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NASA official envisions six-month stays on the moon

by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) April 18, 2008
NASA wants astronauts who will return to the moon to take one long step for mankind.

The US space agency hopes to build moon bases that can house astronauts for stays of up to six months, with an intricate transportation and power system, Carl Walz, director of NASA's Advanced Capabilities Division, said Friday.

NASA is examining different designs for lunar outposts but that they could be inspired by the orbiting International Space Station (ISS), he said.

"We need to establish a long, extended presence on the moon, up to six months -- same as the time we spend at ISS," Walz, a veteran astronaut, told AFP during a forum on the future of NASA at the University of Miami.

"I would anticipate that we would build something similar as what we are building for the ISS, but maybe something different," he said.

The station usually houses three scientists, although it can accommodate more when astronauts arrive aboard NASA's space shuttle on missions to expand the orbiting laboratory.

The orbiting ISS contains a complex set of laboratories from the United States, Russia, Europe and Japan that allow scientists to study the effects of very low gravity on humans and plants.

NASA plans to finish construction of the orbiting outpost in 2010, when it is scheduled to retire its three shuttles and replace them with a new spacecraft capable to taking humans to the moon and eventually to Mars.

US space officials plan to return to the moon by 2020 and build permanent outposts on the surface of Earth's natural satellite.

The space agency will also need to design transportation, communication and power systems for the lunar surface as well as give the astronauts the ability to venture out of their bases for scientific research, Walz said.

"We will live at the moon, work at the moon, do sites at the moon and use its resources," he said.

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