The moon is a perfect pitstop on a manned mission to Mars
According to Popular Mechanics, Russian and American engineers are quietly working toward building a space station that would orbit the moon and serve as a base for missions deeper into space. Proposals for involvement between the two countries were recently presented at the ISS research and development conference in San Diego. If everything goes according to plan, this could incite a second wave of space innovation and exploration.
After the International Space Station (ISS) makes its scheduled dive into the ocean in 2024, you can expect most of the participating organizations to go their separate ways. While NASA funds independent companies like SpaceX, and The European Space Agency (ESA) financially contributes to promote NASA’s interstellar programs, Russia has yet to make any joint plans beyond the ISS.
While funding always poses a challenge for emerging space programs, the strained political relationship between the U.S. and Russia might present an even greater hurdle. That being said, aerospace engineers from Boeing and Lockheed Martin and Russia’s RKK Energia and GKNPTs Khrunichev are attempting to circumvent political obstacles to build a multinational space station that would orbit the moon.
But what makes Russians and Americans ideal partners for this venture? Apparently, Russian engineers are pros at manufacturing habitable space modules, while the American Space Launch System (SLS) is the most promising super-heavy rocket on the market. By building a base near the moon together, they’ll be able to better explore the moon’s surface, study incoming asteroids, and simulate missions to Mars. To sum it up, the possibilities are basically endless.
While these exciting plans have not been officially endorsed by NASA as of yet, the organization’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, William Gerstenmaier, explained to Popular Mechanics in reference to the proposals:
“Until we look at them, I can't pass judgment whether they are viable or not, [but] it is encouraging that the industry is doing it on its own… and it is consistent with what we are thinking about, including going to cislunar space. … So when we, the government, decide something to do, the industry has (already) done its homework.”
In the meantime, there’s no harm in dreaming about the possibility of space travel. While concrete plans might still be far off, the possibility can certainly inject a healthy dose of optimism into our present. On that note, Gerstenmaier leaves us with this inspiring clarification: “Don't think of it as a space station around the Moon. Think of it as the beginning of the Mars transit system.”