NASA officials are reportedly considering teaming up with Russian scientists in an attempt to build a base on the moon.
The Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Friday that it is currently speaking with NASA officials and the European Space Agency on plans to create a manned research base on the moon.
“We don’t want man to just step on the moon,” said Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin. “Today, we know enough about it, we know that there is water in its polar areas … we are now discussing how to begin (the moon’s) exploration with NASA and the European Space Agency.”
The effort to put humans back on the moon comes as a number of nations have announced plans for sending probes to the moon, along with manned space missions. China has taken a number of steps towards putting humans on the surface of the moon. The nation is the third country, after Russia and the United States, to achieve human spaceflight. The country has launched three crewed spaceflights, each more ambitious than the last, since 2003, leading to speculation that a manned mission to the moon is not far off.
Meanwhile, NASA officials played down the speculation, issuing a statement noting that the space agency is not currently in discussions to launch a manned mission to the moon.
“We believe Popovkin may be referring to the work of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) and its Global Exploration Roadmap,” said. NASA spokesman J.D. Harrington. “NASA has been meeting with senior managers from Russia and nine other space agencies to advance coordinated space exploration.”
In the past, NASA has confirmed that the United States is involved in the program alongside Russia and nine other countries, noting their intention of enhancing the human presence in the Solar system and had the long-term goal of manned exploration of Mars. Moon exploration would help astronauts learn how to live and work on other planets and would create a foundation for further Martian efforts.
Whether Russia and NASA can team up to create a manned base on the moon remains unclear. Russian space exploration efforts have suffered several setbacks in recent years. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Roscosmos sorely lacked funds for interplanetary missions.
Most recently, some Russian space officials said that strong emissions from a United States radar station in the Marshall Islands may have accidentally brought Phobos-Grunt down. Outside experts regard that scenario as highly unlikely. Phobos-Grunt was just one of five high-profile failures for the Russian space program in 2011. The country also suffered three botched satellite launches and the crash of the unmanned Progress 44 supply ship, which was delivering cargo to the space station.
A lunar station will provide an opportunity to develop and test new space systems for flights to Mars and other planets, and astronomers will get better conditions for studying the universe.
The manned station could ultimately lead to private companies harvesting lunar resources for industrial purposes. The station could ultimately provide the space agencies with a platform from which to launch a manned mission to Mars.
The latest reports comes as speculation over a potential NASA moon base has long been rampant. NASA has given gamers a taste of lunar adventure with release of Moonbase Alpha, a free online video game. The game has single and multiplayer options that allow participants to step into the role of an exploration team member in a futuristic 3-D lunar settlement. Players must work to restore critical systems and oxygen flow after a meteor strike cripples a solar array and life support equipment. Available resources include an interactive command center, lunar rover, mobile robotic repair units and a fully-stocked equipment shed.