NASA Wants to Return to the Moon as Early as This Year

By Korey Haynes | February 15, 2019 3:13 pm
NASA moon

NASA has big plans for returning to the moon, but private companies will do much of the work. (Credit: NASA)

In November, NASA tapped nine private spaceflight companies who will be allowed to bid on upcoming projects. Yesterday, they elaborated on what those projects would be during an industry forum. Starting as early as this year, NASA hopes to send commercial landers to the lunar surface as the first step toward returning to the moon, this time for good.

Long Lunar To-Do List

There’s a lot of work to be done before permanent or long-term lunar activities can begin. The first tasks will be to practice launching and landing on the moon, as well as answering questions about its surface. There’s plenty of technology NASA wants to see established on the ground before humans are sent back to the moon – and a lot of it is meant to stand in for future Mars settlement as well.

Some of that technology has to do with a recent buzzword among the space settlement community: in-situ resource utilization, or ISRU. This means using materials and resources already available on the moon and, one day, Mars, rather than carting all our resources with us, as has been standard for space missions. This most commonly means using solar power for energy. On the moon, it will also mean extracting water, which can be used for drinking or to power rockets. Both the hydrogen and oxygen that make up water are powerful fuel materials.

So commercial lunar partners will work on how to mine and recycle resources on the moon and make them available for future mission use. They will test habitation for future crewed missions. They’ll prove that they can collect materials from the lunar surface and return them to space or Earth. And they’ll establish communication networks between robots on the moon’s surface, way stations in lunar orbit, and mission control on Earth.

All these commercial endeavors would also need to integrate with NASA’s planned Lunar Gateway. This would be a space station in orbit around the moon that would serve as Grand Central Station for robotic or crewed missions to the lunar surface, or even for deep space missions. NASA hopes to open the Gateway by 2026, with the first power and propulsion elements entering orbit in 2022.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
MORE ABOUT: moon, space exploration
  • Uncle Al

    NASA Wants to Return to the Moon as Early as This Year” using what as booster, vehicle, landing, relaunch, and reentry? Did somebody raid Elon Musk’s dumpster?

  • Erik Bosma

    The boys in DC are getting scared that Xi and Co. will be claiming the Moon soon.

    • Uncle Al

      Open Borders! giggle.

    • OWilson

      China has to get there first to save the Moon from the planet killing Big Oil Americans!

      Business Insider – “China is on a mission to become the next green superpower. The country is the largest investor in renewable energy, sinking $126.6 billion into the industry in 2017, a 30% increase from the year prior. … China’s shift away from coal and other fossil fuels has accelerated in the last decade”.

      God speed! :)

  • Uncle Al

    Every nation must dump money into a Chinese 400+ TeV particle hypercollider ON THE MOON! The vacuum is free – no air leaks. Free solar energy! No endangered species. Every pebble, every bit of dirt is worth a fortune on Earth. If the moon thereafter collapses into a black hole, no problem – it says in orbit.

    • Ryan Snaca AniloHectycle


  • Mike Richardson

    If the funding is there, a return to the moon within a few years is certainly not unrealistic. In the 1960s, NASA went from the first orbits of earth to landing on the moon within one decade. We now have much more advanced technology, as well as a better understanding of what resources are present on the moon. The expanding involvement of private space companies also allows NASA choice and competition for the best options in establishing a permanent lunar outpost.

    Further down the road, the question will be to what extent we settle the moon. Will it be for research, like Antarctica? A stepping stone for further space exploration? Utilization of resources such as helium 3 for future fusion power plants on earth or even in space, as well as aluminum and other materials for constructing space craft and habitats for an expanding solar system infrastructure? Also, we will need to determine if long-term habitation of the moon is even feasible, or if the low gravity is detrimental to human health. One can imagine that if children are allowed to be born on the moon, they would never be able to visit the home world because it would subject them to six times the gravity of their birthplace — potentially lethal in terms of the stress on the cardiovascular system, as well as debilitating in terms of stress on the musculoskeletal system.

    It will be interesting to see how these concerns play out in coming decades, as the U.S., China, and other national and corporate entities stake their claims to lunar resources.

  • Barry Warmkessel

    Sentient life forms (EILFs) in groups of seven. This is called a ‘combo’. There are two on our Earth. The other five can be found here.

  • Tony Peart

    This from an organization that can’t reach low earth orbit.Setting up an infrastructure to launch something as powerful as a Saturn 5 will take longer than a year.

    • Lazar Gurevich

      Sending probes to Mars and other planets is a bit further than Earth orbit.

    • A. Nonnie Mouse

      SpaceX just launched a lunar lander for an Israeli company

  • Willtech

    Funding should not be an issue. There was a concept at one time to launch a set of super-bright full spectrum laser projection satellites in geostationary orbits equidistant around Earth and project onto the moon surface (for the northern hemisphere). I do not know about the power requirements but, the value of the media leasing should be enough to pay for anything worthwhile. Admittedly showing movies would be difficult without synchronised sound but brand placement would be a premium.

  • James Brown

    We should have setup a lunar home / work station a long time ago.. Now China / ussr / etc are on or near going to be on the moon…

  • A. Nonnie Mouse

    By the time NASA gets there, it’s going to be pretty crowded. An Israeli company will have a lander on the surface in 2 months. It was on the most recent SpaceX launch.


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