Feeds

NASA plans manned Deep Space Moon outpost

Agency investigates way station for astronauts

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

NASA is looking at the possibility of parking a manned outpost beside the Moon as a way station for astronauts on their way to deep space missions.

Star Trek Deep Space Nine

The way station probably won't look anything like this.

According to a memo from William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, cited by Space.com, the agency is putting together a team to assess the possibilities of a potential location on the far side of the Moon known as Earth-Moon libration point 2 (EML-2).

Libration, or Lagrangian, points are parking spots in space where a small object is equally affected by the gravitational pull of two large masses, which cancel each other out, holding the craft in place.

The agency is looking at using the heavy-lift rocket Space Launch System and the Orion crewship as "the foundational elements" for the stationary craft.

A craft at EML-2 could allow exploration and experimentation on near-lunar space, asteroids and the Moon, as well as being a stop-off point for missions to Mars and Martian moons.

The waystation would also see astronauts travelling the farthest into space they've been so far.

A NASA Lunar Science Institute's LUNAR Centre white paper pointed out that "an EML-2 mission would have astronauts traveling 15 per cent farther from Earth than did the Apollo astronauts, and spending almost three times longer in deep space".

"This is extremely exciting from both the exploration and science sides," Jack Burns, director of LUNAR (Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research) said. "This mission concept seems to be really taking off now because it is unique and offers the prospects of doing something significant outside of low-Earth orbit within this decade."

Burns and his team have been working with Lockheed Martin for more than a year to plan an Orion mission that would go into a halo orbit of the EML-2.

Gerstenmaier's memo pointed out that EML-2 "is a complex region of cis-lunar space that has certain advantages as an initial staging point for exploration, but may also have some disadvantages that must be well understood".

A NASA team has been picked out to look at some near-term missions to EML-2 "as we continue to refine our understanding and the implications of using this waypoint as part of the broader exploration capability development".

The team is due to complete its study by the end of March. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.