Sunday, September 27, 2009

Back to the lunar future?

Alan Boyle
Is this week's revelation that water ice is more prevalent on the moon than scientists expected a "game-changer" for future spaceflight, as some experts think? Actually, the rules of the game for going beyond Earth orbit haven't changed - but the latest findings could bring new attention to options in the old playbooks.

The publication of three studies in Science about ice on the moon, plus yet another study about buried water ice on Mars, comes at an interesting time. More than five years after the White House set a goal of sending humans back to the moon by 2020, an independent panel chaired by retired aerospace executive Norman Augustine is wrapping up a full report that takes a second look at all the options for human spaceflight. (A summary report was sent to the White House earlier this month.)

At the same time, NASA is on the verge of taking two significant steps in its renewed moon effort: On Oct. 9, the LCROSS probe is due to slam into a crater near the lunar south pole, a dark pit that could contain usable reservoirs of ice. Later next month, the space agency will go ahead with a test launch of its prototype Ares I-X moon rocket.

For all these reasons, the back-to-the-moon plan - which was turning into a case of "been there, done that 40 years ago" - is starting to look sexy again.

Read the Full-Run Up, HERE.

No comments: