A couple of months ago, I made a snide remark about those who advocate “pulling out of the Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits [military] installations on the moon among other things.”
“Not that we have a plan for a [military] moon-base, but we might—you know?”
Right. So, nearly three years after President Bush ordered NASA scientists to plan for a manned “foothold on the moon,” we may be getting that moon base—albeit a civilian one:
NASA’s Lunar Architecture Team, chartered in May 2006, concluded that the most advantageous approach is to develop a solar-powered lunar base and to locate it near one of the poles of the moon. With such an outpost, NASA can learn to use the moon’s natural resources to live off the land, make preparations for a journey to Mars, conduct a wide range of scientific investigations and encourage international participation.
“The architecture work has resulted in an understanding of what is required to implement and enable critical exploration objectives,” said Doug Cooke, deputy associate administrator, Exploration Systems Directorate. “This is all important as we continue the process we have begun and better define the architecture and our various exploration roles in what is a very exciting future for the United States and the world.”
As currently envisioned, an incremental buildup would begin with four-person crews making several seven-day visits to the moon until their power supplies, rovers and living quarters are operational. The first mission would begin by 2020. These would be followed by 180-day missions to prepare for journeys to Mars.
The proposed lunar architecture calls for robotic precursor missions designed to support the human mission. These precursors include landing site reconnaissance, natural resource assays and technology risk reduction for the human lander.
[Read more at the NASA website.]
Anyway, the announcement contains nothing to suggests that the notional moon-base would be a military installation or in any way incompatible with the Outer Space Treaty.
But it did remind me of Cold War studies for lunar military installations. For a history of crazy military moonbase ideas, Jeff Richelson’s “Shooting for the Moon” in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is a great place to start.
— Jeffrey Lewis, cross-posted from Arms Control Wonk.com