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NASA has outlined its plans for a moon base. The space agency says it will start work on the project after it has started flying astronauts to our largest satellite again in 2020.

After a wide-ranging international consultation, NASA decided the base should be solar powered, and most likely situated at one of the moon's poles. This maximises the amount of sunlight it will receive, and also puts the astronauts in one of the less-explored regions of the moon.

The base would eventually be a staging post for further exploration of the solar system, but initially it would be a place where humanity could learn "to live off the land" the agency said in a press announcement. It would also be a research outpost.

Building the base would be a long term project: NASA is planning an incremental build up with small crews making short visits to the moon, starting in 2020, while the moon base facilities are brought on line.

After several seven day visits, the space agency says it will run longer missions, which will see crews stay on the moon for 180 days. This will help prepare for missions to Mars.

All this would be preceded by robotic exploration missions that would survey the land and reduce the risk for a human mission.

Reuters reports that funds for the moon base will be diverted from the Shuttle program, once the current fleet is retired in 2010. ®

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