Preparing for the Long Haul: Building a Sustainable Moon Base for Future Exploration

NASA's Artemis program, aimed at establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon, is making strides toward that goal. With the first uncrewed Artemis mission returning in December 2022 after almost four weeks in space, NASA has planned the first crewed mission to lunar orbit in 2024 and a landing near the lunar south pole in the middle of the decade. 

NASA's strategy and architecture lead for the exploration systems development mission directorate architecture development office, Nujoud Merancy, said the program is working towards a permanent Moon base that won't get canceled like its predecessors. 

Although the agency's plans have not been finalized, the mission's current proposed solution by SpaceX's Starship concept exceeds NASA's government requirements, and there are ongoing discussions about how to use that margin for other purposes. 

Building a permanent Moon base comes with three significant challenges: radiation, temperature extremes, and meteorite impacts. Aidan Cowley, scientific advisor at the European Space Agency's European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, said that the long-term lunar stay comes with risks and challenges that astronauts and scientists must address, such as using materials they can find on the Moon itself to build settlements.


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