NASA Moon Base would run on Solar Panels

LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA - NASA announced new details about its plans for a Moon base that included a pair of small, pressurized rovers with a range of nearly 600 miles.

The space agency plans to return astronauts to the Moon around 2020. Agency officials first described proposals last December for a polar lunar base powered by near constant sunlight on solar panels.

Earlier proposals to carry small habitation modules to the Moon in stages might be supplanted by a proposal that would heave a single large module to the Moon on an unmanned cargo ship, Doug Cooke, the NASA official leading the lunar study group, said.

The new rover would not be much larger than the buggies the Apollo astronauts drove, but would be pressurized so that astronauts could drive in shirt sleeves and be protected from radiation — probably by a layer of water in the rover’s body, said Geoff Yoder, an official working on the lunar plans. To explore on foot, astronauts would put on spacesuits and leave the vehicle, Mr. Yoder said. The cost? “More than a Ferrari,” he joked.

The scientists said they had also discussed nuclear energy as a power supply for the habitat, since that might be necessary for building a successful encampment on Mars. But, Mr. Cooke said, the initial power source for the lunar base “should be solar.” They have also discussed making the lunar lander and habitat mobile so that the base could be moved for exploration of other areas in what is being called “super sortie” mode, he said.

The updated plans were discussed at a conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Long Beach, Calif.


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