Program Would Start Two Years After Last Shuttle Flight
NASA is expected Monday
to announce to America the agency's plans to return to the moon by
2018, over 45 years after the last Apollo mission returned from
The space agency submitted its proposal to the White House
Wednesday, and to Capitol Hill on Friday. The plan calls for the
utilization of current space shuttle components, combined with
stacked rocket technology very similar to the Saturn V used to send
the Apollo missions to the lunar surface.
In an interview with the Associated Press, George Washington
University Space Policy Institute Director John Logsdon said that
relying on older ideas and equipment "makes good technological and
management sense," as anything overly futuristic would add needless
complication and costs to the program.
"The emphasis is on achieving goals rather than elegance," said
Logsdon, who was also a member of the Columbia Accident
A manned low-Earth orbital test flight is planned for no earlier
than 2012, at least two years after the last shuttle flight is
expected to take place.
The current proposal calls for using two separate launch
vehicles for each mission, with one rocket carrying the crew and
its exploration vehicle. A second, larger rocket would be launch
ahead of the crew, carrying cargo, the propulsion system to blast
the vehicle to the moon, and the lunar lander. The two would then
link up in Earth orbit, and head towards the moon.
Once in lunar orbit, the crew vehicle would be parked in around
the moon while the full four-person crew would go to the surface in
the lunar lander. Once its one-week mission is completed on the
surface -- longer stays are anticipated, as well as a lunar outpost
-- the crew would then return to the exploration vehicle, and head
back to Earth.
The launch systems would consist of current shuttle booster
rockets, engines, and fuel tanks. The crew vehicles would ride atop
the rockets, like current Russian Soyuz capsules and pre-shuttle
NASA vehicles. Much-modified versions of the Saturn V's large
engines would be used launch both rockets.
In a January 2004 speech, President Bush called for the
retirement of the space shuttles by 2010, and called for NASA to
submit a plan to get back to the moon by 2020, with the eventual
goal of reaching Mars.