President Barack Obama is still in power, which is good news for NASA, whose budget, strategy and missions may have been revised under defeated Republication presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Space policy expert John Logsdon told Space.com’s Mike Wall that plans to send humans to the far side of the moon have already been approved by the Obama administration, but were kept hush-hush in case Romney won Tuesday night’s election.
The plan involves establishing a manned outpost about 38,000 miles from the moon in an area known as the Earth-moon libration point 2, or EML-2. This is a gravitationally stable spot, making it possible to “park” a spacecraft there, explains Wall. In other words, the station would stay put without much extra help.
Beyond allowing astronauts to explore deep space, the station would service as a holding pen for crew members so they could eventually do other things in space, like land on an asteroid (planned for 2025), visit Mars (planned for the mid-2030s), or head back to the moon.
In September, Orlando Sentinel’s Mark K. Matthews reported that NASA Chief Charles Bolden had presented details of the deep space station plan to the White House. At the time, it was not clear if the Obama administration was behind it, one key setback being the hefty cost of such an ambitious mission (The agency thinks a federal budget of $17.7 billion, as requested for 2013, will help get the job done).
A large chunk of this money would go toward continued work on a very powerful rocket called the Space Launch System and the Orion space capsule, both being developed so that NASA can theoretically begin construction on the outpost by 2021.
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