NASA plans permanent moon base

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NASA plans permanent moon base

NASA wants new, self-sustaining colony as a stepping stone to Mars.

NASA officials have announced plans to build a permanently inhabited base on the moon.

The space agency is appealing to international organisations and commercial space companies to help build the base. The plans call for building to begin by 2020 and the base to be permanently occupied and self sufficient by 2024.

Scott "Doc" Horowitz, NASA's associate administrator for exploration confirmed the plans.

"We're going for a base on the moon,” he said.

Lockheed Martin has already been awarded a US$3.5bn contract to develop the next generation of space craft, the Orion class, which will be able to carry four astronauts to the moon, or six to the International Space Station. The capsule, similar in design to the Apollo craft, will be carried on a new booster codenamed Ares.

The base will be at one of the moon’s poles, which enjoy good access to the sunlight needed for solar power. NASA has also detected unusual amounts of hydrogen at the poles, suggesting water may be there which could be converted into hydrogen for power and oxygen for survival.

The moon is rich in Helium 3, a useful fuel for nuclear reactors as it is virtually non-polluting.

NASA added that it hopes the moon could also be used as a staging post for future trips to Mars.
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