2009-07-25

Steps and Leaps

The fortieth anniversary of the first moon landing invites looks ahead. When will we again leave earth orbit and explore the solar system?

America's current plans are to return to the moon and move on to Mars in Project Constellation. The Vision for Space Exploration sees the establishment of bases on the moon as a means of learning to sustain extraterrestrial bases for for extended periods while conducting research and living off the land. This will be the springboard for journeys to Mars.

The official site for Project Constellation offers news, specs, images, and video.

The BBC interviews the designers of the next generation of lunar landers. Called Altair, the lander for the Constellation missions improves on the Apollo original in a number of ways. At the same time it bears a family resemblance to its predecessor. In other words, this new lander is no pin-up, either.

Two of the Apollo 11 astronauts have expressed their desire to see higher priority given to the exploration of Mars. Michael Collins says 'I worry that the current emphasis on returning to the moon will cause us to become ensnared in a technological briar patch needlessly delaying for decades the exploration of Mars - a much more worthwhile destination.'

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