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NASA details plan to return humans to Moon, then Mars in new campaign

NASA visitor's center. (Pixabay/Released)
October 02, 2018

As it continues to work toward its directed goal of returning humans to Earth’s moon and eventually onto Mars, NASA recently unveiled its five-step campaign that will help the space agency get there.

Back in December 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Space Policy Directive-1 which directed NASA to develop a program using commercial and international partners to “enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”

The U.S. space agency first revealed its National Space Exploration Campaign in a Wednesday, Sept. 26 post to its website.

“The National Space Exploration Campaign calls for human and robotic exploration missions to expand the frontiers of human experience and scientific discovery of the natural phenomena of Earth, other worlds and the cosmos,” the space agency writes. “The Exploration Campaign builds on 18 continuous years of Americans and our international partners living and working together on the International Space Station.

“It leverages advances in the commercial space sector, robotics and other technologies, and accelerates in the next few years with the launch of NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.”

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NASA’s plan lays out the following steps, in numerical order:

To transition U.S. human low-Earth orbit spaceflight activities to commercial operations that support NASA “and the needs of an emerging private sector market.”

Lead the implementation of functions that support operations on the surface of the moon, and to “facilitate missions” beyond just between the Earth and its moon.

Foster new scientific discoveries and use of lunar resources through a series of future robotic missions.

Return American astronauts to the surface of the Moon for a “sustained campaign of exploration and use.

Demonstrate what is required to support manned missions to Mars and beyond.

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“Based on inputs from current partners, commercial and other stakeholders, NASA will shape the plan for the transition of low-Earth orbit activities from direct government funding to commercial services and partnerships, with new, independent commercial platforms or a non-NASA operating model for some form or elements of the International Space Station by 2025,” the space agency says of the space station.

“In addition, NASA will expand public-private partnerships to develop and demonstrate technologies and capabilities to enable new commercial space products and services.”

This all falls in line with everything President Donald Trump said in the policy directive and budget signing, as well as Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks at meetings of the National Space Council.

Back in February, Pence, the chairman of the revived space council, said the “convoluted maze of bureaucratic obstacles” and “outdated regulatory processes” were holding the space industry and our technological capabilities back. The vice president made these remarks from the Kennedy Space Center.

“President Trump and our entire administration believe that America’s prosperity, security, and even our national character, depend on American leadership in space,” Pence said at the time.

“And over the past year, the world has seen the vital role that private enterprise plays to advance American leadership in outer space. We’ve seen the increasing number of American businesses sending experiments to the International Space Station.”

Trump’s 2019 NASA budget was highlighted by sending astronauts back to space and the goal of ending federal funding of the International Space Station by 2025.

NASA clarifies in its National Space Exploration Campaign that the space station will continue its current operations through at least 2024. If that timeline holds true, the orbiting laboratory will have had continuous human occupancy for nearly 25 years.

The current crew aboard the International Space Station consists of two from Roscosmos, three NASA astronauts and one from Germany by way of the European Space Agency.

The president agreed to set aside $10.5 billion of the $19.9 billion budget to kick off a mission that will return humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and eventually push missions on to Mars.

This funding also helps to boost the creation of low-Earth orbit space flight meant for NASA’s “commercial partnerships and innovative approaches, to achieve human and science exploration goals.”

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© 2018 MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

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