're going to go to Mars."

Scolese's further comments hinted that the agency's plans might shift to include a greater emphasis on destinations beyond the moon. "So what I would like to see from NASA over time is an architecture that…will give us flexibility for taking humans beyond low-Earth orbit and allowing us to have options for what we can do at the moon as well as other destinations…[like] Mars or an asteroid…so that there are options on what we do in 2020," he said.

Vague answers

Scolese's vague answers on whether NASA believed it could meet its 2020 moon deadline, as well as similarly unclear answers from Doug Cooke, NASA's associate administrator for exploration systems, left the subcommittee's chair, congressman Alan Mollohan, wondering whether the agency had been given new directions.

"Does the 2010 budget request impact in any way our target – is this so complicated – our target of getting to the moon by 2020?" he asked. "Is there any consideration being given within the organisation to not attempting to meet the 2020 moon [return]…is there any reconsideration of going there? What is going on here?"

Cooke replied: "The direction that we have is to continue to pursue the 2020 date," but added that the agency was still assessing how the 2010 budget might affect that.

Some clarification about any shift in NASA's goals and priorities could come in early May, when the Obama administration's detailed 2010 budget proposal for NASA is set to be released.



Related Articles
Timetable for Moon colony announced
Why The Moon?
Atlas 5 rocket launches NASA moon mission
NASA uses probes to hunt for ancient planet that may prove Earth moon origins
The Moon - Who put it there?
Nasa 'rejects Russia Moon help
There's Something Strange on the Moon


Latest News from our Front Page

New Jersey Shopkeeper Hangs 'White History Month' Sign In Window
2015-03-05 18:08
A deli owner in Flemington, New Jersey, has angered many of his neighbors by posting a sign on his window that reads, "Celebrate Your White Heritage in March White History Month." Jim Boggess, who is the owner of Jimbo's Deli, says he put up the sign to remind everyone that they should be proud of their race and culture. "No matter what ...
The Viking ”Maine Penny” Mystery
2015-03-05 3:41
In 1957, during his second year of digging at the Goddard site; a large prehistoric Indian trade village in Penobscot Bay on the central Maine coast, local resident and amateur archaeologist Guy Mellgren found a small silver coin. The coin is later identified by experts as a Norse silver penny dating to the reign of Olaf Kyrre, king of Norway ...
The Sagas of the (Viking) Icelanders Shed Light on Golden Age
2015-03-05 3:40
The Sagas of the Icelanders have long been preserved as the most comprehensive specimen of the literary culture of the 13th and 14th centuries of Iceland. In writing these sagas, many attributes of the 10th and 11th centuries were conserved, particularly individual biographies, the history of family feuds, and the overall evolution of the one of the greatest settlements ...
Benjamin Netanyahu's Full Speech to Congress
2015-03-05 1:36
Here is the full speech of Pathological Zionist Liar Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States Congress. "And the Oscar goes too ...." Description from YouTube: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel used one of the most prominent platforms in the world on Tuesday to warn against what he called a “bad deal” being negotiated with Iran to freeze its nuclear program, bringing ...
The FDA Admits That Prior to 2011 Over 70% of U.S. Chickens Contained Cancer-Causing Arsenic
2015-03-04 20:32
Prior to 2011, the cancer-causing toxic chemical Roxarsone, which in high doses could kill you, was being added to chicken feed on purpose, giving store-bought chicken the illusion of healthy coloring and plump appearance. Shockingly, this was the case with more than 70 percent of all U.S. chickens! A recent article was published stating that this continued to be the ...
More News »