CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - NASA said on Monday it plans to build a permanently occupied base on the moon, most likely at the lunar south pole.
The habitat will serve as a science outpost as well as a testbed for technologies needed for future travel to Mars, and construction will follow a series of flights to the moon scheduled to begin by 2020.
"We're going for a base on the moon," Scott "Doc" Horowitz, NASA's associate administrator for exploration, told reporters in a teleconference from the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Plans for what the base will look like and what astronauts would do there have yet to be determined. Similarly, NASA has not projected a date when the base would go into operation.
The moon's polar sites are preferred to equatorial regions because of more moderate temperatures and longer periods of sunlight, which is critical for the solar-powered electrical systems NASA plans to develop. Eventually, nuclear power may be used to augment or replace the solar energy systems.
Scientists also suspect the poles have resources such as hydrogen, ice and other materials that could be used for life support.
Recently we were watching some mindless television show and there were visual and dialog references to Stanley Kubrick's late 1960s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. I made the comment to my wife that Kubrick's reach extended far beyond his death, and my son mentioned that he had seen those visual images a lot in the shows he likes to watch, but who was Stanley Kubrick?
Well, Saturday afternoon we took over the television (a rare occurrence in our house) and put 2001 - A Space Odyssey into the DVD player and showed our son one of the seminal cinematographic milestones of the past century. He sat through most of it without complaint, but was pretty wierded out by the last segment. We then put 2010: The Year We Make Contact into the DVD player and watched that. This one had more action, dialog, and answered a few of his questions as to just what was going on in the earlier film. This was not a Kubrick film, and that was quite obvious, but it was enjoyable enough.
Two days later (Monday, December 4, 2006) NASA held a press conference to announce that plans for a permanent Lunar base would go forward, with work to begin by 2020. I was reminded of the scene in 2001 of the lunar base, Clavius, where the second monolith was found.
I can barely remember Sputnik, but I remember the subsequent space flights, and I am excited about this new development and look forward to seeing it unfold. I hope my son, who has never experienced anything other than the space age, can enjoy this as much as I.