Living on the moon may not be far off, at least according to a group of NASA scientists, who this week unveiled a plan to build a permanent settlement on Earth’s closest neighbor.
The Global Exploration Strategy, GES, outlines NASA’s space timeline, which includes shuttling astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972, Mars exploration and the construction of a long-lasting lunar camp– all by 2024.
Here is a recent artist's conception of what a permanent base on the moon would look like. NASA regularly commissions artists to put together visual examples of proposed missions.
An artist's vision of what lunar machinery would look like. This is an imagined crane for lifting heavier or bulkier equipment.
In the foreground, a roving vehicle similar to the one used on three Apollo missions is depicted. This is an artist's conception of a lunar base and some of the activity that would take place off base.
This image shows a deep drill team on the moon, obtaining sample cores for petrological studies of Aristarchus, a large lunar crater.
Scientists feel the discovery of ice on the moon, as imagined here, would greatly increase the chances of developing a self-sustaining lunar colony. Some astronomers think there may be ice in the permanently shadowed parts of the moon, where the sun never shines.
An inflatable habitat similar to this could make up part of an outpost on the moon, making an effective forerunner to a permanent inhabited lunar base. The artist has depicted an inflatable habitat with a construction shack and related solar shield, as well as connecting tunnel bags for radiation protection, a thermal radiation experimental six-legged walker, a solar power system for the lunar oxygen plant and other elements.
Pioneering astronauts in space may encounter hazards and crises that would require emergency procedures. In this artist's conception, an antenna installer fell over a 90-foot escarpment and fractured his right leg. Responding to this situation on a "medivac" hopper, two other lunar base crew members employ a portable CAT-scan device, a holographic display, and helmet-mounted heads-up displays to determine the severity of the injury.
A Martian meteorite found in Antarctica as well as diverse rock samples detected by the Mars Pathfinder indicate the strong possibility of finding evidence of life on Mars. Here is an artist's rendering of two scientists, either geologists or biologists, searching for fossils on the surface of Mars.
Did life ever exist on Mars? If so, the best evidence may be fossils preserved in its rocks. Geologists and biologists may one day explore Mars, piecing together the planet's history-- and possibly, its ancient life.
President Bush's proposal calls for the moon being used as a launching point for manned missions to Mars. This is an artist's depiction of a Martian settlement.