It is a new step that NASA wishes to take in lunar exploration. If the Earth seems to be idling since half of the world population is confined, the conquest of space knows no truce. On April 2, NASA released a report outlining its plans for a sustainable exploration of the Moon. These would involve the installation of a base camp at the south pole of the Earth’s natural satellite.
Artemis Mission 3
It is by 2024 that the United States plans to return its astronauts to the Moon, as part of the Artemis 3 mission. Prepared for a long time, this mission would be the opportunity to set up the beginnings of infrastructure allowing scientists to stay on the Moon for missions of one to two months:
“After this moon landing in 2024, we will develop a prolonged and strategic presence at the South Lunar Pole, with the Artemis base camp. The activities that will take place at Artemis Base Camp over the next decade will pave the way for economic and scientific activities on the Moon, as well as the first human mission to Mars in the 2030s ”, specifies the report.
In order to set up this camp, NASA has established three essential needs: a lunar field vehicle, so that the team can move on the Moon; a habitable mobility platform for long-term expeditions away from the camp; and a fixed living area for four people, for short stays in the South Pole of the Moon. To this must be added infrastructures ensuring communications, power supply, protection against radiation, elimination of waste, etc.
Technical and budgetary difficulties
The report does not venture however to give a very precise calendar of this lunar installation, any more than it specifies the cost. If NASA plans to develop in the next decade, it could be considerably slowed by the economic crisis looming in the aftermath of the measures taken to deal with the coronavirus.
While the Trump government had split enthusiastic announcements about a new US presence on the Moon (coinciding with the end of a potential second presidential term), the technical and budgetary reality of such a project appears in out of step with these ambitions.
The deep space gateway project called Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, which was supposed to simulate an expedition to Mars from the Moon, already seemed to be in jeopardy in mid-March, and NASA planned to delay its development.