In the wake of the National Space Council’s first meeting, NASA says it has been told to draw up plans to send humans to the moon “for long-term exploration and utilization,” followed by trips to Mars and other interplanetary destinations.
That means moon bases are back in style.
But what kind of moon base? NASA’s current vision for space exploration goes only so far as to consider putting a Deep Space Gateway in lunar orbit. It’s basically a space station that could serve as a platform for monitoring robotic operations on the lunar surface, or for sending astronauts onward to Mars.
During the Obama administration, NASA saw lunar settlement as the purview of commercial ventures and international partners. The European Space Agency, for example, has its own vision for a “Moon Village,” and Bigelow Aerospace has floated the idea of putting expandable commercial habitats on the moon.
Now NASA will include moon base concepts in its own blueprint for beyond-Earth exploration. Fortunately, this isn’t virgin territory: NASA could turn to the work it was doing a decade ago, the last time moon bases were in style.