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The Lagrange points for the Earth-moon system  (Source: space.com)
Exploration and potential use of EML-2 provide a platform for radio astronomy as well as solar and Earth observation

NASA is in the midst of developing a team that will explore an area in space called the Earth-moon libration point 2 (EML-2).

A memo released by NASA on February 3 spells out a plan for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, where EML-2 will be one of the exploration points. The memo was written by William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations.

NASA said EML-2 could be the first step in the "capability-driven" exploration of other space sites like asteroids, the moon and Mars. U.S. President Barack Obama challenged NASA to put a man on an asteroid by 2025 and explore Mars in 2030.

There are five libration points, or Lagrangian points, which mark positions where the combined gravitational pull of two large masses provides the centripetal force needed to rotate with them. This combined gravitational pull of the two large masses balance each other out, and spacecraft is able to basically park in this stationary spot.

Exploration and potential use of EML-2, which is located near the lunar far side, could open up the use of telerobotic science on the far side of the moon and provide a platform for radio astronomy as well as solar and Earth observation. It could also enable assembly and servicing of satellites and telescopes. NASA sees the effort eventually creating international partnerships as well as new opportunities with commercial companies and academic institutions.

The memo plotted six strategic principles for exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, such as incorporating significant international participation that leverages current International Space Station partnerships; U.S. commercial business opportunities to further enhance the space station logistics market with a goal of reducing costs and allowing for private-sector innovation; multiuse or reusable in-space infrastructure that allows a capability to be developed and reused over time for a variety of exploration destinations; the application of technologies for near-term applications while focusing research and development of new technologies to reduce costs, improve safety and increase mission capture over the longer term; demonstrated affordability across the project life cycle, and Near-term mission opportunities with a well-defined cadence of compelling missions providing for an incremental buildup of capabilities to perform more complex missions over time.

If NASA were to use this human-tended EML-2 waypoint, it would be the farthest humans have traveled from Earth. To make this possible, NASA has recruited a study team to create near-term missions to EML-2. The study is to be completed by March 30, 2012.

In addition, Lockheed Martin and the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research (LUNAR) Center are collaborating to plan an Orion mission that would go into a halo orbit of EML-2 above the far side of the moon. According to the LUNAR Center, EML-2 travels would take astronauts 15 percent further from Earth than Apollo astronauts and keep them in deep space nearly three times longer.

"This is extremely exciting from both the exploration and science sides," said Jack Burns, director of the LUNAR Center. "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."

Sources: Space.com, MSNBC, The Christian Science Monitor



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Humans
By Ringold on 2/13/2012 1:12:31 PM , Rating: 2
I can see it being interesting for parking different sorts of telescopes, but not sure the purpose of sending humans there. Traveling to a lagrange point doesn't rouse the spirit like planting a flag on the Moon or Mars, and don't see any long term use of having humans stationed there beyond, maybe, a hotel of the sorts Bigelow Aerospace is working on. Even for that, I'd think L1 would be more attractive.

But still, good place to park other missions, surprised it hasn't been used already.




RE: Humans
By The0ne on 2/13/12, Rating: 0
RE: Humans
By FaceMaster on 2/13/12, Rating: 0
RE: Humans
By kattanna on 2/13/2012 2:18:32 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
U.S. President Barack Obama challenged NASA to put a man on an asteroid by 2025 and explore Mars in 2030.


quote:
NASA is broke, under-funded


but you see.. thats THE challenge!

Obama HOPES to get to the moon, using only spare CHANGE


RE: Humans
By Belard on 2/13/12, Rating: 0
RE: Humans
By ameriman on 2/15/2012 8:57:35 AM , Rating: 1
NASA is broke, under-funded
====== =
No... Only a bloated, top-heavy, bureaucratic Federal Agency considers $18+ billion/year under-funded..

NASA, as all govt, is full of pork, waste, dead-wood, inefficiency, overhead..

NASA wasted $20 billion on it's failed/cancelled Constellation booster/capsule..

Private Enterprise SpaceX developed 2 new rockets and a capsule for $300 million..

We were fools to trust government with the US space program.
We need to fix that.


RE: Humans
By MrBlastman on 2/13/2012 3:43:10 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. If anything, this mission would seem better suited to unmanned probes. The men and women on board would be so reliant on sensors as it is that a probe would be better suited.

That is--with NASA's current anemic budget. I'd rather then go back to the moon or beyond.

The one benefit I can see coming from this is three times the exposure to both the solar wind and radiation lingering out there--and the effects of it on the human body. But, even then, we know pretty well what radiation will cause. We could easily just strap some sensors on the probe to detect the radiation levels and chart them over time.


RE: Humans
By ameriman on 2/14/2012 10:00:13 PM , Rating: 2
NASA's current anemic budget
======= ==

$18 billion budget is a HUGE amount of money for any efficient enterprise...
While NASA was wasting $20 billion on it's failed/cancelled Constellation
SpaceX was producing two new rockets and a capsule for under $300 million..

it is only anemic for a bloated, top-heavy, pork oriented, sloth filled Federal agency.

The problem isn't enough money... it is the Fed Govt agency NASA.


RE: Humans
By MrBlastman on 2/17/2012 12:21:57 PM , Rating: 1
A capsule. A capsule and two rockets. Where is their space station at Space-X? Where is there C&C operation? Where were their reusable space vehicles (moot point almost now but what about in the past)? Where are their space probes? Where are their mars landers? Where are their astronomers, telescopes and beyond?

I could go on. NASA is a good thing for America and it is far underfunded. Privatized space flight is also a good thing. Does it need funding? NO! Look what Tesla, Fisker and Solyndra have done with funding. Jack squat.

Leave private spaceflight private. Leave NASA alone while you're at it and up their budgets so they can inspire Americans once more.


RE: Humans
By ameriman on 2/14/2012 10:37:22 PM , Rating: 2
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy can land a Dragon spacecraft on Mars in 2014..

Falcon boosters can put the modules and fuel for on-orbit assembly/fueling for affordable Lunar and Mars missions..

SpaceX can do deep space missions for pennies on the dollar vs NASA...

We need to fully fund SpaceX, and stop pretending that NASA will ever be efficient, rational, or escape nonsensical Congressional pork projects.


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