NASA said that within a decade, the U.S. will have a constant manned presence on the moon, opening up technology for an eventual trip to Mars.
Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator made the announcement.
He said, “Right now we’re building a space station, we call it ‘Gateway,’ that’s going to be in orbit around the moon — think of it as a reusable command module where we can have human presence in orbit around the moon. From there we want reusable landers that go back and forth to the surface of the moon, The Hill reported.
— The Hill (@thehill) December 3, 2018
He added, “We think we can achieve this in about 10 years, the idea being prove the capability, retire the risk, prove the human physiology and then go on to Mars,” according to The Daily Mail.
Bridenstine, who is a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot and also served as a congressman in Oklahoma, was named NASA chief by President Donald Trump in April to lead a sector of Trump’s Space Directive-1 policy, designed to revisit Moon exploration.
Bridenstine said that NASA has plans to “partner with nine U.S. companies to travel to the moon, a key component of NASA’s plan to extend human space exploration.”
Plans will include creating a commercial marketplace called the Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program (CLIPS), which will “eventually establish a continuous Moon presence.”
Bridenstine said, “At the end of the day, what we’re doing is we’re going to buy services where we’re going to have multiple companies competing on cost and innovation to deliver payloads to the surface of the moon — right now we’re just talking about scientific instruments, not large payloads, but building the capability that then feeds forward to larger landers that would include humans.”
Astronauts that would travel to Mars in the future would be on a two-year mission since Mars is only on the same side of the sun as Earth once every 26 months.
“The moon represents a proving ground, it’s the way we can reduce risk, we can prove technology, we can prove human physiology, we can develop the capabilities to utilize the resources of the moon to survive on the surface of the moon and then we take all of those capabilities and we replicate them at Mars,” Bridenstine said.
On Nov. 26, InSight, the first mission dedicated to studying the deep interior of Mars, made its landing on the planet for a two-year journey, according to NASA.
“This week we landed on the surface of Mars. It’s the eighth time in the history of humanity that anyone has landed on the surface of Mars softly with a mission that’s capable of carrying forward,” Bridenstine said.