Establishing a permanent moon base is on the minds of many

NASA recently announced plans for a permanent base on the moon, which would begin once astronauts physically return to the moon around the year 2020.  The U.S. space agency is interested in constructing rockets and spacecraft that will be able to get people and supplies to the moon. 

The base will be built at one of the moon's poles, as the poles should offer a mild climate and more sunlight than other locations.  Four-person crews will initially spend short durations on the moon with teams constantly being rotated in and out, as with the current routine at the International Space Station.

The scientists and researchers stationed at the moon base would be able to use the moon's natural resources to help maintain the lunar outpost.  It is believed that the lunar base could be used as a stepping stone for future manned missions to Mars.  NASA has not released a specific cost estimate for the program.  NASA also plans on asking other nations and businesses to assist in the creation of the lunar base.

But before manned missions can be launched, NASA will launch a series of robotic missions to help study and analyze possible locations of lunar camps.  The lunar reconnaissance orbiter, scheduled to launch sometime in 2008, will create high-resolution maps to allow scientists to pick good landing sites while searching for natural resources.

Additionally, NASA anticipates to announce more details of Project Orion, the task to put American astronauts back on the moon by 2020, later this year.  Russia then pledged to put a mine on the moon by 2020, China has also announced that it plans to put a man on the moon by 2024, followed by JAXA in 2030. Although we're easily a decade before an actual space race, the moon is certainly shaping up to become the next backdrop for such an event.

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