Does NASA have plans to send a manned mission to the Moon?
NASA has an exciting new vision of future spaceflight-the return of humans to the moon by 2020 in preparation for visits to Mars and possibly beyond.
Moon missions are essential to the exploration of more distant worlds. Extended lunar stays build the experience and expertise needed for the long-term space missions required to visit other planets. The moon may also be used as a forward base of operations on which humans learn how to replenish essential supplies, such as rocket fuel and oxygen, by creating them fromlocal material.Such skills are essential to the future expansion of human presence into deeper space.TheConstellation Programhas near-term scientific objectives as well. Although humans have visited the moon before, our closest neighbor still harbors its own scientific mysteries to be explored-including the investigation of water ice near the moon's poles.Future human moon missions will be preceded by robotic reconnaissance launches, between 2008 and 2011, to scout landing sites that may have the most resources available to astronauts.The moon's south pole is considered particularlypromising because it is rich in hydrogen and may be home to water ice as well.
No, NASA does not have such plans, because Congress has not authorised them to make such plans. However, it is developing systems that would allow it to make such plans in the future, should Congress so decide. As part of developing such systems, it will have to consider what would be needed for such missions - amongst others. So it will have fairly detailed outlines of how such a mission could be carried out, and how the components it is currently designing could be used if such a mission were called for.