Back to the future…or at least back to the moon for NASA as it lays foundations for a future mission to Mars. NASA has decided to build a permanently manned base on the moon, built at one of the lesser-explored poles to get more sunlight for the solar energy on which it will rely. it is also hoped the poles have resources like hydrogen or ice. The base will be a science outpost, a technology testbed, and flights to begin its construction will start in 2020. No plans exist yet of the base, although work on a new generation of spacecraft to fly missions there is underway.
No new money is being made available, and with the shuttle fleet retiring in four year’s time, the shuttle budget will be progressively switched to the new programme. The US is not going it alone, either, and is looking for commercial and international partners to share expenses and possibly provide components. The European Space Agency has already said it is interested. NASA last went to the moon in 1972 with the final Apollo flight, leaving a moon car and many footprints behind.