April 28, 2004

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Our Furture on the Moon


LRO - Our Future on the Moon

Are we on the verge of a historical restart of exploration of the Moon? In January, President Bush announced an initiative to return Americans to the Moon and go on to Mars. Unfortunately, the amount of funding proposed seems to be wildly insufficient, but for the first time in a generation NASA has a human mission that is bold, exciting and has a solid surface rather than an orbit as a destination. NASA has reorganized around the new Moon/Mars goals and the first outward sign of change is this pre-announcement of opportunity to build instruments for a lunar orbiter to be launched in 2008. This spacecraft will collect the data needed to better understand conditions necessary for a safe human landing 10-15 years from now. Many in the lunar and planetary community are concerned with the slow pace of this initiative - the first US spacecraft, Mariner II to Venus, was launched 12 months after it was funded, and we first went to the Moon in less than 10 years after President Kennedy stated that goal. But slow is better than what we have done during the last 30 years, and the precursor missions, such as LRO, will provide vital scientific (high res global topography for one) and engineering data. And there is a sense of optimism and excitement - we are about to become a space-faring culture once again!

Related Links:
Notice of intent to issue a LRO solicitation
JFK on going to the Moon

Yesterday's LPOD: A Penetrating View of Imbrium

Tomorrow's LPOD: Greek Letters

Author & Editor:
Charles A. Wood



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