As rivals such as China and Russia continue space exploration and development, including development of military capabilities in space, it has become imperative for the United States to stay ahead of the world. A significant portion of the future economy will also be connected to and part of travel to outer space in multiple ways.
In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “President Donald Trump has asked NASA to accelerate our plans to return to the moon and to land humans on the surface again by 2024. We will go with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than was ever thought possible. This time, when we go to the moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the moon to take the next giant leap—sending astronauts to Mars.”
At the 2019 Paris Air Show on June 17, Bridenstine gave details of NASA’s plans to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024 with the goal of further space exploration beyond the moon.
“We’ve got the SLS rocket—the Space Launch System, the largest rocket ever built in history that’s going to take our crew, in other words the Orion crew capsule with the European Service Module, to the moon. You saw in the video that we’re building the gateway. Think of a small space station in orbit around the moon. The first elements of the gateway are the power and propulsion element and a mini-habitation module. Ultimately, what the gateway will be used for in the year 2024 is to get humans down to the surface of the moon.”
Bridenstein then shared how travel to the moon and the feasibility of an orbiting moon module as well as further space travel drastically changed in 2009 with an incredible discovery on the moon.
“Well in 2009 we made a massive discovery: hundreds of millions of tons of water ice on the South Pole of the moon. Water ice is life support. It’s air to breath. It’s water to drink. It’s also rocket propellent. Hydrogen and oxygen is the same rocket propellent that powered the space shuttles, it’s the same rocket propellent that will power the space launch system and it’s available in hundreds of millions of tons on the South Pole of the moon.”
Bridenstine then explained the long-term goals and that ultimately the moon is a stepping stone, initially to Mars and then potentially beyond.
“We have to learn how to live and work on another world. The moon is a three day journey home, unlike Mars, which you have to be there for a couple of years. I would also say that we have to be careful though not to get anchored on the moon. We want to make sure that we’re keeping our eyes on the horizon goal that is Mars. The moon is the proving ground—Mars is where we need to go.”